Congo Basin is mobilizing in Brussels at the European Development Days
eudevdays.eu: Public Private Partnership in conservation as intervention for peace
Are PPPs in conservation an effective intervention when it comes to peace-building? Or should we leave this to UN peace keeping units?
- Conservation of biodiversity central to development and increased prosperity in Africa.
- Linkages between security and conservation are set to become more and more important in central and west Africa.
- Negotiating conservation accords can bring warring factions together where talks about security would be impossible.
- Conservation programme in areas of political instability, weak government and violence must benefit and involve local people.
- Public-private conservation partnerships in Africa must avoid being seen as neo-colonialist organisations, particularly where protected national parks were established before independence.
In areas of central and west Africa where weak governance and recurrent violence have contributed to massive losses of wildlife and natural habitats, public-private partnerships (PPPs) to protect and manage beleaguered national parks have attracted international funding from the European Union and United States among others, plus support from UNESCO and park management roles for wildlife charities such as the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Advocates of these PPPs say the benefits include greater financial and technical resources for conservation than could possibly be provided locally, well as employment opportunities for local communities and a wider tax base for the state. Where local populations see direct economic benefits from the parks, and cooperate closely with park rangers, PPPs can also improve security.
In parks neighbouring Sudan, for example, local people have provided early warnings of armed groups approaching the border, allowing security forces to prepare. Negotiating conservation accords can also provide a forum where warring factions are willing to talk despite their ongoing and deep-seated rivalries.
The long-term viability of conservation PPPs depends in part on their perceived legitimacy among government officials and the local communities, particularly where national parks were colonial creations. One way to avoid suspicion of neo-colonialist interference by outsiders is to employ Africans in key conservation roles, rather than expatriates. Good communications from the outset is essential to assure national partners that their private sector and NGO colleagues don’t have hidden agendas.
Equally, in regions where human rights abuses are frequent and widespread, conservation partnerships cannot ignore the underlying causes of the violence that led to the degradation of national parks in the first place. These may well include armed conflicts rooted in competition for access to natural resources, especially water and land.
The political complexities of running a conservation PPP in unstable political areas were recently illustrated by an incident in the Chinko National Park in the Central African Republic, when Muslim families took refuge from Christian marauders seeking to kill them. The park manager was accused of taking sides in the conflict, requiring the operational manager of the African Parks Network, the PPP which runs Chinko, to act as a go-between.
Separately, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been accused of supporting anti-poaching eco-rangers involved with human rights abuses of the hunter-gatherer Baka people of Cameroon’s rainforest. The complaint brought against WWF by Survivors International is being mediated by a Swiss government official under guidelines from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.