House Bill Takes Aim At Human Rights Abuses In Conservation

Key Democrats and Republicans in the House have signed into law a bill banning the US government from funding international conservation groups that fund or support human rights abuses.

The proposed law would require federal agencies to monitor international projects they support for abuses and, if detected, to stop sending funds. And each year, agencies will be required to submit to Congress a report on human rights abuses committed at US-funded projects.

The House Committee on Natural Resources has considered the matter in response BuzzFeed News investigation of 2019 found that the World Wide Fund for Nature, a beloved wildlife conservation charity and longtime partner of the US government, closely supported anti-poaching forces who tortured and murder in national parks in Asia and Africa.

Villagers living near the parks were beaten with belts, assaulted with machetes, knocked unconscious with bamboo sticks, sexually assaulted and shot, according to reports and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. Rangers at WWF-supported parks have committed a number of accused of unlawful murder

In 2019, now-retired Republican Rob Bishop of Utah, then a ranking member of the committee, propose a law covering similar platforms. Bishop’s bill stalled, but since then legislators on both sides have tackled the issue again.

This year’s bill has bipartisan support. Its sponsors are the committee chair. The rest of the committee will now debate the law and if they pass it, it will be sent to the House floor for a full vote.

“With this bill, we are sending a signal to the world that the United States demands the highest standards of respect for every human life; Grijalva said. “I hope that the new focus on human rights, accountability, and oversight in this bill will serve as a model for conservation programs both in the United States and abroad.”

Westerman said “common law” would strengthen government accountability. “This measure is the culmination of bipartisan efforts, including an investigation and oversight hearings that revealed subsidy abuse, human rights abuses, and a severe lack of awareness by relevant agencies.” state.”

The bill would introduce sweeping changes to the way US agencies deal with human rights abuses at conservation projects. Conservation groups that receive government cash will have to provide human rights policies detailing what procedures they will follow if abuse occurs. They will also have to name anyone they do business with overseas, such as local police forces or rangers – who will then be approved by the Fisheries and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture. Diplomatic inspection.

The law will also increase the extent to which indigenous peoples are protected in conservation projects that affect them. Grantees will have to demonstrate that they have a “meaningful consultation” process with indigenous peoples before their historic land is used for conservation and that they put in place a “mechanism for resolving complaints.” complaints” for indigenous people to raise concerns.

Once abuse is discovered, they will have to be reported to the federal government and the taxpayer team will have 60 days to design a plan to address the issue. The US government will be able to withhold funding for the project until the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Secretary of State confirm that those involved have taken “effective steps to bring the perpetrators down”. bring to justice and prevent human rights abuses.”

Serious human rights violations will also be referred to the Home Office’s inspector general, and the Fish and Wildlife Service will submit to Congress each year a report summarizing the investigations carried out under this conduct, including remedial measures.

John Knox, a former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, calls the bill “a huge step forward in an area that really needs more attention and a potential model for governments.” other and international donors.” After the WWF scandal broke, it became clear that “many major international conservation funding sources, including the United Nations and the United States, do not have performance standards in place to ensure that their funds will not be wasted. used for human rights violations,” Knox said.

In a statement, WWF said it supported the legislation. “Protecting the rights of communities is fundamental to conservation success. We support the goals of this measure to strengthen wildlife and nature conservation programs by ensuring ensure that they also protect and promote the rights, lives, and safety of local communities and indigenous peoples in the landscape in which the programs operate.”

Self-funded charity internal review into the charges, and in 2020 expressed “deep and inconsolable sadness for those who have suffered”, saying the abuses by the rangers “terrify us and go against us.” all the values ​​that we have.”

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