Monday, September 14, 2015

“Verdir” To Protect Human, Environmental Rights Defenders

Kribi, Cameroon—Environmental protection activists of the Congo Basin who have hitherto suffered harassment and human rights violation by the government or foreign multinational companies because of their advocacy will henceforth benefit legal assistance through some civil society and non-governmental organizations in their respective countries thanks to a European Union funded project dubbed “verdir.”
 The three-year project covering four countries of the Congo Basin; Cameroon, the Central Africa Republic, Congo and Gabon has been designed to protect the rights of communities and community leaders who practice environmental protection.
Through the project, the Center for Environment and Development, CED Cameroon, that is overseeing regional implementation in partnership with national civil society and non-governmental organizations, are seeking a solution whereby local communities and environmental protection leaders will no longer suffer harassment from private companies or the government because they oppose exploitation of natural resources with little or no benefits to such communities.
The project targets 70 civil society and non-governmental organizations, 30 local communities from natural resources exploiting zones and 30 journalists; specialists in human rights, natural resources management and rural development in the four countries concerned. 

Different countries, same threat

Speaking at a four-day information and training workshop that brought together journalists, environmental and human rights defenders in Kribi in the Ocean Division of the South region recently, the regional coordinator of “verdir,” Apollin Koagne Zouapet said most local communities who depend largely on their natural resources are most at times in conflict with either the government or companies over access to natural resources.
Activists pose with 'verdir' officials
“Some of these conflicts emanate from the non-sharing or unequal sharing of revenue between communities and exploiting companies,” Koagne said.
In addition to the conflicts, the “verdir” project coordinator said most developmental projects do not carry a social and environmental impact assessment. Thus, its implementation disfavors local communities who in most cases have to relocate to sites which they are not accustomed with. In both cases, when rights defenders step-in, they are harassed by either the companies or the government.
The secretary general of the Center for Environment and Development, CED Cameroon, Samuel Nguiffo confirmed that such cases abound.
“We want to point out the fact that such a phenomenon exist and that those environmental protectors need to be protected by the United Nations.”
According to Samuel Nguiffo, all the four countries in which the project is being implemented are facing the same threats.
“These four countries share the same characteristics; same type of natural resources, all attracting same type of foreign investors, same patterns of national and local elites trying to use their positions to have access to more natural resources and very often at the expense of the communities…”
 “We cannot claim that we are aiming at developing without having the appropriate safeguards that will protect communities of their rights, livelihood,” Samuel Nguiffo stated.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi in Kribi

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