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Response to the article "Ein Schuss in Afrika, ein Nachspiel in Berlin" [A Shot in Africa, a Sequel in Berlin], published in the FAZ newspaper on 9 February 2018

News from 2018-02-09 / KfW Development Bank

On 9 February 2018, an article appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper criticising the KfW funding for nature conservation projects in the Congo Basin. The article was triggered by the death of a member of the Batwa tribe in the Kahuzi Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of August 2017.

KfW learned of the death of the 17-year old Batwa C. Nakulire in the Kahuzi Biega National Park at the beginning of September. We very much regret this tragic death. KfW has requested detailed clarification of the facts from the agency executing the project, the Congolese conservation authority (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature - ICCN) and is closely monitoring the case.

ICCN has informed us that as an initial measure, ICCN will assume the costs of the funeral. To the best of our knowledge, further discussions on compensation payments were conducted between ICCN and the family, with the help of a mediator. Based on what we know, the park employee accused of the killing who, like the deceased himself, is a member of the Batwa tribe, has been held in the central prison in Bukavu since the incident. According to the ICCN, a date has not yet been scheduled for the trial.

Our response to the article is as follows:

Since 2008, KfW has been supporting the Congolese conservation authority ICCN in the Kahuzi Biega National Park in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on behalf of the German Federal Government. Consistent with modern approaches to international nature conservation, the aim of KfW-funded measures is to encourage the involvement of local communities in nature conservation and protected area management. The unique flora and fauna in the protected areas of the Congo Basin can only be preserved in cooperation with the residents, thus securing their livelihoods at the same time. Nature conservation and the protection of human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples, are therefore not contradictory. The exercise of a wide range of human rights, such as the right to food, health or water, depends in many ways on an intact natural environment, both for the indigenous population as well as far beyond the confines of the protected area and inhabitants in and around the area. Improving the living conditions of the local inhabitants and respecting and protecting human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples, have been central guidelines for development cooperation work since activities began. In this respect, we are aware that the unstable situation and extremely fragile context, particularly in eastern Congo, represent a particular challenge for all efforts to improve living conditions.

For many years now, the eastern Congo has been marked by phases of civil war-like conditions, a volatile security situation, unstable political conditions and deteriorating socioeconomic conditions for the rural population. Without the support of German development cooperation to protect the remaining rainforest and its biodiversity, the destruction of ecosystems would have progressed even further due to the particularly high pressure on natural resources in this region – to the detriment of the local population and the global public goods worthy of preservation. Thanks to the nature conservation approach chosen, which aims to bring about not only environmental but also social and economic improvements by involving the population, as well as the promotion of participatory approaches and activities to benefit the local population, their living conditions have been improved in some aspects despite the fragile context.

We therefore do not judge what has been accomplished so far in the difficult environment of eastern Congo as a "testimony to the incompetence of German development cooperation". Particularly in a fragile context, what is needed is a realistic yardstick for measuring, evaluating and weighing the environmental, social and economic impacts of the German activities. While we would all like to see faster progress: a lot has already been achieved as a first step – if the situation can be prevented from deteriorating further in conditions of this kind. Positive changes in a context like this can only be brought about through a very long-term and persistent implementation and participation process, working together with the political stakeholders and local communities. We believe that discontinuing our activities is not a sensible alternative. On the contrary, this would significantly reduce the possibility of asserting the legitimate interests of the indigenous people and their participation as envisaged in the current project concept.

If we point out that German development cooperation does not have the authority to issue directives to partner institutions and their staff, this is not meant to be an excuse, but to explain the core of our activities. In the case of partner-oriented development cooperation, we can only help establish and implement international standards. The framework is set accordingly, for example in the case of further training measures for park personnel. But implementation must be carried out and supported by the partners. This also involves continuous processes and dialogue that we would facilitate.

This is also evident from the article's reference to the design flaw in national parks and the lack of prior approval from the indigenous population. Most of the protected areas in which German DC is active today were established long before the start of German DC activities. Due to the nature of this process, it is not possible to obtain the "free, prior and informed consent" (FPIC) of the indigenous population ex post, even if the FAZ article suggests otherwise. What is not mentioned, are the measures taken to address this important issue.

Since the beginning of German DC activities, a nature conservation approach has been adopted in the Kahuzi Biega National Park (PKNB), which aims to bring about social and economic improvements for all population groups, including the Batwa, in addition to environmental improvements in the long term by involving the local population in the management of protected areas and through measures to improve their living conditions. Protecting the rights of indigenous peoples has also been included in the advisory services related to norms and standards in the management of protected areas. As a result, the topic is reflected in relevant partner documents. Their implementation has been supported by workshops and training measures, and the partners were also advised with respect to dialogue and consultation mechanisms between the park administration and the local population, including indigenous communities.

We have adapted our procedures and instruments in line with the further development of international standards for human rights. For example, using the lessons learned so far with the participatory approach to nature conservation with the involvement of the indigenous communities affected and the national nature conservation authority, special "Indigenous Peoples Frameworks and Plans" are being developed in compliance with international standards (e.g. supported by the World Bank OP 4.10 and IFC PS 7) and the BMZ Human Rights Guidelines. Under the plans, measures are to be agreed to address the negative impacts that have occurred in the past and, to the extent possible, potential shortcomings. Similarly, the necessary participation processes including guidelines for the process of "free, prior and informed consent" are to be defined for future activities and the design of future-targeted support programmes for affected communities, with the resulting concrete measures to be developed jointly.

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