Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Feuds among the just

This is an interesting article I saw about the World Wildlife Fund, a major international NGO that works to preserve natural areas and biodiversity.  It appears that another important NGO, Survival International, which is dedicated to working with indigenous communities around the world to protect their human rights, has placed a demand against the World Wildlife Fund for its support of anti-poaching squads that are harassing and threatening the Baka people that live in the rainforests of southeastern Cameroon.  From my reading, Survival has a sound case, which doesn't mean that World Wildlife Fund is totally invalid and its work to be dismissed, but simply that they need to clean up their act and right any wrongs in this particular case involving the Baka, and more generally anywhere in the world where their work to preserve nature runs counter to the right of indigenous people to manage their land as they see fit.

I wanted to share this with my readers because it looks to be one of myriad situations that show the great ambiguity in development work, and perhaps in any human endeavor.  Here are two groups that I consider good guys, two groups doing very valid, valuable work, but they are at odds because the noble cause of one group isn't being properly nuanced or tempered by the realities on the ground.  Most people in the world probably aren't even aware of either WWF or Survival Int., and may not entirely understand the subtle difference between protecting natural areas and protecting the rights of people in natural areas.  But these differences do exist and they do give rise to conflicts, and it is important to be aware of them.

This reminds me of another little-known historical conflict, namely that between women's suffragists in the US and advocates for human rights in the black community.  It appears that some very noble people who were fighting to win the vote for women, held quite unsavory and despicable attitudes about race, and even took advantage of the fear of and oppression towards blacks in the US in order to advance their cause.  Here is an article about the struggle between Ida B Wells, a key advocate for black rights, and the [white] women's suffrage movement in the US.

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