Messok Dja is an area of Congo rainforest that is especially rich in biodiversity, it’s the ancestral land of Baka people who have managed the forest since time immemorial and they rely on the forest for their livelihood like food, medicine and shelter.
Over the past decades, several actors who have secured EU funding for creation of a conservation park have seized this land as a protected area from which the Baka are excluded. International law says that any projects taking place on tribal land can only go ahead with the agreement of the people whose land it is, in this case the Baka tribe.
However the free, prior and informed consent of the local communities was not secured before the process of creating the conservation park was started. In fact, local rangers of the park have been accused of violence towards tribe members and those forced out of their forests often end up destitute, suffering from extreme poverty, high child mortality, disease, addiction, and exploitation.
Survival International is a well-established NGO that is committed to protecting the lives and lands of tribes who suffer from forced development, land theft, racism, and violence simply because they live differently. Survival International works in many areas all around the globe, from the jungles of India to the Congo rainforest.
Survival International France contacted The Good Lobby in their quest to protect the existence of the Baka people by suspending EU funding for the conservation park. Survival International identified the area as a priority and has been investigating the impact of the money funded by EU institutions. The Good Lobby was happy to assist them and provided an in-house pro bono consultancy service, advising on how to file freedom of information and right to know requests before the EU institutions. A legal and political framework overview of the case was also provided and relevant stakeholders to approach within EU institutions were mapped.
In February 2020, Survival International was able to meet the European Commission team in charge of the ancestral land of Messok Dja by utilising the freedom of information requests developed by The Good Lobby. Two months later, in May of that year, The European Commission announced that it had suspended the funding of the park.
Although an unprecedented victory for the campaign, the actors in charge of the park continue to push ahead without consent, and human rights abuses are still occurring. Survival International urges people to join the #StopMessokDja campaign to help fight against atrocities committed against marginalised groups in the name of conservation.
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