On 16 July, 2018 the Conservation Alliance Tanawthari (CAT) submitted a formal complaint concerning the violation of Karen indigenous peoples’ right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Ridge to Reef conservation project in Tanintharyi Region, Myanmar. This enormous conservation project threatens the land and resource rights of thousands of Karen indigenous people. An inception workshop is planned for Ridge to Reef on 17 July, but local indigenous communities have not been consulted. CAT is calling for GEF to suspend Ridge to Reef until a comprehensive FPIC process is carried out with all communities who will be affected by the project. “Implementing Ridge to Reef without FPIC is a serious violation of indigenous peoples’ rights and GEF safeguards,” said CAT coordinator Naw Eh Htee Wah. CAT’s complaint to GEF is available at:
Ridge to Reef is a $21 million (US) project that covers 1.452 million hectares, which is roughly one third of the total area of Tanintharyi Region. The project aims to expand protected areas in the region, such as establishing Lenya National Park (LNP), which risks excluding indigenous Karen people from their ancestral territories. “If the national park comes, how will we survive?” said Lenya community leader Saw Min Yin. Furthermore, the project threatens the rights of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) to return to their old lands in the region. CAT calls for GEF to suspend Ridge to Reef until substantial guarantees are put in place for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of all those who have been displaced by civil war.
CAT calls on GEF and other responsible parties to support the existing initiatives of indigenous communities to protect their lands and resources according to customary systems. Rather than supporting top down conservation initiatives, GEF and responsible parties must take an alternative approach – one that centers around the rights of indigenous people to manage and protect their forests and resources. “Karen communities in Tanintharyi Region are already active in conserving their own natural resources, so the international community must recognize and support their efforts” said CAT member and Southern Youth Director Saw San Ngwe.
Naw Eh Htee Wah CAT Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org 09459254587
Saw San Ngwe Southern Youth Director email@example.com 09793958730
Saw Min Yin Lenya Community Leader 09429413940
Download this press release in English HERE.
Download this press release in Burmese HERE.