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Working for the common good?
Working for the common good?
News Feb 29, 2016

NGOs all want to empower forest communities, but do they have the same views? TFT Director Hilary Thompson blogs her feelings on the subject....

As of January 2019, The Forest Trust has become Earthworm Foundation.

Those little comments that make you think……

I was sitting at a meeting recently with staff of an international NGO, whose focus over many years has largely been forests – how to preserve them and the HCV – High Conservation Values, and HCS – High Carbon Stock, within them. They have been successful for sure.

During another meeting with an international NGO whose focus has been indigenous people rights – or more specifically how to ensure these people’s rights to their lands and way of life is fully respected. They have also been successful in their mission.

Both these NGO’s see ‘the companies’ largely as ‘the enemy’, not to be trusted, and to be tackled and made to respect the view of all stakeholders. That they have in common: they highlight problems and urge the companies to solve them. That’s where TFT can come in…

However, we seem to be reaching the point now where there is one huge elephant in the room… which no one seems willing to talk about or even acknowledge: these NGOs have diverging views of what constitutes common good and as a result very different objectives.

As an example, we support many of our members to do HCS and HCV assessments – as part of which the communities are asked whether they want development or not on their land, (development which may also bring money for schools roads and hospitals for example). The communities are given the facts and must be allowed to make decisions for themselves – on their land. Of course they should – no one would argue with that, right? Wrong!

The social NGO’s view is that this is community empowerment and it must be respected. The environmental NGO’s view is that if the community decide to develop their land – as they have every right to do – then ‘the companies cannot buy the produce,’ because conserving forests is more important than community livelihoods?

A sterile polarity in views that no one is acknowledging on either side, but which is leaving companies and the rest of us stuck in the middle – with no sensible path and solution in sight….

So are we really all serious about working for the common good?

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