Friday 04 december 2020
On November 4th 2020, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced that its members voted overwhelmingly to adopt a Motion calling for urgent measures to safeguard the globally important Atewa Forest in Ghana. The Motion is now a formal IUCN Resolution, giving the government of Ghana another clear message that the Atewa Forest must be withdrawn from bauxite mining plans and protected as a National Park.
Header photo: Atewa Forest Ghana © Jan Willem den Besten
Leading up to the IUCN Congress 2020, A Rocha Ghana submitted Motion 103 calling for ‘Urgent measures to safeguard the globally important Atewa Forest, Ghana’. The Motion was co-sponsored by IUCN members The Development Institute, Benin Environment and Education Society ONG, Nature Tropicale ONG, and a number of international IUCN members among which A Rocha International, WWF, Birdlife International and Global Wildlife Conservation.
The motion outlined the critical conservation importance of Atewa Forest, in particular that it is one of only two Upland Evergreen forests in Ghana, a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), and home to an incredible diversity of wildlife species. Jan Kamstra, Senior Expert Nature Conservation at IUCN NL: ‘These include over 100 species listed on the IUCN Red List as threatened, at least two being Critically Endangered and several endemic.’
The motion also highlighted the many benefits of the Atewa Forest and how bauxite mining would irreversibly damage them. One of its key ecosystem services is to provide clean water daily for an estimated 5 million people both within the forest and downstream to Ghana’s capital Accra.
The motion process
IUCN motions are voted on by the membership, including governments, civil society and indigenous peoples’ organisations, NGOs, scientific and academic institutions, and business associations. Motions are part of a 4-year cycle and enable members to guide IUCN policy. The motions process itself takes more than a year from submission to voting and is very rigorous.
Years of fighting for protection
Of the 580 members voting on the motion, 98% were in favour, showing clearly that the decision to mine bauxite in Atewa is vehemently opposed. Daryl Bosu, director of A Rocha Ghana, explains: ‘This result follows years of letters and petitions from the international community signed by tens of thousands of people, all unheeded. To be called out in this way by the IUCN is extremely serious and the Ghanian government can no longer ignore this increasing dissent.’
The motion urges government to end all mining-related activities in the Atewa Forest and establish a National Park to ensure its conservation in perpetuity. It also requests support from the international community to help establish it as a world-class protected area complete with green development initiatives.
In case the government still refuses to reverse its decision, the motion requests mining companies not to mine bauxite in or near the forest, and aluminium users to exclude Atewa-sourced aluminium from their supply chains. Bosu elaborates: ‘The Aluminium Stewardship Initiative is asked to assist member companies in these endeavours, and financial institutions urged not to finance any destructive activities in or around the Atewa Forest.’ Because of the extreme urgency of the case, the motion finally calls on the IUCN Director General to provide a special report to the 2024 World Conservation Congress on the resolution’s implementation.
According to Bosu, A Rocha Ghana and the sponsors of the motion are very happy with the outcome: ‘The members who supported it helped highlight the critical importance of Atewa Forest to the world. It gives great encouragement and hope that, with the international support behind the resolution, Atewa Forest will be protected for eternity.’
IUCN NL has been supporting A Rocha Ghana’s fight for the protection of the Atewa Range Forest since 2014, currently in the framework of the Green Livelihoods Alliance, a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Tropenbos International.
no longer working at IUCN NL