Home Conservation Empowering Communities: WWF Equips Advocates to Amplify Local Voices for Change

Empowering Communities: WWF Equips Advocates to Amplify Local Voices for Change

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Gizo, Solomon Islands (04 July 2023) – Recognising the value of integrating local community voices into policy and decision making, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) completed a community advocacy training for community advocates from 13 project sites across the Western Province, equipping them with skills to effectively communicate and highlight community needs. 

Communities are directly affected by decisions made at various levels of governance and similarly, are also the ones that suffer the most when the natural environment they have proximity to is undermined. Therefore, the primary principle of this advocacy training is to ensure that the needs and aspirations of indigenous and local communities are not only reflected in development programmes but form its very foundation.

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Participants were introduced to the basic skills of identifying key issues to be addressed, planning and designing key messages and campaigns to advocate their priorities to decision makers, especially during community visits. Part of the training was to also highlight to the community advocates the importance of consulting and collectively agreeing as a community on urgent issues and priorities to be advocated to decision makers at the provincial and national level.

“I often take all issues in the community on my shoulder however, this training has helped me realise that I cannot do it myself but I need to share the responsibility to other leaders so that together we can help our community move forward”, said Community Facilitator of Varu community, Ms. Danica Judath.

Echoing similar sentiments, the Nusatuva Community Facilitator, Sendrick Ledley said; “The training has brought me to a standard where I can go back to my community and identify and try to solve complex issues in the community.”

Addressing interrelated risks such as human rights issues, governance and infrastructure development in conjunction with conservation efforts requires a comprehensive and integrated approach. As such, participants undertook an introspective exercise to evaluate their personal traits so they were well-equipped to champion their communities’ causes effectively and ethically.

By recognizing and addressing these modern-day risks, conservation initiatives can become more effective, resilient, and responsive to the complex challenges facing ecosystems and biodiversity.

A key outcome of the training was the identification of at least one top community priority that community advocates could collectively champion at relevant forums, both locally and nationally. These community reps will now play a leading role in raising awareness about environmental, social and economic issues affecting their wellbeing.

Participants also heard from the President of the Nusatuva Women’s Community Savings Club, Rindah Melsen, who represented her community and Solomon Islands at the first United Nations (UN) Oceans Conference in New York in 2017 where she spoke on women’s role in resource management.

“It is important for community advocates to have good skills in debating so they can clearly communicate on behalf of their community the issues they face and provide any necessary evidence to support their points, discuss solutions and be persuasive,” said WWF-Pacific Solomon Islands Conservation Programme Manager, Henry Kaniki.

He added, “At WWF we recognize that only and until people’s most basic needs are met can they effectively be nature’s stewards.”

The three-day training was made possible through the First Voices of Oceania Project which is a partnership between WWF-Pacific and WWF-Australia.

A similar training was also undertaken in WWF-Pacific project sites in Fiji and one is planned for Papua New Guinea later in the year.

In the revitalised WWF-Pacific 2025 Strategic Plan, it recognises the vital role of communities as partners and places a strong emphasis on supporting and engaging with local communities. By valuing and integrating traditional knowledge and practices, WWF-Pacific aims to deepen the understanding of the intricate connections between people and nature. This approach links bottom-up conservation models to global policy, creating a harmonious and effective approach to conservation and sustainable development.

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