Archive for February, 2010

In defence of resettlement: Olivier Bancoult stresses that Chagossians can help to protect the Chagos marine environment

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24th, 2010 by Peter Harris – 12 Comments

Chairman of the Chagos Refugee Group, Olivier Bancoult, has had a letter published in the influential Science in Parliament journal (reproduced below), taking issue with a number of claims made by the Chagos Environment Network’s Professor Charles Sheppard. In particular, Mr Bancoult refutes Prof Sheppard’s suggestions that a resettlement of the Chagos islands by its indigenous population would be counter-productive to the aim of environmental protection.

In 2009, Prof Sheppard, who is Professor of Marine Sciences at Warwick University but is also employed by the UK Government as its BIOT Scientific Adviser, wrote in Science in Parliament (full text available here) that the environmental conservation of the Chagos islands could be best achieved by keeping the islands free from human habitation:

Examples of good habitat, like that in Chagos, are running out, so should we now revert to preserving a few ‘legacy’ areas which, on one hand, are in good condition now for whatever reason, and on the other have a good chance of remaining so? Candidate sites are few and diminishing, and we must remember that once gone, all past evidence shows that we cannot get it back.

Chagos is probably the only remaining site in the Indian Ocean where this could work. The social dimension may still need a solution, but the science is pretty clear – the ocean needs Chagos as it is.

The signal from this passage is that Prof Sheppard’s vision for marine protection in Chagos simply does not include the Chagossians. Rather, Prof Sheppard seems to unashamedly prioritise the goal of conservation far higher than the need to address the rights of the archipelago’s indigenous people – two things that he appears to portray as being mutually exclusive.

Let there be no doubt: keeping Chagos “as it is” would involving keeping the Chagossians in exile.

In response to criticism of its campaign, the CEN has been at pains to stress that it is not opposed to a Chagossian resettlement of their islands, instead suggesting that their proposals for a no-take reserve in Chagos are entirely “without prejudice” to the possibility of resettlement. However, the content of this article from Prof Sheppard – who is listed as an individual member of the CEN coalition alongside organisations like the Pew Environment Group and the RSPB – calls that claim into question.

In his letter to Science in Parliament, Mr Bancoult takes issue with Prof Sheppard’s claims.

He points out that Sheppard is wrong to argue that attempts at involving local people in husbanding their environments have invariably failed, citing Elinor Ostrom’s work on how user-managed natural resources can actually be preserved much better than those covered by Government regulation (work for which Ostrom was rewarded with a Nobel Prize in Economics last year).

Mr Bancoult further cites UN Environment Programme studies into coral conservation, “community-based habitat regeneration and site preservation activities” in the neighbouring Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues, as well as ongoing conservation activities in Mauritius as reasons why Prof Sheppard’s dismissal of community engagement is unfounded.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Mr Bancoult directly challenges the credibility of Prof Sheppard’s claim that “a recent survey” of Chagossians had indicated that “only about a dozen individuals [would] wish to return permanently.”

In fact, Mr Bancoult points out that, to his organisation’s knowledge, no such survey has taken place in either Mauritius or the Seychelles, where the majority of Chagossians now live (given that the CRG is the biggest Chagossian organisation, it is likely that its members would have heard of such a survey if it existed). Furthermore, estimates by the CRG have concluded that as many as 150 Chagossian families want to return to their islands.

Overall, then, Mr Bancoult’s letter raises still more questions about the conduct of the CEN’s campaign to promote a no-take marine reserve in Chagos:

Why does Charles Sheppard appear to have used a prestigious parliamentary journal to lobby in favour of keeping Chagos “as it is,” off-limits to its native population, when the CEN claims not to have policy against resettlement?

And what exactly was this “survey” of Chagossians’ views, which so many Chagossians in Mauritius and the Seychelles have never heard of?

Full text of Olivier Bancoult’s letter to Science in Parliament:

Dear Sir

British Indian Ocean Territory

Professor Charles Sheppard (British Indian Ocean Territory 66/4) makes a strong case for enhancing conservation efforts in the Chagos archipelago which our organisation fully supports. However, Professor Sheppard appears intent on excluding native Chagossians from conservation initiatives by claiming that involving people in husbanding their habitats has been a failure. This fits conveniently with the British Government’s refusal to countenance resettlement of the outer islands, but it does not sit comfortably with the overall evidence of the importance of community participation in conserving natural resources.

It is in recognition of her empirical work on the management of common access to natural resources (particularly Governing the Commons, Cambridge 1990) that Elinor Ostrom has recently been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. Her work stresses not only the necessity of active community participation but also describes the cases where management by users has been more effective than government regulation.

On coral marine environments specifically, the United Nations Environment Programme study (People and Reefs, 2004) describes a number of case studies in successful community engagement in marine protected areas. Nearer to home, there have been successful community-based habitat regeneration and site preservation activities in Rodrigues Island as well as successful training of communities throughout Mauritius in conservation and monitoring.

In such vulnerable marine environments, the importance of training individuals and educating the wider community is clearly essential, as is the need for pro-conservation economic incentives within the community. These are lessons that the Chagos refugees have come to recognise, as well as the importance of an enforceable regulatory environment.

Our concern about Professor Sheppard’s objectivity in dismissing the success of such community involvement is reinforced by his claim that a recent survey of Chagossians indicates that only a dozen individuals wish to return permanently. To our certain knowledge there has been no survey conducted in either Mauritius or the Seychelles, and our own consultations (published in Returning Home: a proposal for the resettlement of the Chagos Islands) suggest that there would be around 150 families with economically active members willing to return immediately, with a similar number prepared to wait a little longer before deciding on permanent return.

Yours sincerely

Olivier Bancoult OSK
Chagos Refugee Group,
Port Louis,

Marine Education Trust petition continues to gain momentum

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23rd, 2010 by Peter Harris – 4 Comments

The Marine Education Trust’s petition to “protect both the marine ecosystem of the Chagos archipelago and the rights of its exiled community” has reached over 1,400 signatures. The petition can still be signed by clicking this link.

The MET is calling upon the FCO to devise and implement a “fourth option” for a marine protected area (MPA) in Chagos, acknowledging that the three options laid down in the FCO’s consultation document are inadequate because they (i) do not provide for either the rights of the Chagossians or the interests of the Government of Mauritius, and therefore (ii) seriously jeopardise both the short- and the long-term viability of an MPA in the Chagos islands.

In adopting this stance, the MET is joined by other respected organisations such as the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, the Natural Resource Defence Committee and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, as well as the hundreds of scientists, ecologists, conservationists, academics, activists, students, lawyers, politicians, parliamentarians and others who have signed its petition.

As has been previously discussed on this website, the MET petition is markedly different from another petition doing the rounds on the Internet: that of the Chagos Environment Network (CEN).

In contrast to the MET’s proposal for a “fourth option,” the CEN’s Protect Chagospetition has disingenuously sought to present the FCO’s consultation as a binary “Yes or No” choice: “Do you want to protect Chagos or not?” Of course, the issues are much, much more complicated than this: the FCO is conducting a consultation, not a “tick any box” referendum!

The CEN’s Protect Chagos website gives only scant treatment to the concerns of the Chagossians, and stops well short of calling for their rights to be explicitly provided for within an MPA framework, whereas Care2 – a private company hired by the CEN to corral signatures for its petition – has comprehensively neglected to mention the Chagossians in its mailshots to advertise the “cause.”

Furthermore, both CEN and Care2 have consistently sought to paint the creation of an MPA as something that the UK Government could easily and unilaterally achieve, ignoring the concerns of the Government of Mauritius and the Maldives – two Indian Ocean littoral states that have opposed the unilateral imposition of an MPA and whose cooperation will be absolutely essential if an MPA is to succeed.

Following news stories in the New Scientist, The Guardian and the New Statesman about the Chagossians’ campaign for justice, the Internet is now littered with signatories to the CEN petition who feel cheated that they were not made fully aware of the complex issues that surround the Chagos islands – including fundamental issues of human rights.

There is no doubt that the CEN, backed by the powerful Pew Environment Group, has been more successful in gaining signatures than has the MET – but then amassing signatures was never the raison d’etre of the MET’s campaign. Rather, the MET set out to offer people the opportunity to put their name to a petition that called for a robust marine protection regime in Chagos that also respected the rights of the archipelago’s indigenous people and neighbours.

By attracting so many signatures from so many concerned individuals, including a host of luminaries as well as people intimately connected with the archipelago – Chagossians, conservationists, activists, lawyers and politicians – the MET has achieved just that: when presented with the facts, it is invariably peoples’ considered opinion that the UK Government should do the decent thing by the Chagos islanders.

As the FCO’s consultation nears its end, let’s hope that the MET’s approach will carry more weight than that of the CEN. When it comes to issues as serious as this, it’s quality not quantity every single time.

NB: Members of the public can still contribute to the FCO’s consultation process. Click here for details.

Update: Maldives joins Mauritius in opposing MPA; RHUL workshop report published online

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22nd, 2010 by Peter Harris – 1 Comment

A quick round-up of some of the events that have taken place over the last few days:

Maldives joins Mauritius in opposing UK plans for an MPA in the Chagos islands
The Republic of Maldives has joined Mauritius in opposing any unilateral move by the UK Government to establish a marine protected area (MPA) in the Chagos islands, according to the African Press Agency. The same article reports that the Mauritian foreign minister has been busily briefing the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Kamalesh Sharma, who is said to be “closely following the tug of war between Mauritius and Britain.”

The cooperation of neighbouring states will be sorely required for the effective implementation and monitoring of an MPA in Chagos, which makes it extremely worrying that the UK Government failed to build the necessary coalition of support before publishing its consultation document. If plans for environmental conservation in Chagos are to succeed, then the FCO would be wise to engage more effectively with those who will be affected by the proposals – including the Maldives, Mauritius and, of course, the Chagossians.

Mauritius gives conditions for the resumption of bilateral talks
Meanwhile, Le Mauricien is reporting that the Government of Mauritius has laid down three conditions for the resumption of bilateral talks with the UK over the future of Chagos. These are: (1) the abandonment of the currently ongoing consultation over Chagos marine protection; (2) the withdrawal of the FCO’s consultation paper, which contains three options for marine protection that have each been deemed unacceptable by the Mauritians; and (3) a commitment for joint proposals for conservation to be agreed between the UK and Mauritian governments.

RHUL workshop report now online
The report of the 7th January 2010 workshop on the “socio-economic considerations” of creating an MPA in the Chagos islands has now been published online. The report has also been forwarded to the FCO as evidence to its consultation process.

Analysis of the report’s main findings will be forthcoming in due course, but the overall conclusion of a majority of participants seems to have been that the FCO should develop a proposal for marine protection in Chagos that provided for the return of the Chagossians and “for limited sustainable utilisation of natural resources through zoning or other means.”

Again, a key theme of the report was that the UK should not – indeed, cannot – press ahead unilaterally in trying to impose an MPA in Chagos that does not enjoy the confidence of the archipelago’s neighbours or indigenous people. An opportunity to gain consensus exists, and the FCO should grasp it.

Guardian article highlights Chagossians’ campaign for justice

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18th, 2010 by Peter Harris – Be the first to comment

Writing in The Guardian today, author Fred Pearce has launched a scathing attack on those plans to create a marine protected area (MPA) in the Chagos islands that do not provide for the rights of the exiled Chagos islanders.

Refusing to mince his words, Pearce lampoons options being put forward by the FCO for marine protection in Chagos as “greenwash,” highlighting the Government’s shameful treatment of the Chagossians and the US military’s continuing presence on Diego Garcia.

Whilst acknowledging the strong case for some form of robust marine protection in Chagos, Pearce focusses his discussion in an important way, which others would do well to emulate: “The question is whether Britain has any legal or moral right to do this unilaterally,” he points out.

What about the claims of the 4,000-plus Chagossian exiles – many of them live close to Gatwick airport in readiness for their return home? The glossy pamphlet (pdf) encouraging people to support the conservation plan is silent on their expulsion and desire to return.

Most international lawyers believe the expulsion was a breach of international law, and the exiles should be allowed to return forthwith. Robin Cook is the only British foreign secretary to have agreed with them. Under the conservation plan, the only way any of them could return would be as employees of the park.

What about the fact that Britain accepts that neighbouring Mauritius should have sovereignty over Chagos when the Brits and Americans no longer need it? Protests from the Mauritian government about the plan last week fell on deaf ears.

As Pearce rightly argues, the debate over an MPA in Chagos should be much, much more than just whether protecting the environment is a “good” or “bad” thing, which is how the Chagos Environment Network have chosen to couch their campaign.

Rather, the debate should include all of the other, more complex issues that surround Chagos; not least of all the pressing need to restore the Chagossians’ right of return.

As can be seen from the comments section, many people have signed the CEN-backed petition to create a marine park in the Chagos islands without realising that human rights issues were at stake, an inevitable consequence of the issues of marine protection and human rights having been cynically divided from one another.

Pearce concludes by saying,

At least we are talking about Chagos now. Back in 1994, when Britain published the first biodiversity action plan for its surviving specks of empire, it literally removed the zone, known as the British Indian Ocean Territory, from the map.

Now, rather than airbrushing out Chagos, the mandarins want to paint it green. Conservation seems to be the last hurrah of the British Empire.

However, as Pearce’s article expounds, it is not enough to be simply talking about Chagos: the Chagossian people too must be fully involved in discussions over the future of their homeland.

New Scientist article reveals IUCN ethics chief has concerns about Chagos marine protection plans

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17th, 2010 by Peter Harris – Be the first to comment

Further to Monday’s post about the IUCN’s submission to the FCO’s consultation on marine protection in the Chagos islands, the New Scientist has today published an article revealing details of the fractures that still exist within the organisation.

Click here to read the article in full on the New Scientist’s website.

Describing the IUCN as “the world’s foremost conservation science body,” the New Scientist reports that the organisation’s “own lawyers” have branded its policy towards Chagos as “unethical.”

The article notes the Mauritian claims to sovereignty over Chagos, the presence of the US military base on Diego Garcia, and the illegal expulsion of the Chagos islanders in the 1960s and 1960s. It goes on to say that the IUCN “ignored” protests from Mauritius by submitting its evidence to the FCO consultation.

The article reveals that “several members of the IUCN’s ethics group, part of its Commission on Environmental Law, have condemned the move.” Critics of the IUCN’s formal submission include the chair of the IUCN’s ethics group, Klaus Bosselmann, who is also Director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law at the University of Auckland, the article explains.

As can be seen below, the IUCN’s failure to take account of the Chagossians’ human rights is something that is specifically singled out as being “severely unethical.”

In emails seen by New Scientist, several members of the IUCN’s ethics group, part of its Commission on Environmental Law, have condemned the move. They include the chair of the group, Klaus Bosselmann, director of New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law at the University of Auckland.

Bosselmann said that IUCN support for the plan “violates IUCN’s own commitments towards sustainability” because the plan would “invalidate… the right of the Chagos islanders to return” to those parts of the archipelago covered by the zone.

He adds that for IUCN to back their permanent exclusion from the islands is “is severely unethical and against everything the international conservation movement stands for”.

These are some extremely damning remarks from somebody whose opinion ought to carry significant weight within the IUCN.

It is worth noting that the FCO consultation document specifically asks that, “If you are responding on behalf of an organisation, please state the name of the organisation, your role within it and how the views of members were assembled.

It would be interesting to see the IUCN detail the process by which the views of its members were assembled – or, as the case may be, were not assembled. Clearly, its ethics experts are not satisfied that justice has been done.

Ed Davey MP and Trish Godman MSP back Chagossians’ human rights

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17th, 2010 by Peter Harris – Be the first to comment

Yet more politicians have given their backing to calls for the Chagossians’ human rights to be considered alongside any marine protection plan for the Chagos islands.

Today, it was revealed that Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary, has signed the Marine Education Trust’s petition to “protect both the marine ecosystem of the Chagos archipelago and the rights of its exiled community.”

Mr Davey joins Liberal Democrats Vince Cable, Jo Swinson and Lord Steel, as well as other leading figures from the world of politics, journalism, human rights activism, ecology, conservation and many other walks of life.

At the same time, a message of support has been received from Trish Godman MSP, Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Godman calls the treatment of the Chagos islanders “disgraceful,” adding that she has “long supported the campaign to restore the human rights of the people of the Chagos archipelago.”

She continues, “As you are aware, Tam Dalyell, ex MP, has campaigned for years to persuade Ministers to do the right and proper thing by these people.”

“A British Government must stand firm and tell the American Government that there must be a reversal in the policy of the two Governments in respect of the restoration of the islands to their rightful owners, the Chagos islanders.”

It is becoming more and more obvious that the Government must widen the scope of its proposals for the future of the Chagos islands to include more than a simple plan for environmental protection: the human rights of the islanders must be addressed once and for all.

IFAW urges FCO to work with Chagossians and expand scope of Chagos islands MPA

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17th, 2010 by Peter Harris – Be the first to comment

On Monday, this blog cast an eye over the IUCN’s submission to the FCO’s consultation on whether to establish a marine protected area (MPA) in the Chagos islands. Yesterday, the same was done for the WDCS and NRDC’s submission. Today, the evidence submitted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) comes under scrutiny.

IFAW’s comments are grouped into three sections, concerning (1) the possibility of a return to the Chagos islands by the exiled islanders; (2) the importance of ensuring that any MPA adequately protects the region’s cetacean (whale and dolphin) population; and (3) the need to monitor and regulate the activities of the US military base on Diego Garcia.

In terms of the Chagossians’ right of return, IFAW asserts that an MPA in Chagos should properly “anticipate a judgement by the European Court of Human Rights (in the pending court case) that the islanders will be permitted to return.”

In other words, instead of assuming that the Chagossians’ right of return will not be restored by the ECtHR, why not assume that it will be restored? Instead of proposing an MPA that is going to have to be completely overhauled if Strasbourg rules in favour of the Chagossians later this year, why not make provision for them in the regulations now (recognising that if the Chagossians do lose in Strasbourg, then the resultant MPA will be de facto “no-take” anyway)?

This is an incredibly important alternative to the proposals currently being advocated by the Chagos Environment Network lobby group – one which the FCO would do well to give serious consideration to.

IFAW’s submission goes on: “It is IFAW’s view that the conservation intentions of the proposed reserve are being damaged by the failure to include the human element in the considerations. Thus, those concerned with conservation seem to have unnecessarily pitted themselves against the rights of the islanders in a way that is becoming damaging for the reputation of conservation globally.”

In terms of the need to protect cetaceans, IFAW echo those comments made by the WDCS and NRDC that the use of military sonar in the Chagos archipelago needs to be studied and regulated in order to prevent harm being caused to whales in particular. They note that so such study has been done to date.

Lastly, IFAW conclude that “it is clearly illogical to exclude the military base, and thus the wide variety of human activities presently being conducted in BIOT from regulation, when they are likely to represent one of the main threats to the region.”

IFAW’s submission can therefore be seen to compliment that of the WDCS and NRDC; both enthusiastically welcome the principle of enhanced environmental protection in Chagos, but raise doubts over whether the options presented in the FCO consultation document are the best possible options.

Each has rightly responded to the consultation as just that – a consultation, which should involve a free flow of ideas and critical suggestions being made; and not as a referendum on three inflexible, inadequate, and non-negotiable options laid down by the FCO.

Conservation groups criticise framing of FCO’s consultation on Chagos

Posted in Uncategorized on February 16th, 2010 by Peter Harris – 2 Comments

This week, the UK Chagos Support Association is taking a look at some of the evidence that has been submitted to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) as part of its consultation on marine protection in the Chagos islands (people have until Friday 5 March 2010 to submit evidence). We began by yesterday reviewing the International Union of Conservation Networks’ submission.

Today, we are drawing peoples’ attention to evidence jointly submitted by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) and the US-based Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC).

The WDCS and NRDC submission is concise, to the point, and forcefully argued. In a nutshell: these conservationists fully support the principle of enhanced marine protection in Chagos – including via the creation of a marine protected area (MPA) - but have serious reservations about the implementation and the scope of the FCO’s proposals.

On implementation, the WDCS and NRDC point out that the UK Government has been very poor at building a coalition of support for its marine protection plan. They suggest that seeking Parliamentary debate and approval for an MPA in Chagos would give the scheme legitimacy – a note of caution that could prove to be extremely prescient if the FCO’s track record of using undemocratic means to legislate for the Chagos islands is anything to go by.

Furthermore, the authors point out that by refusing to allow the Chagossians to play a full role in the conservation of their homeland (instead choosing to hide behind the ongoing European Court of Human Rights proceedings) and by failing to assuage the concerns of the Government of Mauritius, the FCO has left itself vulnerable to the accusation that it is trying to “unilaterally” implement an MPA in Chagos.

This failure to build a broad base of support could prove to be fateful, they warn: “MPAs created from the ‘top down only’ are much less likely to function effectively.” Even in the short term, the assistance of the Chagossians and the Government of Mauritius would be sorely needed in order to ensure the enforcement, monitoring and proper functioning of an MPA in Chagos.

In terms of scope, the WDCS and NRDC submission raises the thorny issue of the US military base on Diego Garcia, highlighting the awkwardness of excluding Diego Garcia – the largest island within the Chagos archipelago – from any environmental protection regime.

The submission points out that Navy sonar can have a “fatal” effect on some species of whale, and also lists several other ways that the military base is likely to have had a negative impact upon the Chagos marine environment. In addition, the WDCS and NRDC repeat concerns that the usual environmental protection laws have not been followed in the case of Diego Garcia.

In many ways, the military base on Diego Garcia has been the elephant in the room ever since the prospect of an MPA in Chagos was raised. So far, most environment organisations – including those campaigning vociferously in favour of a “no-take” protection zone, such as the Chagos Environment Network (CEN) and, bizarrely, Greenpeace – have thought it unwise to broach the issue. For the WDCS and NRDC, however, the environmental impact of the base is clearly of important concern.

To conclude on a brief aside, it is worth considering that, if the FCO, CEN, Greenpeace et al can envisage an MPA in Chagos that makes an exception for the massive military base on Diego Garcia, why cannot provision for the Chagossians also be built into the MPA?

It is peculiar that organisations such as Pew and Greenpeace should go out of their way to accommodate a military base but will not consider qualifying their support for an MPA with a concomitant support for the rights of the Chagos archipelago’s indigenous people, as the WDCS and NRDC have thought it appropriate to do.

Under the spotlight: the IUCN’s submission on Chagos marine protection

Posted in Uncategorized on February 15th, 2010 by Peter Harris – 6 Comments

Now that the original deadline for submissions to the FCO’s consultation on Chagos marine protection has expired (the consultation will now run until Friday 5 March), the opportunity presents itself to look at the evidence submitted by various groups. For the next few days, we will be rummaging through those submissions that have been made publicly available and providing a dissection of their content. Today, it is the turn of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The IUCN caused controversy last November after a briefing paper on Chagos, sporting the organisation’s logo and purporting to be intended for 10 Downing Street, mysteriously appeared on the Internet. The paper unsettled some within the IUCN community because of its callous treatment of the Chagossians’ exile, prompting the organisation’s Director General to confirm that, in fact, the briefing had not been submitted to the Government and did not represent IUCN policy.

Similar controversy has surrounded the IUCN’s formal submission to the FCO consultation (available to view in full here).

Most notably, the IUCN came under intense public pressure not to participate in the consultation from the Government of Mauritius - a state member of the IUCN that has previously made its support for marine protection in Chagos conditional upon the twin issues of sovereignty and the islanders’ right of return being discussed.

Further question marks exist over whether the proper decision-making process was followed when preparing the IUCN response. In particular, the IUCN has a “specialist group,” charged with considering issues of ethics in environmental law, that does not appear to have been invited to assist in the submission’s preparation.

These concerns about propriety seriously reduce the gravitas of the IUCN submission.

The submission also suffers from some apparent internal contradictions and serious omissions. For example, whilst the document’s summary asserts the need for “the essential involvement of all relevant stakeholders in the consultation towards the establishment of an MPA,” this statement is weakened by the IUCN’s clear abdication of responsibility for having to conduct such consultations itself: dismissing a direct appeal from the Government of Mauritius is hardly a model of stakeholder involvement.

It is also clear from the document that the IUCN did not consult with any Chagossians, despite its claimed commitment to the views of all “former inhabitants of Chagos” being heard.

The IUCN has been pressured by the Chagos Environment Network (CEN) to support its preferred option of a “no-take” marine reserve in Chagos, which was included as Option One in the FCO’s consultation document. In particular, the head of the IUCN’s global marine program, Dr Carl Gustaf Lundin, is thought to be particularly sympathetic to the CEN position.

However, the IUCN’s final submission can be observed to use the curious language of supporting a “full” marine reserve in Chagos, notably avoiding making reference to a “no-take” reserve as endorsed by the CEN. It is therefore not immediately clear from the IUCN’s formal submission whether the IUCN is in favour of Option One or not.

In short, the IUCN’s submission appears to be something of a fudge: whilst it deals with the issue of resettlement in quite an unsatisfactory way, supporters of the Chagossians’ right of return can take some solace in the fact that the IUCN repeatedly acknowledges that no decision on the future of Chagos should be taken without the views of all “stakeholders” – which, any right-minded person would have to agree, includes the Government of Mauritius and Chagossian groups – being taken into account.

If the IUCN are serious about taking the views of these “stakeholders” seriously, then it is clear what the logical extension of their argument should be. Mauritius and the Chagossians have already made clear their separate views that environmental protection in Chagos is not something that the UK Government can unilaterally press ahead with. Instead, it must be discussed as part of a wider package that addresses Mauritian concerns over sovereignty and the Chagossians’ fight for justice.

FCO consultation on Chagos: How you can help support the Chagossians

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12th, 2010 by Peter Harris – Be the first to comment

We’ve added a new page to our website to suggest ways that members of the public can contribute to the FCO’s newly extended consultation on whether to create a marine protected area in the Chagos islands.

You can access the new page through the ‘How you can help’ tab above (click on ‘FCO Consultation’) or by clicking here. Suggestions include signing the Marine Education Trust’s petition, contributing to the consultation directly, lobbying the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and getting in touch with your other elected representatives. If you have any suggestions, why not let us know?

Our message to the Government is simple: environmental protection and human rights must go hand-in-hand in the Chagos islands.