Gorillas in the Midst: Assessing the peace and conflict impacts of International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) activities

By Anne Hammill, Alec Crawford on August 14, 2008

Conservation work in conflict zones and across international borders has impacts on more than just wildlife populations and their habitats; it can also have a profound effect on the peace and conflict dynamics in a region.

For example, while the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) implements activities with the primary objective of conserving mountain gorilla populations and habitat, anecdotal evidence suggests that these activities have also improved communication and dialogue among different authorities in the region, thereby fostering relationships and cooperation that are fundamental to peacebuilding. Conversely, decades of experience have shown that conservation interventions can cause tensions and contribute to conflict. This is especially portentous in conflict zones, where any external intervention can unintentionally fuel tensions and conflict by sending the 'wrong' message or entrenching perceived inequities.

As a result, IGCP sought a more detailed and systematic understanding of how their conservation and development activities affect peace and conflict dynamics in the Great Lakes region. In order to ensure that they do not inadvertently exacerbate the conflict dynamic but instead actively contribute to peacebuilding, IGCP contracted the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) to conduct a Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment (PCIA) of some of their field operations.

The specific IGCP activities that were selected as case studies were:

  • The Mgahinga Community Development Organization
    Examining how IGCP's involvement with a community-based enterprise around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) in Uganda affected local efforts to address tensions around revenue sharing.

  • Nkuringo land purchase and buffer zone
    Examining how IGCP's land purchase to establish a buffer zone around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and the subsequent development of a buffer zone management plan, may have contributed to or resolved park-people conflicts and other community-based tensions.

  • Transboundary cooperation
    Looking at the mechanisms used by IGCP to encourage cross-border cooperation and interaction including surveillance, regional meetings and the preparation of a trilateral revenue-sharing agreement.

Report details

Environment, Conflict and Peacebuilding
Conflict-Sensitive Conservation
Focus area
IISD, 2008