Thursday, December 2, 2010

Indigenous Perspectives on REDD

This side event presented 5 perspectives on REDD from developing countries with large indigenous populations, who are for the most part inseparable from the forests. These perspectives were based off of actual experience with REDD programs and reflected on how they integrated the needs of the native people. Two of them had found great success when involving indigenous peoples and local communities at every stage of the REDD process, this occurred in Paraguay and Tanzania. Efforts in the Congo Basin and Indonesia were mired by government corruption, conflicting interests with mining and logging concessions, and excluding local input.

Simone Lovera from the Global Forest Coalition (GFC) and Friends of the Earth International gave a very impassioned argument as to why REDD programs are often in direct conflict with the goal of reducing deforestation. The GFC is a group of 50 NGOs and Indigenous Peoples Organization which followall of the major intergovernmental forest negotiations, but they specifically address the underlying causes of deforestation. The causes she identified were: 1) Demand for wood. Governments are increasing demand by subsidizing wood fuel as a move away from coal. 2) Demand for land. Bioenergy programs promote expansion of land use, she argues to the point where if we derived all of our fuel from biomass there would be no unmanaged forest remaining, and further that bioenergy is promoted under REDD.

3) Conflict over land tenure. Ownership rights vs indigenous territories have plagued state-indigenous relations for centuries. 4) Industrialization, urbanizationm infrastructure. Institutions like the World Bank should not be promoting on the one hand reducing deforestation and on the other development of “under-utilized” land. 5) Poor central planning lack of political will, inadequate capacity. 6) Economic poverty, no alternative livelihood. 7) Climate change. 8) Neoliberal economic policies, unsustainable consumption and poverty.

There are however, uplifting cases of non-REDD forest conservation. These are based off of a non-market appreciation of forest ecosystem services such as clean and abundant water, food, and shelter. Those living in the forest consider themselves custodians of mother earth.

Her conclusions made in Q&A section of the panel, I feel said it best. To summarize, some existing programs are already sufficient to achieve reduced deforestation, but they need to given more strength (which goes back to point #5 above), such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which provide enough rationale to protect forests for other reasons. To Simone, the UN and COP16 are the wrong place to discuss the issues of forests because those who live in the forests are not invited to negotiating table like they are in more local processes.

The panelists who described success had differing views. In 2009, Tanzania began "pro-poor" REDD pilot project . Norway has invested $75 million USD into an MRV program as well as 7 NGO projects, further the UN is investing $4.2 million USD. In Tanzania REDD can work because the villages and communities own the forest and therefore the money from emissions reductions will reach them. The locals welcome the opportunity for more income, to move away from slash and burn agriculture, and to funnel new monies towards schools and clinics.

In Paraguay, the organization CAPI was instrumental in involving indigenous cultures into the REDD negotiations which started in 2008. By keeping indigenous interests at the forefront through the whole process, the entire rights of these peoples have been incorporated for the first time in the UN-REDD Programme. More information can be found at (in spanish).

Indonesia and Cameroon/Congo Basin have not seen such similar success, mostly due to ambiguous legal language, nebulous land tenure, and absent local voices at process meetings. Major challenges have been 1) Political framework. There is disharmony between policy and forest protection due mining, plantations, etc. 2) Fulfillment of rights. The forest and its peoples are inseparable, there have been no real strides to make right on this. 3) Financing and $ flows. Political corruption has made this a critical issue. 4) Technical aspects such as MRV. Giogio Budi of the Indonesian Civil Society on REDD showed a slide that illustrates the inherent conflift REDD and true deforestation by biofuels per se:

Indonesia has made two statements that make REDD projects more promising 1) Forests will become a focus of the president's decisions, and 2) there will be a 2-year suspension on new contracts for converting natural forests and peatlands. However an analysis of this, shows this may be more of the same corruption. Giorgio Budi calls for a reversal of the REDD logic: REDD fails (i.e. is over burdened) because it is focused on reducing emissions, if it were focused on reducing deforestation then REDD could be very successful at reducing the emissions associated.

In conclusion, REDD still seems to be a quagmire given that monetary and financing aspects of the program are worlds away from the equity issues felt in the host countries. From this panel it would seem that REDD has the tendency to permit corruption and crimes against human rights. Where success has been found, it has been as a result careful, free and prior informed consent and consultation with indigenous peoples has led to the integration of their needs, generating synergies. This is what Samuel Noah from Cameroon pleads:

And impassioned closing remarks from Simone Lovera on irrelevance of the UN processes to discuss forests and indigenous rights:

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