What is REDD+ and why is it important to Native peoples?
Protected areas, like Sierra de Las Minas in Guatemala, exemplify how conservation initiatives can have negative impacts for indigenous people.
REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. In simple terms the idea is that carbon emissions and global warming and climate change will slow if the world reduces the number of forests that are damaged or destroyed. (Standing forests act like a sponge, taking in carbon dioxide; cutting down or burning forests puts carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.) Several international agencies are creating REDD+ programs to encourage developing countries to conserve their forests. Once REDD+ programs are fully functioning, owners of forests may be eligible to receive money for the environmental benefits provided by the trees. What concerns indigenous peoples is that they own, or live within, much of the developing world’s last standing forests. Often times they lack legal title to their lands. Without legal title, their lands are vulnerable to takeover by governments or conservation groups who wish to receive money through a REDD+ program. Many indigenous people see REDD+ as a new form of colonization and a continuation of the past 500 years of abusive land policies. Similar initiatives have occurred since colonial times. In the United States Native Americans suffered through unfair treaty negotiations and the allotment or individualization of tribal lands. Throughout the world, the conservation movement has inspired governments to set up national parks and protected areas, often at the expense of indigenous peoples. If REDD+ programs do not have strong policies preventing this type of abuse, indigenous communities in REDD+ countries are likely to lose their lands, access to their forests, and the ability to carry out their traditional ways of life.
The Indian Law Resource Center’s work on REDD+ is about raising awareness of the importance of indigenous peoples’ rights. We work with the agencies developing REDD+ programs to educate them about international laws protecting indigenous peoples. We also educate civil society organizations who are working in the area of human rights and conservation about why they too should advocate for indigenous peoples’ rights.
Center Comments and Recommendations
The Draft Guidelines on Stakeholder Engagement in REDD+ Readiness with a Focus on the Participation of Indigenous Peoples and Other Forest-Dependent Communities (the Guidelines) prepared by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the UN-REDD Programme (UN-REDD), was produced to give the public sector a tool for engaging stakeholders in REDD+ readiness, with an emphasis on the participation of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities. This paper offers the Center’s comments and recommendations on the Guidelines from a legal perspective addressing indigenous peoples’ particular human rights concerns.
Summary of Comments and Recommendations
Center Comments and Recommendations on the UN-REDD Programme Social and Environmental Principles and Criteria’s Draft for Consultation, August 2011
A collaboration of three U.N. agencies, U.N. Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.N. Environment Programme, the UN-REDD Programme is helping developing countries to create governmental mechanisms to enable them to sell environmental services for forest conservation efforts. (link: http://www.un-redd.org/)
In the spring of 2011, the UN-REDD Programme developed a set of principles and criteria to guide its work. This important document was not publically released, but only shared with select individuals in July, 2011. The Center received a copy after it was leaked onto a REDD+ listserv and decided to draft comments and recommendations to improve the principles and criteria. We submitted our comments and recommendations on August 8, 2011.
Summary of Comments and Recommendations
While we appreciate the efforts of the UN-REDD Programme to develop guiding principles and criteria to govern its work, we find the document lacks a strong statement of the rights of indigenous peoples, and generally, there is little mention of human rights. We recommend that the UN-REDD Programme adopts a principle to respect indigenous peoples’ permanent sovereignty over natural resources and seven new criteria on indigenous peoples’ rights. The principle on respect for indigenous peoples’ permanent sovereignty over natural resources would require governments to respect the right of indigenous peoples to own, control and manage their lands, territories and natural resources. It would require recognition for the unique relationship that indigenous peoples have to their lands, territories and natural resources.