REDD and rights: lost in translation

Important achievements on rights and safeguards in REDD at UNFCCC now risk being seriously watered down and reinterpreted in REDD policy debates and practices, posing significant threats to the environment and indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples gathered in Cancun in December 2010 to defend previous gains on rights and safeguards in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations. While some important commitments have been secured on paper, the current challenge is to ensure that these are properly translated and interpreted by those actors that are increasingly engaging in REDD readiness. A final assessment of how the Cancun outcome will impact on REDD is not possible at this stage, considering that policy processes and political positioning require time and resources to evolve and consolidate. However, evidence is starting to consolidate about the hiatus existing between rhetoric and practice, confirming that what was achieved in Cancun might turn out to be nothing but a strong political mandate to intensify support and proceed with REDD readiness while diluting some of the key requirements in terms of rights and safeguards. The convergence between the haste to access funds for readiness and start putting carbon credits on the market and the lack of political will to ensure stringent checks and balances might represent a major threat to indigenous peoples and the environment. REDD countries are resisting any additional commitments to Monitoring, Reporting and Verification while donor governments and agencies engaged in REDD are likely to translate the Cancun agreement as they see fit.

9th RRI Dialogue on Forests, Governance and Climate Change, London, February 2011

The 9th RRI Dialogue on Forests, Governance and Climate Change, co-organized with Forest Peoples Programme, Tebtebba and Forest Trends, took place in London, UK on 8 February 2011. The Dialogue drew together a number of key actors involved in REDD, including representatives from Indigenous Peoples organizations, governments of UK Mexico and Norway, the banking sector, NGOs and researchers.

The consensus emerging from the discussion was that REDD should not proceed before clear safeguards are put in place. Gregory Barker, British minister of State, Department for Energy and Climate Change outlined that before REDD projects take place, it is crucial to assess drivers of deforestation, secure clarity of land tenure and ensure equitable benefit-sharing for Indigenous Peoples. To that end, he assured that the UK government will apply safeguards in bilateral REDD agreements with Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Despite this commitment he avoided mentioning whether the UK would push for stronger safeguards in the readiness processes of the World Bank’s FCPF initiative.

International Union for the Conservation of Nature takes positive steps towards realising indigenous peoples’ rights in conservation

Over the last 10 years, governments and conservation organisations have made significant commitments at the international level to promote participatory conservation, and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities in protected area policies and activities. But, on the ground, progress to implement these commitments has been very patchy. In many cases, protected areas are still imposed through top-down policies and approaches, leading to the displacement of indigenous peoples, curtailment of their livelihoods and conflict over resources.

Gender and land rights in Asia

29 indigenous women from 10 different countries across the Asia Pacific region met in Manila, Philippines, in November 2010, to discuss the challenges indigenous women and their communities face in relation to their land rights. The workshop was collaboratively held by the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN) and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP). Land rights across the region, indeed the world, are of central importance in ensuring that indigenous peoples are able to survive as culturally distinct peoples. Asia and the Pacific contain a huge array of circumstances for indigenous peoples, from indigenous majority countries like Fiji in the Pacific to countries in mainland Asia where indigenous peoples are not even recognized by their governments.

New World Bank palm oil strategy under scrutiny

In January the World Bank and its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), released a substantially revised draft of their framework and strategy for engagement in the palm oil sector. The text, circulated for 30 days of public comment, is due to be submitted for approval - after revisions based on any comments received - to the President and Board of Directors in March or April 2011. If the text is approved, the World Bank will then end the worldwide funding moratorium for palm oil projects that it agreed to in 2009 after an internal audit (carried out in response to FPP and partners’ complaints) revealed major violations of due diligence and serious social and environmental impacts.

Indonesia: police shootings in palm oil estates

The controversial palm oil producing company, Sinar Mas, was in the news again as a long standing land dispute on one of its estate escalated into a police shooting in which 5 local community members were seriously injured. The conflict occurred in the province of Jambi on the island of Sumatra when unarmed local community members were attacked without warning by members of one of the mobile police brigades called in by the Sinar Mas-owned subsidiary, PT Kresna Duta Agroindo. The Sinar Mas group is Indonesia's largest palm oil conglomerate and has been blacklisted by some major US and European palm oil processors, owing to reports of repeated violations of social and environmental standards.

Ensuring respect for ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ in Indonesia

Working closely with partners in Indonesia, Forest Peoples Programme helped convene a global meeting of The Forests Dialogue about how to make sure that the right to ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)’ is respected in Indonesia. The four day field dialogue held in Riau Province on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, in October 2010, brought together over 80 participants from a great variety of backgrounds including indigenous peoples, representatives of local communities, non-governmental organisations, international financial institutions, government agencies and the private sector. The meeting was the first in a planned series of field dialogues which have the main aim of exploring how in practice government agencies, commercial enterprises and non-government organizations should respect the right of indigenous peoples and local communities to give or withhold their free, prior and informed consent, as expressed through their own freely chosen representative organisations, to activities that may affect their rights.

International Finance Corporation review – entering the final weeks

The IFC review of its safeguard framework (see FPP E-news July 2010 and October 2010) is entering its final stage. The new draft proposed policies include some strong gains and some serious continuing concerns. ‘Free, prior and informed consent’ (FPIC) has finally taken the place of the previous approach of ‘good faith negotiation’ that is ‘successfully concluded’, a step that takes the IFC out of the realm of jargon and into an arena in which the standards can be better understood and defended more easily.

However significant problems remain, including: serious curtailment of the application of FPIC; different and weaker treatment of projects financed through financial intermediaries; staff still not being incentivized to use the safeguard system effectively; and a continuing lack of rigour in the changes to categorization of projects. Weak protection of basic human rights is also a matter of concern.

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REDD and Rights In Cameroon: A review of the treatment of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in policies and projects

In this report, it is argued that national REDD readiness planning activities in Cameroon, including activities involving the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), lack effective actions to ensure the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities, miss solid data on the drivers of deforestation and gloss over critical land tenure, carbon rights and benefit sharing issues.

The nine sub-national REDD projects currently underway lack transparency, meaningful participation or free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and disregard issues of land tenure, customary rights and benefit sharing.

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