Forest peoples meeting in Palangka Raya, central Kalimantan in Indonesia in March this year reported unrelenting loss of forests and serious threats to their rights and well-being. Listening to community representatives speak about battles they face to secure their lands and forests was a first-hand education about the real political economy of forests in different countries, as international, national and local interests compete to influence national law and policies and the fate of forests. The legacy of colonial forestry laws which brought community forests under state control and divesting forest peoples of their customary rights and management over forests, continues to fuel the on-going forest crisis.We, forest peoples, are being pushed to the limits of our endurance just to survive. Checking deforestation requires respect for our basic rights, which are the rights of all peoples and all human beings. Deforestation is unleashed when our rights are not protected and our lands and forests are taken over by industrial interests without our consent. The evidence is compelling that when our peoples’ rights are secured then deforestation can be halted and even reversed.
The Palangka Raya Declaration called for rights and justice to be at the centre of deforestation efforts, noting the lack of success in global initiatives to address deforestation through mechanisms which fail to acknowledge the multiple values of forests and the primacy of forest peoples in forest management and protection.
Underlying all this destruction and these abuses, lies the fundamental problem of a lack of respect for our rights to our lands and territories, our self-governance, our own institutions, customary laws and distinctive ways of life based on our long familiarity with forests and how to make a living from them without destroying them. Too often our ways of life and knowledge systems are considered backward and we find we are discriminated against in all our dealings with national and international society.
Participants committed themselves to work in solidarity in a global grassroots accountability network to independently monitor, document, challenge and denounce forest destruction and associated violations of forest peoples' rights. Meanwhile, global forest and climate initiatives like the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Fund are still failing to ensure full and effective participation of forest peoples. No doubt communities and their allies will need to monitor and challenge these programmes where they marginalise communities and threaten their way of life. Community forest monitoring and participatory mapping based on indigenous and local knowledge has been carried out by communities for many years. Experiences and lessons learned from such work were shared and discussed during a capacity-building workshop recently held in Chiangmai, Thailand. Participants were also trained in the use of GIS technologies to support community resource management and land use planning, through community-controlled data generation, information analysis and education about the state and the environment.This newsletter also has updates on the World Bank’s new approach on Country Engagement and the new publication ‘Realising Indigenous Women’s Rights: a guide to CEDAW’.
I hope you enjoy reading more about these issues in this edition of our newsletter.
Joji Cariño, Director