Two reports (see RELATED REPORTS) by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) were launched at an event in the House of Commons, London, today. The meeting, entitled, From a 'Clash of the Commons' to A New Global Agenda for Forests, Peoples and Climate Change, was hosted by Martin Horwood, MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tribal Peoples.
Introducing the seminar Marcus Colchester, Director of Forest Peoples Programme, told the gathering of 6o delegates from governments, financial institutions and international organisations:
'Our global commons - the air we breathe, the waters we all rely on to fall from the sky - is now in peril due to pollution from the burning of fossil fuels and forests. An urgent cry has gone up to stop deforestation - to 'save the rainforests' and billions of dollars are being mobilised to this end. But allocating these monies is not so simple - who will be rewarded for storing carbon in trees?'
He went on,
'What we fear is another wave of enclosure in which forests and lands for hundreds of millions of indigenous people and rural poor are taken over by companies and governments in the name of saving the planet.'
Andy White, Coordinator of Rights and Resources Initiative, summarised the findings of the two major reports being launched. The studies report a sharp increase in government allocations of forests to industrial plantations, and suggest that booming demand for food and fuel is rapidly eating up vast forestlands in the Amazon and Southeast Asia.
The findings showed, he said, that unless the rights and resources of forest dependent peoples were urgently addressed the consequences would be the continued destruction of the world's forests, with appalling ramifications.
'Arguably, we are on the verge of a last great global land grab,' said White. 'Unless steps are taken, traditional forest owners, and the forests themselves, will be the big losers. It will mean more deforestation, more conflict, more carbon emissions, more climate change and less prosperity for everyone.'
Joji Cariño, of Tebtebba (the Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy research and Education), spoke about the situation in her native Philippines where the present push for increased mining is making the fragile rights of indigenous peoples yet more precarious. She pointed to the sidelining of forest peoples in decision making, saying:
'It is this great imbalance that increases the risks to indigenous peoples because we are absent from the table. Due to this our important forest stewardship role is ignored and prevented.'
Speaking for the British Government, Gareth Thomas, Minister for Trade and Development, outlined what he believed to be the five necessary aspects for a new agenda on forests: increased knowledge and understanding about what is happening in the world's forests; the strengthening of the rights of forest users; fair regulation, in particular better law enforcement and governance; paying people for the services that the forests provide as well as the products that they produce; and more informed consumers able to make discerning choices about the timber that they buy.
The starkest warning of the evening was issued by Kyeretwie Opoku of Civic Response, Ghana, who said:
'We're faced with a great danger or we're faced with a great opportunity. It's either a new world order or it's extinction.'
Opuku said that the determining factor would be whether in all the 'polite discussions about the measuring and pricing of carbon' the rights of the forest communities were addressed. For it is, he said, the people who own the forests, the people who own the trees.
The RRI is an international coalition comprising the world's foremost organisations on forest governance and conservation. Forest Peoples Programme is the UK member of the coalition.
Text of speeches by:
Links to principal media coverage:
- The Guardian (UK): Forest funding 'could put billions in wrong hands'
- BBC Online: Forests to fall for food and fuel
- Telegraph (UK): Warnings of a global land grab
- New Scientist: World on the verge of the last great land grab
- Asian News International: Demand for food and fuel may lead to destruction of forests
- Le Monde: La demande accrue en carburants et aliments menace les forêts (rapports)
- Reuters España: El boom de la población afectará a los bosques, dicen informes
- Reuters português: Estudos apontam impacto demográfico sobre florestas
- Science daily: Record land grab predicted as demand soars for new sources of food, energy and wood fiber