There are growing concerns about the poor consultation and engagement of indigenous peoples in discussions on major forest and climate initiatives and the potential risks for their rights. This March, indigenous people were excluded from a meeting in Paris to launch a French-Norwegian initiative on REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation - Plus); concerns have been voiced by Guyanese indigenous peoples with reference to the ongoing REDD+-Low Carbon Development (LCD) strategy process in their country; and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) has been elaborating on their Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) framework without clarifying how World Bank safeguards will be implemented.
The international agenda has been very busy since COP15, when governments gave a strong indication to the international community that they were going to proceed with REDD+. The French and Norwegian governments are currently working with other countries to set up an interim REDD-Partnership agreement, with the aim of coordinating ongoing efforts and ensuring social and economic integrity of actions, funded by a USD 3.5 to 8 billion readiness fund. An initial meeting was held in Paris in mid-March and indigenous peoples condemned the French government's lack of will to ensure their participation.
"Failure to include indigenous peoples from the very inception of the French-Norwegian initiative is unacceptable. The lock-out from the Paris meeting is further evidence of the urgency to ensure full and effective participation of indigenous peoples at all levels of negotiations and discussions on issues related to their land, resources and territories and to their rights as recognized by international legal agreements and instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP)" said Mina Setra, an indigenous representative from The Alliance of Archipelagic Indigenous People (AMAN), Indonesia.
The Norwegian government is now engaging in a preliminary dialogue with various stakeholders, but doubts persist on whether effective participation of indigenous peoples in governance bodies will be guaranteed and whether mechanisms will be agreed to ensure that REDD+ actions respect the rights of indigenous peoples. In the meantime indigenous peoples' participation in REDD processes is still limited at the country level.
Indigenous peoples attending a workshop held in Georgetown, Guyana, 2-8 March, 2010, called for a suspension of any REDD activity in the country until their rights - including land rights; free, prior and informed consent (FPIC); and access to information and participation - are fully respected and implemented. The growing pressure to quickly disburse funds for REDD, both at the country and international level, might seriously threaten the rights of indigenous people affected by REDD, which is a risk evident in the intentions of FCPF management in developing the so-called Strategic Environmental and Social Assessments (SESA).
Championed by FCPF as a tool to guarantee compliance of REDD readiness activities to the World Bank's safeguards, SESAs risk creating a parallel regime that might undermine obligations contained in the FCPF Charter that mandates respect of indigenous peoples' rights and World Bank safeguards. FCPF has recently developed a new SESAs framework but has failed, so far, to provide clarity on how SESAs do not substitute safeguards in the crucial REDD readiness phase.
For press releases and statements on the French-Norwegian Initiative, the Guyana REDD+-LCD process and the Norway-Guyana partnership on climate and forests please see the link below.