The global forest crisis is worsening as infringements of the rights of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities are rising, according to a detailed assessment of nine country cases. Climate change mitigation and conservation policies must place community land rights and human rights centre-stage if they are to achieve the goal of sustainably reducing deforestation says the report.
Lima, Peru (8/12/14), Against the backdrop of the twentieth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC CoP20) underway in Lima, Peru this week, a new report provides alarming evidence of serious rights violations associated with deforestation, and first-hand community testimony of the impact of environmental destruction on the wellbeing and cultural survival of forest-dependent communities. It highlights recommendations from indigenous peoples to support community-led initiatives to address deforestation in their own territories.
‘Securing Forests, Securing Rights’, released here for the first time, was compiled following research and investigations conducted by more than sixty indigenous and forest communities from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Convening in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, in March 2014, rights holders themselves spoke independently of the direct and indirect drivers of forest loss and shared their own assessments of the grave human rights violations and atrocities facing their communities and lands today.
The resulting global call to action – The Palangka Raya Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – demands that governments, international agencies and the international community halt the production, trade and consumption of commodities derived from deforestation; stop the invasion of forest peoples’ lands and forests by logging and timber extraction, agribusiness, extractive industries, energy and conservation projects that deny fundamental human rights; and take immediate and concrete actions to uphold forest peoples’ rights at all levels (including the right to land, territories and the right to self-determined development).
‘We urgently need to overcome the contradiction between government initiatives that seek to exploit the forest and take land from communities, and conservation initiatives like REDD schemes. Both are seeking land and forest but continuously exclude local communities.’ – Norhadi Karben, Mantangai, Kapuas, Central Kalimantan
The report evidences alarming infringements of the rights of forest communities in nine countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Colombia, Guyana, Paraguay, and Peru). In all nine countries, industrial forest concession and land-leasing models were identified as responsible for systemic rights violations and forest destruction. The effectiveness of ‘zero deforestation’ pledges made by governments and business were also critiqued by authors who identified a huge gap between policies on biodiversity and forest conservation, on the one hand, and prevailing unsustainable development models and practices, on the other.
Insecure community tenure rights, perpetuated by discriminatory and out-dated land and forestry laws, are identified as key ‘indirect’ drivers of deforestation. In addition, the unsustainable and growing global demand and consumption of ‘forest risk’ commodities including meat, livestock feed (soya), palm oil, minerals, oil, gas and biofuels are highlighted as the main indirect drivers of forest loss and human rights infringements across all nine countries covered by the report.
Forests and Climate Change Negotiations
The report underscores the demands of indigenous peoples for governments in Lima to take a bold stance and adopt a human rights based approach to climate actions and recognise indigenous peoples land rights and traditional knowledge.
Forests and their role in mitigation have been at the centre of climate change negotiations for many years, in particular in negotiations on REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). The Cancun agreements, finalised in COP16 in 2010, acknowledge the importance of forests in mitigating climate change, the role of indigenous peoples in conserving and managing forests, and adopted safeguards for REDD+ to ensure respect of indigenous peoples' rights and traditional knowledge. This was a significant step forward in building the foundations of a rights-based approach in multilateral environmental agreements such as the UNFCCC.
Since then deforestation has increased. Human rights violations, land grabs and the seizure of indigenous land have intensified, driven by the expansion of infrastructure, monoculture plantations for food, fuel and fibre, logging, and carbon mitigation actions such as biofuels, natural gas or large-scale hydropower development.
At the same time the effects of climate change on indigenous peoples have also intensified in terms of restricted access to water, food, drought, alteration of ecosystem balances and loss of knowledge systems and cultures. The gains achieved in Cancun risk being lost at COP20 in Lima, unless parties take a bold stance and acknowledge that climate change is a human-rights issue.
COP20 is expected to deliver a footprint for future negotiations that will lead to a global binding agreement on climate to be adopted at COP21 in December 2015 in Paris. Thus far, discussions and negotiations on land-based mitigation - including forests - have only paid lip service to the need to ensure respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent peoples and communities.
Governments and decision-makers are gathering now in Lima to adopt a series of decisions and agree on a draft paper that will inform the negotiations towards Paris 2015. Land-based mitigation such as REDD+ is one of the key elements in both the ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ and in plans toward 2020.
Human rights must be at the centre of deliberations in Lima and robust rights-based approaches must be enshrined in future agreements adopted in Paris 2015. Forest peoples everywhere are calling for a more inclusive public debate and a greater emphasis on the fact that where forest peoples’ rights are secure and respected, forests are also secured for future generations, and remain healthy and intact – a view supported by a growing body of scientific and empirical evidence.
Without securing forest peoples’ land and territorial rights in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and in accordance with State obligations under related human rights instruments, it is unlikely there will be any halt to the accelerating destruction of forests globally.
‘Governments and companies must recognise, respect and restitute the rights of communities. Governments must also terminate and suspend permits allocated to unjust development projects that violate communities' rights and damage and destroy the forest. Only by guaranteeing and protecting rights and recognising the communities that manage forests can deforestation truly be curbed and the well-being of forest peoples be secured.’ Franky Samperante, PUSAKA.
Pokker SHK Kalteng
Forest Peoples Programme (FPP)
Notes for Editors:
‘Securing Forests, Securing Rights’ will be launched at a Public Hearing in Lima, Peru, on the 8th of December at the Museum of Arts in Lima from 11am through 3pm. Special guests include Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Bianca Jagger, Founder and Chair of The Bianca Jagger Human rights Foundation.
Images, captions and quotes can be accessed at http://invisibleperu.com together with additional information and reports.
The 9-14 March 2014 international workshop on Deforestation and the Rights of Forest Peoples was jointly organized by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), PUSAKA and POKKER SHK Kalteng in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The workshop brought together forest peoples from South America (Peru, Colombia, Guyana, Paraguay), SE Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia) and Africa (Liberia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo), NGO allies, governments, international agencies and forest scientists, to discuss new research-based case studies documenting the direct and indirect drivers of deforestation in specific countries, to share and update insights into the causes and consequences of deforestation, to discuss how to tackle deforestation, and to promote forest peoples’ rights and livelihoods.
The Palangka Raya declaration is available here: http://www.forestpeoples.org/topics/climate-forests/news/2014/03/palang…
Expanded Case Studies from the Global Review
‘Revealing the Hidden: Indigenous Perspectives on Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon’ http://www.forestpeoples.org/topics/rights-land-natural-resources/publi…
‘Assault on the Commons: Deforestation and the Denial of Rights in Indonesia’ http://www.forestpeoples.org/topics/climate-forests/publication/2014/as…
‘Deforestation Drivers and Human Rights in Malaysia’ http://www.forestpeoples.org/topics/climate-forests/publication/2014/de…
‘Indigenous People’s Rights, Forests and Climate Policies in Guyana: A Special Report’ http://www.forestpeoples.org/topics/responsible-finance/publication/201…
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PUSAKA is a non-profit organisation focusing on research, advocacy and the documentation and promotion of indigenous rights. It also specialises in capacity development, education and empowerment of indigenous peoples’ rights, including the right to land and economic, social and cultural rights. PUSAKA was established in 2002 by local activists with experience in advocacy for indigenous peoples’ rights and popular education. Its mission is to effect changes which acknowledge and protect the existence and rights of indigenous peoples and communities, based on justice and democracy, using gender perspectives and promoting sustainability. For more information, please visit http://pusaka.or.id/
Pokker SHK Kalteng is a community organisation based in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.