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Why indigenous rights matter for REDD+

CIFOR analyst Stephen Leonard on the growing international role of indigenous rights for action on forests and climate
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Indigenous rights have recently taken on a more prominent role in international discussions on forests and their role in combating climate change. Growing from an increasing understanding of the role of traditional knowledge in sustainable management of forests, as well as the connections between forests and climate, indigenous peoples are increasingly being involved in national and international policy processes in this area.

Ahead of the Global Landscapes Forum opening today in Bonn, Germany, Forests News caught up with CIFOR analyst Stephen Leonard to hear more about recent developments in research and policy on forests, restoration and climate change, and the rights and knowledge of indigenous peoples.

Over the past 12 months there’s been an increasing emphasis on the role of indigenous peoples in the context of climate and forests.

When it comes to the idea around reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and conservation of forests, which is described as REDD+, indigenous peoples play an important role.

What particular role do indigenous peoples play in REDD+?

In the policy context there is of course the participatory role – indigenous peoples are mostly rights-holders and so they have a stronger opportunity or maybe a stronger emphasis on the viewpoint and entitlement of indigenous peoples when it comes to what we might want to call ‘climate change related interventions’ – whether they’re mitigation or adaptation – in forests.

Indigenous peoples also have a long, connected history with forests in many parts of the world, in terms of stewardship and taking care of the forests of themselves, as well as very often a very deep cultural and spiritual connection that comes between indigenous peoples and the lands and forests in which they exist on.

What does research say about indigenous peoples and REDD+?

CIFOR has undertaken some work in this space in a number of different ways. There’s been work that’s been undertaken here which is focused on the role of monitoring and MRV of communities.

There has been other work that’s been undertaken here very recently focusing on allegations of rights violations, and there was a review based on a systematic search of the published scholarly literature that was done by some colleagues that has identified that there is the potential for REDD+-related interventions to violate rights in the circumstances where it’s not undertaken in a rights-based approach.

Now that finding is based on the number of allegations that have been raised by indigenous communities throughout the world which have been subjected to interventions under the name of REDD+. And so it’s important that that information is brought out into the public domain, so that the discussion on the importance of rights-based approaches can be focused on more.

It’s important that REDD+ is rights-based because the interventions, or the areas in which the REDD+ initiative will be focusing on will very often have indigenous communities in those areas. A rights-based approach to REDD+ will be important going forward, and it will not only give rise to more sustainability of the REDD+ efforts in and of themselves, but it will also go a long way in terms of improving livelihoods of indigenous communities and also support the sustainability of the overall objective to reduce emissions from forests.

How will this be covered at today’s Global Landscapes Forum?

There’ll be an interesting session at the Global Landscapes Forum that’ll be held by the indigenous peoples major group on sustainable development, which will be focusing on the role of indigenous peoples in the context of conservation, as I understand.

That is an important issue because historically there have been a lot of circumstances where communities have been moved off their land in order to enable for conservation initiatives to be undertaken, which raises questions around rights and violations of human rights and rights of indigenous peoples.

In relation to the Global Landscapes Forum, there have been a number of discussions happening, particularly between CIFOR and the major group of indigenous peoples focused on sustainable development and their role in the GLF itself. So this year’s quite exciting because there’s a discussion forum that will be held, there will be an indigenous pavilion, and a number of events that will be held in the pavilion.

We can expect that the Global Landscapes Forum will have quite a significant emphasis [on indigenous peoples]. And we’re also in discussion with, and very much looking forward to having longer term collaboration with indigenous networks and their involvement in the Global Landscapes Forum.

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Topic(s) :   REDD+ Climate change Community forestry

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