Climate Change / REDD+

REDD has risks and benefits for indigenous people

Jeff Hayward, manager of the Rainforest Alliance’s climate initiative, discusses the potential risks of REDD.

I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll continue to say it: conserving forests by stopping deforestation must happen soon if the world is to avoid worsening critical disruptions to climate. However, programs that countries may implement to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests (REDD) will affect communities and indigenous peoples. There are high expectations that these peoples will share in greater benefits, possibly from financial payments, greater land tenure security and new sources of employment.

But along with the opportunities, there are risks.

REDD programs might have implications more negative than positive for some communities. For example, government-controlled REDD programs could restrict access to land or result in a loss of loosely held tenure rights. Additionally, the wealthy or more powerful elite may capture the greater share of finances, and marginalized communities may be excluded further from having a voice in decision-making.

These issues have been steadily gaining ground in the international climate negotiations. As the reality of REDD being part of the next United Nations Framework on Climate Convention agreement nears, indigenous peoples and community organizations are increasingly voicing these concerns.

To give you an idea of what these concerns are, I present the following collection of the main points springing from the Accra Caucus and Anchorage Declaration, two widely distributed statements that address principles and concerns from some organizations representing indigenous peoples and local communities*.

Any REDD agreement or process would be expected to secure these principles:

  • Recognize and respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to lands, territories and resources, and their traditional uses of the forest.
  • Implementation of REDD must not lead to displacement of indigenous peoples and local communities from their territories and lands.
  • The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be honored as a framework.
  • Indigenous peoples and local communities should be direct beneficiaries of financing mechanisms where their lands, territories and resources are concerned.
  • Revenues from REDD should be equitably shared between and within communities, especially among vulnerable groups and women.
  • Indigenous peoples and local communities must be involved at all stages of decision-making about REDD, from the design to the implementation.
  • Indigenous peoples and local communities must give free, prior and informed consent before their territories can be used, and must be encouraged to participate meaningfully at all levels.
  • REDD must improve forest governance.

* Who has the voice to represent indigenous peoples is a sensitive subject and no one, not even the organizations signing such statements, should presume to be the voice of all indigenous peoples.

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