Policies and strategies to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in Developing countries (REDD) are one of the most controversial issues on the agenda of the current climate negotiations, which are to lead to a global climate agreement in December 2009 in Copenhagen. While a socially and environmentally sound, rights-based REDD agreement might provide significant opportunities for the climate, and for forests and forest peoples, it is feared that the current negotiations might end up in a weak, inequitable deal that actually undermines the rights and governance structures of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. A weak agreement might even cause environmental harm as it might promote the replacement of forests by monoculture tree plantations.

For that reason, CEESP members gathering at the World Conservation Congress 2008 decided to establish a Task Force on REDD and Communities. The main aim of the task force is to exchange information, views and expertise on REDD and its potential impact on the rights and governance systems of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. To feed the expertise of CEESP into the REDD debate, the task force started with publishing a discussion paper on REDD, rights, governance and community conserved areas, which built on the knowledge and expertise of CEESP members and existing CEESP documents like Policy Matters and CEESP briefing papers on rights and forest governance systems. The first draft of the discussion document was elaborated in close cooperation with the Global Forest Coalition, an international coalition of mainly Southern NGOs and Indigenous Peoples' Organizations. It was circulated over the TGER and TILCEPA lists for comments, and subsequently presented at a side event at the 14th Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2008. Subsequent comments were incorporated in the latest draft, which can be found in English and Spanish at http://www.globalforestcoalition.org/img/userpics/File/publications/Hottest-REDD-Issues.pdf

Members of the Task Force participated actively in the Climate negotiations in December 2008 and April 2009, a number of REDD-related capacity-building workshops at the World Social Forum which took place in January 2009, in Belem, Brazil, a European Expert meeting on REDD, Biofuels and Indigenous Peoples which took place in May in the Netherlands, and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May in New York. They will also participate in the Climate negotiations in June. The discussion paper was widely disseminated at these meetings, and regular updates on the negotiations were posted on the lists.

TILCEPA co-chair Nigel Crawhall and colleagues from the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee have also started a video project, to document the voices of Indigenous communities on REDD and Indigenous rights, and climate change and forests in general. The first videos can be found at http://www.ipacc.org.za/

The emphasis of the Task Force and many other organizations and institutions has led to a significantly increased interest in the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the importance of assuring co-benefits for biodiversity and local communities in the REDD debate. However, the actual clauses in the negotiation texts of the FCCC will need significant strengthening if REDD is to lead to positive outcomes for forests and forest peoples. With only 6 months to go for the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change, the challenge of assuring a positive outcome on REDD cannot and should not be underestimated. 

The Task Force is co-coordinated by Jacques Pollini, Kanyinke Sena and Simone Lovera. For more information, please contact simonelovera@yahoo.com