The ‘do's and don'ts of supporting forest conservation and restoration initiatives by local communities and indigenous peoples

07 December 2011 | Article

(By Simone Lovera) The objectives of the participatory seminar were to provide a space for representatives of indigenous peoples, peasant movements, women's movements and local communities to voice and share their experiences and views on the most appropriate, equitable and effective ways in which outsiders can support the initiatives of indigenous peoples and local communities to conserve and restore their forests and other ecosystems that play a key role in climate change mitigation and resilience.

The seminar discussed the possible impact of policies and incentive schemes to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation and enhance forest carbon stocks (REDD+) on such initiatives. The seminar started with introductions by speakers representing Indigenous Peoples' Organizations, peasant movements, and women's groups, followed by an “open floor” where other Indigenous and community representatives presented their experiences and views. Kanyinke Sena of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee, who is a member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and actively involved in various international policy processes related to REDD+, facilitated the workshop and effectively linked some of the local perspectives to the discussions on REDD+ in these fora.

The main conclusions of the seminar were: Seminar participants voiced recommendations for greater support in the form of:

  • Recognition of and effective support from governments for Indigenous territorial rights, land reform, autonomy, traditional knowledge, governance systems, sustainable agriculture, food sovereignty and sustainable alternative livelihood options;
  • Enabling Indigenous peoples/local communities to share knowledge, strengthen their institutions and build alliances with like-minded movements;
  • Legal, political and financial support for campaigns against destructive policies/projects, including logging, mining, large tree plantations and land grabbing.

Participants deemed the following outside influences unhelpful or even destructive :

  • - REDD+ and other projects that convince Indigenous peoples and local communities to sign false/unfair PES agreements;
  • - REDD+ projects and policies funded through offsets from private-sector companies who are unlikely to provide support for legal and advocacy campaigns;
  • - REDD+ support for monoculture tree plantations causing serious negative impacts on local communities, Indigenous Peoples, and forests;
  • - Top-down forms of support which dis-respect and undermine the rights, spiritual value systems, and governance systems of Indigenous Peoples and local communities;
  • - Projects and policies ignoring women's rights and needs ;
  • - Projects imposing economically unviable or otherwise senseless alternative livelihoods on Indigenous peoples and local communities.

These recommendations were  presented at a media event on 1 December and widely disseminated, especially amongst the media. They were also presented through a poster session at COP17 of the Framework Convention on Climate Change itself, and  at Forest Day 5, which was attended by over 1000 REDD+ policy-makers and researchers.