Selected category: Indigenous peoples

Shoddy CIFOR publication on indigenous peoples’ rights abuses gets the facts wrong

Indigenous People Day at COP23 | Photo by UNClimateChange

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) held a press conference during COP 23 in Bonn to launch a new publication, “Rights abuse allegations in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation.”

But the research underlying this sensationalistic headline is fundamentally flawed. Not only is their publication factually wrong in many places, but the peer-review process failed to identify numerous weaknesses in the analysis. A rights-based approach for REDD+ was already enshrined in the UNFCCC COP 19’s decision on the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ in 2013. One could argue that it actually goes even further back to the Cancun Safeguard decision at COP 16 in 2010.

Below are the five primary issues in the report. (Note: The rest of this piece assumes readers are generally familiar with the points made in the CIFOR publication and very familiar with REDD+ within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC.)

  1. The mafia, not REDD+ supporters, are killing indigenous and community leaders

The biggest problem with CIFOR’s publication is they fail to identify who is murdering indigenous and community leaders trying to protect their rights and forests, which gives the impression that it’s people connected to REDD+.

But the researchers say in footnote 2 they did not attempt to investigate the veracity of the allegations:

“As this review refers only to published sources, it does not include more recent allegations or attempts to evaluate the veracity or present status of each case (including whether corrective measures have since been taken), …”

If they would have done more research, they would have found that the majority did not have anything to do with a REDD+ process or rise to an actual “rights abuse” definition. Global Witness documented 200 killings in 2016, and 97 so far in 2017, and identified the biggest violators as mafias involved in illegal logging, mining, and agribusiness – not REDD+ proponents murdering indigenous and community activists.

  1. CIFOR’s publication relies on unreliable sources

Some of CIFOR’s sourcing for its publication is untrustworthy. For example, REDD-Monitor.com has a clear anti-REDD+ agenda and its funders include a who’s who list of groups with strong anti-REDD+ positions. Its About page calls REDD+ a “hairbrained scheme to allow continued greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels by offsetting these emissions against ‘avoided deforestation’ in the Global South.”

  1. CIFOR’s article’s peer-review is weak

While many of the reviewers are knowledgeable about rights and the REDD+ field, they are not the people who are most well-acquainted with UNFCCC REDD+ decisions.

  1. UNFCCC REDD+ uses a rights-based approach

REDD+ negotiators, indigenous peoples representatives, and civil society organizations spent eight years creating comprehensive guidance for REDD+, called the Warsaw Framework for REDD+.

The Warsaw Framework includes the “Cancun Safeguards” and also mandates reporting on how the safeguards are addressed and respected. The Cancun Safeguards were agreed to in 2010 and were one of the first REDD+ decisions that guided all subsequent decisions.

The Cancun Safeguards was one of the first decisions to reference the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (also known as “UNDRIP”) in an international agreement. Nearly all of the world’s countries approved the decision and the insertion of a reference to UNDRIP forced many countries who had not previously acknowledged the Declaration to do as much.

  1. The Warsaw Framework for REDD+ does not include project-based REDD+

A significant part of the “allegations” and “potential” negative examples explored in the article are linked to REDD+ projects, which again, are not covered by the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. But do a simple word search for “projects” in all of the UNFCCC REDD+ decisions and you’ll see the word does not appear once. That’s because implicitly, UNFCCC REDD+ is meant for jurisdictional REDD+ programs – not one-off REDD+ projects.

Suggestions for moving forward

CIFOR and the REDD+ community should consider a few steps to make amends for their inaccurate publication.

  • CIFOR should consider writing its own research paper on the dozens, if not hundreds, of indigenous leaders and forest activists that are murdered every year defending their rights and the forests.
  • CIFOR should not treat REDD Monitor as a legitimate resource for academic research.
  • CIFOR should improve its “peer-review” process and ensure information is, per its tagline, “accurate.”

Vigilance will always be needed to ensure that no abuses of indigenous rights occur in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation. One such violation is one too many.

However, such risks have long been identified and are already being addressed, not least because indigenous groups have effectively used national and international REDD+ processes to advance recognition of their rights.

Sensationalized publications based on unsubstantiated allegations do nobody any good, and divert attention from documented rights violations and murders committed by actors seeking to destroy forests – not by REDD+ proponents who are eager to work with indigenous leaders to protect them.

Also posted in Deforestation| Leave a comment

Temer’s rollback of Brazil’s environmental and indigenous protections threatens livelihoods and world’s climate goals

Guest authors: Juliana Splendore, EDF climate change and indigenous issues consultant in Brazil, and Joelson Felix, Communications Officer of COIAB – a Brazilian indigenous organization representing indigenous peoples in the Brazilian Amazon

An aerial view of the Brazilian Amazon under a pouring rain | Photo by Juliana Splendore

One year into his presidency, Brazilian President Temer is leading a dismantling of crucial protections for Brazil’s indigenous territories and the environment.

New policies the president recently approved put at risk indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands, and could open the flood gates for Amazon deforestation, which has been rising dramatically in the past few years.

The president’s actions, aimed at winning the favor of the powerful agriculture lobby in Congress, threaten the livelihoods of the indigenous peoples who live in the forests, as well as Brazil’s international climate leadership and the world’s ability to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets agreed to in the Paris Agreement.

One of the world’s largest tropical forest areas, the Brazilian Amazon is home to more than 200 groups of indigenous peoples. Nearly half of the Brazilian Amazon, an area about five times the size of California, is designated as indigenous lands or protected natural areas, and as such is protected from development. These indigenous and protected areas and their indigenous populations were key to Brazil’s decreasing its deforestation by 70% from 2005 to 2014, which has made it the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, these gains are now at risk. Over the last two years, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon nearly doubled from 4,500 km2 in the period of 2011-2012 to 8,000 km2 in the period of 2015-2016, according to the National Institute of Space Research (INPE).

The significant rise in deforestation caused the Norwegian government this year to cut its forest protection payments to the Amazon Fund to about $35 million, $65 million less than in 2016. This cut directly affects the indigenous populations in the Amazon, who are among the main beneficiaries of the Fund.

Rollbacks in indigenous lands and environmental protections

Since he took office August 31, 2016, scandal-plagued Brazilian President Temer approved new measures and federal rules aimed at helping him gain critical support from the advocates of agribusiness and large rural landowners, known as the ruralistas, who make up one of the most powerful caucuses in the National Congress with over 200 seats.

Temer has created a new federal rule to be implemented by Brazilian Administration that can be used to deny many indigenous peoples the right to their lands. It stipulates that indigenous peoples do not have the right to their lands if they were not occupying them in October 1988, when the current constitution came into effect. Essentially, it denies the right of the indigenous peoples who lack sufficient documentation to prove that they were expelled from their lands during that time. As a result, many pending requests by indigenous groups for titles to their traditional territories could be denied because of their earlier expulsions. Another part of the new rule also prohibits the expansion of existing indigenous territories. Finally, the new rule also allows certain types of infrastructure projects to be permitted on their titled territories without any consultation.

A new short-term measure signed by President Temer (MP759) – which can be easily turned into a law – is expected to substantially intensify deforestation in the Amazon region. The new measure facilitates the legalization of public lands that were illegally occupied in the period of 2004 – 2011 and increases the size of land parcels that can be claimed. This measure could result in the loss of millions of hectares in the Amazon to land speculators.

Indigenous peoples in a training organized by ISA (Instituto Socioambiental) | Photo by Juliana Splendore

Need for more international attention and support

Taken together, these developments in Brazil endanger not only the livelihoods of indigenous populations, but also the significant amount of forest carbon stored in indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon, threatening the world’s ability to stabilize global climate.

The silver lining here is that the advocacy efforts led by the indigenous movement, environmentalists, Norway, and some international organizations are playing a key role in  mitigating the effects of the policies and guidance approved by Temer.

Now, indigenous peoples need even more support from international actors, in particular from EU governments and international companies committed to reduce deforestation in their supply chains. The governments and business leaders need to tell President Temer to roll back the new rules and measures.

Also posted in Brazil, Deforestation| Leave a comment

Is Brazil stepping back from environmental leadership, just when it’s needed the most?

Michel Temer in April 2016. Credit: Fabio Rodrigues-Pozzebom/ Agencia Brasil via Wikimedia Commons.

Every conversation I have with my Brazilian friends and colleagues these days starts off with a discussion of whose political crisis is worse. It’s a hard question. But Brazil’s President Temer has the chance to show a little real leadership June 19th if he decides to veto a blatant giveaway of a large swath of protected Amazon forest to land grabbers and environmental lawbreakers.

U.S. and Brazilian presidents: The 19th-century take on development and the environment

Wildly unpopular U.S. President Trump was elected by maybe a third of eligible voters, with a substantial minority of votes cast. He is doing everything he and his staff can think of to roll back environmental protections in the United States and stymie progress on climate change globally. His ill-conceived scheme to pull the United States out the Paris Agreement would have us abdicate international leadership and surrender the enormous economic opportunity of the new, renewable, energy economy to China and other competitors.

Wildly unpopular Brazilian President Temer was put in power by an even more wildly unpopular Congress in an ultimately failed bid to shut down judicial investigations that are sending herds of them, and their business associates, to jail for massive graft and corruption. He (and his predecessor, who mismanaged the economy into the worst recession in Brazil’s modern history) has totally dropped the ball on controlling Amazon deforestation, which, in the absence of budget for enforcement has increased for two years running for the first time since 2004.

Brazil’s Amazon at risk

Since the weight of corruption scandals Temer is personally implicated in has him clinging to power by his fingernails, the yahoos in the “rural caucus” of the Congress (the voting bloc of big ranchers’ and agribusiness’ representatives) are taking the opportunity to run hog-wild with proposals to gut forest protections and roll back indigenous territories – two of the major reasons why Brazil became the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing deforestation by about 80% from 2004–2014.

By June 19th, Temer has to decide whether to veto measures that would deliver 600,000 hectares in an Amazon protected area to land-grabbers – and rampant deforestation. It's not just 600,000 hectares of forest at stake – caving to a flagrant play to carve up a federal conservation area to benefit slash-and-burn land grabbers is a terrible precedent for all of the Amazon protected areas.

All of this is rapidly eroding Brazil’s international climate leadership, and is bad news for the Paris Agreement. Brazil’s demonstration that a major emerging economy could reduce large-scale emissions while growing its economy and bringing millions out of poverty was a beacon of light in the climate negotiations that is dimming by the moment.

Brazil’s President Temer can show a little real leadership if he vetos a blatant giveaway of a large swath of protected Amazon forest to land grabbers and environmental lawbreakers

The abandonment of Brazil’s successful deforestation control program by President Temer and former President Dilma, if continued, will only hinder Brazil’s economic prospects in the 21st century global economy – like President Trump’s radical misreading (or ignorance) of the economic implications of the Paris Agreement for the United States. Increased deforestation will likely cause Brazil to lose market share as major commodity traders and consumer goods companies that have committed to zero-deforestation beef and soy supply chains curtail market access. Rampant violence and human rights abuses against indigenous peoples and grassroots environmental activists will expose public-facing companies to increasing reputational risk – and send them looking for lower-risk places to source.

On the other hand, support for sustainable development first movers such as Acre state and agriculture powerhouse Mato Grosso could make Brazil the go-to supplier for zero-deforestation commodities worldwide. And, as Amazon states, civil society and green business leaders have consistently advocated, if Brazil opened up to carbon market crediting for reduced deforestation in emerging international markets, it could unlock the finance needed to end deforestation in the Amazon and Brazil’s other mega-diverse biomes; make family and industrial agriculture 100% sustainable; and create sustainable prosperity in the 200 million hectares of indigenous territories and protected areas of the Amazon.

It’s hard to say whose loss is worse under U.S. and Brazil’s lamentable current policies, but maybe even harder to say whose gain would be greater if Trump and Temer would wake up and recognize the real opportunities in the 21st century economy.

Also posted in Brazil, Deforestation, News, REDD+| Leave a comment

Case Studies: Scaling Indigenous and Community Enterprises in Brazil, Challenges and Opportunities ahead

An indigenous woman of the Xingu Seed Network at work | Photo courtesy: Tui Anandi and Danilo Urzedo (ISA)

Brazil is a great laboratory for studying indigenous and community enterprises that support forest conservation and community development. It has abundant and diverse indigenous and community projects and enterprises across the Amazon.

As part of an initiative to foster the growth of these enterprises, EDF catalogued as many examples as we could find and used the Canopy Bridge Atlas to map indigenous enterprises in the Amazon Basin. We selected three cases to investigate further, which are unique in different ways, but face similar challenges.

By studying the three cases, we found that:

  • Securing operating and sanitary licenses from the government has been the most significant challenge for the enterprises due to bureaucratic hurdles. They either are currently experiencing problems in obtaining these licenses or encountered significant problems in the past.
  • Government is also a key source of initial and steady demand, either directly or indirectly, of the products of these enterprises.
  • The enterprises have partnered with allies for technical assistance, start-up funding, and/or continuing funding, in order to scale and maximize impacts.

The Babassu Nut Collecting Cooperative

The Cooperativa Interestadual das Mulheres Quebradeiras de Coco Babaçu (CIMQCB) is a decentralized cooperative formed by women from forest communities who collect and process babassu nuts in Brazil. CIMQCB sells its main products, babassu nut soap, oil, and flour, to various types of local, regional, and national customers.

While obtaining sanitary licensing from the government has been an obstacle for CIMQCB to accessing some markets, the federal government’s school food acquisition program is also a consistent and large client for one of its sub-groups.

Partnerships with foreign development programs have been essential for its organizational development. The European Union and the German Development Bank were some of its first donors. Currently, the cooperative receives supports from the Program of Small Ecosocial Projects.

Read full case study 

The Jupaú Cassava Flour

The Jupaú indigenous people, also known as Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, who were officially contacted for the first time forty years ago. Their traditional processing techniques create a unique flavor and have attracted significant demand for their product.

However, the Jupaú are not formally organized as a business and are faced with the challenge of meeting sanitary and business regulations as well.

To help them overcome the challenges, Kanine, a local non-profit, is working with the Jupaú to find a culturally appropriate manner to increase their production and secure appropriate licenses from the state, while maintaining their unique and traditional processing that makes their product special.

Read full case study

The Xingu Seed Network

The Xingu Seed Network (RSX) was officially established in 2007 by an association of individuals and organizations working on community development in the Xingu River region. The network sources seeds for 200 different native species that are used for reforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado regions. In RSX, indigenous women are the majority of the seed collectors and the activity is an important source of income for them.

Financial and technical support from donors has played a key role in RSX’s growth. It is on the pathway to financial sustainability from its seed sales ($95,000 in 2015).

Similar to the other cases, business regulations and obtaining the proper licenses have been challenging for RSX. The Brazilian Forest Code drove a significant amount of early demand for their seeds, recent changes to it depressed demand.

Read full case study

Overcoming bureaucratic licensing hurdles, finding right partners, connecting with government programs, and complying with government regulations are the key challenges and opportunities the enterprises highlighted here and many others face.

In the future, EDF and our partners will continue to work with these indigenous and community enterprises throughout the Amazon to help them to overcome the challenges, scale their businesses, and maximize their impacts. There is still much to be done to conserve what is left of the Amazon forest.

Also posted in Brazil, Deforestation| Leave a comment

What the Paris Agreement's references to indigenous peoples mean

By: Chris Meyer, Environmental Defense Fund, and Estebancio Castro, Independent Indigenous Leader

paris_indigenous

The Paris Agreement makes five explicit references to indigenous peoples, their rights, and their traditional knowledge. Above: A report launched at a December 2015 press conference in Paris found indigenous territories hold one-fifth of the world’s tropical forest carbon. Credit: Environmental Defense Fund

Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but they can also play a crucial role in stabilizing the climate. Though the 1997 Kyoto Protocol didn’t include a single reference to indigenous peoples, the Paris Agreement– though not perfect – made some great strides.

The Paris Agreement and implementing decisions include:

  • five explicit references to indigenous peoples, their rights, and their traditional knowledge. These appear in the preambles of both the Paris Agreement and the Decision text, and in specific topic areas of the exchange of experiences and adaptation.
  • a reference to a topic important to indigenous peoples, non-carbon benefits in relation to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+).

Importantly, the references to indigenous peoples in the preamble to the Paris Agreement, and repeated in the preamble to the Decision text, say that countries need to respect indigenous peoples’ rights when taking action to address climate change. It’s significant that this rights language is included in the preambles, as it ensures these rights will be part of the framing of the whole agreement and implementing decisions.

The Paris Agreement and its Decision texts contain important references to indigenous peoples' rights that can help drive change at the country levels, where it is most needed.

The other references to indigenous peoples discuss the need to include them in the exchange of knowledge, especially considering the topic of adaptation. As they are one of the more vulnerable groups, they will need access to more western knowledge to support their own indigenous knowledge about how to adapt to climate change and protect their livelihoods. Additionally, the Paris Agreement recognizes indigenous peoples' “traditional knowledge” as an asset for helping themselves – and their neighbors – adapt.

Indigenous peoples for many years advocated strongly for the consideration of non-carbon benefits as a part of REDD+, including through a number of formal submissions to the process. The inclusion of explicit language in the REDD+ article to promote non-carbon benefits reflects their efforts and the importance of the topic.

The Paris Agreement and its Decision text aren’t perfect, and though some may have wished to see a greater number of specific references to these rights in the text, the Paris outcome was kept intentionally broad so it could be applicable to nearly 200 countries.

Regardless, we see important references to indigenous peoples' rights in the Paris Agreement and its Decision texts that, together with other international human rights instruments, can now be leveraged to drive change at the country levels, where it is most needed. That is the challenge in the years to come – to ensure indigenous peoples and their rights are adequately represented and respected in countries’ policies and actions they take to implement the Paris Agreement.

Additional resources:

Also posted in Paris, REDD+| 1 Response

Amazon states, global leaders in emissions reductions

Two states in the Brazilian Amazon — Mato Grosso and Pará emitted more greenhouse gases in 2004 than all but six nations in the world. More climate pollution than Japan. By 2012 they had cut emissions so dramatically, they dropped beneath 37 other countries.

This progress, achieved through reduced deforestation, is a major reason for the 80%  decline in Amazon deforestation between 2005 and 2014.

At the Paris climate conference, these two states rolled out plans for even more ambitious action.

caption

(source: Observatório de Clima SEEG)

Ambitious forest policy is key to climate progress

Slowing Amazon deforestation has kept over 4 billion tons of CO₂ out of the atmosphere since 2005, several times more than the EU’s emissions reductions from 2005 – 2011. Major causes of the decline include better remote sensing monitoring, ramped-up law enforcement, credit limitations, company commitments to zero-deforestation commodity supply chains, large-scale creation of protected areas and recognition of indigenous territories.

The bad news is that plans positive incentives – payments from polluters to preserve forests — have not materialized.  Consequently, while deforestation dropped to a historic low of 4,500 km² in 2012 (from a peak of 27,000 km² in 2004), it has crept back up to around 5,000 km² in recent years.

Read More »

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