By Serena Fortuna, REDD+ forestry officer, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN-REDD Programme “REDD+, forest tenure and the rights of Indigenous peoples” global knowledge component co-leader; Josep Garí, senior policy advisor, U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) Climate and Forests and UN-REDD Programme “REDD+, forest tenure and the rights of Indigenous peoples” global knowledge component co-leader; Elspeth Halverson, global project management and communications specialist, UNDP Climate & Forests; Celina (Kin Yii) Yong, UNDP UN-REDD stakeholder engagement specialist / UN-REDD Programme.
Since its inception in 2008, the UN-REDD Programme (a joint initiative of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, U.N. Development Programme and UN Environment made possible through support from Denmark, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the European Union) has supported inclusive, gender-equitable policy formulation and decision making for national and sub-national REDD+ processes. This approach is based on the recognition that the people who live within or in close proximity to forests, and whose livelihoods depend directly on forests, are best positioned to protect and sustainably manage them. Their perspectives and proposals deserve primary consideration.
To underpin this approach, the UN-REDD Programme has integrated representatives from Indigenous communities and civil society into its national programs and processes, ensuring their full and effective participation. More concretely, the program has pioneered rights instruments, such as protocols for “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” (FPIC) and the design of Grievance Redress Mechanisms (GRM), to advance Indigenous peoples rights with respect to decision making and participation in climate and forest policies and measures. In parallel, national REDD+ stakeholder platforms have become instrumental in fostering participatory policy dialogues, as well as developing inclusive national strategies. The program has also helped communities and Indigenous peoples to assess and secure tenure rights – in line with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure, advance the demarcation and monitoring of their own territories and to use such information towards community-based land and forest planning.
The UN-REDD Programme also facilitates regular dialogue – such as the upcoming event at the GLF – and South-South exchanges through face to face meetings or through the online discussion group on REDD+ and Forest Governance (‘Dgroup’), its active discussions or webinars. Featured topics on forest tenure, Indigenous peoples, community forestry and gender spark active exchanges of views and experiences. Among the highlights were introduction and perspectives on Zambia’s new community forestry regulations and experience sharing on the forest tenure assessment completed in Honduras.
At the upcoming Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, UN-REDD, with the Tenure Facility and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, will host an Interactive Session on 22 June that will share and discuss various approaches and mechanisms to ensure climate policies, actions and financial instruments related to reducing deforestation (REDD+) are inclusive, notably in terms of promoting the rights of Indigenous peoples and forest-based communities, as well as mainstreaming gender equality. The session will unfold as an active dialogue between representatives from Indigenous peoples, as rights holders, presenting their cases, and representatives from development partners – both reflecting on early lessons from country and program cases, and underlining emerging opportunities in climate policy and finance to further advance the rights of Indigenous peoples.
Examples highlighted will include lessons from country cases and perspectives of Indigenous peoples who have been engaged in developing inclusive forest and climate policies and approaches. Some of the realities that inspired the preparation of this interactive session are:
In Colombia, the full and active participation of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples in national policy processes reached a milestone in 2018 with the release of the national strategy on forests (Bosques, Territorios de Vida) and the advancement of the national development plan. These two key national policy streams effectively recognize Indigenous peoples’ rights and their relevance in forest issues. They are models of best, inclusive practices for other countries. For this, UN-REDD also joined forces with other EU funding initiatives supporting identification and implementation of model community-based forestry approaches. The lessons of the national participatory policy process were collected, systematized and disseminated, so as to inspire and facilitate the efforts of other nations and stakeholders.
In Ecuador, Indigenous peoples are recognized as priority stakeholders in the implementation of the REDD+ Action Plan. PROAmazonía, the forerunner REDD+ programme in the country with financing of $53 million from the Green Climate Fund, has provisions to ensure that the majority of program actions must have the participation of Indigenous peoples. As a result, having Indigenous peoples at the forefront for REDD+, coupled with government commitment to an inclusive REDD+ agenda, has yielded a rights-based approach to REDD+ actions and investments in Ecuador.
In Myanmar, representatives of Indigenous peoples were not only actively involved in the design of a REDD+ Roadmap for the country, but in a few subnational consultations, co-facilitated these engagements with government representatives. To prepare themselves for the country’s journey of meeting the requirements of the Warsaw Framework, Indigenous peoples self-selected a national representative to sit in the national UN-REDD Programme Executive Board and organized themselves into technical groups. As a result of this internal preparation, the collaboration between Indigenous peoples and the government of Myanmar continues to grow from strength to strength.
Many more lessons learned from the enabling conditions, process as well as from the implementation and the connection with climate finance (from carbon rights to Indigenous Peoples’ policy of the Green Climate Fund) will be shared and discussed upon at the event.
As the international effort for REDD+ reached a milestone first decade, it is clear the recognition of Indigenous peoples and local communities as essential stakeholders in national REDD+ processes has gained widespread traction. This is a significant achievement for Indigenous delegates and activists who have tirelessly advocated for their cause. This promises to yield more inclusive and robust policy and program responses to the global forest and climate crises.
As we look forward to the next decade of REDD+, scaled up efforts to institutionalize respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities will be needed to ensure that policy commitments are realized and that people are protected and empowered to sustainably manage the landscapes on which their livelihoods, and the stability of the earth’s climate, so urgently depends.
Join the session to learn more at GLF Bonn, 22-23 June.