Indigenous Peoples’ effective engagement in REDD+ processes in Philippines and Cambodia

Several governments in Asia are in the process of implementing REDD+ (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and forest Degradation) preparatory stage. This is part of the International Agreement to reduce carbon emission under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). With the serious implications of REDD+ to millions of indigenous peoples in Asia, indigenous communities and their leaders have been engaging with government bodies to influence the development of the REDD+ policy and programs and its implementation in order to protect their rights, livelihoods and for equitable benefit-sharing. In this regard, the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) conducted two case studies in the Philippines and Cambodia to document the processes and engagement of indigenous communities at local and national levels. These case studies highlight the challenges and achievements of indigenous peoples in their engagements with relevant actors, particularly with their government agencies.

Some of the key lessons learnt and recommendations include the following:

Lessons Learnt:

  • Early actions from government and NGOs can address negative and discriminating policies and mechanisms relating to the effective participation in the management of forest areas and in the benefit- sharing from the utilization of resources therein without waiting for a complete safeguards framework and guidelines to be approved.
  • There is heightened demand for information/orientation at all levels, thus creating the need for more Information Education Campaigns (IEC) to reach out to indigenous communities and various stakeholders. These include relevant government agencies
  • Capacity building is necessary in REDD+ national strategy and will only be effective if coupled with clear good governance measures for its implementation with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities.
  • Partnerships are best delivered through a transparent and inclusive multi-stakeholders and multi-level participatory processes and these are stronger if built on partnerships and processes that have been proven to be effective.
  • Governments are not monolithic. Champions and allies in the promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples for REDD+ can be developed from their ranks.
  • There is a need to understand and enhance the linkages between the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), forest governance frameworks in strengthening REDD+ relating to indigenous peoples, sustainable forest management, biodiversity enhancement and benefit-sharing.

Recommendations

  • The REDD+ programme must adopt a rights-based approach and uphold democratic principles, including the protection of land tenure of indigenous peoples. Sustainable community forest management and land tenure must be provided in REDD+ and guaranteed even after the life of the REDD+ project agreements.
  • The right to full and effective participation of indigenous peoples including indigenous women in all REDD+ stages and plans shall be guaranteed. The roles and contributions of indigenous women, as well as their specific needs and aspirations shall be taken into account all relevant REDD+ activities.
  • REDD+ must recognize indigenous peoples’ rights, welfare, low-carbon lifestyles, sustainable livelihoods and the multiple values of forest to them as it relates to their cultures, identities and spirituality. It shall thereby prioritize non-carbon benefits, rather than focusing on carbon benefit alone.
  • Governments must uphold the right to free prior and informed consent- FPIC of indigenous peoples for any development or REDD+ related activities in indigenous lands and territories including in benefit sharing schemes or arrangements.
  • Traditional forest livelihoods and customary resource management practices of indigenous communities such as shifting cultivation/ rotational agriculture and gathering of NTFP must be protected, and must be considered in the sustainable forest management activities in REDD+. Sustainable forest management must be promoted through the allocation and demarcation of forestlands to indigenous communities with the necessary technical support and protection.
  • Promote convergence and harmonization of relevant government agencies working on REDD+, climate change, and those that have jurisdiction over forests and natural resources.
  • Respect indigenous governance systems and ensure the full and effective participation of indigenous elders and leaders in REDD+ and at the same time strengthen those systems while introducing REDD+ or any other project.
  • Build capacity of indigenous communities at the grassroots level on REDD+ related issues, and ensure technical and other forms of support to indigenous peoples representatives in REDD+ and related bodies.
  • Governments, donors and other REDD+ actors shall ensure the development and broad and effective dissemination of appropriate information materials, using various forms of media including radio and TV, and in local and indigenous languages. This information should include the rights of indigenous peoples, the implications of REDD+ to their rights, wellbeing and aspirations, the potential benefits and drawbacks of REDD+ to communities, among others.
  • The national REDD+ programme should allocate funds to support community forestry management including the enhancement of their livelihoods, forest patrolling, monitoring activities and reforestation in degraded areas and others. The equipment related to these activities should also be provided to communities for forest protection under the REDD+ programme.

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