A mechanism for saving forests accused of trampling on aboriginal rights

News 20 March, 2018
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    Tuesday, 20 march, 2018 06:13

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    PARIS | The only financial mechanism supported by the united nations to curb deforestation, a key question for the climate, has violated the rights of forest communities on three continents, say experts who call for its reform.

    Last target of the critics of REDD+ programs (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation): 20 projects in the province of Mai-Ndombe, democratic Republic of the Congo, accused in a recent report from the NGO Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) have a negative impact on the local communities.

    Supported by the congolese government and international donors, private companies responsible for large parts of the forests have ignored the rights of indigenous peoples and causes displacement, without the prior authorizations required, according to this study.

    “Indigenous peoples do not benefit not simply for REDD+ because there was no plan of sharing” of the fruits of these projects with the local people, explains to the AFP Marine Gauthier, who observes the programs of Mai-Ndombe for IPP since 2012.

    Some 73 million euros, from donor countries or private funds, have so far been disbursed, or promised, in this province for forestry projects related to global warming, while the impact of deforestation on climate change is multiple.

    Lose every year in forested areas equivalent to the size of Greece reduced the Earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, and it releases a volume of CO2 in the atmosphere which represents one-fifth of global emissions.

    Tropical forests also provide livelihoods to at least 250 million members of indigenous communities. Communities which, when they are involved in the management of resources, can better reduce the rate of deforestation, research studies show.

    “Unfortunately, the REDD+ projects in the DRC and route the money to the private sector actors who do not necessarily have the same motivation to protect the forests,” regrets Alain Frechette, director of strategic analysis for RRI.

    Negotiated within the framework of the treaty of 1992 on climate change, REDD+ projects exist since ten years, but many of them are waiting until 2020, at which time the “strategic framework” of the mechanism should be finalized.

    “Threats” and ” spoliation “

    In the meantime, pilot projects in dozens of countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, are accused of short-changing local communities and do not meet their prime objective of combating climate change.

    “It is difficult to see how indigenous peoples will benefit from REDD+ “, asks the Centre for forestry research international (CIFOR).

    “REDD+ is evolving in a context of rights violations, displacement and dispossession, threats and harassment, and repression and murder of activists environmental by representatives of the State or private,” he continued.

    According to Global Witness, more than 200 activists environmental have been killed in the world by 2016, of which nearly half were part of indigenous peoples.

    In the DRC, which is home to 50 % of the tropical forests of Africa, the situation is “very confrontational” in some land disputes, note Marine Gauthier.

    In Mai-Ndombe, a group of Pygmies has been recently prevented by the proponents of a concession with a contract of REDD+ to use traditional agriculture slash-and-burn, because their forest was already damaged by industrial logging.

    In principle, REDD+ pays for reducing emissions of CO2 linked to deforestation, but not to keep the forests intact, which can have perverse effects, as noted by critics of the program.

    For example, in Mai-Ndombe, a company has recently applied for a “grant of conservation” on a parcel that it came from clearing the land. “After I have won money with the trees, they want money REDD+ to replant “, said Marine Gauthier.

    But for many experts, the solution is not to eliminate the mechanism. “REDD+ has enabled it to attract attention the first time ever on the importance of forests in the global strategy of the fight against climate change “, underlines Alain Frechette.

    “But there are fundamental flaws in its design, in particular the lack of importance given to the rights of indigenous peoples. It needs to be repaired “, pleaded he.