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Statement on the Launching of the Interim REDD+ Partnership Agreement Print

By Vicky Tauli-Corpuz
Oslo Climate and Forest Conference, 27 May 2010, Norway

Your Excellencies, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, Heads of States, Ministers, Prince Charles, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to address this historic meeting today and I thank the Government of Norway for inviting me. I speak as a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. which is the highest body in the United Nations addressing indigenous peoples' rights and development. I also speak as an indigenous person, a Kankana-ey-Igorot, from a tropical forest country, the Philippines.

Let me congratulate the Government of Norway and France for leading the process of establishing this Interim REDD+ Partnership. I believe this is a major step towards reinforcing the contributions of forests in solving the climate change crisis as well as the contributions of those who have saved these forests from disappearing, the indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities. Since we are here today to raise our hopes and aspirations for this Interim Partnership let me quote the relevant recommendation of the 9th Session of the Permanent Forum which ended in May 11.

“The Permanent Forum welcomes the presence of the Minister of the Environment and International Development of Norway and the side event organized by the Government of Norway, where the Minister held an interactive dialogue with indigenous peoples and others on the Interim REDD+Partnership. The Forum recommends that the Partnership ensures the inclusion and the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and that it should not remain as a Partnership between Governments only. The Forum further recommends that the Partnership ensures the implementation of the safeguards contained in the report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on long-term cooperative action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on its eighth session (FCCC/AWGLCA/2009/17) which stresses the need to respect the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples, noted the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ; the need for the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples, the non-conversion of natural forests for other uses, and the conservation of biological diversity; and the need to address the drivers of deforestation and land tenure issues.”

I think the Final Agreement of this Partnership does reflect most of the points raised in our recommendation. However, it did not explicitly refer to the need to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities which is contained already in the draft REDD Plus agreements in the LCA Documents. We hope that the safeguard principles and measures contained in AWG-LCA/2009/17 which are still reflected in the Chair's Text, which the UNFCCC Secretariat just released, will be affirmed in the Agreement. We believe that democratic governance should be the overarching principle for REDD Plus to succeed. For indigenous peoples, democratic governance means respecting and implementing the following principles and elements.

 

  1. Respect for the rights of indigenous peoples as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and International Human Rights Law. This was not mentioned in the Agreement. There is a need for a common set of safeguards and standards, to ensure that REDD will truly respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. These standards are already contained in the UNDRIP and other International Human Rights Conventions and instruments. Almost all countries, including the members of this Partnership, voted yes for the adoption of the UNDRIP at the General Assembly in September 13, 2007. Those who voted no reversed their positions to finally endorse it (Australia and New Zealand) or announced that they will review their position (US, Canada).
  2. Inclusion and participation: Indigenous peoples and local communities who are dependent on forests should be able to participate fully in REDD Plus decision making processes and in the design, implementation, reporting, monitoring and evaluation of REDD Plus at the global, national and sub-national levels. This means that there should be a mechanism within the Partnership to allow for this kind of participation. The right of indigenous peoples to have their free, prior and informed consent obtained before their forests are made part of REDD Plus should be respected.
  3. Transparency, accountability and equity: The setting up of the REDD Database is one step towards transparency but this is not sufficient. The effective inclusion and participation of indigenous peoples and local communities is integral to democratic governance. We are aware that aside from the multilateral funds for REDD Plus there are also bilateral funds for this. Memoranda of agreements on bilateral funding should also be transparent and accountable on the use of these funds. The human rights standards mentioned earlier should serve as the common standards for both for the multilateral and bilateral funds. In addition, mechanisms for equitable benefit sharing should be set up at various levels.
  4. Consistency, coherence and coordination: There should be coherence and consistency and coordination in the way the Partners are going to support and implement REDD Plus and other climate change solutions. On the one hand there are funds being committed for REDD Plus. But on the other hand, we are aware that there are also also multilateral and bilateral funds provided for oil, gas and mineral extraction, expansion of biofuel and other agriculture plantations in forests, among others. It might turn out that whatever carbon is saved from forests will be cancelled out by emissions from these other activities. This is why it is an imperative to seriously address the drivers of deforestation not only at the national and local levels but at the global levels as well.

 

To maximize the opportunities and minimize the risks of REDD Plus, these principles and safeguards have to be fully reflected in the Agreement of this Partnership and in the operationalization of REDD Plus. Part of the funds for Interim REDD Plus Partnership should be provided for widespread capacity building activities to strengthen democratic governance and establish effective monitoring and oversight; undertake policy reforms on land tenure, forest laws and natural resource policies and land laws which will respect rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and develop mechanisms for participation in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating REDD Plus activities and developing equitable benefit-sharing mechanisms.

On the part of Tebtebba and its partners, we will be establishing a Global Independent Monitoring Panel on REDD Plus which will consist of some renowned indigenous leaders, international human rights experts and scientists who can provide an oversight on how REDD Plus is being implemented. This is our last chance to save the world's remaining tropical rainforests and we can only succeed if the social, environmental and governance safeguards are respected and promoted.

 

* Member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Executive Director of Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education): email: vicky[AHT]tebtebba.org