Will the Indigenous, Local Communities Figure into Climate Change-Forestry Talks in Poznan?

cop14_logo_166x214.jpg Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Forest DegradationРa.k.a. REDDРis a focal point of this week´s UNFCC COP 14 global climate change negotiations in Poznan.
A fundamental question arises given the make-up of the government delegations who will be the ultimate decision makers as to what, if any form, a new global compact on climate change will eventually take: is any political body and process– even one as broad-based as the UNFCCC’s Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol-, open, inclusive and motivated enough to recognize and represent the interests of the indigenous forest peoples around the world? Traditionally run over by the wheels of “progress” and those motivated primarily by the narrow interests of maximizing profits and minimizing costs, will these people ever be included, and viewed as equals, in high-level political and commercial negotiations?
Forestry researchers and policy wonks have been putting forth various and numerous methods to inform and guide the UNFCC as it seeks to develop the means and mechanisms to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. None address the most fundamental issue, however, asserts ForestAction Nepal and the Nepal Federation of Community Forest Users.
The critical issue, according to these organizations, is not “how to implement” REDD, but “who is it that we are rewarding through REDD and carbon financing?”

Empowering and Enabling Forest Peoples
forestactionI.jpg Here’s a good bit of hardheaded political pragmatism, courtesy of ForestAction Nepal and FECOFUN for COP 14 delegates in Poznan: it’s the local communities, indigenous groups and forest dwellers – not the state or private sector – that should be the primary beneficiaries of the financing, technology and other incentives aimed at preserving forests, mitigating and adapting to climate change being contemplated, and already being doled out, by the UN, World Bank and other supranational, government and private sector agencies.
“These groups not only constitute some of the world’s poorest people, deprived of the basic necessities of life, but are also the local stewards of forest, supplying ‘cheap labor’ to protect, nurture and rehabilitate forests– a global environmental service which, till now, has been provided free of cost to the global community,” the authors of a ForestAction Nepal-FECOFUN policy statement write. “These are the people who have foregone the luxury of modern development and lived in the forest ecosystems fighting against the nexus of corrupt state officials and logging companies– the main agents of deforestation.”
Local residents and forest communities, and political associations, are making a difference, and have been doing so for a long time. Local residents in the Himalayan regions of India and Nepal, for instance, have reversed decades worth of faulty government policies and management. Some 10 million people in Nepal have brought some 1.5 million hectares of forests under sustainable management, breaking the longstanding deforestation and land degradation trend. Similarly, locals, women in particular, living in the Indian state of Uttaranchal, opposed loggers in a campaign known as the “Chipko Movement.”
While UN climate change negotiators’ efforts to establish a REDD framework is encouraging, it needs to go a lot further in terms of empowering local communities and forest residents if it is to be even perceived as equitable, just and workable over a sustained period of time, according to the two organizations.
“Deforestation and forest degradation must not be misunderstood as a financial problem,” the authors write. “It is a result of the denial of local rights over forests, the lack of an enabling policy environment, irresponsible and unregulated private sector activities, corruption within government forestry agencies, and many external drivers, such as the cost of fuel.”
ForestAction-FECOFUN’s COP 14 policy brief includes a ten-point template for establishing a REDD framework and mechanism, perhaps best briefly reflected in the following: “The solution lies in allowing forest-dependent peoples to take leadership in combating deforestation by implementing sustainable forest management.”

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email: huginn.muggin@gmail.com

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