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In Marrakesh, Amarakaeri People Say REDD+ And Rights Must Go Together

Kelli Barrett

The indigenous people within the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve live along the border between Brazil and Peru, and they also act as a buffer between uncontacted people of the Amazon and the outside world. At climate talks in Marrakesh, they reiterated their openness to forest carbon projects that support their way of life – but only if that support is assured.

13 November 2016 | “REDD+ isn’t going ahead if the basic rights of indigenous peoples aren’t observed,” said Edwin Llauta, of the indigenous organization, Eca-Amarakaeri, which administers the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (ACR), during year-end climate talks taking place in Marrakesh, Morocco this week and next.

REDD+” stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests, plus other land uses”, and it represents a body of practices designed to save endangered rainforest by funneling carbon finance into conservation. It was enshrined in the Paris Agreement last year, and being refined in Marrakesh this year.

The ACR is located in Peru’s southeastern part in the Madre de Dios region and it consists of three indigenous peoples, the Harakbut, Yime and Matsiguenka, spread out over 10 communities. Llauta refers to their territory as a “paradise bank,” that provides the people all that they need.

However, these groups have struggled economically, as many indigenous peoples do, as they try to fend off lucrative but forest-destroying extractive activities and carve out a sustainable existence. REDD+ can provide much-needed finance, funding sustainable livelihoods and helping to implement indigenous “Life Plans,” which are blueprints for long-term sustainable growth.

Eca Amarakaeri is in favor of REDD, so long as indigenous peoples are involved and benefiting from the program.

The organization is involved in what’s known as Indigenous REDD, which seeks to ensure indigenous rights and includes cultural provisions alongside forest conservation that mitigates climate change. Securing forests and indigenous rights are a good climate mitigation strategy, according to research by the World Resources Institute, Woods Hole Research Center and the Rights and Resources Initiative. Forest communities are among the best stewards of land and the tropical forestland they manage contains nearly 55,000 million metric tons of carbon. Deforestation rates inside forests legally managed by indigenous peoples and communities are two to three times lower than in other forests, Katie Reytar and Peter Veit of WRI write in a blog post.

“We have the essential knowledge for saving the planet,” said Llauta, noting progress as some countries have accepted their REDD+ proposal. However, corruption and a lack of funds continue to stall indigenous land rights and forest protection, he added.

“We have experienced contradictory policies and politics, and we haven’t been able to ensure certain land titling to indigenous peoples. It’s only recently that the state has recognized the importance of the indigenous movement,” Klaus Quique, of the regional indigenous organization FENAMAD, said.

Eca-Amarakaeri has been able to proceed with implementing their REDD program, Quique said.

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  • Forest Keeper

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    The Amarakaeri People Say that REDD+ And Rights Must Go Together, because REDD+(REDD) increases market interest, land speculation & land grabbing of remote forests but without REDD requiring the recognition & enforcement of forest people’s resource & human rights. The world’s unprotected forests and their peoples primarily remain because the lumbering of these forests were not able to produce net profits or because in rare instances the inhabitants had sufficient land tenure (LT) and human rights (HR) to protect their forests and themselves. REDD is creating economic incentives to now make these forests and their peoples more profitable to exploit, but without requiring the enforcement of the rights that will protect all forest peoples, their forests & create well regulated markets. REDD projects without requiring these rights will be more prone to carbon sequestration reversals, deforestation leakage to other Jurisdiction, social and political damage and risk, and will be less transferable. Nevertheless carbon credit entrepreneurs, Government entities and NGOs have started promoting REDD without first requiring the enforcement of these rights in the last remote forests.

    The current REDD agreement & its social safeguards do not require the recognition and enforcement of customary and statutory resource and land tenure, and human rights for forest peoples prior to REDD funding or payment, they should. All the social standards cited by REDD are ultimately qualified by nonbinding terms such as respect, promote, support, address or recognize, none require resource and land tenure and human rights prior to the program’s involvement.

    Given the history of land tenure and conflict in most Tropical countries with large remaining forests, it is implausible and inefficient to believe that rights being “requested” at the country level, per the current
    REDD agreement and standards, will ensure social safeguards and prevent political risk. After remote forests & their peoples are targeted by REDD without requiring these rights, it will be a rearguard nightmare to try to stem the suffering, dislocation & acculturation.

    One of the most cost effective methods of ethically sequestering carbon, REDD’s main goal, is by recognizing and enforcing the land & resource tenure of forest people. A. Agrawal’s study “shows that the larger the forest area under community ownership the higher the probability for better biodiversity maintenance,
    community livelihoods and carbon sequestration.” “The growing evidence that communities and households with secure tenure rights protect, maintain and conserve forests is an important consideration for the world’s climate if REDD schemes go forward, and even if they do not.” according to Agrawal, A. (2008) ‘Livelihoods, carbon and diversity of community forests: trade offs and win wins?’

    World Bank SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT WORKING PAPERS Paper No. 120/December 2009 stated, “…the cost range of recognizing community tenure rights (average $3.31/ha) is several times lower than the yearly
    costs estimates for …. an international REDD scheme ($400/ha/year to $20,000/ha/year).” “…a relatively insignificant investment in recognizing tenure rights has the potential to significantly improve the world’s carbon sequestration and management capacity…, prioritizing policies and actions aimed at recognizing forest community tenure rights can be a cost-effective step to improve the likelihood that REDD programs meet their goals.”

    The promotion of REDD without requiring LT & HR prior to funding or payments makes the vast majority of forest people & their forests much more endangered. This is noted by Jorge Furagaro Kuetgaje,
    climate coordinator for COICA, the Indigenous People of the Amazon Basin, “For us to continue to conserve the tropical forests … we need to have strong rights to those forests. Death should not be the price we pay for playing our part in preventing the emissions that fuel climate change.”

    Tropical forested countries also have very poor land tenure rights enforcement records for forest people. “Living on Earth” radio reported, that, “governments own about 75 percent of the world’s forests, less than ten percent legally belong to communities. In Indonesia, 65 million people live off forests, most of them have no official rights to the land they consider theirs. In the eyes of the Forest Ministries, they’re squatters occupying a national resource”.

    The human rights and land tenure enforcement record of tropical forested countries is alarming. Global Witness’s Nov. 30, 2015 Press release stated, “At least 640 land and environmental activists have been killed since the 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen – some shot by police during protests, others gunned down by hired assassins.” Global Witness also stated, “Most murders occurred in Latin America and Asia with far fewer reported in Africa, however this may be (due) to a lack of information…justice is rarely given to murder victims. Killers are rarely brought to trial and often acquitted when they are. In Brazil, fewer than 10 percent of such murders go to trial, and only 1 percent see convictions.” Therefore REDD should be amended to stipulate the recognition and enforcement of forest people’s resource,land tenure and human rights prior certifying or funding of REDD offsets.

    The preceding comments and recommendations focused narrowly on the need for binding social standard prerequisites, and not on efficacy of Carbon Offsets which is also problematic. (see Methodological and Ideological Options, Comprehensive carbon stock and flow accounting: A national framework to support climate change mitigation by I. Ajani et al., Ecological Economics 89 (2013) p61–72. Untangling the confusion
    around land carbon science and climate change mitigation policy by Brendan Mackey et al., NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE | VOL 3 | JUNE 2013 |www.nature.com/natureclimatechange)