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Communities Not Getting Say in How Forests Are Managed
Conservation groups and scientists claim government-backed forest industries have led to entrenched poverty and 'more carbon emissions than the entire global transport fleet'
Smoke covers a devastated peatlands forest in Indonesia's Pangkalan Bunut in Riau province. Photograph: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images Governments have been accused by grassroots groups and scientific researchers of reneging on commitments to give communities a say in how forests are managed, and doing little to address the causes of worldwide deforestation.
The charges came as the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, declared 2011 to be the international year of forests, and politicians from around the world meet in New York for the high level segment of the UN's ninth forestry forum (UNFF).
Non-government groups released a report showing that indigenous peoples and forest communities have done a much better job at conservation than governments.
"This is a moment of government remorse, regret and mea culpas. There has been shockingly little progress since the … global forestry congress dedicated to 'people and forests' in Jakarta in 1978," said Andy White, co-ordinator of the Washington-based Rights and Resources Initiative. "If governments had taken their agreements seriously then deforestation would not be a major cause of climate change, and contributing more carbon emissions than the entire global transport fleet, and northern governments would not be robbing their budgets for promoting health, education and poverty reduction to pay tropical governments and their industries to stop deforestation," he added.
The report claims that once local rights on community forests were recognised, the number of jobs and revenues to the state more than doubled.
Progress on community forests had been made in Brazil, Mexico and the Phillippines, says the report, but governments still claim ownership over a majority of the forests across the world. "This is despite the fact that government-backed forest industries have led to corruption and continued exclusion of local people, extensive abuses of women and children and entrenched poverty," it says.
In a separate study, the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO), a group of more than 15,000 scientists in 110 countries, says that the plethora of international forest protection accords signed up to by governments in the past 30 years were having little impact because they do not attack the causes of deforestation, such as growing demand for biofuels and food crops.
Sixty international experts say in the report that too much attention was being put on forests as a store of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming. "Our findings suggest that disregarding the impact of forests on sectors such as agriculture and energy will doom any new international efforts whose goal is to conserve forests and slow climate change," said Jeremy Rayner, of the University of Saskatchewan and chairman of the IUFRO report panel.
Other forestry groups argued that the UN's Redd programme, a central element of a new UN climate deal, which aims to link carbon markets to forest protection, would not stop deforestation or protect forests as intended.
"It is ironic that the UN is declaring 2011 the international year of forests considering that forests today are being destroyed and degraded faster than ever before," said Blessing Karumbidza, researcher at the Timberwatch Coalition in South Africa. "UN promises ring hollow considering how rates of forest loss have continued to escalate since the introduction of industry-friendly forest certification schemes. These schemes do not address the ecological and social problems inherent to monoculture timber plantations," she added.
"One of the lessons from the past 50 years of forest governance is the need to incorporate the voices of people into forest governance if the goal is to ensure that people benefit from forests, and to maintain long-term and sustainable benefits from forests," the UN secretary-general said in a video message to mark the launch of the year of the forests yesterday.
In a separate report, Wetlands International and SarVision calls for an immediate halt to peatland clearance and an end to incentives for biofuels in the European Union. It challenges government claims that only 8% to 13% of Malaysia's vast palm oil plantations were on carbon-rich peat soils, with 20% for Sarawak, one of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. "The new studies conclude that 20% of all Malaysian palm oil is produced on drained peatlands. For Sarawak, this is 44%. For new plantations, the percentage on forested peat swamps is even higher," the report says.
Posted By Adam Houston at 10:38am on February 03, 2011
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