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Nature: Land Grabs Intensify as Local Rights Are Disregarded
The international hunt for land for agriculture and biofuels is intensifying, threatening the rights and livelihoods of millions of forest dwelling people, warns a new report.
The report by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a coalition of advocacy groups and non-governmental organisations, says countries made little progress in 2010 in recognising the rights of indigenous people to land and resources.
The report which was launched yesterday in London, found a “disturbing tendency of some governments to roll back hard-won local land rights and in some cases to criminalise advocates”. As forests become more valuable there is greater pressure from investors and less interest in governments to recognize local land rights.
For example, the global paper giant, Stora Enso, has gained control through illegal means of thousands of hectares of forest land in southern China for a eucalyptus plantation, the report claims. The company only began verifying the legality of its leasing contracts in the region in late 2010, despite having been made aware of legal irregularities in 2006, it adds.
The rights of local people in Latin American countries have the greatest recognition and those in African countries the least, the report says.
It is important to read the small print of national regimes that purport to recognise tenure rights of local people, it adds. The report analysed 36 tenure regimes in 15 tropical forest countries and found that one third do not allow communities to engage in commercial logging. It also found that four central African countries allow the state to appropriate lands without compensation.
Nevertheless, there were also some success stories last year. In August, a tribe in India successfully fought a bid by Vedanta Resources a London-based mining company, to mine for bauxite in an area they regarded as sacred.
Andy White, coordinator for the RRI, expressed concern that the United Nation’s initiative in which wealthy nations pay others for "reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation" (known as REDD) will not work without the recognition of local land rights. (See Nature's coverage of REDD)
“At the local level, support or distrust of REDD is directly tied to how much control you have over your lands,” he says.
"We must stop the destruction of forests around the world if we are to solve the threat posed by global climate change, but it must be done in a way respects the rights of people who live in and around these forests," said Gregory Barker, a UK energy and climate change minister, who spoke at the launch of the report."
Posted By Adam Houston at 1:11pm on February 09, 2011
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