Press Release

COONAPIP: Defending the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the UN-REDD Programme

May 8, Panama City, Panama. On Monday, May 6, the traditional authorities of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama as part of the National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples of Panama (COONAPIP), met UN-REDD Programme observers, in order to expose the reasons why they decided to withdraw from the UN-REDD  Program.

According to COONAPIP authorities, Panama UN-REDD, disrespects cultural aspects, as well as the rights they hold over their territories. However, they also expressed their openness to the implementation of a new program REDD, as long as it is respectful of indigenous cultures that live in Panama.

"We are not radicalized against REDD program, but it cannot continue as it stands. Our approach is to redesign, with real indigenous participation mechanisms, in order to be respectful of our culture, and make it stronger, rather than weaken", explained Betanio Chiquidama, General Cacique of Embera Wounaan Congress, organization that is part of the COONAPIP.

This leader explained that indigenous peoples have managed and preserved forests of Panama, and only in areas where there have been invasions, have deteriorated.

“The new REDD proposal for Panamas indigenous peoples must strengthen these management plans, consolidate our organizations, our governance mechanisms, ensure that the benefits reach communities and respect the laws of the Counties, land, ancestral territories and traditional groups. We are seven peoples who are asking to rethink the program from our worldview " said Cacique Betanio Chiquidama.

Meanwhile, observers Chris Mayer, Gerardo Jumi, and Victor Illezcas, stated that their function is to collect the position of indigenous Panamanians to present them at the UN-REDD Board of Directors, which consists of 46 countries which develops the program, UN agencies (FAO, UNDP, UNEP), among other actors, but with the conviction of protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and civil society.

Chris Mayer, observer and member of the Fund for the Defense of the Environment, said: "We are concerned about what happened in Panama, there are things that need to change, not only in Panama, but throughout the UN-REDD program. COONAPIP technicians have made good observations to improve the program.”

He further explained that the three observers should meet to plan a strategy and then present in June, the indigenous position to the UN-REDD Board of Directors.

Meanwhile Victor Lopez Illescas also Ut'zChe member observer, Community Forestry Association of Guatemala, said that it was a very positive meeting, because in Panama there are many lessons learned, and this opens opportunities for improvement. "Indigenous peoples have rights, we hope to contribute as observers, to be in dialogue and improvement," concluded Illescas.

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