WASHINGTON DC (14 September, 2022)—Of the $270 million in conservation funding invested annually in the tenure and forest management initiatives of Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPs and LCs)—which is only a small fraction of the total funding dedicated to addressing climate change—only 17 percent went to activities that specifically named an IP or LC organization, according to “Funding with Purpose,” a new research report released today by Rainforest Foundation Norway and Rights and Resources Initiative.
This figure likely overestimates the actual share that reaches these communities as project implementation costs—charged by intermediaries—are also part of this funding. The discrepancy also calls into question how much of the $1.7 billion pledged to Indigenous Peoples and local communities for their land tenure and conservation initiatives at the UN climate change meetings will actually reach them.
“In the Amazon, we are constantly struggling against anti-Indigenous policies that seek to cut down and replace the forests that give us physical and cultural life,” said Rose Meire, Deputy Director of the Podáali Fund and a member of the Apurinã people of the Purus region in the Brazilian Amazon. “If the international community values our forests and understands that Indigenous Peoples serve humanity by preserving and fighting against our planet’s destruction, it needs to support them more effectively and provide us with direct funding through our own mechanisms. Our struggle is for all our lives, and this support strengthens this struggle.”
“To the outside world, people see the Congo Basin forests—our forests—as a critically important natural resource,” said Patrick Saidi who leads Dynamics of Indigenous Peoples Groups (DGPA), DRC, a network of 45 organizations working to secure the rights of Indigenous Peoples and improve recognition of their role in protecting forests. “Too many people on the ground, however, see our forests standing in the way of their definition of progress and wealth. We would welcome financial assistance in helping us maintain our lands and the wondrous natural resources that they contain.”
“Indigenous Peoples have the capacity to manage funding directly,” said Rukka Sombolinggi, Secretary General of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) and an Indigenous member of the Torajan people from Sulawesi Island in Indonesia.
“As we strive to protect and manage our lands against those who would push us aside and destroy our homes, we could use the financial assistance that’s meant for such struggles. To open your wallet and pay someone else for the sweat and blood that we shed in the name of conservation puts you on the wrong side of the struggle.”
Between 2011 and 2020, donors disbursed approximately $2.7 billion (on average $270 million annually) for projects supporting IP and LC tenure and forest management in tropical countries. In the new report, researchers compiled data on this funding stream and assessed the grants along different dimensions of “Fit for Purpose” criteria—determining whether the funding achieved its intended goals or was compromised in delivery and effectiveness.
The report findings, organized according to the “Fit for Purpose” criteria for IP and LC funding, include:
- IP and LC-led: Only 17 percent of IP and LC tenure and forest management funding between 2011 and 2020 mentioned an IP or LC organization, indicating that a low share of funding is under leadership of Indigenous and community organizations.
- Mutually Accountable: There is a lack of accountability and transparency from donors towards IPs and LCs, inhibiting IP and LC understanding and influence over donor priorities and decisions. Most private foundations, who represent the majority of the IPLC Forest Tenure Pledge donors, do not share data on their projects systematically.
- Flexible and Long-term: Donors have increasingly been providing funding through long-term funding agreements, which provides IP and LC organizations with much-needed predictability and security. Yet, a lack of flexibility to change or adapt priorities within projects restricts IP and LC organizations in addressing diverse community needs, imminent threats or seize on windows of opportunity.
- Gender Inclusive: Only 32 percent of IP and LC tenure and forest management funding included gender-related keywords, despite the essential role of women in IP and LC forest management and their notable exclusion from many governance structures and forest management decisions.
- Timely and Accessible: Due to strict eligibility and administrative requirements of bilateral and multilateral donors, IP and LC organizations must overcome considerable barriers to access funding. Funding for IP and LC tenure and forest management has therefore generally relied on traditional ODA funding structures, with national and international organizations acting as intermediaries.
“Securing and protecting the tenure rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities is one of the most cost-effective, equitable, and efficient means of protecting, restoring, and sustainably using tropical forestlands and the ecosystems they provide,” said Torbjørn Gjefsen, Senior Policy Advisor, Climate, Rainforest Foundation Norway.
“This is a solution to both the climate change and biodiversity crises that humanity is facing. We have already pledged the funding to support them; now we have to make sure they receive it.”
The new report notes that the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities are inextricably linked to the preservation of key ecosystems and the maintenance of carbon stored in tropical forests and peatlands. At least 36 percent of Key Biodiversity Areas globally are found on IP and LC lands, along with at least 25 percent of the above-ground carbon storage in tropical forests.
Efforts to limit the worst impacts of climate change and the loss of biodiversity depend on these landscapes remaining intact, and IP and LC forest management has proven more effective in this regard than any other. While 2020 saw the highest deforestation rate in Brazil’s history, for example, deforestation rates were up to three times lower in Indigenous territories.
The most recent United Nations climate report, embraced this point, stating: “Supporting Indigenous self-determination, recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ rights and supporting Indigenous knowledge-based adaptation are critical to reducing climate change risks and effective adaptation.”
“Many things get in the way of funding Indigenous Peoples and local communities, but in the end we will not solve the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity extinction unless we embrace the need for more equitable partnerships,” said Solange Bandiaky-Badji, Coordinator of Rights and Resources Initiative. “With new funding mechanisms dedicated to supporting initiatives led by IPs and LCs, donors have an opportunity to get it right and to make sure their funds go directly to the local peoples leading the efforts on the ground.”