Fight climate change by granting indigenous rights to forests: report

Granting forest dwellers legal rights to their traditional lands helps fight deforestation and climate change, but the vast majority of the world’s forests remain under government control with limited access for communities, researchers said. Only about 14 percent of forests, or about 527 million hectares, were legally owned or designated for local communities in 58 countries surveyed by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group.

The NGO Rights and Resources International (RRI) estimates that indigenous peoples have legally recognized rights to just 10 percent of the world’s land, though they control as much as 65 percent through customary, community-based tenure systems. Anne-Sophie Gindroz, RRI’s facilitator for South East Asia, said that the law isn’t only failing indigenous communities when it comes to awarding them title to their traditional lands. 

Two new studies released on the eve of the Global Climate Action Summit illustrate the powerful links between securing indigenous and community land rights and protecting the forests that are vital to mitigating climate change. As climate researchers, advocates, and leaders gather in California this week to discuss priorities and goals at the Global Climate Action Summit, they must recognize the urgent need to secure the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities as a key climate solution.

Estimate of carbon in indigenous lands rises five-fold

Land managed by indigenous people holds vastly more carbon than previously thought, according to a report that calls for an urgent strengthening of their land rights to avoid its release into the atmosphere. But while communities have succeeded in securing governmental recognition of their forest rights for 15 per cent of forests globally, the pace of recognition since 2008 has decreased, according to the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the organisation behind a second report.

Estimate of carbon in indigenous lands rises five-fold

While communities have succeeded in securing governmental recognition of their forest rights for 15 per cent of forests globally, the pace of recognition since 2008 has decreased, according to the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the organisation behind a second report.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and rural women have long struggled to have their customary rights to their lands and forests formally recognized—but a breakthrough in one province shows that this could be changing at a pivotal moment.

In support of the Special Rapporteur’s report, a new website brings together audio and written testimony provided by indigenous leaders on this pervasive problem worldwide. The report and supplementary materials describe a systematic attack on indigenous land and human rights defenders around the world, an effort to silence those who oppose development projects on their lands.

Governments and corporations are increasingly using legal persecution to portray indigenous activists as criminals and terrorists, putting them at heightened risk of violence, the United Nations said on Monday. Indigenous leaders and campaigners fighting to protect land from development are being stymied and silenced by rising militarization, national security acts and anti-terrorism laws, according to a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Land Rights Are the Invisible Investment Risk Too Many Ignore

Land conflicts can be fatal for burgeoning agribusiness or other enterprises located in rural regions, but many companies have limited knowledge of how to anticipate and evaluate land-related risk. This is particularly true for land held under collective arrangements by Indigenous peoples or other communities, which is seldom formally documented.

None of these measures can be achieved if forests are not at the heart of land use policies, development strategies, and actions that go far beyond the forest sector. Consequently, there has been an increased emphasis on certain sustainable management practices, especially those that can integrate multiple sectors to evaluate the opportunities of food, water and energy security.

Thai activist to appeal sentence for trespassing in national park

Indigenous and local communities own more than half the world’s land under customary rights. Yet they only have secure legal rights to 10 percent, according to Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Rights and Resources Initiative.

The rapid growth of protected areas from Peru to Indonesia has exacerbated their vulnerability: more than 250,000 people in 15 countries were evicted from such areas from 1990 to 2014, according to RRI.

Tackling Africa’s Land Rights

Could the tide by turning for one of the continent’s trickiest issues – land rights? In Tunisia, President Essebsi has announced plans to submit a draft bill to parliament that would give women the same inheritance rights as men. Wafa Ben-Hassine, a lawyer and human rights advocate welcomed the news. However, she stressed that for real change to occur, the existing laws need to be implemented effectively. Jenna Di Paolo Colley from the US-based campaign group, Rights and Resources says the inability of local, indigenous populations to defend what’s traditionally been theirs is a basic obstacle to development.

President Iván Duque, Protect Social Activists

The world is turning its eyes toward Colombia as the new president, Iván Duque, takes office. Rights groups and peace activists are calling on the government to ensure that both the peace process and the country’s social leaders are protected.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has released a report highly critical of the global conservation movement and calling for indigenous peoples and other local communities to have a greater say in protecting the world’s forests. Titled Cornered by Protected Areas and co-authored with the US-based NGO Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the report is an explicit condemnation of “fortress conservation.”

There are many NGOs, both national and international, that address land issues. They often focus on advocacy work, research related to land grabs, documentation and resolution of land-related conflicts, large-scale land acquisitions, government and military interaction with ethnic populations, forest degradation and illegal logging, and conservation issues. This work is essential for taking land issues forward in Myanmar. However, the nature of these engagements does not always enable collaborative work with public institutions, and sometimes results in confrontational positions with policy decision-makers.

Although major improvements were achieved over the last 10 years, Myanmar continues to have high levels of malnutrition. The phenomenon—of high stunting and anemia rates, overall malnutrition, an unbalanced and rice-dominant diet, and a focus on the development of the rice sector—is one that can be seen across Southeast Asia, similarly occurring in countries like Laos and Cambodia. So, the question becomes how these countries can create an enabling environment for producing and making available the necessary ingredients for a more diversified and nutrient rich diet.

Q&A: Why conservation must include indigenous rights

Indigenous peoples and local communities conserve lands and forests for a quarter of the cost of public and private investments in protected areas, according to new findings released at the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum last week, yet “fortress conservation” strategies often see indigenous peoples driven from their land in an effort to protect it from human activity.

Throwing weight behind the demands of indigenous peoples and activists, a new research by Washington-based Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) has found that indigenous peoples and local communities are able to achieve equivalent conservation outcomes by investing only a fraction of the total money spent on conservation by all other agencies.