History of indigenous peoples’ rights to forests



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History of indigenous peoples’ rights to forests

        • History of indigenous peoples’ rights to forests
        • Forests and Climate Change (REDD Plus)
        • Recommendations on the following
          • Measures to incorporate human rights based approach and compliance with international human rights law
          • Measures to strengthen corporate accountability
          • Enforcement of laws and policies


Customary rights as pre-existing order

  • Customary rights as pre-existing order

  • State appropriation of forests and introduction of statutory tenure undermining customary tenure systems-

  • Systematic undermining of indigenous knowledge systems and forest management and governance ( contestation)

  • Reasons for appropriation:

    • Forests as strategic frontier-timber/minerals/oil/gas
    • Privileged access to resources: patronage politics
    • Cultural hegemony (terra nullius, scientific forestry)
  • Traditional uses and management of forests criminalized



Centralized control of states over forests (20th and 21st century)

  • Centralized control of states over forests (20th and 21st century)

  • Highly unequal power relations

  • Settlers brought into forests (transmigrants, colonists,etc.)

  • Effects of exclusion/criminalization

    • Trespassers in own home/squatters in own forests
    • Threats to cultural survival
    • Livelihoods & wellbeing undermined
  • Forest tenure transition:

    • Partial recognition of claims/usufruct rights, titling
    • Latin America > Asia > Africa
    • But ineffective rights of exclusion


Forest dwelling and forest dependent indigenous peoples found in most remote and isolated areas

  • Forest dwelling and forest dependent indigenous peoples found in most remote and isolated areas

  • Popular protests against centralization (l970s)- rubber tappers (Acre) Chipkoandolan (India), Philippines,etc.

  • Devolution of forest management to local governments, communities, NGOs, Community Forests, Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM) – mixed results (good, bad, ugly),

  • Some conclusions on work and studies of devolution, community forests , ACM

    • In some tropical forests the only element of sustainability in forest management is the indigenous system.
    • indigenous peoples/ local communities represent an underutilized resource in forest management/have biggest stake in managing forests well.


Government and industry have done badly managing many forests

    • Government and industry have done badly managing many forests
    • Indigenous peoples have been managing forests for millenia.
    • Forests and forest resources treated as the domain of “public interest” that fundamental rights of people living in forests or using them have been traded in the name of the greater social good.
    • Poverty alleviation for forest peoples framed in terms of meeting national objectives of economic development not in protecting right to self-determination of peoples.
    • Devolution processes were not IP nor gender-sensitive.








At least 15 million people lack citizenship recognition – including hill tribes of SE Asia, most Pygmies of Congo Basin

  • At least 15 million people lack citizenship recognition – including hill tribes of SE Asia, most Pygmies of Congo Basin

  • Lack of respect for property rights; when governments claim 75% of world’s forests – “myth of empty forests’ prevails resulting in illegal conservation, concessions to non-owners, dispossession and refugees

  • Women disproportionately disadvantaged, politically, legally, economically and culturally – not a “boutique” or “luxury” issue

  • Corruption, limited rule of law, limited accountability, judicial redress

  • Lack of basic public services, forests as “hinterland”, exploited by distant elite







Deforestation and forest degradation account for 13-17% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions

  • Deforestation and forest degradation account for 13-17% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions

  • Deforestation not addressed by the Kyoto Protocol; only afforestation and reforestation in CDM (tedious procedures, so very few projects.)

  • Deforestation is occurring mainly in tropical forest countries which are all non-Annex I countries

  • Drivers are multiple and diverse



























Measures to incorporate human rights based approach and ensure compliance with international human rights law.

          • Measures to incorporate human rights based approach and ensure compliance with international human rights law.
    • Massive awareness raising on international standards on indigenous peoples’ rights and forests: UNDRIP/ILO Convention No. 169, Non-legally binding agreement on Forests, Forest Policy of the World Bank, etc.
    • HR Conventions and UN Treaty Bodies – CERD, Human Rights Committee, CESCR, Convention on the Rights of the Child, CEDAW, etc.


Massive awareness raising on international standards on indigenous peoples’ rights and forests: UNDRIP/ILO Convention No. 169, Non-legally binding agreement on Forests, Forest Policy of the World Bank, etc.

    • Massive awareness raising on international standards on indigenous peoples’ rights and forests: UNDRIP/ILO Convention No. 169, Non-legally binding agreement on Forests, Forest Policy of the World Bank, etc.
    • HR Conventions and UN Treaty Bodies – CERD, Human Rights Committee, CESCR, Convention on the Rights of the Child, CEDAW, etc.
    • Regional HR bodies: Africa Commission on Peoples and Human Rights, IACHR, AseanCHR, etc.
    • Training-Workshops on how to use the Treaty Bodies and development of reports for these bodies.


Awareness raising and training on other multilateral and bilateral policies on indigenous peoples and forests –e.g. WB policies on IPs, Forests; UNDP Policy of Engagement with IPs, IFAD Policy, FAO Policy, etc.

    • Awareness raising and training on other multilateral and bilateral policies on indigenous peoples and forests –e.g. WB policies on IPs, Forests; UNDP Policy of Engagement with IPs, IFAD Policy, FAO Policy, etc.
    • Training on how to use grievance or complaints mechanisms: e.g. WB Inspection Panel, IFC CAO (Ombudsman), ADB Inspection Panel, IADB, etc.
    • Trainings on how to operationalize the HRBA in planning, implementation, evaluation of development policies and programmes for government officials, indigenous peoples, NGOs,etc.


Understanding national laws and policies related to indigenous peoples’ rights, forests, land, natural resource management and analysing coherence of these with international human rights law and instruments (UNDRIP, etc.)

    • Understanding national laws and policies related to indigenous peoples’ rights, forests, land, natural resource management and analysing coherence of these with international human rights law and instruments (UNDRIP, etc.)
    • Monitoring and reporting on human rights situations of IPs in forests
    • Develop and use initiatives to promote transparency and governance on forests including; FLEGT, Report Card developed by Global Witness, Governance of Forests Initiatives (WRI), PROFOR (WB), etc.


Transparency norms: Official mechanisms, policies, laws, etc. that permit public access to information: e.g. Freedom of Information Act

    • Transparency norms: Official mechanisms, policies, laws, etc. that permit public access to information: e.g. Freedom of Information Act
    • Legal standing of indigenous peoples: do they have legal standing and laws recognizing their rights?
    • Forest Legal Framework –existence or not of policies on forest tenures, are forest lands under clear ownership titles
    • Access to decision making – IP Participation in public decision making on forest issues; Forest Forums, etc.
    • Allocation of permits / user rights: transparent


Logging operations: When an area of forest is identified for allocation to any sort of concessionaire, is this publicly advertised so that the opportunity for new permits / user rights is open to anyone?

    • Logging operations: When an area of forest is identified for allocation to any sort of concessionaire, is this publicly advertised so that the opportunity for new permits / user rights is open to anyone?
    • Is there transparent independent verification (due diligence) of the eligibility of any applicants for forest permits? Is information on locations for other forest products given to the public?
    • Do permits exist for all uses / services? In addition to logging permits, are there any permits for conservation-activities, environmental services (e.g. water conservation, or carbon storage), or eco-tourism services in forests?


Is there a strategic process to assessing priorities between development options?

    • Is there a strategic process to assessing priorities between development options?
    • Is there a Strategic Environmental Assessment to identify and resolve conflicting land uses between forests, mining, large-scale agriculture and infrastructure development? Does the National Forest Policy document seek to address this? Do any policy documents from the other sectors?
    • Fiscal regime: tax collection and redistribution To what extent does the law provide for taxes, royalties, or any other benefits to be collected from permit holders and given to affected communities? Are any laws or regulations regarding this implemented effectively?


If there are legal frameworks, FPIC policies and laws are there well-defined and clear enforcement mechanisms?

    • If there are legal frameworks, FPIC policies and laws are there well-defined and clear enforcement mechanisms?
    • Corporations say their accountability depends a lot on State laws and policies.



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