Forest tenure and the rights of indigenous peoples

The UN-REDD Programme continued to provide a wide range of partner countries and stakeholders with advice, knowledge, facilitation and tested practices to promote the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including political, tenure and natural-resource rights.

This knowledge- based support comprised participatory policy platforms, legal and institutional instruments such as protocols for Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and Grievance Redress Mechanisms (GRM), and approaches to integrate the perspectives and proposals of indigenous peoples into investment programmes (e.g. GCF proposals). In addition, the programme continued to produce and disseminate knowledge on the responsible governance of tenure of land and forests, and how this is critical for broadening REDD+ results and simultaneously advancing indigenous and community rights. Here follow some country examples and global efforts where UN-REDD knowledge on forest tenure and the rights of indigenous peoples has been a catalyst for change in the REDD+ arena.

In Viet Nam, UN-REDD provided knowledge and technical advice to advance institutional measures for stakeholder engagement and to safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples. The implementation of a blueprint for stakeholder engagement to underpin the deployment of REDD+ plans at the provincial and site levels was concluded, including a set of FPIC provisions. Simultaneously, reports outlining the GRM proposed for REDD+ in Viet Nam, and lessons from the blueprint – including those related to FPIC – were prepared for dissemination. In addition, the efforts to promote the development rights of ethnic minorities – most of whom dwell in forest areas and have engaged in REDD+ as a catalyst for change – yielded pioneer outcomes: most prominently, a High-level Ethnic Minority Development Forum was convened for the first time in August 2018 and was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, who recognized the need for specific policy and investment approaches in forest lands and in communities of ethnic minorities. In addition, a policy brief on “Positioning Ethnic Minorities as Key Partners in Forest Supply Chains in Viet Nam” was released. From a social media perspective, a photo essay and a video demonstrated the new collaboration between ethnic minorities and private companies, as shown in Lao Cai.

In Myanmar, UN-REDD, which is active through both a national programme and technical assistance, provided expert knowledge and shared best practices to engage EAOs, which dwell in and control large forest areas, in dialogue on forest conservation and sustainable development. In addition, a set of options and recommendations on a GRM for actions and investments in forest lands in Myanmar was prepared, paving the ground for institutional mechanisms that can reconcile national investments with community rights.

UN-REDD continued to provide knowledge and tested practice on participatory policy, stakeholder engagement and consultation mechanisms across Latin America, with a focus on the rights of indigenous peoples. This ranged from forest policy, climate policy and internal regulations design and FPIC instruments, to investment programmes for REDD+ results. On these topics, intense knowledge transfer and technical assistance on how to integrate the rights of indigenous peoples into REDD+ policies and investments was provided to Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay and Honduras, among other countries. In Panama, UN-REDD technical experts supported indigenous peoples’ communities (Aruza and Embera- Drua) in developing internal regulations aimed at formalizing traditional rights and regulating the use and management of forest resources.

In Ecuador, UN-REDD support continued to generate and consolidate opportunities for the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in the REDD+ implementation phase (Ecuador was the second country to fulfil the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ requirements and the first to receive GCF REDD+ funding). As a result, indigenous peoples are recognized as priority actors in the implementation of the REDD+ Action Plan: more particularly, PROAmazonía – the forerunner REDD+ programme in the country with US$ 62 million in financing from GCF – has provisions to ensure that indigenous peoples must participate in at least 60 per cent of the actions. In Ecuador, the international case for indigenous peoples as forefront stakeholders for REDD+, coupled with the Government’s commitment to an inclusive REDD+ agenda, has yielded a rights-based approach to REDD+ actions and investments.

In Colombia, the full and active participation of indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples in national policy processes, from the forest and climate strategies to national development plans, reached a climax in 2018, with the release of the national strategy on forests (“Bosques, Territorios de Vida”) and the advancement of the national development plan. These two key national policy streams show a notable recognition for and inclusion of indigenous peoples’ rights and their relevance in forest issues. They are a model of best, inclusive practice to other countries. Therefore, with support from UN-REDD, Colombia undertook a major knowledge management process in 2018 to collect, systematize and disseminate the lessons from this national participatory policy process, in order to guide other nations and stakeholders. A rich set of knowledge products was prepared and disseminated, showing how indigenous peoples and other rural grass roots had been engaged and had resulted in stronger, more viable policy results. In addition, the MADS received technical support for implementing the community- based forestry approach, complementing additional activities financed by the EU to help implement community forestry in pilot areas.

In Honduras, the UN-REDD Programme has provided knowledge and policy practice to inform various complex processes to integrate indigenous rights into national forest, climate change and development policy. The knowledge provided on options for FPIC resulted in a draft “Law on Free, Prior and Informed Consultation”, with 31 articles, submitted in May 2018 to the national Parliament – there joining other draft legal contributions to the matter. All of these inputs will serve well the highly anticipated parliamentary deliberations on an FPIC legal instrument intended to safeguard the political and territorial rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities in the country. In addition, UN-REDD assisted indigenous peoples with defining an additional safeguard to the Cancun REDD+ safeguards, named the “Cultural Safeguard” (UN-REDD advisers supported three policy dialogues on this matter, engaging some 150 representatives of the Tolupan, Maya Chortí, Garifuna, Lenca, Miskitu and Tawahka peoples). This safeguarding innovation should continue in 2019, at the request of indigenous leaders. In addition, UNREDD, at the request of the Network of Indigenous and Afro-Honduran Women (RedMIAH), supported the organization of the Indigenous and Afro-Honduran Women’s Public Policy Forum, with the participation of a large majority of women representing the nine indigenous peoples of Honduras and notable discussions on forest and land rights. Joining hands with the Canada funded “Empoderamiento de las mujeres para la acción climática en el sector forestal” [“Empowerment of Women for Climate Action in the Forestry Sector”] project, the UN-REDD technical experts supported the implementation of in-depth assessments on tenure and community forestry aspects, following the principles of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of Food Security (the VGGT). In addition, technical support was provided to specific local communities to evaluate forest management and community-based forest monitoring effectiveness, contributing to enhanced community actions in pilot areas.

In 2018, the Rainforest Foundation Norway and UN-REDD experts jointly drafted and published a knowledge report on stakeholder and civil society engagement in the DR Congo, based on the country’s renowned REDD+ process. The report identifies and assesses the main lessons on how civil society and indigenous peoples can effectively participate and engage in the REDD+ process, also analysing a critical institutional reform in 2015 that served to help the DRC’s civil society and indigenous peoples’ platform keep pace with the governmental transition to the REDD+ investment phase. UN-REDD provided substantive advisory support to this entire process, from stakeholder engagement to the internal reform, and then to disseminating knowledge through this report.

At the global level, in 2018 the UN-REDD Programme was influential in boosting dialogue on REDD+ and tenure rights by disseminating lessons learned from country-level work to global audiences. For instance, UN-REDD support to Tunisia on state forestland demarcation using the Open Tenure tool was showcased at the World Bank’s Land and Poverty Conference. Conversely, UN-REDD helped apply global knowledge instruments – such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) – to local challenges, such as in the case of the support provided to indigenous peoples in Panama (Aruza and Embera-Drua) to develop internal regulations to formalize traditional rights and to enhance forest resource management. Furthermore, a new knowledge product on the importance of collective tenure rights for REDD+ and sustainable development was drafted, with publication planned for 2019.

The programme continued to facilitate dialogue and South-South exchanges through the “REDD+ and Forest Governance” online discussion group, which now has 650 members from 84 countries. The discussions in this forum foster knowledge exchange and new approaches to address forest governance challenges. In 2018, this platform provided a specific focus on titling as an emission reduction strategy, highlighting Mexico as a notable example, Zambia’s new community forestry regulations, and the Honduras experience-sharing on the forest tenure assessment.

During 2018, the lessons uptake and dissemination of the community-based REDD+ (CBR+) programme (2014– 2017) was continued and completed, including a wide range of reports, articles, videos and contributions to social media. A number of short documentaries produced and released in 2018 were much appreciated by indigenous peoples; they include an assessment of CBR+ achievements and policy lessons in Paraguay, the CBR+ project on apiculture and forest conservation in the DRC, the CBR+ project empowering indigenous women in Tavaí county (Paraguay) and the mapping experience of indigenous forests in Panama. The UN-REDD Executive Board welcomed the sharing of overall lessons of the CBR+ initiative with UN-REDD stakeholders at the international level, with some Board members proposing a second phase. Various UN-REDD partner countries have also expressed interest in receiving CBR+ support, such as Colombia, DRC, Kenya and Viet Nam.

In addition, UN-REDD provided support and advice to the negotiations towards policies and mechanisms for indigenous peoples in global institutions, notably in the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and regarding the UNFCCC Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (UNFCCC/LCIP Platform). Together with the UNDP GEF/Small Grants Programme (SGP) Team and the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, UN-REDD has been supporting a consortium of indigenous peoples’ organizations, under the leadership of TEBTEBBA (Indigenous Peoples’ Centre for Policy Research and Education), on the development of an Indigenous Peoples’ Policy of the GCF, which was completed and successfully adopted in early 2018 by the GCF Board (GCF B-19). UN-REDD also provided technical and institutional advice to these organizations on ways to access the GCF to finance actions from indigenous peoples that tackle climate issues in their lands, ecosystems and territories. Furthermore, UN-REDD provided support and advice to diverse stakeholders in the negotiations around the UNFCCC/ LCIP Platform. In particular, the wide range of UN-REDD knowledge on national policy and knowledge-exchange platforms was shared to guide and foster trust in a global platform mechanism, while offering practical approaches. The LCIP Platform was successfully adopted by the parties at the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (CoP) in December 2018 (there are ongoing discussions with implementation plan leaders and the UNFCCC Secretariat to continue this advisory and knowledge support from UN-REDD during the inception phase of the LCIP Platform, 2019–2020).

The UN-REDD Programme also supported the climate, forest and land agenda within the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). In particular, UN-REDD organized and supported various knowledge sessions during the UNPFII annual assembly, including lessons learned on social inclusion, gender mainstreaming and land rights in the climate and forest arena, as well as on approaches for community-based monitoring and community-led forest protocols. In addition, UN-REDD continued to support a forest and gender knowledge dialogue in the framework of the UNPFII. This resulted in a proposal for collaboration between UN-REDD and the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) being discussed, aiming to start activities in 2019.

This report is made possible through support from Denmark, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the European Union.