|Native forests threatened by Barro Blanco hydrodam.
Photo courtesy of Oscar Sogandares
By Oscar G. Sogandares, Spokesperson Asociación Ambientalista de Chiriquí
Last month, the Coordination of Indigenous Peoples of Panama (COONAPIP) representing the seven indigenous peoples of Panama withdrew from the UN REDD Programme in Panama. In a letter to the UN, COONAPIP explains that UN-REDD “does not currently offer guarantees for respecting indigenous rights [nor for] the full and effective participation of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama.” Ironically, UN-REDD recently released its Guidelines on Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
The COONAPIP’s experience with the REDD+ process in Panama makes it clear that collaboration between UN agencies, indigenous people’s representative bodies and government actors needs to be urgently improved. Governments and UN agencies must start working hand in hand with indigenous peoples, ensuring legality to the territories that are still not recognized and appropriately strengthen indigenous people’s representative bodies around the world.
Governments and UN agencies must start working hand in hand with indigenous peoples, ensuring legality to the territories that are still not recognized and appropriately strengthen indigenous people’s representative bodies around the world.
REDD+ can generate significant social and environmental benefits for indigenous peoples, or can result in severe risks to the legal security of indigenous territories and lands. Experience with emission reduction and conservation projects show that native peoples are often alienated from their land, which by its nature is inalienable collective property. The intrusion of foreign interests in indigenous territories can result in land grabs, limiting access to land that once served to produce food for its inhabitants. At the same time, in the hallways of the UN we hear a double discourse, proclaiming the need to reduce CO2 emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, but at the same time cheerfully allowing devastation of huge tracts of native forests in the name of CDM emission reduction projects, such as the case of the Barro Blanco hydro dam project. An ominous example that favours big business with undeserved carbon credits, while the native peoples who for centuries have cared for the forests and other natural resources are not recognized with a single cent.
In a previous letter dated June 20th, 2012 the COONAPIP brings it to the point: “If we are having such problems in a process that is just beginning and the agencies involved behave in ways that are fundamentally inconsistent with the principles that are supposed to apply to REDD. What can we expect when the REDD strategy actually begins to be implemented?”
Recently, the UN-REDD Programme has launched an independent evaluation of its activities in Panama , see: www.un-redd.org/UNREDD_Launches_Panama_NP_Evaluation_EN/tabid/106063/Default.aspx