Center for World Indigenous Studies
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REDD and Autonomy

Published: August 8, 2010, Author: MHirch

The United Nations has been sponsoring negotiations for the last several years on REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries). Indigenous peoples and their organizations concerned with Climate Change and international negotiations of a new Climate Change Treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocols have been slowly evolving international capabilities to establish a voice at the negotiations.  The principle vehicle has been an ad hoc body called the International Indigenous Peoples’ forum on Climate Change.

While the negotiations have been concerned with establishing language for a treaty covering such topics as Finance, mitigation, adaption, and targets for reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gases, REDD has become a central focal concern of indigenous technical advisers and leaders.

Within the framework of discussions on REDD the focus for States’ government representatives has been on money–money to finance “developing countries” to not cut down the jungles and forests.  The “monied” countries have offered small amounts of money, unacceptable to the “developing countries” and that has been at the core of disputes during the negotiations for some time.

Indigenous peoples delegations and technical advisers have enjoined the debate (though they have not actually been invited to the table) with an increasing emphasis on “autonomy” or local decision-making about the use of forests and jungles by the indigenous people who live in those same forests and jungles.

Now, we are about to see the central clash between the interests of indigenous peoples and states’ governments (if indigenous leaders sustain pressure over time, and if US indigenous political leaders and technical people join to support the effort).

As Mina Setra said at the UN negotiations:

“We don’t know what REDD is,” said Mina Setra, head of Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago, at the meetings that ended Friday. “But we do know how to manage our territories. For millennia indigenous peoples have drawn on their traditional knowledge to strengthen their resilience and demonstrate their capacity to cope with climate change.”

Setra said she feared that under the REDD programme, the management of jungles and forests would be delegated to institutions that might not respect the rights of the indigenous peoples who live there. “For us, our territories are not just resources. For us, the land is mother, blood, soul and life,” she stressed.”

Since the beginning of Climate Change talks years ago, Indigenous peoples have presented a unique issue: who will govern the biologically diverse jungles, forests and wetlands so essential to cleansing the atmosphere of CO2 and other greenhouse gases? Clearly REDD raises the question of autonomy and governance and indigenous peoples need to press their authority with all the fiber in their Beings.

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