Saving the rainforest: Why human rights is the key
Posted on Sep 06, 2012
The annual destruction of 13 million hectares of tropical forest is widely recognized as a global disaster. A new report from Rainforest Foundation Norway shows how the rainforest can be saved.
Recognizing the rights of forest people to manage their land is critical to reducing deforestation rates and safeguarding global forests, argues a new report published by Rainforest Foundation Norway.
Irreversible loss of species, destruction of valuable ecosystem services and escalation of dramatic climate changes; these are all obvious, and internationally recognized, reasons for halting the destruction of the world’s rainforests. Nonetheless, deforestation continues at an inacceptable rate.
So how can the international community reverse this devastating trend? Which methods are most effective in terms of protecting the rainforest? In the report Rights-based rainforest protection Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) argues that recognizing the rights of forest peoples is the key.
“It is the local communities in the world’s rainforests who can show us how the forest can be saved, and this new reports shows us how. In Brazil, the 16 indigenous groups in Xingu Indigenous Park have managed to keep their 2.8 million ha territory as a green oasis right in the frontline of Brazil’s deforestation hotspot. In Indonesia, some of the last remaining lowland rainforest of Sumatra is protected in Bukit Duabelas National Park, where the Orang Rimba indigenous peoples live. The report provides examples from all rainforest regions, and makes us understand why the rights of forest peoples really are the key to saving the forest”, says Lars Løvold, director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.
Requirements for success
RFN identifies two vital conditions for the basis from which deforestation can be reduced: Political will to shape and implement the right forest management policies at the national level in rainforest nations, and an obligation from the international community to support these measures.
However, RFN argues that efforts of forest protection will never be successful if they ignore the rights and interests of people living in the world’s forests. Thus, rights-based rainforest protection takes as its starting point the customary rights of local forest communities to their traditional lands, resources and culture.
“In the part, the mainstream approach to forest conservation has been to exclude people living in the forest from decision making, and in many cases expel them from the forest. The economic perspective on forest management has been to maximize the short term exploitation of its resources - again at the expense of the rainforest communities. By making human rights the cornerstone of forest management strategies, we can achieve both long term protection of forest and secure the livelihood and development needs of some of the worlds’ most vulnerable peoples”, says Løvold.
The cases that verify the theory
Through various case studies, the report Rights-based rainforest protection shows how forest people in rainforest countries are protecting the forest today. The report describes which key elements need to be in place for a human-rights based approach to be successful as well as what role states play in national policies and international support mechanisms, such as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).
Combining these ingredients, RFN argues that Rights-based rainforest protection is a recipe for how the world’s rainforest can be saved. It might sound very simple. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
“We all know that as a global community it’s more costly to destroy the rainforest than paying the prize to protect it. Still, today, the real money is made by those who exploit the rainforest for its resources, timber, palm oil, minerals and such, with large scale destruction as a result. While a change of policy in rainforest countries is necessary, all countries have to take the responsibility of preventing their companies from investing in rainforest destruction, and by sharing the bill for the global ecosystem services the rainforest provide”, says Løvold.
Lars Løvold, Director, Rainforest Foundation Norway
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