Amerindian leaders say must not be pressured on low carbon
Indigenous leaders say that they support “in principle” proposals that aim to protect standing forests but said that they must not be pressured into make decisions without full understanding of the implications of such policies.
“Recognizing that the indigenous peoples of Guyana are the historical guardians of the forest, we in principle support proposals that aim to protect standing forests where these initiatives fully respect and secure our rights and value our traditional knowledge and practices”, participants at a recent workshop on this issue said in a statement.
The statement followed a three-day workshop sponsored by the Indigenous non-governmental organization, the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) on Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and Indigenous peoples rights. It was signed by several Amerindian leaders, representatives of the APA and the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples, representatives of District Toshaos Councils, elders and residents.
According to the statement, after initial examination of the government’s draft LCDS and draft REDD plans, and following lengthy discussions over three days, several positions were reached. They called on the government, international agencies and donors to ensure that all public consultations meet international standards and good practice principles in order to ensure that indigenous peoples’ concerns, priorities and proposals are fully incorporated in national forest and climate policies and low carbon initiatives. “In particular, our peoples through their own representative institutions must be given adequate time for collective decision making and space to reach internal agreements on our responses to the government’s plans. We must not be pressured to make early decisions without full understanding of the implications of these policies for our forests, lands and livelihoods”, the statement said.
It stated that all public consultations must provide communities with relevant information in the right format and languages, including information on both the possible benefits and the possible adverse impacts of the government’s current plans. “Issues raised by our leaders and communities must be fairly documented in the consultations and their concerns and proposals must influence the final documents”, the statement said. Currently, national consultations are ongoing in relation to Guyana’s LCDS.
Coming out of the workshop, 18 recommendations were made. These include that all policies are developed and actions carried out with full recognition of and respect for indigenous peoples’ rights in accordance with international norms, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and related human rights instruments. They also said that outstanding land and territorial issues identified in the Amerindian Lands Commission report of 1969 must be dealt with “upfront” as an integral part of policy design and implementation.
Another recommendation was for a moratorium on mining and industrial logging to be put in place in all fragile environments while large-scale industrial farming and aquaculture on fragile, non-forest land in savannah, mountain and wetland areas must not be promoted.
Additionally, the participants asked for participatory revision of the Amerindian Act of 2006 to be carried out as soon as possible to strengthen its provisions so that they are fully consistent with international standards. They also asked that the Forest Act 2009 and the forthcoming Protected Areas Act must fully respect indigenous rights, including customary rights to land and resources while rotational farming must not be classified as deforestation or degradation “and this sustainable traditional land use practice must be fully safeguarded in any national LCDS/REDD program”.
Among several other recommendations, the participants said that safeguards must be put in place to ensure that no LCDS or REDD scheme may proceed on traditional lands (titled and untitled) without free, prior and informed consent. They said that an indigenous peoples working group on REDD and LCDS must be established and recognized by government to assist and support informed and culturally appropriate consultations with Amerindian communities. Indigenous peoples must be able to choose their own representatives to take part in this working group, they said.
For their part, they committed to working to inform their communities and organizations of key rights, risks and opportunities relating to the REDD/LCDS issue. “We aim to do this through the formation of teams involving our own people who are knowledgeable of our land use and way of life and who speak our languages”. They called on donors and support organizations to provide adequate financial resources to carry out the actions, including support for information dissemination and capacity-building efforts in indigenous communities.
Further, the participants called on Toshaos and other representatives not to sign nor endorse agreements on LCDS/REDD or related issues without the express prior consent of their home communities.
They noted that their lands and territories are being affected by climate change impacts that threaten lands, livelihood and way of life and stating that the greater part of climate change pollution stems from industrialized countries, called on governments to take major steps to cut industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases