Category Archives: Rights are Fundamental

From Burness latest newsletter

UN report is first to recognize that securing land rights for Indigenous Peoples is a climate solution

A major United Nations (UN) report is the first to cite strong land rights for Indigenous Peoples and local communities as a solution to the climate crisis. This report was compiled by a panel of 100 experts from 52 countries who assessed science related to the climate crisis. It was a long time coming. Burness worked with the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) to promote a statement signed by Indigenous Peoples from 42 countries supporting the landmark report. The resulting media coverage featured more than fifty top-tier media placements that mentioned Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ contributions to the fight against global climate change.

After years of working with RRI and Ford Foundation grantees to promote research on this topic, it was beyond gratifying to see their work acknowledged so prominently. After all, the report was compiled by a panel of 100 experts from 52 countries, people who assess science related to the climate crisis. Read this story in PRI for background on the significance of this news to Indigenous leaders and climate researchers working in this space.


Carbon stored in Collective Lands

  1. Indigenous Peoples and local communities manage at least 17 percent (293,061 Mt) of the total carbon stored in the forestlands of assessed countries—a global estimate that is 5 times greater than shown in a previous analysis of aboveground tropical forest carbon, equivalent to 33 times the global energy emissions of 2017.
  2. Twenty two percent (217,991 MtC) of the forest carbon found in the 52 tropical and subtropical countries in this analysis is stewarded by communities, and one-third of this (72,079 MtC) is located in areas where Indigenous Peoples and local communities lack formal recognition of their tenure rights—putting them, their lands, and the carbon stored therein at risk.
  3. Soil organic carbon accounts for almost 65 percent (113,218 Mt) and nearly 90 percent (105,606 Mt) of the total forest carbon managed by communities in tropical and non-tropical forest countries, respectively. By protecting their forests and lands, communities are not only maintaining the carbon stored in the trees (above and below ground), but are also in effect protecting vast reservoirs of carbon that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere if the overlying forests were destroyed.
  4. Carbon storage in collective lands is far greater and more extensive than what can be assessed through available data. This assessment remains an underestimate of carbon stored in collective forestlands worldwide. The full extent of forests and other lands held by indigenous and local communities—and particularly those where communities have yet to achieve legal recognition of their rights—is unknown and spatially explicit data concerning these areas remains lacking. Thus, vast stores of carbon within collective lands in carbon-rich countries such as Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain undocumented.

Mexico Community Forestry alleviates poverty

Community Forestry has been identified as a secure, profitable, and equitable strategy to reach the dual goal of forest conservation and poverty alleviation. This research contributes to the literature exploring the effects of local capacity building in forest communities by analyzing the Community Forestry Program (CFP) in Mexico. This program provides grants to enhance four types of local capacities: human, social, economic, and environmental. We used a quasi-experimental approach to quantitatively compare matched treatment and control communities regarding the effect of these interventions on two response variables: poverty alleviation and forest cover conservation. The treatment and control communities were assessed at two points in time: pre-intervention and after a 5-year treatment period. This approach was possible because we had access to a rich database of CFP grants containing more than 20,000 records from which we identify 5074 that meet the criteria for our study. Impact on poverty is assessed using a Marginality Index produced by a federal agency. Effect on forest cover conservation is evaluated by using two proxies, the rate of change on: forest cover and on forest cover fragmentation. Our results show that enhancement of only human/social capacities or all capacities as a package significantly reduce poverty. However, the first ones have a greater impact that the latter ones. Neither human/social capacities enhancement, nor all-capacities enhancement had a statistically significant effect on forest cover conser- vation. These findings can assist in better designing and targeting future CFP grants in Mexico. Also, they have implications for public policy since capacity building is cheaper than any other poverty alleviation mechanism such as direct cash transfers or subsidies. Furthermore, they have long-lasting impacts that do not require regular periodical contributions and they don’t discriminate by gender, or by the require- ment on individual community members of having land ownership rights within the community’s land holdings.


Effect of capacity building in alleviating poverty and improving forest conservation in the communal forests of Mexico

Juan Manuel Torres-Rojo a,⇑, Rafael Moreno-Sánchez b, Joel Amador-Callejas

World Development 121 (2019) 108–122


White Man’s Conservation

More and more is being published about the historical inequities of the Protected Areas systems especially in developing countries.  Two new books have come out in the past year, one written by African conservation professionals so a self reflection.

WWF has also been questioned about its compliance with its own indigenous peoples’s policy.  Survival International took WWF to the OECD over the failure to respect central African Indigenous Peoples rights — of the pgymies, who include the MBenga (Batwa, Baka, Aka) Mbuti (Efi), and Twa.  These talks have recently broken down

Survival–WWF OECD talks break down over tribal consent

And here the reviews of the two recent books:

Why are all the black faces in conservation in the background?

Wrong Kind of Green

Recently two books were published.  Big Conservation Lie by two Kenyan biologists: Mordecai Ogada and John Mbaria.  Ogada had his ‘epiphany’ when having a cocktail at a tourism lodge in Kenya and hearing one of his white hosts say, “we will have to move that Masai village, it is spoiling the view”.  Mbaria had his when he realized that white conservationists including those residents of his country continued to place the blame for species loss on black Africans avoiding any responsibility for their colonial past and ignoring the fact that the only reason there were parks to gazette in the first place was the collective stewardship of generations of black Africans.  Big Conservation Lie questions the whole model of fortress conservation and conservation paid by tourism that displaces native peoples. “How did wildlife survive for millennia in Kenya rangelands together with people who never earned anything from it?”

The second book, White Man’s Game, by Stephanie Hayes, looks at the history of conservation of an emblematic national park, Gorgongosa, in Botswana and the continued failure to find a rights-based model for its administration — in her assessment due to the ‘outsider’s conservation model’ that persists in the sub-continent.  Once decimated by civil war, Gorgongosa National Park was nearly devoid of much of its larger animal species– when an ambitious pro-conservation, multi-millionaire began to invest in a new management model that is seen as a success by one segment of the conservation community and as a human rights travesty and failure by another.

Both books deserve a serious read.  As well as focused attention to the rights of Mbenga, Mbuti, and Twa in the Protected Areas of Central Africa.


The Green Climate Fund is drafting a standard for Indigenous Peoples that could lift many other standards

With the call for public input just ending, the GCF will be incorporating more protections for Indigenous Peoples.  Will this bring a new era of respect for Indigenous Peoples’ lands and resources, whether those lands have been formally titled or not?  Will it lead to respect for Indigenous Peoples’ rights in conservation and public protected areas?  Already Indigenous Peoples and local communities conserve as much area as is in government-managed protected areas and invest significantly in protection and conservation activities.

Call for Public Input

Green Climate Fund Indigenous Peoples Policy

Deadline: 12 August 2017 at 23:59 Korean Standard Time