Briefing Paper on REDD+, Rights and Indigenous Peoples: Lessons from REDD+ Initiatives in Asia

Briefing paper on REDD+, Rights and Indigenous Peoples: Lessons from REDD+ Initiative in Asia

The idea of including ‘reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries’ in the global climate change negotiations was first presented by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations in 2005, at the UNFCCC’s 11th Conference of the Parties in Montreal, Canada. Five years later, in 2010, REDD was part of the agreements reached at the 16th COP in Cancun Mexico. During these five years REDD has evolved considerably. While the original idea behind REDD was to pay forest owners for preventing deforestation and thus reduce carbon emissions, the Cancun Agreement broadened the scope of REDD to include both actions that prevent emissions and actions that increase removal of carbon from the atmosphere, i.e. conservation and sustainable management of forests – thus the term “REDD plus”.

With this, REDD+ addresses one of the critiques brought forward against REDD, namely that REDD supposed pays only for the protection of those forests that are in immediate danger of being destroyed or degraded, but not for those forests that have already been successfully protected (e.g. protected areas, or the forests conserved by indigenous peoples and other forest dwelling communities). 

 The Cancun Agreement on REDD+ also includes environmental and social safeguards, which are critical for ensuring conservation of natural forest and for respecting the rights and traditional knowledge and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities. Indigenous peoples’ representatives have been at the forefront of advocacy work with the UNFCCC that led to the broadening of the scope of REDD+ and the inclusion of social & environmental safeguards in the Cancun Agreement. The agreement reflects the recognition that the effective participation of forest-dependent communities, and in particular indigenous peoples, is essential for the success of REDD+, and that for this to be achieved their knowledge and, above all, their rights need to be recognized.

Countries engaged in REDD+ are now obliged to ensure that the social and environmental safeguards provided for by the Cancun Agreement are included in their national REDD+ strategy. National REDD+ strategies are supposed to be the result of the currently ongoing Readiness Phase, the first of the three phases of REDD+ as foreseen in the Cancun Agreement. 


Two years after the Cancun Agreement, we are asking ourselves how far the REDD+ countries in Asia have advanced in addressing social and environmental issues in their REDD+ strategy drafting, what experiences indigenous peoples have so far made in engaging with REDD+ in their countries, and what lessons have been learnt from that. This briefing paper will reflect on a few piloting initiatives, which have been found particularly interesting and inspiring. 

Writers: Christian Erni; Pasang Dolma Sherpa (Nepal, SES), Nok Ven and Bunhieng Hean (Cambodia), Luong Thi Truong; Shree Kumar Maharjan (Vietnam), Eak Bahadur Rana (Nepal, Carbon Trust Fund), Lakpa Nuri Sherpa and Joan Carling

Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and International Work Group forIndigenous Affairs (IWGIA), 2012


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