in Indonesia

Urging recognition of Forest Peoples’ Rights

“REDD proposals will only lead to forest protection if needs and rights of local communities are being effectively addressed,” wrote FERN in a report released in November 2008.

Continuing the theme, FERN’s EU Forest Watch this month comments on the importance of forest peoples’ rights. FERN highlights the case of Indonesia, where the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has raised concerns about the country’s draft regulation on REDD.

Urging recognition of Forest Peoples’ Rights

EU Forest Watch, Issue 137, April 2009.

While forest and climate negotiators meet in Bonn, Germany (29 March – 8 April 2009), to prepare for agreement in Copenhagen, several international bodies have highlighted the importance of recognising local peoples’ rights before REDD money starts flowing.

In his report to the meeting, the chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Co-operative Action stated that deforestation will halt only when negotiators agree about how to safeguard forest peoples’ rights.¹ This echoes the November 2007 Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision in Saramaka v. Suriname, which ruled that consultations for projects that affect the livelihoods of indigenous and tribal communities must be undertaken in good faith, through culturally appropriate procedures and with the objective of reaching agreement.² A new briefing by the Forest Peoples Programme explains the ruling’s implications for the REDD debate.³

The UN-REDD programme’s draft guidelines for engagement of indigenous and other forest peoples also clearly spell out that UN-REDD programme activities must follow a rights-based approach and adhere to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and full, effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities are essential in all REDD decision-making processes.

One country that has clearly not yet understood this is Indonesia. The UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) criticised Indonesia’s draft 2008 Regulation on Implementation Procedures for REDD as incompatible with the rights of indigenous peoples. This regulation would allow the government to hand out forest concessions for carbon capture much as it has dealt out logging concessions in the past. CERD recommended that this draft and other laws be reviewed to ensure consistency with the rights of indigenous peoples to control their traditionally owned territories and to consent to activities that may affect them, such as REDD. The Committee asked Indonesia to report back no later than 31 July 2009.

Indonesian NGOs AMAN and SawitWatch and the Forest Peoples Programme applauded the letter. The message is clear: countries and institutions that do not recognise local peoples’ rights violate international law and UN guidelines.



[3] “The Case of the Saramaka People v. Suriname,”


[5] Letter of 18 March 2009, available at



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