in Bolivia

Evo Morales: Nature, forests and indigenous peoples are not for sale

Evo Morales: Nature, forests and indigenous peoples are not for sale. PHOTO: GJEP

At a meeting last week with NGOs in New York, Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia said, “It’s up to us. If we want the Cochabamba Accord, it will be up to the power of the people.” He called for a “an alliance of social movements and progressive governments to find solutions, otherwise the planet is going to cook.”

The Cochabamba Accord, drawn up during the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in April 2010, specifically rejects REDD:

We condemn market mechanisms such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and its versions + and + +, which are violating the sovereignty of peoples and their right to prior free and informed consent as well as the sovereignty of national States, the customs of Peoples, and the Rights of Nature.

Morales has now produced a statement on REDD explaining in more detail his opposition to REDD (available here in Spanish, pdf file – 734.6 kB).

As if to highlight the risks of trading the carbon stored in forests, large areas of Bolivia’s forests are currently going up in smoke, as the worst drought for 30 years hits the country. 27,000 hectares inside the Rio Blanco y Negro nature reserve in Santa Cruz province have been burned. “Now it is advancing toward the south; it cannot be controlled,” Manlio Rocha, Santa Cruz sustainable development chief is reported as saying in an AFP article.

Here is Morales’ statement on REDD:


Indigenous brothers of the world:

I am deeply concerned because some pretend to use leaders and indigenous groups to promote the commoditization of nature and in particular of forest through the establishment of the REDD mechanism (Reduction Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) and its versions REDD+ REDD++.

Every day an extension of forests and rainforest equivalent to 36,000 football fields disappears in the world. Each year 13 million hectares of forest and rain forest are lost. At this rate, the forests will disappear by the end of the century.

The forests and rainforest are the largest source of biodiversity. If deforestation continues, thousands of species, animals and plants will be lost forever. More than three quarters of accessible fresh water zones come from uptake zones in forests, hence the worsening of water quality when the forest condition deteriorates. Forests provide protection from flooding, erosion and natural disasters. They provide non-timber goods as well as timber goods. Forests are a source of natural medicines and healing elements not yet discovered. Forests and the rainforest are the lungs of the atmosphere. 18% of all emissions of greenhouse gases occurring in the world are caused by deforestation.

It is essential to stop the destruction of our Mother Earth.

Currently, during climate change negotiations everyone recognizes that it is essential to avoid the deforestation and degradation of the forest. However, to achieve this, some propose to commoditize forests on the false argument that only what has a price and owner is worth taking care of.

Their proposal is to consider only one of the functions of forests, which is its ability to absorb carbon dioxide, and issue “certificates”, “credits” or “Carbon rights” to be commercialized in a carbon market. This way, companies of the North have the choice of reducing their emissions or buy “REDD certificates” in the South according to their economic convenience. For example, if a company has to invest USD40 or USD50 to reduce the emission of one ton of C02 in a “developed country”, they would prefer to buy a “REDD certificate” for USD10 or USD20 in a “developing country”, so they can they say they have fulfilled to reduce the emissions of the mentioned ton of CO2.

Through this mechanism, developed countries will have handed their obligation to reduce their emissions to developing countries, and the South will once again fund the North and that same northern company will have saved a lot of money by buying “certified” carbon from the Southern forests. However, they will not only have cheated their commitments to reduce emissions, but they will have also begun the commoditization of nature, with the forests

The forests will start to be priced by the CO2 tonnage they are able to absorb. The “credit” or “carbon right” which certifies that absorptive capacity will be bought and sold like any commodity worldwide. To ensure that no one affects the ownership of “REDD certificates” buyers, a series of restrictions will be put into place, which will eventually affect the sovereign right of countries and indigenous peoples over their forests and rainforests. So begins a new stage of privatization of nature never seen before which will extend to water, biodiversity and what they call “environmental services”.

While we assert that capitalism is the cause of global warming and the destruction of forests, rainforests and Mother Earth, they seek to expand capitalism to the commoditization of nature with the word “green economy”.

To get support for this proposal of commoditization of nature, some financial institutions, governments, NGOs, foundations, “experts” and trading companies are offering a percentage of the “benefits” of this commoditization of nature to indigenous peoples and communities living in native forests and the rainforest.

Nature, forests and indigenous peoples are not for sale.

For centuries, Indigenous peoples have lived conserving and preserving natural forests and rainforest. For us the forest and rainforest are not objects, are not things you can price and privatize. We do not accept that native forests and rainforest be reduced to a simple measurable quantity of carbon. Nor do we accept that native forests be confused with simple plantations of a single or two tree species. The forest is our home, a big house where plants, animals, water, soil, pure air and human beings coexist.

It is essential that all countries of the world work together to prevent forest and rainforest deforestation and degradation. It is an obligation of developed countries, and it is part of its climate and environmental debt, to contribute financially to the preservation of forests, but NOT through its commoditization. There are many ways of supporting and financing developing countries, indigenous peoples and local communities that contribute to the preservation of forests.

Developed countries spend tens of times more public resources on defense, security and war than in climate change. Even during the financial crisis many have maintained and increased their military spending. It is inadmissible that by using the needs communities have and the ambitions of some leaders and indigenous “experts”, indigenous peoples are expected to be involved with the commoditization of nature.

All forests and rainforests protection mechanisms should guarantee indigenous rights and participation, but not because indigenous participation is achieved in REDD, we can accept that a price for forests and rainforests is set and negotiated in a global carbon market.

Indigenous brothers, let us not be confused. Some tell us that the carbon market mechanism in REDD will be voluntary. That is to say that whoever wants to sell and buy, will be able, and whoever does not want to, will be able to stand aside. We cannot accept that, with our consent, a mechanism is created where one voluntarily sells Mother Earth while others look crossed handed

Faced with the reductionist views of forests and rainforest commoditization, indigenous peoples with peasants and social movements of the world must fight for the proposals that emerged of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth:

  1. Integrated management of native forests and rainforest not only considering its mitigation function as CO2 sink but all its functions and potentiality, whilst avoiding confusing them with simple plantations.
  2. Respect the sovereignty of developing countries in their integral management of forests.
  3. Full compliance with the Rights of Indigenous Peoples established by the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Convention No. 169 of the ILO and other international instruments; recognition and respect to their territories; revalorization and implementation of indigenous knowledge for the preservation of forests; indigenous peoples participation and indigenous management of forest and rainforest.
  4. Funding of developed countries to developing countries and indigenous peoples for integral management of forest as part of their climate and environmental debt. No establishment of any mechanism of carbon markets or “incentives” that may lead to the commoditization of forests and rainforest.
  5. Recognition of the rights of Mother Earth, which includes forests, rainforest and all its components. In order to restore harmony with Mother Earth, putting a price on nature is not the way but to recognize that not only human beings have the right to life and to reproduce, but nature also has a right to life and to regenerate, and that without Mother Earth Humans cannot live.

Indigenous brothers, together with our peasant brothers and social movements of the world, we must mobilize so that the conclusions of Cochabamba are assumed in Cancun and to impulse a mechanism of RELATED ACTIONS TO THE FORESTS based on these five principles, while always maintaining high the unity of indigenous peoples and the principles of respect for Mother Earth, which for centuries we have preserved and inherited from our ancestors.

President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia

Leave a Reply

  1. Lieber Herr Lang

    Besten Dank für REDD – Monitor. Es gibt einen interessanten Überblick.

    Seit 2003 arbeite ich in Bolivien im Bereich der Bekämpfung der illegalen Waldrodung und Waldbrände (Forstaufsichtsbehörde und FAN). Obwohl jedes Jahr über 7000 Fälle der Waldrodung bekannt waren, werden maximal 100 bearbeitet. Keiner ist eigentlich am Thema interessiert.

    Unter Evo wurde es eher schlechter. Die ABT (Autoridad de Fiscalización y Control Social de Bosques y Tierra) hat nur einen zugewiesenen Jahreshaushalt von weniger 1 Boliviano / Hektar Wald (USD 1 = Bs 7). Völlig irrelevant.

    Die Politik der Land und Viehwirtschaft steht über dem Wald. Wald wird in Bolivien immer noch als Entwicklungshindernis gesehen.

    Reden von Evo über den Wald sind leider nur politischer Diskurs.

    Jährlich verliert Bolivien mehr als eine halbe Millionen Hektar Naturwald, und außer schönen Reden in New York passiert nicht viel.

    Traurig aber Wahr!

    Cordial saludo,


  2. @Rolf – Thanks for your comment. Here’s a quick translation into English:

    Dear Mr. Lang,

    Thank you for REDD-Monitor. It gives an interesting overview.

    Since 2003 I have been working in Bolivia in the fight against illegal deforestation and forest fires (forest supervisor and FAN). Although each year about 7,000 cases of deforestation are known about, a maximum of 100 are dealt with. No one is really interested in the topic.

    Under Evo, if anything it is worse. The ABT (Autoridad de Fiscalización y Control Social de Bosques y Tierra) has just one assigned annual budget of less than 1 Boliviano/ha of forest (U.S. $ 1 = Bs 7). Completely irrelevant.

    The policy of land and livestock is above the forest. Forest in Bolivia is still seen as an obstacle to development.

    Speeches by Evo on the forest are unfortunately only political discourse.

    Bolivia annually loses more than half a million hectares of natural forest, and apart from speeches in New York not much happens.

    Sad but true!

    Cordial saludo,


  3. It is difficult to believe that a government which is enhancing the worst deforestation in Bolivia, distributing land even in national Parks, planning mega hydroelectric dams and roads in the richest biodiversity areas and National Parks, supporting coca growers (the second cause of deforestation in a country which has the highest rate per capita of deforestation rate in the continent), not doing anything while 23 million of hectares of forest were burning, and not respecting the rights of Amazonian Indigenous Peoples, can say “It is essential to stop the destruction of our Mother Earth.”
    In addition, it is very interesting that the Bolivian government rejects carbon markets while firmly supports the Kyoto Protocol, and that the Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change of Cochabamba was funded by the oil income of Venezuela.

  4. Yeah, I was gonna say. he’s for mining and the like so we should take precautions before saying anything about him being totally 100% environmental friendly.

  5. In the link below to the newspaper El Mundo (Santa Cruz, Bolivia), you can read (in Spanish) the real policies of the Bolivian government implemented by the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA), which is reducing protected areas and not doing anything when people occupy them for farming (deforesting).
    The link below informs about the huge damages of the fires in protected areas.
    Whereas the government is doing nothing at all on this regard. Bolivia to date doesn’t have a Service of forest firefighters.
    This is the way the President of Bolivia defends the “rights of Mother Earth”.

  6. The time passed, but unfortunatly I can only confirm here from Bolivia that the statement of Rolf Wachholz from September 2010 ist still very much valid:

    “The policy of land and livestock is above the forest. Forest in Bolivia is still seen as an obstacle to development.”