in Guyana, Norway

Forest Peoples Programme concerned about REDD safeguards in Guyana

Forest Peoples Programme concerned about REDD safeguards in Guyana

“Forest peoples’ voices are increasingly being heard, and attended to, in debates about the future of the forests,” writes Marcus Colchester, the Director of the Forest Peoples Programme in FPP’s October ENewsletter. He describes how the movement for the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples has made great progress in the past two decades.

However, in an article about REDD: “Unsafeguarded Norwegian money for REDD triggers controversy,” FPP notes that the Norwegian Government’s claims that it would respect indigenous peoples’ rights in its financing of REDD, “are beginning to seem increasingly hollow.”

FPP is particularly concerned that Norway will be transferring money to Guyana via the World Bank, with no requirement that the Bank applies its safeguard policies:

The first test of its resolve has come in Guyana, where the Norwegians agreed to a creative way of passing US$250 million of this money through to Guyana via the World Bank but without requiring that the overall funding be assessed using the World Bank’s safeguard policies (see FPP July Enewsletter). No progress has been made resolving the Amerindians’ claims to their lands and forests, beyond the small titles granted for their villages and restricted farmlands which fail to embrace the territories to which they have rights under international treaties ratified by Guyana.

While the issue of Amerindian rights remains unresolved, the Guyanese government then announced that a large part of the Norwegian funds was going to be spent building a controversial dam deep in the forested interior at the Amaila Falls. Just how this will slow deforestation is anybody’s guess. Barely a day passes in Guyana without allegations being published in the local press of skulduggery in how this project was assessed and contracted. The company that secured the road-building contract has no experience with road construction and is now way behind schedule.

The announcement about the launch of the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF), includes the following statement on safeguards:

Both Governments believe that the issue of safeguards must be resolved within the UNFCCC negotiations, but this issue is still being discussed as of today. To develop a globally relevant model and therefore help give insights that may advance the negotiations, the Governments of Guyana and Norway will invite internationally reputable institutions to act as GRIF partner entities, starting with the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and specialized agencies of the UN that are members of the United Nations Development Group.

The safeguards of any one of these organizations, which are internationally accepted, will be used in the implementation of the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund. As on all other aspects of the agreement, adjustments will, if necessary, be made whenever agreement on a REDD+ mechanism is reached under the UNFCCC, to ensure conformity with that agreement.

From this, it’s difficult to tell which safeguards will be applied and how. However, the GRIF Administration Agreement (pdf file 97.5 KB) makes it clear that the Trustee, which is the International Development Association – the arm of the World Bank that gives loans to the world’s poorest countries, will not apply its safeguards:

The Trustee will have no fiduciary and safeguards responsibility in respect of the use of the funds, once transferred to the Partner Entity or for the activities described in the GRIF Verification Framework. The Trustee will have no liability for the use of the funds, once transferred to the Partner Entity. It is understood that the Association’s operational policies and procedures and corresponding accountability mechanism pertaining to projects, including those relating to environmental and social safeguards, will not apply to the activities of the Association as Trustee;

The money will be transferred from the Trustee to the Partners (the Inter-American Development Bank, the IDA and members of the United Nations Development Group). The partner organisations will be required to ensure “consistency with the Partner Entity’s fiduciary, safeguards, and operational policies and procedures.” So a series of different safeguards will be applied, depending on which partner organisation is involved.

In July 2010, FPP produced an article outlining its concerns that the World Bank’s safeguard on indigenous peoples will not be applied to Norway’s money in Guyana:

Guyana: indigenous peoples continue to be left out

July 2010

During May, the Norwegian Government announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Guyana to contribute US$230 million towards the country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). It only remained to be decided which financial agency would act as the intermediary with the fiduciary responsibility to make sure the monies were handed over with due care. Would this be the World Bank and what standards would the World Bank follow to supply this money?

This question was repeatedly asked of World Bank employees who advised that the World Bank would have to apply its ‘safeguards’. These are the standards which Bank staff are obliged to follow to ensure that the Bank’s projects are not damaging, and are part of its normal ‘due diligence’.

The World Bank’s safeguard on indigenous peoples is quite strong, even if not perfect. Indeed, two previous World Bank projects, proposed for Guyana to develop the country’s protected area system, had to be shelved because the Government of Guyana was not prepared to revise its policy towards indigenous peoples to properly recognise their rights. So when, in early discussions, the World Bank staff made clear to the President of Guyana that if he wanted the Norwegian money to flow through the Bank then they would have to apply their ‘safeguards’, the President was apparently displeased. There was an impasse.

The Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) wrote a detailed letter to the Norwegian Government pointing out that not only the World Bank, but also the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), had requested the Government of Guyana to change its laws and policies towards indigenous peoples so that they recognised their rights. The APA asked the Norwegian Government to insist on respect for their rights. The reply from the Norwegians was equivocal, spoke only in generalities and avoided direct reference to the legal issues raised.

By early June, the reasons for this reticence had become plain. The Guyana Government was insisting that the World Bank should adopt ‘creative instruments’ for passing through the Norwegian climate funds, which would allow it to avoid applying the Bank’s ‘safeguards’ to all its projects. According to the Guyanese press (June 2010), the Norwegian Government had agreed to this ‘creative’ approach, which would suggest that it may be keener to move money than to guarantee rights. Under the new arrangement the World Bank will pass on the Norwegian monies to Guyana once it has reached ‘certain benchmark applications’. The monies will then be released to other ‘partner entities’ once they submit project proposals related to the country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy, but they will then only have to apply the specific safeguards required for that project by the delivery agency.

Our Land, Our Future

Just how badly the indigenous peoples of Guyana are being left out became clear in a new report just issued by the Amerindian Peoples Association (Our Land, Our Future). Reviewing the past decade of Amerindian participation in policies and projects on their lands, the report details the rapid expansion of mining in Guyana as mineral prices have soared on global markets. Small- and medium-scale gold mining have intensified and new technologies have expanded operations into new areas. Exploration permits for other minerals, including for uranium, now cover about two-thirds of the country, while new prospects to develop bauxite, with associated hydropower and smelting plants, pose major threats both near the mouth of the Essequibo River and in the heart of the Pakaraima Mountains.

Whereas the impacts of mining on the Amerindians are very severe, the study found no evidence that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) has been serious about curbing damage. Social and environmental impacts include forest loss, polluted waterways, mercury contamination, criminality, drug abuse, and sexual exploitation and abuse of very young Amerindian girls. Amerindians themselves are also heavily engaged in mining with serious consequences for health, nutrition and their own cultures. Cases from Regions 1, 7 and 9 focused on in the study reveal that, even where efforts are made to help communities raise their concerns with the Government and companies, these agencies ignore community voices. In one case the GGMC has even defied a court ruling calling for mining to be halted on a community’s traditional land. Permits are being granted to miners without due consultation with communities, and their right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) is being ignored.

Indigenous Peoples and Sustainable Livelihoods in Guyana

The current disagreements between the Amerindians and the Government of Guyana over its natural resource management plans are only likely to be resolved if legal and policy adjustments are adopted which recognise the Amerindians’ rights in line with Guyana’s obligations under international law. New initiatives are also needed to control mining, mitigate social and environmental impacts and ensure that Amerindians participate in plans for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in fair and transparent ways that respect Amerindian rights to their territories and to give or withhold their free prior and informed consent to measures that will affect them.

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  1. The Administration Agreement for the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund confirms that the Governments of Norway and Guyana have broken the terms of the MoU, and conspired with the World Bank to circumvent the relevant World Bank safeguards for the use of Norway’s REDD funding. Far from reinforcing the need for strong governance of REDD, this sends out the message to venal regimes around the world “make enough fuss, and we’ll back down, and give you the REDD money without too much scrutiny.”

    What a disgrace, and what an insult to the taxpayers of Norway.

    Well, at least we now all know that any of these REDD agreements developed by Norway are not worth the paper they are printed on.

  2. How can Norway use REDD when no other country agrees with its presents, or no other country can actually afford it.
    The supposed millions advetised by Norway seems to be a attempt to announce Norways concerns and promote its participation.
    Studying Norways history of International trade has made me relise that the agenda for Norway to save any countries forest has a huge cost to that country.
    What other commodity or minerial in Guyana and Indonesia does Norway ” want ” other than to secure their forests land tenure.

  3. Norway´s lofty pledge to cur emissions come with a caveat, as stated in a NY Times article in March 2008:

    “Norway would be carbon neutral by 2030, it said.

    But as the details of the plan have emerged, environmental groups and politicians — who applaud Norway’s impulse — say the feat relies too heavily on sleight-of-hand accounting and huge donations to environmental projects abroad, rather than meaningful emissions reductions.”

    James Hansen recently wrote to Norway about it´s hypocrisy:

    This year´s Corruption Index is out today and Guyana has improved by 0.1 therefore taking it to 116th on the corruption index list!

  4. Dear Chris Lang,

    I am attaching the article below showing how the Guyanese Head of State is lambasting the World Bank on the disbursements of the funds promised by the Norwegians re LCDS. A growing number of Guyanese have been questioning the use of these funds. Bharat Jagdeo as well as previous regimes should have done taken care of certain basic rights for the Amerindian peoples especially with regards to the demarcation of their ancestral lands, this should not be dependent on the promise of funds from the Norwegian.

    Jagdeo says ‘silly, useless’ World Bank officials stalling Norway – Parliamentarian says World Bank ensuring ‘the proper way’ funds
    Kaieteur News, 26 October 2010

    The government yesterday said that it will use the first set of money from a US$250 million forest-saving deal with Norway to demarcate Amerindian lands and fit every Amerindian home with solar panels over the next two years, but accused “silly, useless” World Bank officials of stalling the release of the funds.

    Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy is the foundation of the five-year agreement with Norway, which has agreed to have the World Bank administer the funds. But President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said that the release of the first tranche of the funding – US$30 million – was being stymied by the World Bank. He said the first set of funds should have been deposited into a special World Bank fund since January, but the Fund was only set up earlier this month.
    “I hope that whilst you are here that you also send a clear signal to the international community who sometimes, because of distance, and sometimes because they have some real silly, useless people, don’t care,” Jagdeo told a meeting in Georgetown with the elected leaders of all of the country’s Amerindian villages. Jagdeo also handed out land titles to 10 Amerindian villages.

    “Let us send a clear message to the international community that they must get out of the way and allow us to move forward with our development.”

    Officials of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank were not at the opening ceremony of the conference of Amerindian leaders.

    Guyana has nine Amerindian tribes scattered in almost 100 Amerindian villages but they have remained the country’s poorest, with most still surviving on traditional subsistence farming, fishing and hunting. The government has said it will use any funds it receives from forest-saving deals to spur development in the villages.

    The land rights issue has been a thorny one, with Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) criticizing the government for its handling of the issue and Jagdeo yesterday took a swipe at those NGOs. “Some NGOs, to make money, have to be contrary. They can’t say, ‘we agree with you,’ so they snipe and try to undermine,” Jagdeo declared.

    “Don’t fall into some other person’s way of making money. That’s how they survive,” Jagdeo told the Amerindians gathered for the week-long conference at the Guyana International Conference Centre.

    Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, also had her bit of warning for the Amerindian leaders who make up the National Toshaos Council. “I mention now with great conviction that you recognize the need for cleansing and eradicating of suspicions with respect to Amerindian land rights and ownership,” Sukhia declared.

    Dr George Norton, an Amerindian Parliamentarian with the main opposition party, which has rapped the government on its corruption record, did not agree that the World Bank was hampering the flow of funds.

    “The World Bank and other international financial agencies are trying to make certain that things are done the proper way, and if it means slowing down a process, then so be it,” said Norton. The Parliamentarian said that the President was also being unfair in criticizing Amerindian NGOs. Amerindian leaders have insisted that the government’s proposals to save the forest do not address its international obligations to indigenous groups.

    “We have urged governments and international agencies to protect our traditional practices and help resolve outstanding land issues,” Tony James, president of Guyana’s Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), said at a World Bank meeting in Georgetown earlier this year. Indigenous leaders say the government is taking over traditional lands through poor demarcation and that in some areas communities were demarcated without their knowledge. The Amerindian Act of 2006 gives Amerindian villages legal powers to manage and conserve their lands.

    “Some community lands are being sliced by half, some by quarter, some by three-quarters,” said John Adries, the leader of the Paruima community, which numbers 600 Arekuna people. In an example of what they said was poor planning, a hospital that serves indigenous people in the mountain village of Kato was left out of land demarcated by government. But Norton said that the problem is not only in Kato.

    “It has happened in so many villages,” Norton said.

    Jagdeo said that part of the problem with the demarcation of land has been the lack of surveyors, but Norton said that Amerindians, who would best know their land, were trained through a World Bank-funded initiative, but the government did not accept this qualification.

    The government is seeking international partnerships and incentives to protect 15 million hectares (37 million acres) of forest.
    Amerindian communities have been told they can opt into the initiative or choose not to be part of it.

  5. With some basic training and support, Guyana’s Amerindian communities are perfectly capable of surveying and demarcating their own territories, as a number of them have already proven in the past. They could probably do so for much less than the $200,000 per community which the President claims will be the cost – a figure which no doubt includes plenty of government salaries, top-slicing, and waste along the way.

    Now that money is available, President Jagdeo has no excuse to stall the demarcation of Amerindian lands.

  6. This is a slap in the face to the native peoples in Guyana’s hinterland who are being robbed by the Guyanese government of their ancentral lands.

    Amerindians: Guyana surveyors ignoring borders
    Associated Press
    2010-10-27 12:08 AM

    Amerindian leaders in Guyana’s lush interior say government surveyors are ignoring their ancient boundaries while demarcating town borders in the rainforest.

    Amerindian spokeswoman Jean LaRose said Tuesday that surveyors are ignoring ancestral borders in the forested interior and “causing problems in villages as no one is listening or paying heed to our knowledge.”

    A government spokesman did not immediately respond to LaRose’s criticism.

    Guyana is verifying district lines and setting up solar panels in Amerindian towns with the help of a $30 million grant from Norway.

    The payment from the European nation is intended to help Guyana reduce poverty and protect its 15 million hectare (37 million acre) jungle.

  7. My greatest concern about REDD is about the lack of education among indigenous peoples about REDD.

    I am an indigenous person and when I visited my community last, I had many persons asking about REDD. Unfortunately, I myself had studied the programme so could not answer many questions.

    Having looked at REDD since then, my greatest concern is the erosion of traditional forest culture, which not only may be a major loss to our indigenous peoples but to the wider society.

  8. REDD on paper looks a promising intervention in forest management but the challenge remains: How the benefits trickle down to the poor people who own/ live around the forests and rely on them for their daily survival. Governments tend to divert the monies into projects which do not directly benefit the poor but serve the interests of the rich people. In so doing, the REDD funds will be pumped but the poor people will also continue degrading the forests since they have no alternatives.