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Beyond Carbon: Rights-based Safeguard Principles in Law

Beyond Carbon: Rights-based Safeguard Principles in LawA new report, “Beyond Carbon: Rights-based Safeguard Principles in Law“, edited by Bernadus Steni of the Indonesian organisation HuMa, outlines the various safeguards needed “to ensure that REDD schemes do not harm nearby communities or the forest areas they aim to conserve.”

The report was released to coincide with the Participants Committee meeting of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership that took place in Washington DC, 1-3 November 2010. That meeting is following by another meeting between the governing bodies of the UN-REDD Programme, the FFCPF and World Bank’s Forest Investment Programme (FIP).

IPS reports that safeguards were a key issue in the FCPF meeting, perhaps not surprising given the fact that the World Bank appears to have decided that by allowing other multilateral institutions to implement REDD projects, the Bank doesn’t need to worry about applying its safeguards. The dangers of this are well illustrated by the World Bank’s role in Guyana. Guyana’s President, Bharrat Jagdeo, recently described World Bank official as “silly” and “useless” for delaying funding to Guyana’s REDD+ Investment Fund.

Consistent safeguards and clarity about how these are to be implemented would help prevent this sort of situation. Mark Rentschler of the Bank Information Center told IPS that,

“If you’re going to allow other partners in the FCPF then we want standards that are going to be at least as strong for them too.”

Otherwise, as Greenpeace’s Susanne Breitkopf points out to IPS, there is a serious risk of a “race to the bottom”, where countries receiving REDD funding choose the agency with the least stringent safeguards. And, as in Guyana, where countries put pressure on the World Bank to release REDD funding without the inconvenience of applying its safeguards.

But demanding that the World Bank should apply its safeguard policies is the absolute minimum requirement. The World Bank has an abysmal record in implementing its safeguards. This, of course, is not a reason for weakening the safeguards, it’s an argument to strengthen them – and apply them consistently.

The report, “Beyond Carbon” explains what safeguards aim to achieve, provides an overview of rights-based safeguards and explains how to read these safeguards. It lists the following basic rights:

  1. The basic right to information
  2. The procedural right to participate
  3. Benefit sharing
  4. The right to forest resources
  5. Rights over values and customs relating to the forest
  6. Rights to compensation and environmental restoration
  7. The right to determine/decline free prior and informed consent (FPIC)
  8. The right not to be terrorised, and to protection under the law
  9. The right to a healthy environment

In each case, the report explains the right and how it relates to REDD and how this right has been implemented so far, in the context of Indonesia. For example, on the right to information, the report states that,

The right to information as part of the procedural guarantees drawn from international principles and recognized in various international instruments, should ideally be a pillar in planning, implementing and evaluating a REDD project. Government willingness to provide information to communities relating to the implementation of REDD still appears problematic. Several cases discovered during field activities by civil society forum in a number of regions show that villagers have had absolutely no information at all relating to REDD.

The report outlines the key principles behind the right and then explains the legal situation regarding the right under Indonesian law and under international law to which Indonesia is a signatory or has ratified.

Indonesian civil society proposes safeguards framework in the rush for “green gold”

“Don’t let REDD money exacerbate forest conflicts,” insist Indonesian groups

Press Release
3 November 2010

Jakarta and Washington, DC – With the launch of ‘Beyond Carbon: Rights-based Safeguard Principles in Law’, a study that serves as a collective proposal to REDD donors and recipients to uphold the primacy of human rights in the governance of forest-for-carbon schemes, the Indonesian Civil Society Forum on Climate Justice (CSF) and indigenous peoples stress the importance of safeguards and proper governance to the government and funders. Indonesia is the recipient of nearly $3 billion in commitments from multilateral and bilateral donors for REDD demonstration and preparation activities as well as support for forest governance reform. However, a significant flaw in these initiatives is the lack of relevant safeguards and regulatory framework in projects that are financed by both private sector and government institutions.

First, forestry-related funding has a substantial impact on communities and livelihoods. The Indonesian government’s Forestry Department data shows more than 25,000 villages or more than 12,500,000 people are living in and around forest areas. Indonesian forests identified for REDD projects are regions with growing land tenure and forest access rights conflicts owing largely to oil palm plantation and mining concessions. The UN-funded REDD projects in Central Sulawesi, for example, cover 662 villages in and around its forest area, affecting more than 330,000 people. But these projects are underway without clear transparency, safeguards and accountability procedures and how these can be spared from the expansion of extractive and monoculture plantations.

Secondly, the government, the World Bank and big bilateral donors have yet to adopt a rights-based framework that provides for maximum transparency, accountability and inclusive decision-making across REDD programs. “The release of the study is timely,” said Bernardinus Steni of Indonesian forest watch group HuMA, “as the Indonesian government has yet to produce guidelines to regulate the management of REDD funds and decision makers of forest-based carbon reduction programs are convening in Washington, DC this week.” He emphasized that “in order to avoid exacerbating forest-based conflicts, REDD schemes should be bound by a common approach to environmental and social safeguards and accountability that respects all relevant economic, civil and political rights of forest-based communities and indigenous peoples.”

Giorgio Budi Indrarto, a lawyer who coordinates the CSF, called on the Indonesian government to heed the recommendations of this study. He noted that “Although the Indonesian government released a draft National REDD Strategy this year, it falls short of addressing donor and government coordination issues around governance standards, including safeguards.” Amid the rapid flow of REDD money and attempts of industrialized countries to advance their own agenda in the Indonesian forests, the draft strategy is in need of substantial revision to ensure the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and the livelihood security of forest-dependent communities.

Finally, REDD could pose major risks if it is not sensitive to the fundamental drivers of deforestation in Indonesia, including failure of government institutions and policies to protect land tenure rights and the rights of the indigenous peoples amid the expansion of commercial plantations, mining concessions, and export-led agriculture. While some donors want to proceed with their REDD programs with fewer strings attached, others still grapple with why their “money for trees” should be bound to a safeguards check. Communities and civil society are witnessing how the unfettered rush for ‘green gold’ poses the risks of continuing displacements and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights in favor of carbon price speculators and REDD money opportunists.

Teguh Surya, Campaign Director of the Indonesian environmental network WALHI, argued that in Indonesia, “there is uneven attention to securing access to forest carbon stock, hence, an emphasis on designing, monitoring and verifying financing delivery, carbon accounting or benefit sharing arrangements, while safeguarding human rights appears to be mostly a rhetorical commitment.”

The strengths of the report rest on its authorship by Indonesians who recognize the unequal power relations in forest management. They see the risks and opportunities of REDD in changing the governance of their natural resources. They have also experienced firsthand the limits of pushing Indonesian voice for rights protection in international platforms such as the FIP, FCPF, UNREDD processes and UNFCCC which continue to have no legally binding agreements on REDD safeguards.

“It is imperative that the Indonesian government and donors get their acts together,” argues Nadia Hadad, a Jakarta-based Coordinator of the Bank Information Center. “The study,” Hadad notes, “provides a relevant proposal at a time when the government is in the midst of designing its response to climate change, including the national REDD policy.”


  • Jelson Garcia, Bank Information Center,
  • Bernardinus Steni, HuMA,

download the report

Beyond Carbon: Rights-based Safeguard Principles in Law, November 3, 2010 (PDF, 3,969KB)

see also

Common Platform on Saving Indonesia’s Forests to Protect the Global Climate, October 2010 (PDF, 855KB)

Preliminary Study on the Safeguards Policies of Bilateral Donors to REDD Programs in Indonesia, June 2010 (PDF, 1,840 KB)


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