in Paraguay

REDD: The realities in black and white – new report from Friends of the Earth International

REDD: The realities in black and white - new report from Friends of the Earth International

“There are several red flags and concerns about REDD by indigenous groups and forest dependent peoples as well as mass social movements across the world,” writes Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International from Cancún. A new report from FoEI, released to coincide with the talks in Cancún, highlights these red flags and concerns.

The report, “REDD: The realities in black and white” (pdf file 677.9 KB), includes case studies from Indonesia, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Brazil and Liberia. It is also available in Spanish, Portuguese and French.

The report outlines what REDD is, explains some of the “sticky issues” that still need to be resolved before a REDD deal can be adopted at the UN level, and describes some of the actors involved in promoting REDD, including the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and Forest Investment Programme, UN-REDD, various bi-lateral funds, the REDD+ Partnership and REDD in the voluntary carbon markets. The report then looks at REDD as greenwash for polluting corporations, documents how indigenous peoples and forest communities struggle to be heard in discussions about REDD internationally and in the development of REDD projects, and how land tenure and other rights issues are pitfalls for REDD. The report looks at the “killer issues” of leakage, plantations and REDD and carbon trading.

Although REDD may benefit some communities and biodiversity in certain specific areas, overall it is emerging as a mechanism that has the potential to exacerbate inequality, reaping huge rewards for corporate and other large investors whilst bringing considerably fewer benefits -or even serious disadvantages- to Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities. In addition, if governments focus on REDD in isolation, it could become a dangerous and ineffective distraction from the business of implementing real and effective policies for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

FoEI states that “it is vital that REDD is not linked to carbon markets”, for the following reasons:

  • Carbon trading is not working. It is neither delivering cuts in greenhouse gas emissions nor have the promised incentives for investments in low-carbon technology been realised.
  • A carbon trading financed REDD scheme relies on carbon offsets, “a controversial, ineffective and increasingly discredited mechanism”.
  • The price of carbon is volatile and unpredictable. There is no guarantee that the price of carbon can compete against the price of other commodities, such as palm oil. (In fact, reducing deforestation will inevitably increase the price of palm oil and other industrial crops that currently use land cleared from forests.)
  • Carbon trading risks a repeat of the subprime mortgage crisis.

Below is the case study from the FoEI report about Paraguay.

Paraguay: Ensuring indigenous peoples’ voices are heard

In August 2008, the right-wing Colorado Party’s sixty-year grip on power in Paraguay came to a peaceful end, when former Catholic bishop Fernando Armindo Lugo – known as the “Bishop of the Poor”- was sworn in as president. Lugo is committed to giving land to the landless, fighting corruption and supporting the rights and concerns of Indigenous Peoples. The government has thus taken a more cautious approach to implementing REDD, given concerns that have been raised by civil society organisations and Indigenous Peoples. (As a result, Paraguay’s earlier application to participate in the FCPF is on hold.)

The former, conservative Paraguayan government ardently supported profitable market mechanisms as a way to resolve environmental problems. This approach, combined with years of land grabs under the military dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner, had a cumulative impact on Paraguay’s Indigenous Peoples and small farmers. These people have increasingly found themselves pushed off their lands and into destitution (GFC & Alter Vida, 2008). The former government’s market-oriented approach was further entrenched in 2006, when Paraguay introduced its Act on the Valuation and Remuneration of Environmental Services (Act 3001/06, also referred to as Payment for Environmental Services or PES). This was done without adequate consultation with social movements, Indigenous Peoples or small farmers’ organisations.

PES was intended to promote forest conservation by establishing a market for environmental services and compensating Paraguay’s “landowners” for the environmental services their lands provided. It transpired that PES would be funded through “offset” payments from businesses whose activities have negative environmental impacts elsewhere in the country. PES even absolved landowners who had broken the existing forestry law by allowing them to compensate for illegal forest clearings by buying biodiversity offset certificates (forest conversion is formally prohibited in the eastern half of Paraguay) (GFC & AlterVida, 2008).

This PES “mindset” paved the way for REDD, which was welcomed with open arms. The former government initiated discussions with the FCPF, and later with the UN-REDD program, on a national REDD strategy. It again failed to consult Indigenous Peoples or local communities, preferring to work with a handful of large, mostly foreign, conservation organisations. The latter were consulted over the Readiness Project Information Note (R-PIN), which was submitted to the World Bank in July 2008.

The R-PIN did mention a “network of Indigenous organizations” that had been consulted, but there is no such network in Paraguay. In fact the main Indigenous Peoples’ coalition, CAPI, had not been informed of the initiative at all. International indigenous observers to the FCPF, together with Friends of the Earth Paraguay / Sobrevivencia, alerted CAPI to the misinformation contained in the R-PIN. CAPI wrote a furious letter to the World Bank, which led to the FCPF process being halted. It remains suspended, with the World Bank’s Dashboard summary commenting that: “A delivery partner other than the WB may need to be identified” (World Bank, 2010b).

Lugo’s new government declared it would ensure Indigenous participation in the development of a new proposal with the UN, and invited CAPI to the technical team tasked with developing and implementing the REDD strategy. CAPI is now formally participating in the UN-REDD technical team for Paraguay, which has held several meetings and work sessions, but is not yet formally constituted (UN-REDD, 2010b).

Another Paraguayan REDD scheme that is ringing extremely loud alarm bells is the private Paraguay Forest Conservation Project, which has applied for certification from the Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA). The project documents have been submitted by the conservation NGO Guyra Paraguay, Swire Pacific Offshore and the World Land Trust (CCBA, 2010). This project has also been strongly criticised by both Friends of the Earth Paraguay / Sobrevivencia and Paraguayan members of the Global Forest Coalition (GFC) for violating Paraguayan law on Indigenous rights and ignoring UNDRIP.

Furthermore, transnational company Swire Pacific Offshore (SPO, 2010) owns and operates vessels that support the offshore oil and gas industry. Parent company Swire Pacific’s core businesses are in property, aviation, beverages, marine services, and trading and industrial activities. It is the largest shareholder of the Cathay Pacific airline, which boasts of flying over 24 million airline passengers a year (SPG, 2010). The company has a stated aim of becoming carbon neutral (CCBA, 2010). However, it is not clear whether it intends to sell or close any of its climate-damaging businesses.

This Paraguay Forest Conservation Project covers the area of La Amistad and the territory of the Ishir People in Upper Paraguay. It also affects the territories of, in particular, the Mbyá Guaraní people (in and around La Amistad, in the Eastern Region) and the Ayoreo People (in the Chaco-Pantanal). However, the project document submitted to the CCBA makes it eminently clear that the project managers have no intention of delaying the project to acquire the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of affected Indigenous Peoples. For example, they say: “In practice, however, the Mbyá seek a full process of consultation and understanding of the concepts involved prior to any engagement, which does not fit the decision making schedule the project must adhere to. A similar situation has also delayed implementation of UN REDD-readiness initiatives” (CCBA, 2010:28).

There has been no real process of consultation with these Indigenous Peoples. Those meetings that have been organised have been for information purposes only. In fact, the Union of Ayoreo Native People of Paraguay (UNAP), the Association of Indigenous Communities of Itapua, and CAPI explicitly rejected the project at a meeting in August 2009. Furthermore, the Mbyá Guaraní claim that the entire territory of San Rafael -including the area of La Amistad and the areas Guyra Paraguay claims are its property- is their tekoha guasu or “great homeland”, and this claim has been formally recognised by the Government of Paraguay (FoE Paraguay et al., 2010). Similarly, the project area in the Chaco is subject to land claims by the Ayoreo. The project document clearly recognises that the main Ayoreo organisations have not given their consent to the project (CCBA, 2010:84). Yet it argues that the position of the Ayoreo People is not necessarily a “refusal”. In reality, however, an explicit rejection was made at a UNAP meeting in July 2009 (FoE Paraguay et al., 2010).

The project also covers lands where Indigenous communities live in voluntary isolation, people whose land rights have yet to be settled. The Constitution of Paraguay states that such territorial claims based on historical use should be respected. According to the UN Human Rights Council, UNDRIP also implies that one should restrain from implementing activities that impact on Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation. As it is not possible to seek their consent, their decision to live in isolation should be interpreted as non-consent. The only explicit consent for the project has come from the Ishir People (one of the two Indigenous Peoples in Paraguay that are not members of CAPI). However, it is relevant to point out that this approval was the result of a consultation process of only one week.

Critically, and especially in the La Amistad area, land tenure is an unsettled issue. Similar problems with illegal and illegitimate land titles occur in the Chaco. There, more than 75% of the land titles are estimated to be legally incorrect, most of these concerning lands that were handed out or sold illegally under the former dictatorship. Implementing a PES scheme before these land claims are clarified could lead to serious and potentially violent conflicts between Indigenous Peoples and non-indigenous stakeholders, and possibly between Indigenous Peoples themselves (FoE Paraguay et al., 2010).

Overall it is quite clear that this project is directly in conflict with CCBA’s standards as it is subject to an “unresolved dispute over tenure and use rights to land or resources” (CCBA, 2005). It is also in clear violation of the Paraguayan Constitution, UNDRIP and International Labour Organisation Convention 169 (FoE Paraguay et al., 2010).

Source: Friends of the Earth Paraguay / Sobrevivencia


CCBA (2010). The Paraguay Forest Conservation Project. Reduction of GHG emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in the Paraná Atlantic and Chaco-Pantanal Ecosystems, Guyra Paraguay, Swire Pacific Offshore, and the World Land Trust, April,

FoE Paraguay et al. (2010). Letter to CCBA, sent from Simone Lovera, Global Forest Coalition, on behalf of the Paraguayan members of the Coalition (including FoE Paraguay), 21 July, (see under ‘comments’).

GFC & Alter Vida (2008). Life as Commerce: the impact of market-based conservation on Indigenous Peoples, local communities and women, by the Global Forest Coalition, CENSAT Agua Viva, COECOCEIBA, EQUATIONS, Alter Vida, the Timberwatch Coalition, October,

SPG (2010). Swire Pacific Group home page, as at 26 August 2010,

SPO (2010). Swire Pacific Offshore About Us webpage, as at 26 August 2010,

UN-REDD (2010b). Paraguay, Next Steps, UN-REDD Programme, as at 10 September 2010,

World Bank (2010b). FCPF Dashboard, Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, as at 27 August 2010,

Leave a Reply

  1. Unfortunately a lot of the above is based on old reports and often very inaccurate data. It is not helpful to make wideranging unreferenced claims, and criticisms of conservation groups who are trying to conserve the forests, and benefit the indigenous groups living in them, and ignore the real threats to the forests.

    Most of the information is in the public domain, and far too extensive to summarise here. But anyone interested can check out all the claims made and see for themslves what the real issues are.

  2. @John Burton – I’m sorry, but simply claiming that “the information is in the public domain” is the metaphorical equivalent of jumping up and down while waving your arms around. Obviously you disagree with some of the things that FoE Paraguay has written, but I don’t know what you disagree with and you’ve provided no evidence whatsoever to back up your claim that FoE Paraguay’s article is based on “very inaccurate data”. As you say yourself, “it is not helpful to make wideranging unreferenced claims”.

    If you could provide some sources to back up your comment, that would be great. Thanks.

  3. @Samuel P – thanks. This is from the Guardian’s “Comment is free” section, so it’s comment not news. The authors are Stuart Eizenstat, the United States’ lead negotiator of the Kyoto Protocol, and Jeffrey Horowitz, the founder of Avoided Deforestation Partners.

    For more on Horowitz’s views, see this interview with him on REDD-Monitor. The comments are particularly interesting.

  4. There is no California’s RED. There is REDD which California can, one day, purchase credits or donate money if willing to. At the time being countries nor provinces had no concrete
    incentives from California to do what they are doing. Simply cynicalism from Terminator’s fellows. What-a-joke!

  5. John Burton , what mechanism are you selling (donations) your carbon offsets … who gave you any authority for you all World Land Trust to claim the right to offer carbon offsets. are your offsets ‘ligitimate’ and if you say they are, how?
    Are your offsets registered in a registry , what ‘ Methodology ‘ do you use , have you a Project Design to access and support your offset calculations.
    What area land size do you calculate to emit 1 tonne from your supposed projects?
    Your opertaion seems very tacky…….
    Would you sell an offset if Davids picture was not on your website? or have donated.
    What are you offset?,,,,,and what does your offsets offset??