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Launch of No REDD in Africa Network: “REDD could cause genocide”

During the World Social Forum, a group of African organisations and individuals took part in the launch of a “No REDD in Africa Network”. Given the problems with the REDD mechanism, REDD-Monitor welcomes critical debate about REDD, but could REDD really cause genocide, as the press release about the launch of the No REDD Network claims?

First some background about the World Social Forum, followed by the genocide claims. The press release about the “No REDD in Africa Network” is available below in English and French (and Spanish here). The aim of this post is not to undermine this new Network in any way, rather to ask what evidence there is that REDD could cause genocide.

The World Social Forum took place in Tunis from 26-30 March 2013. About 50,000 people took part this year in what is the biggest international gathering of social movement organisations. The first WSF took place in Brazil in 2001, and it’s an alternative to the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.

Issues discussed during the WSF this year included strategies for overthrowing the Syrian government (not everyone agreed – a rally also took place in support of President Bashar al-Assad), whether Libya was better off without Muammar Gaddafi, the “Arab Spring”, gender and the role of women, Palestine liberation, and criticism of capitalism and imperialism. Also discussed were climate change, with REDD forming part of the debate.

Pablo Solón, Executive Director of Focus on the Global South wrote a piece before the WSF started in which he argues that “There is no single answer, no single campaign nor single approach,” to address the climate crisis. Instead, a series of actions that are necessary, including leaving fossil fuels in the ground, supporting “small, local, peasant and indigenous community farming”, promoting local consumption and production of goods, stopping extractive industries, increasing public transport, and promoting peace and “dismantling the military and war industry and infrastructure”.

Solón has no time for REDD or the “green economy”:

We need to end the arrogance of man that he can control nature and solve the climate crisis with techno-fixes. Carbon markets, the monetary valuing of nature, “REDD”, “Green economy”, GMOs, agro-fuels, synthetic biology, nuclear projects, geo-engineering are all false solutions because they reinforce the misguided belief that humans can control nature through technology. It is also based on the false premise that the capitalist system and free market can solve the climate crisis that it has created by putting a price and commodifying the functions of nature. Instead of recognizing the limits of man and markets, they encourage suicidal technologies and promote new speculative derivative markets on nature.

In a similar tone, a Declaration produced at the WSF and released on 29 March 2013, states:

We denounce “green economy” and refuse false solutions to the climate crisis such as biofuels, genetically modified organisms and mechanisms of the carbon market like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), which ensnare impoverished peoples with false promises of progress while privatizing and commodifying the forests and territories where these peoples have been living for thousands of years.

Also on 29 March 2013, a group of Africans from Nigeria, South Africa, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Mozambique, Tunisia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania took part in the launch of a “No REDD in Africa Network”. In a press release posted on Environmental Rights Action’s website, Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, says that the Network aims “to defend the continent from carbon colonialism”.

Tom Goldtooth, director of US-based Indigenous Environmental Network, was also in Tunis. He spoke to journalist Jordan Flaherty, explaining that IEN is taking part in the WSG in Tunis,

seeking to raise awareness about REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), a United Nations program promoted as an environmental protection strategy that Goldtooth calls “genocidal” because it promotes solutions like carbon trading that he says will lead to mass deaths of poor people due to environmental catastrophe brought about by climate change.

This isn’t the first time that Goldtooth has described REDD as genocidal (here, here and here, for example). And in the press release about the No REDD in Africa Network Goldtooth states:

“We know REDD could cause genocide and we are delighted that the Africans are taking a stand to stop what could be the biggest land grab of all time.”

I’ve met Tom Goldtooth twice, first in Durban in 2004 during the meeting that established the Durban Group for Climate Justice and again during COP 14 in Poznan (where I interviewed him). I have a huge amount of respect for Goldtooth and IEN‘s work.

Genocide is a very serious accusation. It is also a very specific one. Before 1944, the term did not exist. It was created by a Polish lawyer called Raphael Lemkin, from the Greek word for race or tribe (geno-), and the Latin word for killing (-cide). In 1948, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which defines genocide as follows:

genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Does this definition apply to REDD? Potentially, it does. REDD could involve a vast area of land (theoretically covering the area of forest land – including large areas of agricultural land – in the global south). The rights to the use of that land could be taken away from Indigenous Peoples who depend on their forests for their livelihoods. Destroying livelihoods on this scale could conform to the parts (a), (b), and (c) of the definition of genocide, above.

Several problematic REDD projects have started up in Africa, such as Olam International’s venture in the Republic of Congo or Ecosystem Restoration Associates’ project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are problems of carbon cowboys, carbon trading fraud and corruption in several African countries.

REDD proponents may respond that there are safeguards in place to protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights. But as the evictions that took place to establish the New Forests Company’s tree planting project in Uganda illustrate, safeguards can easily be ignored. This project is not a REDD project. Neither is the Laikipia National Park project in Kenya, run by the African Wildlife Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. But in both cases the similarities with REDD projects are obvious.

REDD-Monitor looks forward to hearing your views. Could REDD cause genocide?

Africans Unite against New Form of Colonialism: No REDD Network Born

March 29, 2013
Outraged by the rampant land grabs and neocolonialism of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest degradation), Africans at the World Social Forum in Tunisia took the historic decision to launch the No REDD in Africa Network and join the global movement against REDD.
REDD+ is a carbon offset mechanism whereby industrialized Northern countries use forests, agriculture, soils and even water as sponges for their pollution instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at source.
“REDD is no longer just a false solution but a new form of colonialism,” denounced Nnimmo Bassey, Alternative Nobel Prize Laureate, former Executive Director of ERA/Friends of the Earth Nigeria. “In Africa, REDD+ is emerging as a new form of colonialism, economic subjugation and a driver of land grabs so massive that they may constitute a continent grab. We launch the No REDD in Africa Network to defend the continent from carbon colonialism.”
In the UN-REDD Framework Document, the United Nations itself admits that REDD could result in the “lock-up of forests,” “loss of land” and “new risks for the poor.”
REDD originally just included forests but its scope has been expanded to include soils and agriculture. In a teach-in session yesterday at the World Social Forum Tunis, members of the La Via Campesina, the world’s largest peasant movement, were concerned that REDD projects in Africa would threaten food security and could eventually cause hunger.
A recent Via Campesina study on the N’hambita REDD project in Mozambique found that thousands of farmers were paid meager amounts for seven years for tending trees, but that because the contract is for 99 years, if the farmer dies his or her children and their children must tend the trees for free. “This constitutes carbon slavery,” denounced the emerging No REDD in Africa Network. The N’hambita project was celebrated by the UN on the website for Rio+20, the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro last year.
Mercia Andrews, Rural Women’s Assembly of Southern Africa urged “We as Africans need to go beyond the REDD problem to forging a solution.The last thing Africa needs is a new form of colonialism.”
Africans from Nigeria, South Africa, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Mozambique, Tunisia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania participated in the launch of the No REDD in Africa Network.
According the The New York Times, over 22,000 farmers with land deeds were violently evicted for a REDD-type project in Uganda in 2011 and Friday Mukamperezida, an eight-year-old boy was killed when his home was burned to the ground.
REDD and carbon forest projects are resulting in massive evictions, servitude, slavery, persecutions, killings, and imprisonment, according to the nascent No REDD in Africa Network.
“The Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on Climate Change against REDD and for Life hails the birth of the NO REDD in Africa Network. This signals a growing resistance against REDD throughout the world,” Tom Goldtooth, Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “We know REDD could cause genocide and we are delighted that the Africans are taking a stand to stop what could be the biggest land grab of all time.”
Contact: Nnimmo Bassey


Union des africains contre la nouvelle forme de colonialisme: Né le nouveau réseau contre REDD

29 mars 2013
Indignées par les accaparements de terres rampantes et le néocolonialisme de REDD (Réduction des émissions dues la déforestation et de la dégradation des forêts), les Africains lors du Forum Social Mondial en Tunisie ont pris la décision historique d’instaurer le Réseau contre REDD en Afrique de rejoindre le mouvement mondial contre REDD.
REDD+ est un mécanisme de compensation de carbone par lequel les pays industrialisés du Nord utilisent les forêts, l’agriculture, les sols et même de l’eau comme des éponges pour leur pollution au lieu de réduire à la source les émissions de gaz à effet de serre.
«REDD n’est plus seulement une fausse solution, mais une nouvelle forme de colonialisme», a dénoncé Nnimmo Bassey, lauréat du Prix Nobel Alternatif, directeur exécutif de l’ERA/Les Amis de la Terre Nigeria. «En Afrique, REDD+ est en train de devenir une nouvelle forme de colonialisme, la domination économique et un moteur d’accaparement des terres si massives qu’elles peuvent constituer un vol de tout le continent. Nous avons lancé le Réseau contre REDD en Afrique pour défendre le continent contre le colonialisme du carbone.”
Dans le document-cadre de l’ONU-REDD, l’Organisation des Nations Unies elle-même admet que REDD pourrait entraîner la «clôture des forêts», «perte de terres» et «nouveaux risques pour les pauvres. »
REDD à l’origine juste compris les forêts, mais sa portée a été élargie pour inclure les sols et l’agriculture. Dans la séance d’hier au Forum social mondial en Tunisie, les membres de la Via Campesina, mouvement mondial des paysans, craignent que les projets REDD en Afrique mettent en péril la sécurité alimentaire et pourraient éventuellement causer la famine.
Une récente étude de Via Campesina sur le projet N’hambita REDD au Mozambique a révélé que des milliers d’agriculteurs ont payé des montants maigres pendant sept ans pour entretien des arbres, mais parce que le contrat est de 99 ans, si l’agriculteur décède, ses enfants et de leurs enfants doivent s’occuper des arbres gratuitement. “Ceci constitue l’esclavage de carbone”, a dénoncé l’émergent Réseau contre REDD en Afrique. Le projet N’hambita a été célébrée par l’ONU sur le site Web de Rio +20, le Sommet de la Terre tenu à Rio de Janeiro l’année dernière.
Mercia Andrews de l’Assemblée des femmes rurales de l’Afrique australe a exhorté «Nous, les Africains nous devons aller au-delà du problème REDD à forger une solution. La dernière chose dont l’Afrique a besoin est une nouvelle forme de colonialisme.”
Africains en provenance du Nigeria, l’Afrique du Sud, le Mali, le Niger, le Sénégal, le Mozambique, la Tunisie, la République Démocratique du Congo, le Kenya et la Tanzanie ont participé au lancement du Réseau contre REDD en Afrique.
Selon le journal The New York Times, plus de 22.000 agriculteurs avec des titres fonciers ont été violemment expulsés d’un projet REDD type en Ouganda en 2011 et Friday Mukamperezida, un garçon de huit ans, a été tué lorsque sa maison a été brûlée.
REDD et les projets de carbone forestier se traduisent par des expulsions massives, la servitude, l’esclavage, les persécutions, les meurtres et à l’emprisonnement, selon le nouveau Réseau contre REDD en Afrique.
“L’Alliance mondiale des peuples autochtones et des communautés locales sur les changements climatiques contre REDD et pour la vie salue la naissance du Réseau contre REDD en Afrique. Cela indique une résistance croissante contre REDD dans le monde entier, “Tom Goldtooth, directeur du Indigenous Environmental Network. «Nous savons que REDD pourrait provoquer un génocide et nous sommes ravis que les Africains prennent position pour arrêter ce qui pourrait être la plus forte accaparement de terres de tous les temps.”
Contact: Nnimmo Bassey


PHOTO Credit: Nnimmo Bassey.

Leave a Reply

  1. First the attack on CI based on a rumored facebook posting on an employee’s personal facebook page. Now this.

    This blog is getting harder and harder to take seriously.

  2. The above exploration is good in that it questions several aspects – and encourages discussion. According to the UN definition of genocide there are quite a few items that REDD clearly does not do, such as target particular groups of people with the sole intention of destroying them. The sole intention of REDD is to reduce emissions from deforestation and land degradation. It is the stakeholders on the ground whom choose the methodology and how the REDD project will be carried out.

    Countries with weak governance or lack of robust social justice mechanisms are most likely not suitable for REDD projects. If lock outs or violence is the chosen form of intervention to protect a forest, clearly that is the wrong approach. However, to say that REDD is responsible for these outcomes is not correct. Instead the project developers and countries government are responsible. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water is how the saying goes. If the worlds forests are cut, burnt and destroyed, at the same rate as they are, our planet will be impoverished ecologically and climate change could become catastrophic. REDD can be implemented in sensitive, sustainable and socially just approaches, and efforts should be redoubled to identify what the correct methods are for REDD, and create a code that prevents any use of force or harmful outcomes. Only win win methods should be allowed.

  3. @al perkins – Thanks for this comment. Presumably you don’t think that there’s much risk of REDD having impacts on Indigenous Peoples. It would be great to hear more about why you believe this.

    Personally, I think the fact that a No REDD Network was launched at the World Social Forum is worth discussing.

  4. I think REDD certainly poses a risk to indigenous peoples. Accusations of genocide is a completely separate issue.

    I did not elaborate on my comments as I feel such absurd accusations don’t need explanation. As you note, genocide involves “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

    Based on this, the accusation given is that donor countries funding REDD+ activities and recipient countries implementing them are conspiring to commit genocide. This suggest members of the governments of Canada, Denmark, USA, Finland, Australia, Spain, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and others are intent on destroying entire ethnic groups. Not to mention more than three dozen countries participating in REDD such as Bolivia, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, and Peru are also in on this scheme.

    The accusation is beyond wild. And the dialogue being encouraged by your blog is becoming more and more radical.

  5. @Beeman – Thanks for this. When I started writing this post I was planning on writing that describing REDD as genocide was an exaggeration. But given the area of land potentially involved and the potential impacts on livelihoods, I thought it would be more interesting to try to generate a discussion about this.

    I disagree with you slightly that the “sole intention of REDD is to reduce emissions from deforestation and land degradation”. Another intention is to avoid emission reductions in the North by offsetting them against REDD in the South. Supporting carbon markets is another intention. Creating a commodity out of forest carbon is another.

    “Only win win methods should be allowed” sounds good. I think most people would agree with this. The trouble is, there are already several REDD project underway in Africa (as I pointed out in the post above) that are far from win win.

  6. Thanks for the post Chris.
    There is no doubt that the best scenarios for REDD+ will occur when indigenous people play central role in the design and decision making process. It is also clear that REDD+ will face costly setbacks should it fail to respect the rights of forest dependent communities that are involved in or near REDD+ projects.
    Governance and institutional weakness is some countries like mine (Tanzania) are likely to add more problems to REDD+. I agree that as Africans, we must be cautious with externally driven interventions such as REDD+. However, linking it with possibilities of genocide is super exaggeration.

  7. @Mozambique REDD Watch – Thanks for this. There are two posts about Envirotrade’s Nhambita project on REDD-Monitor (in part based on Via Campesina’s article that you link to):

    11 July 2012: Envirotrade’s carbon trading project in Mozambique: “The N’hambita experiment has failed”

    14 July 2012: Response from Envirotrade: “The Nhambita project … has not failed”

    Perhaps the most interesting thing in the response from Envirotrade’s Charles Hall is that he does not deny that villagers are effectively tied into 99 year contracts, long after Envirotrade’s project support finishes:

    “When Envirotrade begins its involvement in a new project – even ones which are not set up like this one as a pilot – we make a commitment to remain for a period of 15 years in order to bring about permanent changes in the way local communities relate to their land and forests. This 15-year commitment is 3 to 5 times longer than the lifespan of the vast majority of NGO development projects. By the end of a 15-year involvement, we expect that the forest management and conservation agriculture techniques which we introduce will have been permanently absorbed by the participating communities.”

  8. A lot of the comments above betray a misunderstanding of what genocide means. I am a PhD student working on a thesis connecting ecocide and genocide. i have recently co-authored a paper in the international journal of Human Rights on the subject.

    the literature makes it clear that due the what Schaller (2006) called ‘the constellation of cold war politics and an effort on the part of the signatories of thenited Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948 (The UN Convention) not to criminalise themselves, the definition of genocide as principally involving what Card described as ‘social death'(2003)and what Raphael Lemkin, the neologist of the term genocide and the godfather of the sociology of genocide understood as including ‘vandalism’ or the destruction of a group’s common culture, that which Lemkin believed held the group together and secured its structural integrity and ultimately its physical well-being .

    In other words the social construction of the genocide convention led to its bowdlerization and the focus on the issues of intent as such and the identification of a bona fide perpetrator.
    The legacy of its social construction was to create a bifurcated scholarly tradition, divided between what Dirk Moses termed the ‘liberal’ and ‘Post-liberal’ Schools (Moses, 2002). As Powell argues, the former warrant being labelled liberals because they adopt an individualist ontology, wherein, the ‘genos’ is nothing more than a collection of individuals who share common attributes either innate or ascribed to the ‘imagined’ group by the perpetrators (Powell, 2007, p.528). Furthermore, ‘black-letter intentionalists’, as Tony Barta calls them (2008, p. 117), tend to adhere to a more ‘legalistic’ interpretation of genocide as laid down in the UN convention and eschew a more historical investigation of the genocidal process (Barta, 2008) Given the liberal school’s fixation on premeditated intent or conscious extermination and the state as the repository, very often, the deeper social forces that spring forth from the demands and necessities of the economy and
    society are given no casual weight, the state being insulated from its effects
    and riven from its socio-economic moorings . As Moses argues:

    “The individualistic motive of ‘greed’ in indigenous genocides, for example, is left dangling in the air, a consequence of imagining the world in terms of atomistic agents somehow free from the tangled skein of relations that mediate state agency and make it the articulator, however oblique, of deeper social conflicts. The economic system and inter-state rivalry are ignored as salient factors”. (Moses, 2002, p. 21).

    the post liberal or colonial genocide school see the genos as an irreducible emergent structure with multiple layers or ‘essential foundations’ (biological, economice, cultural, linguistic etc) to use Lemkin’s terminology , where culture is the master concept, as did Lemkin,and thus Genocide involves a suite or collection of techniques that destroy those foundations.Mass death or physical destruction is merely one method.

    Secondly, as alluded to above, Lemkin argued that genoicde involved a two stage process of

    “destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group: the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain, or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and the colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals” (Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe,1944, p. 79).

    Despite the sporadic attempts by Lemkin in his colonial writings to identify intention in the individualist sense ascribed to the liberal school, to fully grasp his conceptual understanding of genocide as process, as a structure or architecture of occupation which, furthermore, was so often chaotic, uncoordinated and anarchic, where the official pronouncements of former colonial authorities in the past were very often rhetorical commitments to the welfare of the indigenous population, where decision-making was diffuse and decentralised, where motives where often material gain or dispossession of the land or just shrouded and opaque with no overt reference to groups as such,to disinter such irrefutable evidence of the intentions of colonial administrators that could meet the exacting strictures of a legal proof is not only highly unlikely but betrays a hollow and flawed understanding of genocide not as an infinitely complex socio-political and historical process, but one that can satisfy the pedantry of a court judge.

    Building on Sartre’s landmark essay On Genocide and its reprisal of Lemkin’s connections between colonization and genocide, and drawing on the influence of Marx, Tony Barta argued that too much emphasis had been placed on the passages in Lemkin’s work and on the UN convention that implied the need to establish conscious policy and premeditated intent. Instead he argued that Lemkin’s understanding of the two stage process of destruction and imposition should be read as implying relations of genocide between the colonizer and colonised that do not necessarily correspond to the intentions of state authorities and colonial settlers

    And so we turn to REDD+ and we see that regardless of the declared public pronouncements or the World Bank, the Nigerian government, UNEP or any other institution, if the systematic removal and dispossession of indigenous land from a group who are territorially bounded, leads to the dissolution of the group’s culture and thus the group it can be argued that is constitutes relations of genocide.