in Costa Rica

Indigenous Peoples in Costa Rica protest against REDD

No REDDCosta Rica was the first country in the world to negotiate a deal with the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility to sell REDD credits. In September 2013, the government signed a letter of intent with FCPF to negotiate an Emission Reductions Payment Agreement, worth up to US$63 million.

The World Bank’s press statement about the deal quotes Carlos Cascante, as a “representative of the Bribri indigenous territory”:

“It’s the first time that the indigenous territories will have access to the information on REDD+ in their languages and according to their worldview. Besides, they will have a space to define their participation in the REDD+ Strategy, which will be part of a National Strategy.”

There’s an obvious problem with what Cascante says. He’s promising in 2013 that indigenous peoples in Costa Rica will, for the first time, have information about REDD in their languages. Yet REDD has been negotiated in Costa Rica since 2008.

REDD resistance in Costa Rica

In the February 2016 issue of the World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, Maraiana Porras and Henry Picado write about the resistance to REDD in Costa Rica.

On 15 October 2015, more than 250 indigenous people demonstrated against REDD in the grounds of the presidential palace in San José. The Bribri, Terraba, Ngobe, and Cabecare peoples travelled to San José to meet Costa Rica’s president Luis Guillermo Solís.


For more than five years, the Bribri people have held workshops, meetings and press conferences discussing the impacts of proposals to commodify nature, including REDD.

For the Bribri, the forest is sacred. Porras and Picado write that,

According to Bribri stories and spirituality, the forest is sacred. It is the place where Sibù (the main spiritual being) created the universe, and with it corn, the origin of the Bribri peoples. Its center is Cerro Namaso, a sacred and important site, along with the entire forest, which covers much of their territory. The universe is represented in the Ùsure, the traditional conical house: it contains the sky, the stars, the Earth’s surface and underground. The Bribri are responsible for safekeeping all of Sibù’s creation.

Costa Rica has ratified Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation, which states that governments must consult indigenous peoples “whenever consideration is being given to legislative or administrative measures which may affect them directly”.

Such consultation with indigenous peoples should take place “through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions”.

A REDD timeline

Porras and Picado give a timeline of REDD in Costa Rica:

  • In 2009 the REDD+ strategy was developed with the complicity of alleged indigenous representatives—individuals who had not been chosen by popular vote, nor by their customs. These imposed representatives never informed their communities about what they were negotiating.
  • In 2012 an indigenous consultation plan was developed with alleged indigenous leaders—appointed by the national government, not by the indigenous peoples.
  • In 2013 an Executive Decree created a REDD+ Steering Committee and Executive Secretariat. The latter has only one indigenous member representing all indigenous groups in the country (8 groups in all, distributed throughout 24 territories). Again, this appointment occurred without broad participation.
  • In September 2015, the government presented the program of Indigenous Fees for Environmental Services (PSA) in the framework of “pre-consultation.” This was simultaneously seen as laying the groundwork for REDD+. Once again, the same story was repeated: the program was developed without people knowing where it originated, who was involved, or how agreements were reached.
  • The National Forestry Financing Fund (FONAFIFO) is the agency responsible for implementing the national REDD strategy, and it plans to do so between 2016 and 2020. A consultation process with indigenous peoples is expected to occur, yet it should have happened prior to the current implementation process. Consequently there is a huge information gap. Communities have many questions: How and Why has this sprung up? How does it work? What would the benefits and impacts be?

Porras and Picado write that indigenous peoples are demanding a true dialogue. They want complete and transparent information about REDD objectives to be available to all indigenous peoples in Costa Rica. And they want priority to be given to the indigenous agenda, including autonomy over their land, food, and culture.

And the government’s reponse?

In October 2015, in San José, indigenous peoples delivered a statement opposing REDD:

“REDD disrespects our worldview by placing a price on and commodifying our forests, our sacred sites, our rivers and all beings that inhabit them… We demand that our way of taking care of forests be respected, as it goes far beyond projects that come from outside. Those projects divide the fabric of our ancestral communities, which has enabled the mountains to remain intact today. As indigenous peoples we say: We cannot sell the air, the water, gold or the mountain … if we drain the lifeblood of the forest, it will die.”

“REDD will happen, because it will,” was the government’s response.

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