Report urges recognizing land rights of locals could be cost-effective protection for tropical forests

Report urges recognizing land rights of locals could be cost-effective protection for tropical forests

[JURIST] A report by Rights and Resources [advocacy website] on Wednesday warned of the growing pressure for land and resources that threatens communities dependent on tropical forests. The report [text, PDF] will be presented at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. There has been longstanding demand from indigenous peoples for formal recognition of their land, forests, and natural resources, which are often owned by national governments. The report states that securing the fundamental rights and livelihoods of these peoples will simultaneously aid in global climate, environmental and sustainable investment goals. It notes: “Secure local land rights are increasingly recognized as a low-cost strategy to reduce forest carbon emissions; a means to reduce financial risk to investments and secure a sustainable supply of commodities; and a basic human right of the people whose lives and livelihoods rely on local resources.”

The rights of indigenous peoples has become a pressing international legal topic in the past decade. In February Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the Ugandan mining industry to respect the rights of indigenous people affected by mineral exploration. The report argues that three large mining companies in particular have infringed upon the rights of the indigenous people of Karamoja by engaging in land and mineral grabs, causing environmental damage and refusing to provide information concerning the occurrence, extent and timing of their explorations. In January HRW encouraged [JURIST report] the Canadian government to institute an independent national inquiry into violence against indigenous women in the country. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [text], was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007 and “marked a historic moment of recognition of the existence of indigenous peoples” but UN experts said last year that implementing the Declaration would continue to be a challenge [JURIST report] without greater awareness.