Features & Commentary
UN-REDD and indigenous peoples’ engagement: the case of Africa
By Elifuraha Isaya Laltaika
|Elifuraha Isaya Laltaika |
Worldwide, Indigenous Peoples face many injustices. These are such as dispossession of their ancestral land without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as well as forced assimilation into the way of life of the dominant group. In most of the African countries, indigenous peoples face yet another challenge. This relates to lack of legal recognition of their existence by their respective governments within their territories. Lack of recognition has resulted into lack of measures to ensure that indigenous peoples enjoy their rights on an equal footing to other communities.
In the context of climate change, indigenous peoples in Africa are the most vulnerable group, occupying fragile ecosystems. They bear the catastrophe with no access to resources to cope with the changes. Worse still, mitigation initiatives being developed pose more land tenure security threats. This is mainly due to lack of meaningful participation in decision making on the various projects being developed in their lands and territories.
The UN-REDD Programme is determined to reverse the above undesired state of affairs. It provides space for representatives of indigenous peoples in its decision making organ namely the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board. A document providing for this requirement is called the “Operational Guidance on the engagement of Indigenous peoples and other Forest dependent communities.”
In the context of Africa, this representation has been very fruitful in that indigenous peoples through their representative can take part in the decision making process of the UN-REDD Programme. Similarly, indigenous peoples of Africa can now timely access relevant documents of the Policy Board. The Operational Guidance also provides that indigenous peoples shall be represented on national steering committees or equivalent bodies.
It follows therefore that if all the UN-REDD Programme pilot countries will adhere to the Operational Guidance in practical terms, indigenous peoples of Africa will be part of the various UN-REDD initiatives in their respective countries and ensure that they are in line with their rights. Indigenous peoples’ activists are inspired to lobby and advocate for the rights of their constituencies in the UN-REDD processes due to the presence of the UN Collaborative agencies. These agencies draw their mandate to engage indigenous peoples from the UN charter, among other documents.
The engagement of indigenous peoples in international decision-making processes is an important step towards the recognition of their rights at the national level. It is also essential for ensuring the success of REDD.
Elifuraha Isaya Laltaika is the elected Indigenous Peoples of Africa representative to the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board. He holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from the University of Dar-Es-salaam and a Master of Laws (LL.M) in Environmental Law from the University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. He works with Community Research and Development Services (CORDS) as a Legal Officer. He also teaches Land Law and Constitutional Law at Makumira University College in Arusha.
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