First regional consultation between indigenous peoples organizations from Asia and the Pacific and the UN-REDD Programme
The first ever Asia and the Pacific Regional Consultation with indigenous peoples on the UN-REDD Programme was held on 1 October 2009, during the first week of the UNFCCC Intersessional Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand
The meeting was the result of a request made by a group of indigenous peoples and civil society organizations in the Asia and Pacific region who had gathered in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in July 2009 to coordinate their work on climate change. These organizations were the Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), AMAN Indonesia, and the Tebtebba Foundation. Seizing the opportunity of having a number of indigenous peoples (IP) on site at the occasion of the Bangkok Climate Change talks, they requested that the UNDP Regional Indigenous Peoples Programme (UNDP RIPP) -- based at the UN Regional Center in Bangkok - and also present at the Chiang Mai meeting -- play a coordinating role internationally as well as regionally and help organize such consultation.
The objectives of the consultation, as formulated by the indigenous peoples’ organizations, were to:
- share information about the UN-REDD Programme and progress in the region
- discuss issues and concerns identified by indigenous peoples, such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recourse mechanisms, and Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC)
- build a network of key Indigenous Peoples’ stakeholders working on REDD in Asia and the Pacific
- exchange information on REDD and UN-REDD advocacy, engagement, and projects
Close to 90 participants attended the Consultation on a rainy Thursday in Bangkok. They represented nearly a dozen countries in the region, including the three UN-REDD Programme pilot countries Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Viet Nam, in addition to Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand, and partners from the UK, Switzerland, and the US. The participants engaged in a productive, frank, and informative discussion. Four sessions took place, addressing each of these key themes:
- The UN-REDD Programme Operational Guidance on the Engagement of Indigenous Peoples and Other Forest Dependent Communities
- Indigenous peoples in Asia and the Pacific and the UN-REDD Programme: sharing of experiences
- How Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is operationalized on the ground: good practices for implementation and key issues
- Next steps: how to better engage in future work related to the UN-REDD Programme and REDD in general
Other key issues included an update on the role of the Advisory Group on Rights, Climate and Forests and its role coordinating the self-selection process for the election of civil society organizations’ (CSO) representatives to the Policy Board; updates on the elaboration of a recourse mechanism, which was presented by the Center for International Environmental Law, commissioned by the UN-REDD Programme to provide policy guidance on the issue; recommendations for continued engagement with the UN-REDD Programme, including national-level engagement of the UN Country Offices with indigenous peoples; and an update on the relationship between the UN-REDD Programme and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) in terms of harmonization of guidance on stakeholder engagement. On this topic the UN-REDD Programme explained its work with the FCPF on aligning the IP/CSO guidance, distributed a draft ‘consolidated’ guidance, and invited input.
The important issue of free, prior and informed consent was covered in some depth. Progress was made in teasing out what application of the principle means for REDD and for the UN-REDD Programme. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was also highlighted throughout the day, underscored by the role of the UN-REDD Programme to continue to elaborate ways to encourage its implementation nationally and internationally.
Finally, the participants provided excellent input and guidance on the direction the UN-REDD Programme should take regarding stakeholder engagement and what to prioritize. Recommendations included:
- taking advantage of the opportunity that REDD provides for engagement among the various stakeholders: CSOs, indigenous peoples, local government, private sector, and others
- strengthening the opportunities for multi-stakeholder dialogue
- addressing the widespread need for REDD training and awareness raising
- a call to the UN-REDD Programme and to the United Nations in general to support governments to improve their means of communication and working relationships with indigenous peoples and their organizations
Equally important were the connections established between UN-REDD regional staff and indigenous peoples and CSO leaders. With this relationship now in place, local stakeholders have a concrete point of access to go to for information and/or to express concerns. Many called for a continuation and deepening of this dialogue in the Asia region and for strengthening the role of the UNDP RIPP team as a facilitator and contributor to these crucial relationships.
Throughout the day, it was clear that the steps that have been taken to ensure that indigenous peoples have a voice have created more space for participation and engagement. The unique governance structure of the UN-REDD Programme, which affords the full participation of four indigenous peoples’ representatives and an additional four CSO representatives, means that these stakeholders have a direct entry-point to contribute to the decision-making process for the Programme.
The open, good-will tone of the consultation was another sign that the UN-REDD Programme has come a long way in the past year in terms of bringing local stakeholders into the REDD issue and into the UN-REDD Programme. There is much more room for collaboration with civil society on making REDD work than in the past, even as key challenging issues of indigenous peoples’ and CSO engagement in REDD remain. With this promising beginning, we look forward to significantly accelerating and expanding the work and contribution of the UN-REDD Programme in the region. A full report of the consultation will soon be available on the UN-REDD Programme website.