The Paris Agreement was adopted at a 2015 international climate conference, galvanizing countries around the world to initiate drastic action to mitigate climate change. It also helped kickstart global recognition of the critical role of indigenous peoples in environmental governance, as their rights, needs, and knowledge are acknowledged in the agreement. To help track progress towards emission reduction goals outlined in this global agreement, countries have been developing and implementing National Forest Monitoring Systems (NFMS). To create NFMS, countries must recognize indigenous rights and learn to integrate traditional forest monitoring practices. FAO projects around the world are doing just this, as well as promoting the socio-economic and environmental benefits of indigenous forestry practices.
The Paris Agreement’s recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples led to the establishment of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP), designed to enhance the engagement of local communities and indigenous peoples in the UNFCCC process, as well as to facilitate the exchange of experiences and strengthen their knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts responding to climate change. The Facilitative Working Group (FWG) of the LCIPP is in the second year of its workplan, which enables the implementation of the LCIPP’s functions. Members of the FWG comprise 14 representatives, half of which are representatives of Parties to the Paris Agreement and half are from indigenous peoples organizations from a diversity of regions and perspectives.
The rights of indigenous peoples are also acknowledged in the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT), developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). These important guidelines seek to improve the governance of land tenure, fisheries and forests around the world, focusing particularly on protecting marginalized groups. The 2021 FAO forest governance and indigenous peoples publication also highlights the prominent role of indigenous and tribal territories in stabilizing local and regional climates, as well as the urgency to address increasing threats.
National and local governments also recognize the importance of indigenous peoples. As emerging research highlights the effectiveness of traditional forestry practices, more countries are recognizing and protecting indigenous tenure rights. Indeed, the benefits of traditional forest management activities were documented in a recent study, which reported that more than 36 percent of intact forest landscapes lie within land held, managed and protected by indigenous peoples, reinforcing that the tenure rights of these communities are a global concern.
Enhancing indigenous forestry practices: examples from UN-REDD partner countries
Many UN-REDD countries have already taken steps to support the abilities of indigenous peoples to monitor and manage forests sustainably. Community-based forest monitoring in Peru has proven to be effective in gathering reliable forest data, which can be incorporated into NFMS. The country has also seen the formation of forest monitoring committees in local communities and trainings to equip them with the skills necessary to adhere to forest regulations. In Panama, technological innovation has allowed indigenous peoples to develop their forest monitoring capabilities. Starting in 2016, the country’s indigenous communities collaborated with the UN-REDD Programme to incorporate drones, among other tools, into their NFMS. These advancements improved the capacities to monitor forest ecosystems, particularly in indigenous territories.
Countries in other regions are also making progress in the development of indigenous peoples’ and community forestry practices, including Viet Nam, where the first High-Level Ethnic Minority Development Forum was convened in 2018, and in Zambia, which has instituted new community forestry regulations.
An indigenous approach to forest data transparency
The development of NFMS is key in reaching climate and sustainable development goals, and the integration of indigenous traditional forest monitoring makes them more efficient and long-lasting.
Countries and initiatives are increasingly recognizing community forest monitoring benefits and the role indigenous peoples play in forest data quality and transparency. One such initiative is the CBIT-Forest global project, a FAO-GEF collaboration that helps countries meet climate targets by developing their capacity to collect, analyze and disseminate forest-related data. This initiative supports countries in meeting the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) requirements, outlined in the Paris Agreement, for jointly fighting against climate change. CBIT-Forest is interviewing indigenous representatives from various regions and advocating for the engagement of local communities in forest monitoring through training materials and events such as the UN-REDD online Exchange of Community Forest Management Experiences in Latin America.
Indigenous peoples have a deep knowledge and connection to forest ecosystems, making their contribution essential to forest monitoring at the national level. The recognition of indigenous tenure rights and the empowerment of indigenous peoples to monitor forests more independently can enhance sustainable forest management and climate change mitigation on a global scale.
Women and forests: mainstreaming gender into community forestry in Colombia https://www.un-redd.org/post/women-and-forests-mainstreaming-gender-into-community-forestry-in-colombia
The shamba system: an indigenous woman fights for the rights of her community https://www.un-redd.org/post/the-shamba-system-an-indigenous-woman-fights-for-the-rights-of-her-community
Gender at the forefront of National Forest Monitoring Systems
Strengthening the legal basis for sustainable national forest monitoring systems
Video on forest and transparency under the Paris Agreement https://youtu.be/CGxRWhagnOI
One year in number of the CBIT-Forest http://www.fao.org/3/cb3094en/cb3094en.pdf
Collective Tenure Rights: Realising the potential for REDD+ and sustainable development http://www.fao.org/redd/news/detail/en/c/1392554/