The UN-REDD Programme Policy Board congratulated Panama on its progress towards resolving the differences with the National Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples in Panama (COONAPIP) and announced the approval of a no-cost extension of Panama's National UN-REDD Programme until June 2015. The extension was approved together with a review of the new results framework of the Programme and with the full agreement of COONAPIP, who co-presented on a panel with the Government of Panama's National Environment Authority (ANAM) at the Eleventh Meeting of the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board, which took place from 9-10 December in Geneva.
The National Programme had been suspended since March 2013, when the UN-REDD Programme launched an independent investigation and evaluation of the Programme in response to allegations from COONAPIP that the rights of indigenous peoples had not been respected as part of Programme activities. Over the last few months, ANAM and COONAPIP have been engaged in extensive consultations to resolve issues and develop an Environmental Agenda between Indigenous Peoples and the ANAM, which includes a revised result framework of the UN-REDD National Joint Programme of Panama. The General Assembly of COONAPIP, which took place on 29 November 2013 in Playa Muerto, in the Darien province of Panama, approved the Environmental Agenda jointly developed between ANAM and COONAPIP.
"We feel satisfied that the process followed with ANAM will help us to correct issues, and COONAPIP is going to engage again in the Programme,"said Candido Mezua, President of COONAPIP. "It is time to trust again," he added.
Mezua emphasized that REDD+ had to be conducted with full respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, asking for the support of UN agencies to ensure that rights such as free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are respected and appropriate grievance mechanisms are made available for indigenous peoples. He further underscored the complexities and nuances of REDD+ and offered COONAPIP's contribution to national REDD+ efforts.
ANAM was grateful for the guidance received from UN-REDD Policy Board members, and highlighted the centrality of indigenous peoples' rights in the revised National Programme. "This process has taught us something: we better understand the perspectives of indigenous peoples," stated Gerardo Gonzalez, Director of Basins at ANAM. "Their participation is now guaranteed and we know they are main protectors of the forest."
The UN-REDD Programme Policy Board, comprised of representatives of partner countries, indigenous peoples and civil society, donor countries and UN agencies, was deeply appreciative of progress made in Panama and of the joint efforts of COONAPIP, ANAM and the UN-REDD Programme to resolve the conflict. Members noted that the experiences in Panama provided valuable lessons for other REDD+ countries and highlighted the importance of strong stakeholder engagement processes.
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