Changes in weather patterns have happened throughout history. Anthropogenic climate change is accelerating these weather changes that, in turn, affects species, ecosystems and populations around the world. Central America is no exception, and Honduras is one of the countries with the greatest vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, not only in the region but around the world. Deforestation caused by land-use changes is degrading ecosystems and the traditional way of life of indigenous populations, Afro-descendants and local communities, many of whom depend on the use of forests and their resources.
Honduras, Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples and REDD+
Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples and local communities are the first to face the consequences of climate change, due to their direct relationship with the environment and its natural resources. The precarious conditions in which indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples often live in Honduras are, in some cases, caused by models of exclusion, discrimination and political and economic marginalization. This includes loss of land and resources, violations of their human rights and unemployment, among others.
Indigenous and Afro-descendant traditional knowledge, intellectual property, genetic resources and fair and equitable distribution of benefits related to climate change adaptation and mitigation are issues that have not traditionally been widely discussed within the framework of Honduras’s political decision-making process. However, Honduras has enabled spaces for dialogue and negotiation on REDD + through the Indigenous Climate Change Board (MIACC). These dialogues have generated full and effective participation, as well as a place for the transfer of mutual knowledge about climate change and its effects, safeguards, international standards related to forestry and consultation and debate on matters related to FPIC.
In July, 2017, MiAmbiente+ and the Confederation of Native Peoples of Honduras (CONPAH) convened a socialization workshop on the National Approach to Safeguards for REDD+. This workshop focused on sharing key information related to the design of the National Strategy for Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (ENREDD +). During the workshop, the need for the participatory construction of an Indigenous and Afro-descendant Cultural Safeguard for REDD+ was determined. The representatives of Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities stated, “Let's build together from our cosmovision. Let's be the protagonists, the experts, the specialists in the construction of this process. Let's make this exercise reflect the thoughts and demands of the people towards the country's commitments to the UNFCCC and as indigenous peoples.” The effort to develop a Cultural Safeguard for REDD+ was subsequently undertaken as part of Honduras's REDD+ process, with support from the UN-REDD Programme and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.
What is the REDD + Indigenous and Afro-descendant Cultural Safeguard?
The Indigenous and Afro-descendant Cultural Safeguard encompasses the respect, recognition and practice of the Collective Rights or Fundamental Rights of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples (IPAHs) of Honduras. The Cancun Safeguards, the Social and Environmental Standards of UNDP and the Operational Policies of the Development Banks, as well as the ratification of international agreements associated with climate change, biological diversity and treaties associated with human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples, provide the international compliance framework for this safeguard. They all demand that the rights of indigenous peoples are respected when conducting a process that prepares Honduras for potential payments for results associated with REDD +. The territory, identity, free determination, life plan, spirituality, safeguards plan and FPIC are essential components of the REDD + Indigenous and Afro-descendant Cultural Safeguard.
(Credit: FAO Orlando Serra)
What is the objective of the REDD + Indigenous and Afro-descendant Cultural Safeguard?
The objective of the Cultural Safeguard for REDD+ is to extend the precepts established by the Cancun Safeguards C (respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples) and D (full and effective participation). Based on this premise, the Indigenous and Afro-descendant Cultural Safeguard for REDD + includes topics such as education (traditional medicine, food sovereignty, new ways of safeguarding, feeding and education), as well as reform of customary law (revision of secondary laws of the country, application of indigenous justice in the territories, strict compliance with acquired rights and self-determination of the IPAHs.)
The Cultural Safeguard aims to emphasize the identity and territory of Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities of Honduras to strengthen coexistence, ancestral knowledge, land tenure rights, the rights of women and transgenerational co-responsibility.
What are the next steps for the Indigenous and Afro-descendant Cultural Safeguard?
The importance of strengthening knowledge of the Honduran legal framework with respect to their territories and the resolution of local conflicts is now recognized. Also recognized is the need to strengthen their forms of organization and for specific training to reinforce their cosmovision regarding their territories and ancestral and traditional practices.
The existence of organizational protocols within the territories, social inclusion and the application of ILO Convention 169 must be recognized in order to avoid the cultural invasion of other peoples in the self-determination of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples.
Energy, harmony, balance and intercultural dialogue are an important part of the spirituality of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples. Harvesting, observing and respecting the phases of the moon forces us to think that public policies must be harmonized with these beliefs through coordination mechanisms that are respectful of the self-determination of indigenous peoples and their forms of survival, including their sacred rituals and ceremonies.
Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of Honduras show constant concern about the dispossession of their territory and forests. The safeguards plan should include a serious and in-depth review of the country’s implementation of the Nagoya Protocol. IPAH expects to see benefits derived from the care of the forest, from the stewardship and safeguards that they have sought for the natural and cultural resources in their territories.
Learn more about Honduras’s Indigenous and Afro-descendant Cultural Safeguard for REDD+ here.
Technical Specialist, Latin America & the Caribbean
UNDP Climate & Forests