Géraud

Géraud de Ville

The Open University, Department of Engineering and Innovation
London, UK

Community Solutions for Doha 2012

COBRA Project published in Stakeholder Forum magazine

November 30, 2012

As talks at COP18 in Doha take place on REDD+ and other forms of climate change mitigation and adaptation, further discussions need to be focused on identifying and supporting solutions that come from the grassroots.

Established community-owned solutions for the management of ecosystem services, including carbon, have the potential to act as showcases for the world and help determine the most effective and efficient use of emerging funding streams, in order to maximise social justice and ecological sustainability.

The Guiana Shield, stretching between the Colombian Amazon, Venezuela, the three Guianas and the adjacent areas of Brazil, contains 250 million hectares of pristine forest. It is characterised by the highest density of forest cover and lowest rate of deforestation on the planet, which is in stark contrast to the devastating deforestation evident in the southern and western parts of the Amazon basin. The region also contains 10-15% of the world’s fresh water reserves and is home to an extremely rich diversity of plants and animals, most of which are unique to the region.

Most importantly, the region is still largely inhabited by thriving indigenous communities, whose knowledge and skills are indispensable for effective conservation of the region. Yet, indigenous peoples have different degrees of national recognition amongst the six countries of the Shield, with Colombia being exemplary in this regard. The international regimes recognising the titles and roles of indigenous communities (International Labour Organisation Convention 169, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human rights, and the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent ) are either poorly ratified or non-binding, which means that land tenure rights (in practice) differ among the countries.

This has consequences for the REDD+ negotiations in Doha, as land tenure rights are related to forest carbon rights, where national governments as negotiating Parties may claim that the forest carbon as a basis for benefits (and liabilities!) under a future REDD+ arrangement, are a national asset, thus imposing limitations on local communities’ ways of ensuring their livelihoods. In addition, for countries willing to provide funding for REDD+, a strict Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system to assess forest carbon maintenance or changes is a conditio sine qua non to disburse funding. Local indigenous peoples will be at the heart of this monitoring, as is already being seen in some Guiana Shield countries, such as Brazil and Guyana. It is therefore crucial that the local indigenous communities – either as direct contract partners in REDD+ projects or as partners in national REDD+ programmes – are enabled to establish and protect their land titles and participate optimally in the new arrangements.

However, although land rights is an urgent priority, decision-makers also need to understand that simply allocating land rights is not going to solve all outstanding issues of policy implementation. There are concerns and doubts regarding whether local indigenous peoples have the knowledge, skills and capacity to deal with the complex demands of higher level policy procedures and rules. A key aspect of any REDD+ implementation must be an understanding and an engagement with local cultures and practices and the incorporation of these into policy-making.

An innovative project using visual methods: “Local solutions for future challenges: Community Owned Best practice for sustainable Resource Adaptive management in the Guiana Shield, South America” (COBRA) is engaging with indigenous communities in the Guiana Shield forests that have well established community-owned processes in order to learn how, and under what conditions, they have created and enforced original rules that have led to, or are currently leading to, successful and sustainable social-ecological governance models. This can support rights-based approaches and other cross regional initiatives such as the Guiana Shield Initiative (www.guianashield.org), which has trained communities in the use and field verification of satellite-based imagery of their lands. The COBRA project has enabled the full participation of communities through the use of visual recording and dissemination techniques, including participatory photography and video.

Through these accessible communication models, it is hoped that decision-makers at all levels will be able to engage and support community owned solutions for the sustainable management of forest ecosystem services in the Guiana Shield, and beyond.

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