On the occasion of the ninth session of the UN Forum on Forests (24 January – 4 February 2011, UN Headquarters, New York) and the launch of 2011 – International Year of Forests, a number of publications of relevance to indigenous peoples and forest-related TK have been released.

State of the World’s Forests 2011
FAO, 2011

The ninth biennial issue of State of the World’s Forests considers the theme “Changing pathways, changing lives: forests as multiple pathways to sustainable development.” Aiming to take a holistic view of the multiple ways in which forests support livelihoods, its chapters highlight four key areas that warrant greater attention: regional trends on forest resources; the development of sustainable forest industries; climate change mitigation and adaptation; and the local value of forests.

Noting that the theme “Forests for People” will guide discussion and debate throughout the International Year of Forests, Chapter 4 on the local value of forests addresses issues related to this theme, including forest-related TK, community-based forest management, and small and medium forest enterprises. The chapter discusses the local value of forests through four interlinked sections. The first presents a brief review of some of the ways in which TK contributes to local livelihoods and traditional forest-related practices. The second provides an update on community-based forest management and small and medium forest enterprises, as well as the integral part played by non-wood forest products in both. In contrast to the cash values of forests highlighted by the example of forest enterprises, the third section takes as its special focus “the non-cash values of forests.” The final section provides an overview of future needs and policy recommendations to protect and strengthen the local values of forests highlighted in these three topics. Taken together, the chapter sections aim to provide a “thought starter” to explore the theme of local-level forest and forestry issues, and highlight the importance of recognizing the complexity of “local value” in all approaches to development. Read the report …

Community-Based Forest Management: The Extent and Potential Scope of Community and Smallholder Forest Management and Enterprises
A. Molnar, M. France, L. Purdy and J. Karver
Rights and Resources Initiative, 2011

This report outlines the status of and trends in tenure reform and the expansion of community-based forest management and related growth in small and medium forest enterprises, and examines the economic and social benefits of community-based forest enterprises (CBFEs). It examines the economic potential of CBFEs to proliferate and grow, looks at lessons learned from past ex­perience, canvasses the constraints and barriers, and presents recommendations for supporting commu­nity-based forest management and CBFEs. Finally, the report makes a case for community-based forest management as a major strategy for climate change adaptation and mitigation, including for REDD+. The authors argue that the future of forests pivots on whether governments will bring rights and democratic practice to forests. Governments and donors can take several steps to transform the sector for people and forests. The first is to secure the tenure and rights of forest communities over their forest lands and resources, respect­ing gender, Indigenous Peoples’ rights, and other vulnerable minorities. The second is to level the playing field by reforming policies and regulatory frameworks to support social enterprises at their own scale of op­eration while divesting of state-run enterprises. The third step is to provide technical and financial support, building on existing local organizations and respecting the multiple roles of CBFEs in resource conserva­tion, the provision of social benefits, and building local economies.

It is noted that the complex agroforestry and forest management systems practices of traditional communities, set­tler communities, and Indigenous Peoples have been undervalued, poorly understood, or actively discour­aged, despite their contribution to landscape management, food security, cultural diversity, and their actual and potential linkages to domestic and regional markets. New studies of agroforestry and carbon stocks, and forest landscapes and conservation, show that these systems provide different flows of carbon benefits—they may be more cyclical but they are also more socially and politically sustainable in dynamic societies and economies. However, current initiatives to combat climate change bring risks of recentralization and the re-imposition or reinforcement of the inappropriate models of the past (e.g. conventional conservation and concessions). Insufficient attention is being paid in the climate change debate and emerging policy and funding instru­ments to human rights that are protected under international, regional, and national laws and conventions. Dangerous misconceptions are being presented about the drivers of degradation and deforestation and about what constitute rightful and effective counter-measures. The report concludes that mechanisms for climate change mitigation and adaptation around deforestation, forest degradation, and desertification will only be viable if the inter­ventions they encourage recognize tenure and rights and local capacities. Download the report [pdf] …

Pushback: Local Power, Global Realignment
Rights and Resources Initiative, 2011

This report takes stock of the current status of forest rights and tenure globally, assesses the key issues and events of 2010 that shape possibilities to improve local rights and livelihoods, and identifies key questions and challenges that the world will face in 2011. It asserts the growing role of forest peoples’ organizations during 2010, noting they are increasingly influencing their countries’ futures and the fate of the planet. This subtle shift in power, whether in the form of protest or constructive engagement in global governance, is due to a convergence of forces: growing pressures on Indigenous Peoples and community lands and forests by outsiders; a long history of resistance and a steady strengthening of community organizations; the increasing openness of national and global governance to local rights and voices; and the opportunity for influence provided by global dialogues around development and climate change.

It is noted in the report that, as a result of sophisticated and hard-fought advocacy, the international negotiations and the multilateral funds guiding REDD+ have opened their doors to more participation by Indigenous Peoples and forest community representatives in their decision-making structures. More than 500 indigenous persons were present in Cancún, organizing a wide range of meetings and actions to ensure that their concerns were taken on board by UNFCCC COP-16. For example, in meetings leading up to the COP-16, Indigenous Peoples presented data on the sustainability of traditional management practices and how forest carbon could be monitored at little expense using their cultural knowledge systems. Mexican communities’ sustainable forest management practices have increased carbon mitigation while enterprises improve members’ livelihoods. Indigenous Peoples and civil society organizations now have observers on the boards of the REDD+ Partnership, World Bank’s Forest Investment Program and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, and full voting rights on the UN-REDD Policy Board. The report argues that this victory for civil society has important consequences for the effectiveness of REDD programs. Forests exist in a variety of landscapes with competing demands for the resources on, under, and in forests. Policies promoting industrial timber extraction, agriculture and mining drive deforestation in most of the world. New analysis shows that, since 1990, 80 countries have changed course from deforesting to reforesting through policy reforms focusing on secure tenure, investing in planting, and reducing the regulatory burden on smallholders. It’s clear that policies, not just payments, are needed. The sophisticated policy prescriptions required to slow deforestation and increase carbon sequestration must, therefore, be informed by robust analyses of the drivers of deforestation and the knowledge and concerns of traditional forest managers. Only if REDD is expanded to include multiple objectives beyond deforestation—like adaptation, food security, poverty and vulnerability—will it be successful. Download the report [pdf] …

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