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Posts of Janet Chernela, anthropology professor at the University of Maryland.

13 November 2009

REDD: The View from Amazonia

Since 2007 the anticipation of a REDD mechanism has been as great (if not greater) a driver of change than any decisions that may come out of the Copenhagen meetings. With IENGOs well situated as points of articulation between intergovernmental proposals and local communities, and with a lively internet conversation, indigenous and other local communities redefine themselves as actors in the ongoing global conversation. In the Madre de Dios region of Peru, for example, there are increased efforts for land titling as groups and individuals scramble to assume positions as "owners" of tropical rainforest. I would expect this to be the case elsewhere. In the Brazilian Amazon, where I work, the indigenous associations COIAB, CIR, and Wara partnered with OXFAM and the the European Union in 2007-8 to produce a handbook of UN history, indigenous rights, and procedures that would enable indigenous entities to interact knowledgably within the UN framework. During the same period COICA (Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indigenas de la Cuenca Amazonica) published "Mil y una preguntas sobre Gestacion de los Pueblos Indigenas de la Cuenca Amazonica en Cambio Climatico en la Amazonia." In late 2007 COIAB -- today, the largest indigenous organization in Brazil -- held a meeting whose agenda included a discussion of "climatic change and environmental services provided by indigenous peoples." Two months ago (Sept. 10, 11, 2009) COIAB held a seminar in Manaus on indigenous peoples and climate change (Seminario Povos Indigenas e Mudancas Climaticas) which produced the letter "Carta dos Povos Indigenas da Amazonia Brasileira sobre Mudancas Climaticas," in which they [my translated summary]: (1) affirm their concern with life on the planet; (2) point to the important role played by indigenous peoples in avoiding forest destruction; (3) call upon the Brazilian government and other signatories to the UN convention on climate to formally recognize the role of indigenous peoples in providing environmental services in "protecting, conserving, and avoiding deforestation" of the Amazon forests; (4) to formally recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to the carbon stocks in their territories and implement financial mechanisms of remuneration to indigenous peoples who provide these services; and (5) "that all of the strategies for carbon markets, whether voluntary or formal, respect the rights of indigenous people, ensuring their reciept of benefits from carbon credits, according national law and international treaties that protect indigenous rights."

New international bodies have been established during this period, many of them IENGOs, who fit into the vertical articulations and provide interpretations, translations, and critiques of the REDD process.

Large and small IENGOs work behind the scenes to write proposals in anticipation of the mechanisms to come. Many of the proposals assume the recognition of sub-national entities as recipients of benefits -- something that is not at all guaranteed.

Preparations for the forthcoming UNFCCC in Copenhagen are already producing outcomes that will exceed the consequences of the meeting itself. In the likeliest scenario, negotiations will drag on, with the result that the social, political, and economic "responses" to an imagined REDD -- a REDD that has not occurred, is not yet defined, and may never be instituted -- will be profound.


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