Indigenous peoples are proven masters at sustainably managing forests that protect against global warming, and finally they got recognition at the international climate summit in San Francisco last week. The new "guiding principles" for collaboration endorsed by three dozen mostly tropical provinces and states across nine countries bolster indigenous rights to land, self-governance and finance earmarked for safeguarding forests.
"The partnership between governments and indigenous leaders marks a paradigm shift for tribal and indigenous engagement," Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said at the Global Climate Action Summit. Up to now, native communities in the forests of Latin America, Africa and Asia have seen their ancestral lands degraded and destroyed—sometimes with the blessing of local or national governments—by extraction industries (oil, gold) and big agriculture (soy, palm oil, cattle).
Even UN-led efforts to involve indigenous peoples in preventing deforestation have unfolded "in a context of rights abuses, displacement and dispossession, threats and harassment over territories, and the repression and assassination of environmental activists by state and private forces," the non-profit Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) reported last year. At least 207 environmental campaigners, half from indigenous tribes in tropical forests, were murdered in 2017, according to watchdog group Global Witness.
Tribal leaders, who helped forge the new charter, said it would make a difference.
"These principals provide us with a stronger platform for negotiating equal ground with governments."