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In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) endorsed the Bali Action Plan to pay for reductions in tropical deforestation. While many saw these initiatives as complementary, others considered the Bali Action Plan a threat to indigenous peoples’ rights.
This paper reviews the history of efforts to protect indigenous rights and to pay for conserving forests and analyzes how they might be competing or complementary strategies. It then presents country experiences that show indigenous peoples have achieved tangible political benefits in many countries and internationally by using their leverage over and participation in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation Plus (REDD+) negotiations. Nevertheless, these experiences also show that insisting on preconditions for REDD+ national performance payments may have inadvertently harmed indigenous peoples by contributing to delays in implementation.
Today, the movements for indigenous rights and for slowing deforestation are inextricably entwined. Whereas critics fear implementation of REDD+ will harm indigenous peoples, it is the failure of REDD+ programs to influence national action to slow deforestation which represents the greater risk. In this way, the two movements face a common challenge to refocus attention on the national policies and actions that must change to protect both indigenous rights and tropical forests.
This paper is part of the CGD Climate and Forest Paper Series. The full series is available here.