World Bank’s forest and carbon fund fails forests and peoples

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The World Bank has been in a hurry to get its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) up and running, meaning that the process to date has been “rushed” and “corners have been cut,” according to a new report by scientists from the Forests and the European Union Resource Network (FERN) and the Forest Peoples Programme.

The briefing, published at the start of UN climate negotiations in the Polish city of Pozna? on 1 December, analyses nine of the first 25 national concept notes approved by the FCPF for financing under the REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) mechanism. The study finds that the notes vary enormously as regards the quality of the content and reviews carried out by the Bank.

The researchers find that the FCPF has failed to follow its own rules by disregarding key criteria for the approval of the country notes, which they assert is “at odds with World Bank standards and procedures” on protecting indigenous peoples’ rights, forests and land tenure and providing consultation procedures. None of these have yet been applied, they lament.

The report points out that while various scientists and research organisations have identified recognition of indigenous peoples’ tenure rights as an essential first step for an effective REDD mechanism, the issue has been neglected. None of the country notes explicitly deal with the need to clarify land ownership, nor do they address human rights issues, it laments.

Moreover, the scientists find that the notes do not require ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’, a concept recognised in international law as mandatory for any project affecting indigenous and tribal peoples. They also claim that the REDD process failed to consult local peoples and civil society organisations.

Hence the report argues that the FCPF promotes centralised planning, and is thus in danger of repeating the mistakes of past experiments with centralised forest management strategies. This would lead to increased deforestation and corruption, pushing local communities into poverty and alienating them from their land, it concludes.

Furthermore, FERN and the Forest Peoples Programme criticise the facility for failing to properly analyse the underlying causes of deforestation or identify monitoring needs. The analysis suggests that future REDD strategies are likely to focus on “proximate drivers” instead of wider issues such as the expansion of global markets and high agricultural prices. In addition, such issues are identified in a “questionable” manner because traditional and small farmers are seen in a negative light, they say. Nevertheless, the next stage of the FCPF foresees an extensive consultation phase, which the report finds encouraging.

The researchers assign great importance to the facility because it acts as a “catalyst for the formulation of national REDD strategies that could shape national forest conservation and land use policies in forest countries for years to come”. They call for “urgent measures” to be taken to ensure that commitments made to forest-dependent communities are fulfilled and rules adhered to.

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