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Peru and Norway sign major agreement for forest protection

“Urgent need for improvement in Peru’s policy on forests and indigenous peoples”, leading organizations say.


Statement from AIDESEP and Rainforest Foundation Norway.

AIDESEP and Rainforest Foundation Norway welcome the Peru – Norway agreement to reduce deforestation, that was signed in New York today, September 23, but major improvements in Peru’s policy and practices on forests and indigenous peoples’ rights are needed urgently in order to stop forest destruction in Peru, according to the two organizations.

AIDESEP is the main organization for the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon, and Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) is a major international organization for indigenous peoples’ rights and rainforest protection, based in Oslo.

In the agreement, Norway commits to pay 300 million USD to Peru, if Peru takes several measures to improve its forest policy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. AIDESEP and RFN hope that this will imply a major shift in Peru’s forest management. Peru has lately weakened its environmental policies related to forests. As data recently published by RFN show, Peru did not achieve to reduce its deforestation rate during the last decade. According to Global Forest Watch, Peru lost 246,000 hectares of tree cover in 2012, more than the double of the year before. Indigenous peoples in the Amazon depend on forests for their survival, but are facing increased threats by logging, oil and gas development and other encroachment on their traditional territories. Earlier this month, four indigenous leaders fighting against illegal logging were murdered, and so far the government has not taken any action to recognize these leaders’ legitimate demand for land titling for the indigenous group they represented.

It is positive that the partners in the agreement want to promote public policies to fight illegal logging and other causes of deforestation and forest degradation, and that they want to cease the authorizations of conversion of forest land to agricultural use, which in the case of palm oil is especially urgent. Moreover, the agreement clearly defines phases for preparation, transformation and emissions reductions, linking the financial contributions to the fulfilment of such obligations. Peru will have to deliver on both implementation mechanisms and policy changes during the first two phases in order to enter in the third phase. Close monitoring and full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in all processes are necessary for this agreement to be implemented and for Peru to honor its obligations by international conventions.

AIDESEP and RFN encourage both parties to avoid the risk that the agreement may become only a statement of intentions, not reality, due to the strong conflict of interest within the Peruvian government and because of weak formulations regarding indigenous peoples’ control over their ancestral territories. Key points that should be strengthened are policies to avoid further land grabbing from indigenous to other uses; to secure transparency and full participation by indigenous peoples and civil society; and the implementation of the forest law that includes measures against further forest degradation and an effective promotion of community forest management.

The agreement confirms that there will be a large increase in the delimitation and land titling of indigenous lands. The Amazon indigenous peoples have registered claims for the titling of 20 million hectares of their ancestral lands in the Peruvian Amazon, and experience from other places show that where indigenous peoples control their lands they also protect the forest. This agreement should be seen as a first step towards recognizing the indigenous land claims and the indigenous organizations’ role as a key partner to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is not sufficient to title indigenous communities, as the agreement mentions. Peru will have to incorporate indigenous peoples’ collective right to their territories, in accordance with the obligations the country assumed when signing and ratifying ILO Convention 169, and title their complete lands which include very significant rainforest areas. Effective indigenous control of Amazon rainforest territories is necessary in order to protect the forest and its biodiversity against destruction and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.