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Norwegian parliament grants indigenous peoples pivotal role

The Norwegian Storting (parliament) recently approved spending NOK 3 billion on rainforest protection in 2015. During deliberations over the fiscal budget, the Storting provided clear guidance regarding the direction of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.

2014-12-12

The entire Storting agrees that the land rights of indigenous peoples and forest peoples play a key role in terms of the protection of rainforests in the long run. It also emphasised that the Climate and Forest Initiative shall safeguard biological diversity and lead to reforms in the system of governance in forest countries.

“We agree wholeheartedly with the decision of the Storting. The parties in the Storting demonstrate that they understand that any lasting protection of the forests cannot be achieved without granting indigenous peoples a pivotal role. Indigenous peoples and other forest peoples are the true guardians of the rainforest”, says Dag Hareide, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

The reason provided by the Storting's Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment for the focus on indigenous peoples to safeguard the rainforest is that the rainforest is usually better protected where indigenous peoples and other forest peoples are in control of their territories. This is also a cost-effective way of protecting the forest.

“This is the essence of Rainforest Foundation Norway’s message, and we are very happy that the entire Storting sees the crucial role of indigenous peoples in protecting the rainforest”, says Hareide.

Rainforest protection is more than climate change mitigation

The parties state that the protection of rainforests concerns more than simply the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Although climate change is the main driver behind Norway's Climate and Forest initiative, it is important to attain results within several different areas – such as a strengthening of the rights of indigenous peoples – in order to achieve lasting protection of the rainforest.

The Ministry of Climate and Environment's budget proposition states: “Long-term protection of forests also depends on the achievement of results within areas other than the mere reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. As such, the work under the International Climate and Forest Initiative shall also contribute to the protection of natural forests, sustainable development and a strengthening of the political and economical system of governance for natural resources and work to safeguard the rights of local communities and indigenous groups. In the effort to attain the overall objectives, climate policy and development policy shall be mutually reinforcing."

This entails that all eight political parties in the Storting agree that the work to achieve results within areas other than just climate change mitigation is important for Norway's future rainforest initiatives, and that this work shall be developed further.

Safeguarding rights and biological diversity

It is crucial to comply with the so-called safeguards to ensure that the Climate and Forest Initiative will be successful. The purpose of these “ground rules” is to protect biological diversity, the rights of indigenous peoples, etc. It is now agreed that Norway must follow this up in all relevant forums, for example in the Green Climate Fund. The Green Climate Fund is a fund established to help ensure that wealthy countries pay for climate change mitigation measures in poor countries.

Results = support

Corruption is a widespread problem in many forest countries, and it is therefore essential to implement governance reforms in order that the work on forest protection yields lasting results. It takes time to change national institutions. The strategic evaluation of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative in the so-called Lash Report emphasises that Norway should also provide results-based support for governance reforms.

Results-based support entails that funds are not distributed until the results have been attained, and this has been at the core of Norway’s Climate and Forest Initiative. It is argued in the Lash Report that also providing results-based support for governance reforms may contribute to "ensuring genuine reforms and institutionalisation in contrast to a fast approach to ensure short-term emissions reductions, but not necessarily long-term, permanent protection of the rainforest."

The entire Storting now agrees that Norway will also in the future provide results-based support for forest countries for the implementation of necessary political reforms and for the improvement of systems of governance, such as land reforms.