Threats to Forests and Forest Communities
In This Section
The future of the world’s rainforests and that of the peoples who live and depend on them are inextricably linked.
Extractive industries, the lack of recognition and enforcement of community land rights, weak governance and flawed environmental protection policies all contribute to marginalising forest protection and the people who have protected them for centuries.
There are a variety of threats to forests and forest communities:
- Mining, infrastructure development, agro-industrial expansion and industrial logging are advancing at an alarming rate. These activities are huge drivers of deforestation, and rainforest communities are often displaced from their territories, while rarely reaping the benefits.
- In the Congo Basin, forest communities have no security over the land and resources they depend on, as formally all the region’s rainforests belong to the State.
- In the Amazon region, the limited land allocations supplied often do not correspond to the peoples’ ancestral territories or cultural reality, and in many cases, land claims remain unaddressed.
- Particularly in the Congo Basin, governments allocate vast expanses of pristine rainforest to logging, mining and agro-industrial expansion or to create protected areas, without recognising local communities pre-existing claims to those lands.
- Governments struggle to monitor the activities of extractive industries and to ensure that they fulfil their social and environmental obligations and respect human rights. This leaves forests and forest peoples extremely vulnerable.
- Environmental protection policies such as REDD+ face criticism on flawed assumptions regarding the drivers of deforestation. Strict conservation models restrict indigenous peoples and communities' access to the forests they depend on, despite international evidence demonstrating that participation of local communities is the most effective ways to protect the forest.
"African populations are still rural in their vast majority, and depend on agriculture and the gathering of natural products to ensure their food security. Large-scale investments on their lands deprive them from these essential resources and increase their vulnerability to conflict". Samuel Nguiffo, CED, from a blogpost in Forest Zone.
RFUK advocates for the respect of forest and indigenous peoples’ rights, with the improvement and effective implementation of legal and policy frameworks as essential steps to achieve equitable development and environmental protection.
To produce evidence based policy and legal recommendations and to campaign at the international level for these to happen, as well as to work closely with local partners in this process, providing them tools and support to pursue change and defend rights in their own countries.
Achievements to date
- In Peru, RFUK and local partner organisation CARE successfully campaigned against a mega-dam project planned to be built in ancestral indigenous land. RFUK estimated that this project would have flooded around 73,000 hectares of forest and cultivation land, and displaced or negatively affected around 10,000 people.
- RFUK was part of the international alliance which campaigned successfully to ensure that an international REDD agreement upheld forest peoples’ rights according to international standards, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As a result, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún (2010), countries pledged respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.
- We have raised awareness about the expansion of industrial palm oil production in the Congo Basin and the grave social and environmental impacts it is likely to have.
- RFUK has produced rigorous analyses of REDD+ scheme, pointing to fundamental flaws in its design. As part of a broad alliance, we have campaigned on these issues at the international level.
- RFUK has supported partners to participate in national REDD+ readiness processes to defend the rights of forest communities.