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Forest peoples demand their rights be made central to global efforts to curb deforestation

International workshop on Deforestation and the Rights of Forest Peoples issues Palangka Raya Declaration

Jakarta,  Indonesia, and Moreton-in-Marsh, UK, Wednesday 19 March 2014 – After a major inter-continental gathering on Deforestation and the Rights of Forest Peoples held between 9 and 14 March 2014 in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, indigenous and forest peoples called on the international community, governments and international organizations to secure and respect their customary rights to their forests, lands, territories and natural resources in conformity with international law.

They issued this call in the form of the Palangka Raya Declaration[1], which urges governments, the private sector, financial institutions, international agencies and the international community to:

    halt the production, trade and consumption of commodities derived from deforestation, land grabs and other violations of the rights of forest peoples;
    stop the invasion of forest peoples’ lands and forests by agribusiness, extractive industries, infrastructures, energy and “green economy” projects that deny forest peoples’ fundamental rights;
    take immediate and concrete actions to uphold forest peoples' rights at all levels including the right to land, territories and resources, the right to self-determined development and to continue to own, control and manage their customary lands according to their knowledge and livelihoods.

“Threats to indigenous peoples’ forests are similar worldwide,” said Ms Carmenza Tez Juogibioy, an indigenous people’s leader from Colombia. “States and companies carry out deforestation despite this violating the rights of forest communities. Governments mostly disregard our just demands, but we will continue to fight for respect for our lands and territories and respect for human rights, which are the source of life for our peoples.”

Workshop delegates from indigenous and forest peoples in Africa, Asia and Latin America and civil society had spent the week assessing the alarming rate of deforestation worldwide, the direct and indirect causes of forest loss and their impacts on communities and the environment. In reviewing options for tackling deforestation, participants underscored the unmatched capacity of indigenous peoples to safeguard their forests.

Ms Marceline Louanga, an indigenous community representative from Cameroon, said: “The forest feeds and takes care of us. Our people know how to protect the forest, but the state has taken the forest away by force. We no longer have access to forest land, and without our forest livelihoods, it is far harder to educate our children.”

Participants had identified a major “implementation gap” between international human rights standards that recognize these rights and require their protection by states, and the systematic denial of these rights on the ground. The conference highlighted that governments frequently fail to respect the customary rights of forest peoples by issuing permits and concessions to companies on their lands without free, prior and informed consent.

“Forest communities around the world have heroically defended forests against unrelenting multiple pressures,” said Ms Joji Cari?o of workshop co-organizers Forest Peoples Programme. “Effective forest governance must build on local solutions that secure customary rights and land tenure, and regulate against predatory investments that imperil indigenous and forest peoples and their forests.”

The Palangka Raya Declaration expresses workshop participants’ affirmation that where forest peoples’ rights are secured deforestation can be halted and even reversed.

"Communities have proven the ability to manage the forests for many generations,” said Edy Subahani of Indonesian co-organizers POKKER SHK Kalteng. “They have innovative knowledge to protect the forest and develop food and economic livelihoods as well as spiritual life within the forest. They also contribute to local and national economies and participate in the restoration of damaged forest. Governments should empower and develop these communities' skills and knowledge."

Franky Samperante of PUSAKA (Indonesia), said: "Governments and companies must recognize, respect and restitute the rights of communities. Governments must also terminate and suspend permits allocated to unjust development projects that violate communities' rights and damage and destroy the forest. Only by guaranteeing and protecting rights and recognizing the communities that manage forests can deforestation truly be curbed and the well-being of forest peoples be secured."

    At the close of the meeting, the participants pledged to work together in solidarity to form a global grassroots accountability network to independently monitor, document, challenge and denounce forest destruction and associated violations of forest peoples' rights.

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