The International Year of Forests is over: what to celebrate?

The International Year of Forests is over: what to celebrate?

By World Forest Movement - WRM

What dominated the forest agenda again was the debate on the REDD + mechanism. They are resources that could be used to encourage and multiply positive experiences of forest conservation and respect for human rights throughout the world, not linked to the REDD mechanism.

The United Nations (UN) declared this year 2011, the International Year of Forests. Considering that this year is ending, it is good to take a brief balance.

The motto of this International Year is "forests, for people". In January we wrote: Could it be that the forest peoples have reason to "celebrate"? Could it be that this year there were advances in the fight against the direct causes of deforestation, such as the extraction of wood and the advance of agribusiness? What about the so-called indirect or underlying causes, that is, those that are behind forest destruction, as is the case of an economy driven by profit and financial speculation, and excessive consumption that benefits only a minority of people. The humanity?


What dominated the forest agenda again was the debate on the REDD + mechanism. Billions of dollars have already been spent in this process, something that was denounced by a group of organizations, including indigenous organizations (1). They are resources that could be used to encourage and multiply positive experiences of forest conservation and respect for human rights throughout the world, not linked to the REDD mechanism.

The "blindness" of those who most insist on promoting REDD + is striking, such as the World Bank and various consulting companies. They do not seem to perceive the evidence of human rights violations that are occurring in areas where REDD + pilot projects are being implemented, as the case study of a Conservation International and Walt Disney project in Congo, conducted by the WRM (2 ) (published in French and English and recently also in Spanish), as well as other studies. They also do not perceive that more and more studies announce that REDD + will not work due to serious obstacles, mainly as a market mechanism (3). The problems detected culminated in a proposal, launched in Durban during COP17 by indigenous organizations, to declare a moratorium on REDD.

While Brazil seeks to present itself as the protector of the largest tropical forest in the world, a group of parliamentarians from that same country, linked to agribusiness, tried to modify the Forest Code this year, opening the way for a legal deforestation of millions of hectares to benefit, mainly, to agribusiness, while recovery is implemented through REDD + projects and payment for environmental services, issues for which specific legislation is rapidly being drafted. The commitment to a "green economy", based on commodification and control over nature and territory, tends to cause a setback in the legally guaranteed rights of indigenous and traditional populations in Brazil.

The worsening of pollution, a consequence of this model, also intensifies the pollution caused by large transnational corporations in the North, which implies more impacts for indigenous populations and other sectors that live around these industries and their extractive zones in the North. , intensifying racism and other environmental and social injustices. In the South it also means, in the medium and long term, negative impacts for tropical forests, making REDD + a counterproductive process, even for those who think that the 'standing forest' and a certain control over it will guarantee its future.

Structural proposals are lacking to attack the direct and indirect causes of deforestation. Those that exist continue to be considered by governments and their interlocutors as very "radical." But without these "radical" proposals, the climate will suffer a temperature increase of about 4 degrees in a short time (4). That does mean a really radical change in the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world, mainly women, who are more vulnerable to climate change.

The definition of forests

Another factor that encourages deforestation is undoubtedly the FAO definition of forests, which calls monoculture tree plantations forests. The WRM carried out an intense mini-campaign on the subject this year, developing tools and delivering a letter to FAO in September in which it urged the organization to urgently initiate a process of revision of this definition, with the effective participation of forest peoples. .

It may be that the fight against the current definition of forests had some echo during COP 17 in the recommendation made by SBSTA (5), the advisory body of the Conference of the Parties, in the framework of the debate on REDD. SBSTA suggests that each country can make its own definition of the forest, different from a single definition by the UNFCCC. Although, on the one hand, this opens the space to fight in each country for definitions that exclude monoculture tree plantations and better contemplate the local reality of forests, on the other hand, it also opens a gap for definitions to be formulated that further promote progress. of monocultures.

The last option is the most likely, due to the great lobbying power of companies in the sector and financial institutions that encourage tree plantations before national governments, whose representatives are used to their electoral campaigns being financed by forestry companies. , and of which companies manage to obtain, by way of "exchange", land, advantages and incentives. Without a clear definition and reference on an international scale, the door is open for definitions that better serve corporate interests.

The lack of interest in addressing the underlying causes of deforestation becomes even more apparent when we consider the advancement in plans for false solutions to the climate crisis. An example of these is the use of biofuels, especially wood biomass, to generate energy in Europe. This is an attempt to maintain the current unsustainable system of production and consumption, again resorting to certification systems such as FSC for eucalyptus and pine monocultures, and RSPO for palm plantations for palm oil production. Neither certification system prevents serious human rights violations, as evidenced, for example, by the Indonesian article in this newsletter. Governments prefer to serve corporate and banking interests than to concern themselves with the welfare and future of people and the environment, even the climate. They seek to face the economic crisis with the same molds as always, without worrying about establishing limits to the exploitation of nature or that the major polluters reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The resistance

We would have little to celebrate this year if there had not been deep questioning of the "greenwashing" of certification seals, such as the FSC, in the countries of the North (6) and, mainly, if it were not for the resistance of the peoples of forests and other biomes that have fought in several countries of the South against deforestation and have resisted in areas where governments encouraged the planting of monoculture tree plantations and other forms of land usurpation.

It is becoming increasingly evident that it is necessary to recognize the rights of these populations, otherwise the violation of their rights and the criminalization of those who only fight for their defense will be perpetuated, something that occurs in many countries, from Chile to monoculture areas of pines, to Indonesia, around eucalyptus and African palm plantations. Respecting the rights of peoples who inhabit and depend on forests and other biomes is the best way to conserve forests, reduce the impact of climate change, and promote food security and sovereignty.

To advance on this path, we believe that a fundamental task is to encourage and articulate the most diverse resistance processes, from the fight for forest conservation to the fight against the international financial system, creating bonds of solidarity between the peoples of the South and also with the peoples of the North and thus increasing the pressure on companies and governments.

It is important that the voice of the different peoples, contrary to the privatization and appropriation of land and nature and in favor of their basic human rights, has a stronger and more articulated echo in the next major events, such as Rio +20 ( see the call for Rio +20 in this newsletter). And finally, we also reinforce the La Via Campesina global appeal, launched last month in Mali, Africa, against the process of land grabbing (see also article on land grabbing in this newsletter).

Monthly Newsletter of the World Forest Movement (WRM) Number 173 -







6- As was the case of FSC in Belgium, based on the case of Veracel Celulose in Brazil (see

Video: International Year of Forests 2011 PSA - 1 min. (July 2021).