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INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN THE BALANCE

Climate-change forces staking claims over rain forests

May 11, 2009
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TRIBAL PEOPLES' land has often been stolen for game reserves and national parks, creating so-called conservation refugees, as Mark Dowie's "No natives allowed" highlights. But while conservation organizations may be slowly waking up to the need to recognize tribal peoples' rights to their land, the global scramble to act on climate change is leading other, more powerful, institutions to stake their own claims over tribal peoples' forests.

Governments, together with the UN, are currently hammering out schemes to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation, or REDD. Under the REDD system, countries with rain forests will be paid by other countries to keep trees standing. But these forests are often home to tribal peoples, who have no say in the debate.

The best way to protect the rain forest is to protect the rights of the people who live in it and from it. More than 400 million acres of Amazon rain forest have been recognized as indigenous territories, and are secured against deforestation. Unless the world's governments accept that tribal peoples have rights over their territories, and must be at the center of decisions about them, they risk creating a new generation of climate change refugees, forsaking the very people most at risk from global warming.

Stephen Corry
Director
Survival International
London

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