Indigenous people not given their due for conserving forests: UNCCD report

The report says that despite them being the best custodians of forests globally, indigenous people are criminalised and intimidated

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Friday 30 August 2019

Despite being the best custodians of forests globally, indigenous people almost never get their due, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) report has said.

These communities are the custodians of around 40 per cent of protected and ecologically intact landscapes and manage nearly 300 billion tonnes of carbon on lands owned by them with almost negligible investment, the report titled Forest and Trees: At the heart of land degradation neutrality, noted.

On the other hand, several governments, which spend billions of dollars on managing forests are unable to achieve similar results, it added.

Despite being of immense importance to forests, not only are indigenous communities’ contributions unrecognised, but they are also forced to struggle for tenure rights, the report went on to say.

“Despite customary rights to more than half of the world’s land mass, indigenous and local communities are legally or formally recognised as owning only 10 per cent of global lands,” it said.

Instead of getting rewards for their contribution, these communities faced criminalisation and violence in terms of forced eviction from protected areas, it added.

The report argued in favour of giving equal access and benefit sharing to these communities along with women for the protection, sustainable use and restoration of forest landscapes.

The report also recognised the role of women noting that women’s knowledge and management practices played a crucial role in sustaining forests in spite of which, forestry was still a male-dominated sector.

The report was released in the last week of August 2019, just days ahead of the United Nations’ Conference of Parties 14 in New Delhi from September 2 to September 14.

Degradation of forest and other lands cost around $10.6 trillion a year, or 17 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product. The UNCCD report calculates it to be around $1,400 per person globally.

Under the UNCCD umbrella, 120 countries have committed to setting a voluntary target of Land Degradation Neutrality by 2030. Under this, the world community wants to achieve a state where the amount and quality of land resources remain stable.

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