New fund to help indigenous peoples protect forests through land tenure

Pak Maharun, village leader of Desun Gembira in Indonesia, has filed complaints and lawsuits to the government to protect their land from Asia Pulp and Paper, which is clear cutting huge areas of the country’s rainforests and peatlands. Photo by: David Gilbert / Rainforest Action Network / CC BY-NC

A new institution is in the works to help secure land for indigenous populations in order to significantly reduce the risk of deforestation and become a critical tool in the global struggle against climate change.

The initiative, known as the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility, is being developed by the Rights and Resources Initiative as an independent source of funds for on-the-ground projects to promote land tenure for indigenous and local communities so they can manage that land sustainably.

“Our estimates are that there’s at least two or maybe three times more land in forests out there that’s … legitimately claimed, customarily managed — but not recognized in maps or in law,” RRI Coordinator Andy White told Devex. “We have lots of evidence that show that indigenous peoples in poorest communities, once their rights are recognized, they’re more effective at protecting it [from industrial use].”

White explained that the facility will be “the world’s first dedicated mechanism to this agenda” and the plan is to formally launch the facility with its own offices by the end of 2015. It will be registered as a nonprofit with an advisory board made up of officials from the World Bank, UN-REDD, FAO, community organizations, indigenous people’s groups and other nongovernmental organizations.

In the meantime, he said, RRI will be incubating the facility throughout the coming year, rolling out at least four pilot projects by early 2015 in countries where “we can take advantage of immediate opportunities to secure land rights.”

RRI, a Washington, D.C.-based global coalition engaged in forest and land policy reform in Africa, Asia and Latin America, has so far secured an initial $14 million for the initiative from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and is appealing to other European donors such as Norway, Finland and the United Kingdom for additional funds.

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About the author

  • Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a former global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid, and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the U.S., and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.

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