Don’t forget human rights in conservation

A new book released today calls for more emphasis to be placed on human rights when nature conservation policies are developed and implemented.

Forest dweller living off the resources of the forest Photo: Phaivanh Phiapalath / IUCN

Rights-based Approaches: Exploring issues and opportunities for conservation, a joint publication by IUCN and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), shows how taking human rights into consideration in conservation benefits nature and people.

Gonzalo Oviedo, IUCN’s Senior Social Policy Adviser and co-editor, said the book is partly a result of a workshop held at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona in October 2008, which brought together case study writers to discuss the issues.

“Our aim was to demonstrate that, despite all the challenges, rights-based approaches are making a difference in conservation policy,” says Terry Sunderland of CIFOR. “They are a promising way forward, but also raise a myriad of new challenges and questions, including what such approaches are, when and how they can be put into practice, and what their implications are for conservation.”

The book explores how reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) can affect human rights. REDD is likely to be a key issue when negotiators gather in Copenhagen in December to consider a new global protocol to combat climate change.

Under a REDD scheme, countries that reduce their deforestation rates could gain credits for reduced carbon emissions, which would be sold on an international carbon market or compensated through an international fund.

But, to conserve forest carbon, REDD schemes might also restrict the activities of people who depend on forests for a living. Whether and how REDD revenue and benefits will be distributed to forest communities is a contentious issue.

Experience with previous REDD-like projects has so far yielded mixed results. Many indigenous and other traditional communities point out they have played an ongoing role in preserving and protecting tropical forests historically. They insist that REDD regimes should compensate them for that role. A rights-based approach to REDD may help to ensure this.

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Social Policy
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