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International workshop to address capacity building for rainforest leaders

From the silent victims of climate change, rain forest peoples in Latin America are preparing themselves to have an active voice in international decision-making on climate issues. A major landmark in preparing for the dialogue with authorities of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place from April 1-4 in Manaus, Brazil, when forest leaders from 13 countries and experts will be participating in the workshop "Climate Change and the Peoples of the Forest: Advancing in the Discussion on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and the Rights of Indigenous and Traditional Peoples", promoted by the Forest Peoples' Alliance.

The emergence of the global climate issue and the effective participation of forest communities in the conservation of the environment was one of the reasons for the re-launching of the Forest Peoples' Alliance, in September last year. The Alliance had been first established in 1989, shortly after the murder of leader Chico Mendes and represents the interests of indigenous peoples, extractive producers, riverine populations and other traditional communities who keep a mutual pact of survival with the forest.

During the workshop, leaders of Latin American forest communities expect to reach a consensus on which stand they shall take with regard to economic compensation for the environmental services they provide to the planet by helping to conserve millions of hectares of rain forests. Representatives from Asia and Africa will be participating as observers.

In order to encourage discussions during the workshop, the Forest Peoples' Alliance has invited some of the most expressive scientists and experts on topics related to climate, deforestation, indigenous and community rights in rain forests, including Daniel Nepstad (The Woods and Hole Research Center), Peter Frumhoff (Union of Concerned Scientists), Mrcio Santilli (Instituto Socioambiental) and Paulo Moutinho (IPAM).

The meeting's final document will be taken to debate with global authorities during the meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) of the Climate Convention to take place next June, in Bonn, Germany. Policies and incentives for the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries also shall be discussed during the meeting.

"We want to reach a much clearer picture about the new issues that have come up after the 13th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change and agree on consensual points for our action", explains Chairman Manoel Silva da Cunha, the president of the National Rubber Tappers Council (CNS). According to Cunha, the environmental services that forest people provide to the planet have taken on an essential role in climate-related discussions. Cunha advocates the inclusion of non-deforesting populations in the sharing of benefits deriving from carbon funds or credits.

Way beyond deforestation

Starting from the outcomes of the Bali Conference and the drafting of the Course Map the participation of traditional peoples in the debate on climate change reached international dimensions. The proposals to be discussed by forest leaders during the Manaus event include mechanisms associated to the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). These mechanisms will allow developing countries to be financially compensated for reducing deforestation or for conserving forests within their territories.

"We are aware of our role in the overall climate change context and we will exert our right to decide over the future of rain forests", highlighted Alberto Cantanhede Lopes, the president of GTA, an entity that represents 630 institutions throughout the Brazilian Amazon, a region in which 25% of all forests are under the guardianship of traditional and indigenous communities.

The rights of these peoples and their way of participating in the drafting of international policies and in fighting climate change will be some of the topics on the agenda of the Manaus meeting. "Countries must commit themselves to respecting the rights of traditional populations through internationally acknowledged conventions, treaties and declarations", says Jecinaldo Satere, the indigenous president of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB). The meeting is being organized by the Climate Change Program of the Institute for Environmental Research of the Amazon (IPAM), with support from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation and the British Embassy.


Contact: Elizabeth Braun
Woods Hole Research Center

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