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Development Agencies Call for Indigenous People to Play Role in Forest Management

Development Agencies Call for Indigenous People to Play Role in Forest Management

Development Agencies Call for Indigenous People to Play Role in Forest Management

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A new report calls on industrialized countries to ensure financial support to efforts to conserve and manage forests. The report says indigenous people in Asia should play a key role in forestry, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report by the conservation group Forests Dialogue says indigenous communities must be involved in decisions about managing forests in the Asia-Pacific region.

The loss of forest cover globally amounts to as much as 13 million hectares a year. Deforestation is a prime contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, largely carbon dioxide, which scientists say contribute to global warming.

The report was unveiled on the sidelines of United Nations climate talks in Bangkok Thursday. The meetings here are to pave the way for a global agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change, which is to be drafted in Copenhagen in December.

"Drawing from our experience over many difficult situations around the world and if we've learned anything in the last 25 or 30 years - is that we really need to be very thorough and effective in involving local people, local stakeholders in forestry management," said Patrick Durst, a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization forestry official. "Without that we certainly set ourselves up for failure."

The United Nations has introduced the program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD. Working with various U.N. agencies, the program hopes to create a system in which industries or nations that produce large amounts of greenhouse gases can offset that by paying other nations to protect their forests.

Pilot projects have begun in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Vietnam. In Nepal, under a government-backed program, more than 14,000 forest user groups have regenerated more than one and a quarter million hectares of degraded forest area in the past decade.

The Forest Dialogue group asks that developed nations robustly fund the REDD program and make sure that the money goes to the forest people who need it.

Vicki Tauli-Corpuz, who heads the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, says the REDD strategy will not work unless forest communities are involved.

"The key challenges in implementing REDD is really the involvement of the indigenous people and the local communities in making decisions about REDD and in receiving benefits from REDD," Tauli-Corpuz. "I mean all of the measures in relation to forests are really very centralized. If you cannot deal with that I don't think it is really going to succeed."

The United Nations is trying to establish an international REDD finance mechanism to be included in any global climate agreement drafted in Copenhagen in December.