Suriname: Will REDD destroy or preserve indigenous cultures & forests they depend on?

Forest Peoples Programme recently published a briefing, titled “IndigenousPeoples’ Rights and REDD: The Case of the Saramaka People v.Suriname“. The briefing asks the question: To what extent should or must REDD account for and respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights? FPP’s conclusion is clear: “attention to indigenous peoples’ rights is not only desirable as a means to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of climate change mitigation measures, but, also, that these rights must be viewed as part of the applicable legal framework for conceiving and implementing such measures. Failure to do so undermines the rule of law and will expose REDD proponents and investors to a series of serious risks.

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FPP’s briefing looks at a case decided by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in November 2007, Saramaka People v. Suriname. The Saramaka are the descendents of African slaves who fought a war of liberation from slavery for nearly 100 years. They set up autonomous communities in the rainforest and in 1762 they won their freedom.

In 2000, the Association of Saramaka Authorities and 12 Saramaka captains presented a petition to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to protect their land rights. Under the November 2007 Court decision, the Saramaka were granted collective rights to the lands that they have traditionally occupied and used.

These rights include rights to decide about “development or investment projects” on their lands, including logging and mining. The Saramaka were also granted compensation from the government for damages caused by logging concessions awarded to Chinese companies.

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