WASHINGTON DC, Sept. 27 (IPS) – US$270 million may sound like a lot of money, especially for just one year. But it’s only a small fraction — less than one percent — of all global funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, this small portion is the annual amount invested in the land and forest management of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPs and LCs) over the past decade.
This month we found out that the actual amount of funding reaching IPs and LCs was only a small fraction of the small fraction: only 17 percent went to activities that specifically mentioned an indigenous organization.
This figure probably overstates the true share reaching these communities, as intermediary institutions also have project implementation costs that are part of this funding. The discrepancy raises the question of whether the $1.7 billion pledged to indigenous peoples and local communities at the UN climate change conferences for their land tenure and conservation initiatives will actually reach them.
The rights of indigenous peoples and local communities are inextricably linked to the preservation of important ecosystems and the conservation of carbon stored in tropical forests and peatlands. At least 36 percent of the world’s major areas of biodiversity are found in IP and LC countries, along with at least 25 percent of the above-ground carbon storage in tropical forests.
Efforts to mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss depend on keeping these landscapes intact, and IP and LC forest management have proven to be more effective than any other in this regard. For example, while 2020 was the highest deforestation rate in Brazil’s history, deforestation rates were up to three times lower in indigenous areas.
The United Nations’ most recent climate report embraced this point, stating: “Supporting indigenous self-determination, recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples and supporting indigenous knowledge-based adaptation are critical to mitigating the risks of climate change and ensuring effective amendment.”
In a report released by our organizations in September, we found that donors disbursed approximately $2.7 billion (average $270 million per year) between 2011 and 2020 for projects supporting IP and LC ownership and forest management in tropical countries. We collected data on this funding stream and assessed the grants against different dimensions of ‘Fit for Purpose’ criteria, meaning funding is provided in a way that is effective, relevant and appropriate for IP and LCs.
Applying the ‘Fit for Purpose’ criteria to IP and LC financing over the past decade has been instructive. We have found that:
- IP And LC Led: Only 17 percent of IP and LC tenure and forest management funding between 2011 and 2020 cited an indigenous organization, indicating that a small portion of funding is led by indigenous and community organizations.
- Mutually responsible: There is a lack of donor accountability and transparency towards IPs and LCs, hampering the understanding and influence of IP and LC on donor priorities and decisions. Most private foundations, which represent the majority of IPLC Forest Tenure Pledge donors, do not systematically share data about their projects.
- Flexible and long-lasting: Donors are increasingly providing funding through long-term financing agreements, which provide much-needed predictability and security to IP and LC organizations. But a lack of flexibility to change or adjust priorities within projects limits IP and LC organizations from addressing diverse community needs, looming threats, or seizing opportunities.
- Gender Inclusive: Only 32 percent of IP and LC tenure and forest management funding contained gendered keywords, despite the vital role of women in IP and LC forest management and their remarkable exclusion from many governance structures and forest management decisions.
- Timely and accessible: Due to strict eligibility and administrative requirements from bilateral and multilateral donors, IP and LC organizations must overcome significant barriers to access funding. Funding for IP and LC property and forest management has therefore generally relied on traditional development aid funding structures, with national and international organizations acting as intermediaries.
Securing and protecting the property rights of indigenous peoples and local communities is one of the most cost-effective, equitable and efficient ways to protect, restore and sustainably use tropical forest areas and the ecosystem services they provide.
Many things stand in the way of funding indigenous peoples and local communities, but ultimately we will not solve the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity extinction unless we embrace the need for more equitable partnerships. We’ve already pledged money to support them, now we need to make sure they get it.
Solange Bandiaky-Badji, PhDis the coordinator of the Rights and Resources Initiative
Torbjorn Gjefsen is Senior Climate Policy Advisor for Rainforest Foundation Norway.
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