Report cites ‘deep contradictions’ in govt’s forest policies

Report cites ‘deep contradictions’ in govt’s forest policies

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A report into the threat of deforestation on the welfare of forest-dependent peoples worldwide has concluded that “Deep contradictions underlie Guyana’s national policies on forests, climate protection and economic development.”

The report named “Securing Forests Securing Rights- Report of the International Workshop on Deforestation and the Rights of Forest Peoples” was released to coincide with UN climate talks in Lima Peru.

It includes nine country case studies, of which Guyana is one.

In part the report notes “The government advocates ‘green growth’ whereby international finance can enable Southern countries to avoid deforestation and invest in low carbon development. Guyana’s bilateral agreement with Norway provides for forest and climate protection as part of its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). Yet national economic and land use policies respond to international demand and high prices for minerals by promoting rapid growth of mining and large-scale infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric dam building without regard for the environment or indigenous peoples’ rights.”

Other highlights

Gold

“Poorly regulated gold mining is expanding, with cumulative effects on forests and communities from the use of excavators, open-pit methods and polluting chemicals. Health impacts include rising incidences of malaria from increased breeding places for mosquitoes, and of sexually transmitted diseases from contacts between miners and local women.”

Logging

“Logging is also a cause of extensive forest degradation in Guyana, resulting in soil erosion,
blocked creeks, damaged habitats and reduced availability of non-timber products. The government
has awarded timber concessions to Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and domestic companies over
hundreds of thousands of hectares, often encroaching on indigenous peoples’ customary lands without
their prior knowledge or consent. Unauthorised illegal logging takes place on titled community lands
outside concession boundaries, sometimes with links to money laundering. Land conflicts between forest
communities and loggers and miners are frequent. New roads are opening up Guyana’s remote and fragile forests, often built by foreign mining and logging companies on indigenous peoples’ lands. These roads are often enabled by senior government officials and the Prime Minister’s office. Affected Amerindian communities are not consulted, and no FPIC process is followed…”

Land rights

“Guyana’s constitution and Amerindian Act recognise indigenous peoples’ right to maintain their way of
life and cultural heritage, but this is not respected in practice. The state claims ownership over 80% of
forest land, and the legal framework vests all untitled lands in the state regardless of indigenous peoples’
customary landownership. The national biodiversity action plan, under the Convention on Biological
Diversity, is silent on the Convention requirement to protect and encourage customary use of biological
resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices where this is compatible with conservation.”

Possible Solutions

“Guyana’s forest peoples propose a range of measures to safeguard the forests and their rights to inhabit
and use their customary lands and territories. Legal reform is needed to bring the Amerindian
Act into line with Guyana’s constitution and with its international obligations to protect indigenous
peoples’ rights according to the UNDRIP. Implementation of FPIC should be extended
to untitled customary lands, with independent verification of FPIC for mining and logging
concessions and for conservation and land titling initiatives, and effective grievance mechanisms. Fair
and transparent processes are required to resolve  land conflicts, such as regional multi-stakeholder
land summits. Commercial concession holders occupying Amerindian lands without consent should
be removed…”