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Research Handbook on REDD-Plus and International Law

Research Handbook on REDD-Plus and International Law

Research Handbooks in Climate Law series

Edited by Christina Voigt

The REDD+ initiative for Reducing Emissions of greenhouse gases from Deforestation and Forest Degradation is an important tool, established under the UNFCCC, for incentivizing developing countries to adopt and scale up climate mitigation actions in the forest sector and for capturing and channeling the financial resources to do so. With contributions from legal experts, international relations scholars, climate change negotiators and activists, this Handbook eloquently examines the emerging governance arrangements for REDD+, analysing how and to what extent it is embedded in the international legal framework.

Chapter 9: REDD+, tenure and indigenous property: the promise and peril of a ‘human rights-based approach’

Kirsty Gover

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law


In this chapter I argue that the emphasis in REDD+ policy and commentary on the need for ‘secure and clear’ tenure, coupled with a ‘human rights-based’ approach to programming suggests a bias in favour of property rights premised on current possession of land. Since states embarking on tenure reform in anticipation of REDD+ funding will need to address competing claims to forested land, the methodology so far endorsed by UN-REDD and the FAO could disadvantage communities claiming tenure rights based on prior possession. This is likely to affect indigenous communities claiming rights sourced in customary law, particularly where those rights are not enforceable in state law and are sought by communities that have been dispossessed of the land they claim. Human rights methodologies do not adequately address historic claims of this kind. I note that in contrast, the World Bank’s operational policy OP 4.10 on indigenous peoples (which applies in principle to the FCPF in its administration of REDD+ funding), makes some provision, albeit limited, for the rights of indigenous peoples to land they no longer occupy, and provides for compensation where access to those lands cannot be secured.

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