REDD Countries in Asia

Baseline Information of Vietnam

Indigenous Peoples, Forest and REDD in Vietnam

Vietnam is situated in the Indochinese peninsular bordering with China, Laos and Cambodia. Vietnam is home to 54 groups of nationalities. The majority group of Kinh accounted 87% of the total population. The ethnic minorities accounted for only 13% of the total population but made up 39.3% of the poor population according to the Vietnam Household Living Standard Survey of 2004 (WB, 2007). Most ethnic communities are located in remote and difficult areas, which account for three-fourths of the land area of the whole country.

Land and Forest Policy

The overall aim of the government’s land policy is to legalize people’s ownership of land and transfer the management and use rights to forest and agricultural enterprises or collective units. This policy requires elimination of private landownership set up during the French colonial period, establishment of agricultural cooperatives and land-use rights to these organizations, and movement of people from plains to mountainous areas to set up new economic zones. In the late 1950s and early 1960s in the northern mountainous areas, landownership was given to farmers for a short period and then transferred to state agricultural cooperatives. Forests were managed by state agricultural and forest enterprises. During the 1970s and 1980s, almost all forest areas in the Central Highlands were managed by these entities. In Dak Lak, these state organizations managed more than 86% of the total forest area; the staff working for these organizations accounted for 20% of the total population. To deal with forest degradation, the State issued in the 1980s a policy of land and forest allocation to cooperatives and households. This policy was expanded during the late 1980s and especially after promulgation of the Land Code in 1993. In mountainous areas, the Government started allocating arable land to households and collective units. A large area of land that previously belonged to state organizations is being transferred to the people to manage. In the Central Highlands, the land area managed by the State has been reduced by 26%. However, the State still manages 44% of the total forest area.

Changes in ownership of forests

The traditional structure of ownership of land and forest has been replaced, resulting in limited access to them by ethnic minorities. In the past, between and within communities, ownership of land and forest was regulated by a system of highly effective customary laws and traditional rules. Recent studies on customary laws of highland indigenous groups show that this system harmoniously and effectively regulated the relationship between the communities and the ecosystems as well as the social relationships between communities. From 1975 to the 1980s, the Central Highlands underwent this process with drastic changes. Many indigenous communities in the mountainous areas faced reduced living areas including their farmland and the forest areas that acted as reserves for resources that provide essential products for their daily lives. The legal and management systems of land and forest are now unclear, do not consider traditional heritage, and lack solutions to protect disadvantaged groups. Thus, ethnic minorities are losing their lands; land disputes are increasing. Upland cultivation as practiced by many ethnic minority groups is a production system that uses the slash-and-burn technique and discontinuous cultivation in each piece of land. The campaign on fixed settlement and cultivation has limited the mobility of ethnic minority communities, but progress in improving their crop yields has not matched their population growth rate and the decreasing size of their farmland. The allocation of land and forest to individual households has transformed much of the former common property of the community. Households of the groups that practiced shifting cultivation were also allocated a few hectares for cultivation, with ownership for 20 to 30 years. The result is very short fallow periods and consequent impoverishment and erosion of the soil. This has been the case, for example, in some villages in Ia Mnong commune.

State Policies and Legislations on Indigenous Peoples

Vietnamese Governments have paid a great deal of attention to the development of ethnic minorities. One of the reasons for this is that ethnic minorities are among the poorest groups in Vietnam. Therefore, many policies have been targeted to the ethnic minority development in Vietnam. Prior to 1998, 21 national targeted projects were implemented to invest in the ethnic minority and mountainous areas. A more logical policy system was developed after that year, including the Hunger Eradication and Poverty Reduction program, Program 135, Program 134, and policies on land, forest, education and health, etc., which aimed to cover all economic, cultural and social fields.

The Policy of Support for Ethnic Minority Households in Extremely Difficult Circumstances

This policy was initially called the Program to Support Ethnic Minority Households in Extremely Difficult Circumstances and was established under Decision 826/QD-TTg of 1995. Its original objective was to support ethnic minorities whose populations are below 10,000 persons. Since 2007, a revised orientation has put more focus on production development for ethnic minorities living in extremely difficult circumstances. Under Decision 32/2007/QD-TTg, a system of loans for ethnic minorities living in extremely difficult circumstances was established. Further projects targeting seven ethnic groups with small populations (the Si La, Brau, Ro Mam, Pu Peo, Odu, La Hu, and Cong) have recently been proposed.

Baseline Information of Nepal

Indigenous Peoples, Forest and REDD in Nepal

The total population of Nepal is 22.7 million, and over one hundred castes/ethnic and religious groups, and ninety-two mother tongues were listed in the Census of 2001.14 Indigenous peoples, often referred as “indigenous nationalities” (Adivasi Janajati) comprised 8.4 million, or 38 % of the total population. However, indigenous peoples’ organizations claim they have been under represented in the census, and their actual populations comprise more than 50%. Indigenous peoples are recognized constitutionally15 as well as legally. They are officially called “Adivasi Janajati” (indigenous nationalities), with 59 indigenous nationalities legally enlisted in the National Foundation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN) Act of 2002.16 The Act defines Adivasi Janajati as a group or community with own mother tongue and traditional customary practices, distinct cultural identity, social structure and oral or written history.

Indigenous peoples are highly marginalized, and have been excluded from the nation building process, which has been largely in then hands of the non-indigenous Hindu Bahun and Chetri castes, who still hold dominant positions in political, economical and social life of the country. Indigenous peoples are among the poorest of the poor, and their marginalization has been the reason for the broad support, which the Maoist Party enjoyed during the 12 years long armed conflict. The inclusion of hitherto excluded groups like indigenous peoples in the process of restructuring the state was an important agenda of the Twelve-point Agreement between the government and Maoists, which changed the political landscape in late 2005, and paved the way for the Comprehensive peace Agreement of November 2006. It has been consistently reflected in subsequent agreements as well as in the Interim Constitution of 2007.

The State’s position regarding the recognition of indigenous peoples and their rights

Indigenous peoples have the right of Social justice thus they have a right of proportional representation in the State Structure. Until 1990 indigenous peoples’ separate identities and concerns had been completely denied by government. The government’s policy was to assimilate indigenous peoples into the dominant Hindu hierarchical caste system. This position changed in the wake of the political change of 1990, when multi-party democracy was introduced. For the first time in Nepali history, the Constitution of 1991 recognized the diverse nature of the state,19and provided rights to language, culture and religion. 20 Importantly, the Constitutional provision for equal protection gave avenue to have special measures for the protection and educational, economic and social development of marginalized groups, which was considered to be applicable to indigenous peoples. However, these provisions were never really implemented.

Recently, the government's position on the recognition of indigenous peoples and their rights has moved in a positive direction due to relentless pressure by the organized indigenous peoples’ movement. A Twenty Point Agreement was made between indigenous peoples and the government in 2007, which emphasized the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the process of restructuring the state. At present, Nepal is in the process of writing a new Constitution after holding the Constituent Assembly election in April 2008. As part of this process, an Interim Constitution was promulgated in 2007. The Interim Constitution recognizes indigenous peoples and their rights to some extent. It guarantees the right to social justice, including the right to participate in the state structure on the basis of the principle of social inclusion21. Poverty among indigenous peoples is supposed to be addressed by special measures, including reservations in education and employment for a certain time period.

The National Foundation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN) Act 2002 is the only national law that specifically deals with indigenous development issues. The Act, however, neither stipulates the rights of indigenous peoples nor has the NEFDIN been given a sole and clear mandate to work in the development sector. As a semi-governmental institution the Foundation is bound by and dependant on the government. Indigenous peoples’ organizations are demanding to convert the foundation into a commission with the provision of overseeing the implementation of laws on indigenous peoples’ rights. The Self-Governance Act 1998 triggered the passing of the NFDIN Act. For the first time a law recognized that indigenous peoples are excluded and need to be brought into the national mainstream (Preamble). There are provisions for indigenous peoples’ representation in Village, Municipal and District Development Councils (local government institutions). However, these bodies had been non-functional which lead to the demand by indigenous organizations for a specific law, resulting in the passing of the NFDIN Act.

The law with the severest negative consequence for indigenous communities is the Land Reform Act 1964 and Land Maintenance Act of 1963. They abolished traditional communal land rights and as a consequence displaced indigenous communities from their lands as they were taken over by members of the dominant Hindus of the Bahun and Chetri castes. Nepal is a signatory to a number of international instruments and conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966, International Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Racial Discrimination 1969, UN Convention on the Rights of Child 1989, and the Convention on Biological Diversity 1992. In 2007, the Nepal parliament ratified ILO Convention No. 169 “concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries”, and Nepal voted in favour of the passing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the UN General Assembly on 13 September 2007.

Forest and indigenous peoples in Nepal

72% of those who live below the poverty line in Nepal (31 % of the total population) are forest- dwellers, most of whom are indigenous. The forest these people use has the highest potential to be included in the REDD mechanism. The forest administration in Nepal has an almost two-decades long history of decentralization, with Community Forest User Groups having a high level of control with the management of forest areas. 20% of the country’s forest land is under community management, and studies show that forest degradation in community-managed forests is much lower than in government-managed forests.

The community-based forest management system of the country is often used in international fora as a show-case of successful decentralization and empowerment of local communities. Many indigenous peoples, however, are critical towards the community forest management system, because the highly hierarchical nature of Nepali society makes it difficult for them to have a real influence in many of the Community Forest User Groups. Their generally marginalized position in society is replicated in the local governance of forests, with more powerful groups taking the lead. Indigenous peoples’ access to and control of forest resources they have traditionally used, is thus undermined. In the case of indigenous communities who practice a nomadic lifestyle, some with very long migration patterns (which means that they do not necessarily return to the same forest areas for years), the problem is even bigger. Some of these peoples do not belong to any Community Forest User Groups, since they do not belong to a settled community. Therefore, they do not have any forest areas they can call their own. On the contrary, they are denied access to forest areas controlled by the Community Forest User Groups, with no regard to the fact that these same areas fall within their traditional migration routes. Whereas Community Forest User groups manage large forest areas in the mid-hills, most of the forests in the Terai low-land are under government control. A significant part of these low-land forests are zoned as protected areas, where indigenous peoples have very limited access to resources.

Baseline Information of Indonesia

Indigenous Peoples, Forest and REDD in Indonesia

Indonesia consists of more than 17, 000 islands, covers a land area of 1,919,440 km2, and has a population of around 220 million people. Indonesia is an ethnically extremely diverse country. Over 700 different languages have been identified. Indonesia is still a unitary state with a strong central government, even though political and governmental structures have been decentralized after the resignation of President Suharto in 1998. The government officially recognizes 365 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups as so-called komunitas adat terpencil (isolated adat communities). They number about 1.1 million. However, there are many more ethnic groups that consider themselves, or are considered by others, as indigenous peoples. The nation-wide indigenous peoples’ organization, Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN – Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago), uses the term masyarakat adat to refer to indigenous peoples. A conservative estimate of the number of indigenous peoples in Indonesia amounts to between 50 and 70 million.

Since the fall of ex-President Suharto ’ s centralized and autocratic government during 1997–98, the Republic of Indonesia has undergone rapid decentralization. Considerable degrees of administrative and regulatory responsibility across broad segments of the economy have been transferred from the centre to the country’s district governments. This has resulted in changes to the institutions and processes governing the management of natural resources in the country.5 The rapid expansion of commercial logging under Suharto has led to Indonesia’s forest coverage declining by over a third from the late 1960s until the late 1990s.6 Since 1998, governance over forests has shifted haphazardly, from a centralized system of logging concessions and protected areas to one now informally controlled by over 300 district-level governments.7 These changes have resulted in newly empowered forest-dependent communities exerting property rights over customary (adat) forest, leading in many cases to communities negotiating directly and legitimately with logging companies in exchange for access to financial and social benefits.8 Moreover, district heads were permitted to issue small-scale forest conversion licences, but only if a harvesting agreement had been negotiated between the company and the community first.

Laws and Policies related to land, Forest and indigenous Peoples

In 2000, the Ministry of Forestry issued a regulation forbidding local governments from issuing small-scale logging licences, although all the districts under study continued to issue permits until 2002 and 2003. Thus, from a local government and community perspective, these permits continued to be perceived as legal, even though on a central-government level they were not. Therefore, from the local perspective, this did not appear to affect negotiations. Community rights are, however, still weakly defined in a legal sense.9 Coupled with endemic corruption in the Indonesian forestry sector and a general decline in state law and enforcement, this means that local government rarely, if ever, enforces community-firm logging agreements. As a consequence, communities came to depend more on self-enforcement rather than the state to enforce their property rights.10 Alternatively, companies could claim property rights by making agreements that are not complied with later11 or simply log without community consent.

Forest Acts

Promulgation of various sectoral Acts following Basic Agrarian Law-BAL, such as the Forestry Acts (Act No. 5 of 1967 and Act No. 41 of 1999), Mining Act (Act No. 11 of 1967) and the Protection of Biological Natural Resources and the Ecosystem (Act No. 5 of 1990), has led to further marginalization of adat communities. If BAL provides recognition of adat communities and their ulayat right (right of disposal), these various sectoral Acts promulgated since 1967 (since the New Order period began) tend to ignore the existence of those communities and their ulayat right. Act No. 5 of 1967 concerning Basic Forestry Law, promulgated in the first year of the New Order period, was based on the goal of accelerating development to improve economic growth through extraction of natural resources, including forest resources. This Act and its implementing regulation54 facilitated the issuance of forest concessions to big companies. The Act divides the forest area into two categories, namely, state forest and proprietary forest. State forest is defined as forest growing on land not covered by any proprietary rights. Included in the category of state forest is ulayat or adat forest. Proprietary forest is forest growing on land covered by proprietary rights. By including ulayat forest as state forest, this Act ignores ulayat rights of adat communities over their forest area. Based on this policy, the Government, without prior consultation with adat communities, granted forest concessions to logging companies.

Act No. 5 of 1960 concerning Basic Regulations on Agrarian Principles (or Basic Agrarian Law)

The Basic Agrarian Law (BAL) provided general principles that accommodate recognition of adat communities, ulayat land rights, and adat laws, as can be found in Article 2 Para. 4, Article 3, and Article 5. As basic law, this Act needs implementing legislation to make it effective. To date, only a few implementing regulations have been promulgated. As a consequence, there have been many deviations in the implementation of the Act. These deviations have been partly due to the concept of “eminent domain“ or right of control by the State, which is provided as a basic principle in Article 33 of the Constitution, and which has been interpreted and understood in such a way as to lead to the denial of the ulayat right of adat communities.

Baseline Information of Lao PDR

Indigenous Peoples, Forest and REDD in the Lao PDR

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is a landlocked country bordering China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. It is one of the few remaining politically socialist countries and, following the communist takeover in 1975, opened up to the world only at the end of the 1980s4. According to the UN, the Lao PDR is one of the Least Developed Countries in the world.

In spite of its relatively small population of about 6.3 million, Laos is the most ethnically diverse in mainland Southeast Asia. The population can be divided into three ethnic categories: 1. the ethnic Lao, comprising around a third of the population, economically and culturally dominate the country 2. another third consisting of members of other Tai Language speaking groups and 3. peoples whose first languages belong to the Mon-Khmer, Sino-Tibetan and Hmong-leu Mien families. The latter two groups are sometimes considered to be the “indigenous peoples” of Laos. Officially all ethnic groups have equal status and therefore the concept of “indigenous peoples” is not generally recognized. The Lao government recognizes over 100 ethnic subgroups within 49 ethnic groups. Some researchers have estimated there to be well over 200 ethnic groups throughout the country.

The indigenous peoples of Laos reside mainly in mountainous areas. They are generally economically worse off than Lao groups and form the majority in Laos’ poorest districts. They experience various livelihood-related challenges and their lands and resources are under increasing pressure from government development policies and commercial natural resource exploitation (tree plantations, mining concessions and the construction of large hydroelectric dams). There is no specific legislation in Laos with regard to indigenous peoples. The indigenous peoples in the highlands subsist on shifting cultivation supplemented by animal husbandry, gathering of forest products, hunting and fishing. They are particularly dependent upon the forest. It provides them with wood for construction and for fuel and a wide variety of non- timber forest products, which serve a wide range of domestic needs and opportunities for income generation.

Forest cover has declined significantly from 70 percent in the 1970s to about 47 percent in 2002. The causes are manifold: expanding industrial agriculture, new settlements, road infrastructure development, hydropower plant construction, and logging for export in the absence of a sound forest management system. Shifting cultivation is also often cited as one of the main causes of forest destruction even though it has been followed for years and appears to be a sustainable form of agriculture when long fallow periods are used.

Laws and Policies on Forestry, Land Use and Land Rights

Laos’ policies regarding forestry, land use and land rights were put forward in 2005 in the paper “Forestry Strategy to the Year 2020 of the Lao PDR”. The FS 2020 presented a comprehensive review of the status of forestry sector including resources situation, use and management, past and on-going policy and programs. It also set future challenges and development objectives for sustainable development and management of the forestry sector, a range of policies, programs and actions and identified the responsible agencies and main stakeholders to address each respective action.

There has been a program for allocating land and forest in Laos since 1997. All land and natural forests in Laos belong to the state. Therefore land allocation does not represent recognition of individual property. Rather it is a formal recognition of user rights. The program for allocation of land is commonly referred to as Land Use Planning and Land Allocation (LUP-LA). Up until 2007 village level land use planning and land allocation programs were undertaken in 7,130 villages and reached 443,523 families. A total area of 10,860,000 hectares of land had been allocated, of which 4,210,000 hectares was agricultural land and 6,650,000 hectares was forest land of different categories.

LUP-LA however has generally been considered a failure. Most often it was driven by the government’s policy of eradicating shifting cultivation and not the villagers’ priorities and was having negative impacts on villagers’ livelihoods. By 2008 there was a general agreement that the previous approach of allocating limited agricultural land to contain shifting cultivation and increase forest area was no longer appropriate. A consensus emerged in Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and National Land Management Authority that village and village cluster land zoning to enable improved management of village forests and development in agricultural zones is a more appropriate approach and land allocation to individual households should be discontinued. By 2009 this approach had been formalized in a new manual for participatory land use planning (PLUP), which the government intends to apply in the future.

The Lao PDR government passed a new Forestry Law in 2008. Unfortunately the law does not recognize local rights over forests but reaffirms the state’s control of all lands and forests, and empowers the state to make all decisions regarding who uses forestlands and for what. Under the legislation, locals do not even have any particular rights over forests directly adjacent to their communities. Instead, communities are only allowed to manage forest areas if they are allocated to them by District Governors. District Governors can arbitrarily revoke those rights as well. The concept of “community” or “village forests” is not recognized in the new legislation. In contrast to the new manual for PLUP there is no mention of customary rights or resources, and there are no possibilities for communal land or forest rights.

REDD Countries in Asia

REDD in Indonesia

Indonesia is one among 9 countries designated for a REDD readiness program under UN-REDD’s present pilot phase. There are three phases of the REDD mechanism, which are: REDD readiness (FCPF and / or UN-REDD), Reforms and Investments (UN-REDD, FIP) and the Global REDD fund/market (UNFCCC). Indonesia has been involved in all three mechanisms. In 2007, The Indonesia Forest and Climate Alliance (IFCA) conducted a study on REDD in Indonesia, and came out later with a consolidated report titled: IFCA Consolidation Report: REDD, MoFor, 2008. Since Indonesia never submitted an R-PIN to the FCPF, the IFCA Studies and Report has been used as the reference and base for its R-PLAN submitted to the FCPF in May 2009. The first draft of Indonesia’s FCPF R-Plan was dated 16 October 2008, then after having some revisions, the second draft was finalized in May 2009 in time for a Technical Advisory Panel’s (TAP) review and FCPF Participant Committee Meeting in June 2009. Based on the Synthesis Review by TAP members, 2 June 2009, some critical issues were raised on the contents of the R- PLAN. In particular, the consultative process and participation by civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities, has been highly questioned. The TAP members also highlighted the compensatory fast growing timber plantation resource by small holders and the prominent type of land use in Indonesia represented by oil palm plantations. Issues on policies and engagement between government departments were also raised. Indonesia’s R-PLAN was not approved in the meeting.

The total estimate cost for investment and capacity building requirements reflected in the R-Plan is 4 billion USD. Indonesia’s R-Plan was again set for discussion in the FCPF Participant Committee Meeting in Montreux, 16-18 June 2009. The Participant Committee Draft Resolution for approval of Indonesia’s R-Plan will be forwarded to the members of Participant Committee around mid-July to be approved on a no-objection basis. If there’s no consensus on the R-Plan, it will then have to go to a vote in the Fourth Participant Committee Meeting in October 2009.

Regarding the UN-REDD, the Board Members have approved Indonesia’s proposal with a total budget of 5,644,250 USD for the first phase in the First Policy Board Meeting of UN-REDD held in Panama on 9-10 March 2009. Indonesia, together with other UN-REDD program countries, made a presentation on the progress of the program. Indonesia’s report was acknowledged as a comprehensive National Joint Program, although issues on consultation processes and the involvement of civil society and indigenous peoples remain as serious concerns. A representative of the government of Indonesia is also a Board Member of the Forest Investment Program (FIP) of the World Bank. However, the FIP is yet to finish the design of the Investment Programme later in July. Information on the status of the proposal of Indonesia to the FIP, and the processes to be taken at the national level is not yet made available.

REDD in the Lao PDR

The Lao PDR signed UNFCCC on 4/4/1995 and Kyoto Protocol in 2003 and is a Non Annex I Party of the UNFCCC. It submitted its R-PIN on June 12, 2008 and was approved in August 2008. According to the Lao PDR R-PIN, the forested area in Laos decreased from 11.2 million ha in 1992 to 9.8 million in 2002 with an average loss of 134,000 ha per annum, which is equivalent to 0.6 % of the total land area. The main drivers of deforestation are identified as shifting cultivation, commercial tree plantations (such as agar wood and rubber), illegal logging and loss of land to infrastructure, mostly hydropower dams. The underlying causes for these continuing activities are poverty of local farmers, the demand of neighboring countries for timber products, weak implementation of laws due to lack of resources, and corruption.

The government manages natural forests that are classified as production forests, protection forests or conservation forests through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry/ Department of Forestry and its local line agencies. Production forests are managed with the participation of village forest organizations receiving benefits from log sales. Village forests are allocated to villagers for their own uses. Degraded forest land can be allocated to rural households for tree planting or leased to investors for tree/crop plantations as land concessions. Planted trees belong to planters.

Engagement of communities in REDD in activities includes voluntary participation of villages in the emission reduction plan and activities based on land use plans and land titling, including phasing out of slash and burn cultivation, sustainable management of village forests, tree planting and/or enrichment planting in watershed areas or degraded common land, village based forest fire control, etc. There is also mention of developing participatory management plans with local villagers for multiple uses of protection, conservation and production forests.

The R-Pin states that village forest is classified into categories (production, protection, conservation, etc.) and that village rules on use of these forests are agreed upon between villages and local authorities. Customary use of forest resources by these people is authorized in the Forestry Law. It also mentions that the land and forest allocation program is under improvement to make it more participatory. A National REDD Coordination Committee (NRCC) consisting of government ministries and agencies concerned is proposed. The NRCC will make decisions on important issues regarding REDD and ensure cross-sectoral coordination. REDD Coordination Committees will be set up at provincial and district levels. The Government – Donor Working Group on Forestry (FSWG) consisting of concerned government organizations, main donors, NGO representatives and private sector representatives will serve as forum for consultation with other stakeholders. Consultation with forest-dwelling indigenous peoples will be made mainly through implementation of the concerned REDD programs.

REDD in Nepal

Nepal submitted its R-PIN to the FCPF in April 2008, and it was accepted by the FCPF in July of the same year. Nepal is currently working on the R-Plan with funding from the FCPF. A newly established Climate Change Cell under the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation is in charge of formulating the R-PLAN. Interestingly, the R-PIN states that deforestation in Nepal is directly linked to nationalization of the forests, with a remarkable increase in deforestation after the 1957 nationalization of forests in the country. It also indicates that the future REDD-programmes should build on the community-based management model that is by now well established in the country. Researchers have already made calculations on the carbon stock available in community managed forests, and based on this, estimated how much money trading of these carbon stocks would raise for communities. These estimates show that communities who decide to engage in carbon-trading have a potential for earning much more money in this way, than what they currently gain from trading in non-timber forest products coming form their community forests.25 From a poverty alleviation perspective this is a good argument for promoting REDD in Nepal. For indigenous peoples, however, it underlines the overwhelming importance of securing their tenure and use rights to forest areas, their active engagement in both national level planning and policy making for future REDD programmes, and some sort of safeguard securing their active participation in the local forest governance structures that will be the vehicles for future REDD projects. If these issues are not addressed properly, REDD threatens to exacerbate existing inequalities, and further marginalize indigenous peoples.

The R-PIN does mention that there is a risk that REDD benefits will be diverted through corruption, and that excluded groups must be empowered to address discriminatory practices in society to ensure that REDD benefits reach them. But it does not discuss the issue of indigenous peoples’ intrinsic right to their traditional lands, territories and the resources therein, their right to free, prior and informed consent with regard to how these territories are managed, their right to practice traditional livelihoods if they so wish, and to manage and control their internal affairs through traditional governance structures and in general be actively involved in all decision-making that affects them. Rights that are all enshrined in ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ratified by Nepal in 2007), and in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In general, there is not a single reference in the R-PIN to the international human rights framework. How these crucial issues are addressed in the R-PLAN is something indigenous peoples need to monitor closely. With the R-PIN’s stated commitment to implement a forestry sector programme in a manner that is participatory and user-based, and anchored in the decentralized governance of an envisaged federal Nepal, there is a good point of departure for indigenous rights advocacy in then context of Nepal’s REDD programme. Furthermore, the country’s recent ratification of ILO Convention 169 sets a strong framework for advocating indigenous peoples’ rights in the context of REDD in Nepal.

REDD in Vietnam

The Vietnam government, through the Department of Forestry and International Cooperation Department, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) submitted their Readiness Plan Idea Note (R-PIN) to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) on March 8, 2008. The FCPF accepted the R-PIN of Vietnam, and the R-PLAN will be due in September for deliberation on October 2009. As stated in the R-PIN "The Central Highlands (Tay Nguyen) and upland areas of the North Central provinces will be the focus of a future REDD program. These areas are home to a large proportion of Vietnam’s ethnic minority communities. These communities have strong cultural associations with forest areas and depend on them for their livelihoods to a greater extent than the majority Kinh community, as sources of food, fuel, construction and agricultural implements. Many communities have practiced swidden agriculture for generations and include forest products in livestock fodder and bedding. Indigenous minorities account for about 10% of Vietnam’s population, or approximately 8 million people. About 90% of these communities inhabit rural areas.

Forestland allocation to local people has been proceeding since the late 1980s but most of the land allocated has been bare or degraded land subsequently converted to plantation forests. Natural forests have largely been retained under the tenure and management of local government agencies. Under the 5 million hectare reforestation project (Project 661) some local communities have been awarded forest protection contracts for natural forest areas. Since 2006 MARD has implemented a pilot community forestry program in ten provinces nationally, including some in the Tay Nguyen and North Central zones. This will result in greater involvement of local communities in natural forest management and decentralization of forest tenure. Prior to 2006, allocation of natural forest areas was primarily to individual households." While the R-PIN recognizes the historical stewardship of ethnic minorities over forestlands, and the lack of tenure as a major contributory factor for de-forestation, it is of critical importance for ethnic minorities on how the recognition of land rights will be implemented under REDD.

Community Based Forest Management

The R-PIN highlights the national pilot project for community forestry in forty communes including in the mountainous areas that are the targeted areas for REDD. This project is expected to be the source of recommendations for the establishment of a clear legal framework and benefit sharing system for community forest management. Further, community forestry is seen as key tool in combating forest degradation by providing "clear and long-term financial incentives to engage actively in sustainable forest management and forest protection". This plan does not however make explicit reference to traditional forest management systems of ethnic minorities, and it is noteworthy if this will come out in the evaluation of the pilot project sites in the mountainous areas.