10-point community forestry rights declaration announced
July 3, 2015 – Manila, Philippines. More than 40 representatives of local communities and support groups from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam declared in a recently concluded meeting that community forest rights’ holders must fully own and manage their community forests to succeed in combating deforestation, climate change and poverty in rural areas.
In addition, participants also agreed that community forestry will only be fully successful if access, use, management, exclusion and alienation rights, are provided with technical, financial, legal, material and human resources support from various sectors and stakeholders, and if the rules and regulations that govern these rights would be subject to the principles of self-determination.
The meeting was highlighted by a field visit to one of the successful community forestry sites in the Philippines – the Kalahan Educational Foundation, Inc. (KEF) in Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines, about 200 kms. North of Manila. KEF is run and managed by the Ikalahan indigenous people, or the people from the ‘broad-leaf’ trees. The Ikalahans are managing their 14,000-ha ancestral domain by virtue of their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title awarded under the 1997 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of the Philippines.
The 5-day event was capped by a draft 10-point community forestry rights declaration which touched on the following issues: prioritization of CF as sustainable forest management approach; the full recognition and protection of their rights including indigenous peoples’ rights; quality of forests and forest lands being awarded to local communities; grievance mechanism and conflict management and resolution; recognition and respect for local and traditional livelihood practices including support to move beyond subsistence; effective and active participation of local communities in policy and decision making processes; and inclusion and active participation of women and marginalized groups in decision-making processes. The Declaration is scheduled to be released and shared during the World Forestry Congress in September in Durban, South Africa.
The Global Alliance of Community Forestry Asia agreed to use the Declaration as a common standard of achievement for all its members in the pursuit of fair and equal rights for all forest-dependent communities in Asia and beyond, to fully exercise the rights that are already at hand and fight for the rights that still need to be recognized, respected and formalized.
The week-long meeting, organized by RECOFTC-The Center for People and Forests, Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program Philippines (NTFP-EP Philippines), Global Alliance of Community Forestry (GACF) and FAOs Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) from June 29-July 3, 2015, was aimed at strengthening community forest users associations and securing community forest rights in the region.