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"Partners" trapped in REDD? Loss of territorial rights with “REDD” and “Sociobosque / Sociopáramo”



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By Ivonne Ramos

REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is a mechanism by which countries and polluting industries in the North, far from reducing their emissions of polluting gases, increase them. Is it possible that we allow that under the pretext of "protecting the environment" a few counterfeiters, whose greed knows no limits, apply in our countries the so-called REDD projects, which still seek to take away from indigenous peoples their elementary means of survival?


REDD, Socio Bosque and Socio Páramo mean the loss of territorial rights that peoples have over their territories, forests, water, and biological diversity, as well as over their ancestral knowledge. One of the objectives pursued by the Socio Bosque / Socio Páramo program is to position Ecuador as a provider of environmental services in the international market.

In order to negotiate carbon, water and biodiversity in the UN REDD mechanisms, the Ministry of the Environment has to meet certain requirements such as having developed a Joint National Plan for REDD, the endorsement of indigenous organizations and guaranteeing through legally binding association agreements the ownership of the services that would be commercialized.

Only in this way does the current Ecuadorian government intend to access UN-REDD funds (4 million dollars committed by the United Nations). In order to comply with the commitments, the government must accelerate the processes of elaboration of appropriate laws for the application of REDD: the Environmental Organic Code, the secondary regulation of Article 74 of the Constitution on environmental services, and of course the adaptation of Complementary laws such as Public Security that would guarantee that the areas that enter the environmental services market -categorized within strategic sectors- can be intervened in the event of threats.

The first phase stipulated in the UN REDD project projects that by 2013 Ecuador should have completed the implementation of the REDD mechanism. This implies applying what is known as “readiness to REDD” (readiness - readiness - for REDD) through the involvement of local institutions and actors. It is expected that by 2014, institutions and local actors should have widely promoted REDD. This implies pretending the participation of indigenous peoples by developing an information process for communities and local actors.

But we all know how these processes occur that only serve to endorse decisions already taken. The Ministry of the Environment requires the endorsement of important indigenous organizations in the country, such as CONAIE and its regional organizations, obtained through meetings to provide mere information on REDD plans and projects.

What is REDD?

REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is a mechanism by which countries and polluting industries in the North, far from reducing their emissions of polluting gases into the atmosphere, increase them. And all this giving public opinion the image that with this formula the environment is protected.

At the meeting on climate change in Cancun, Mexico in December 2010, as expected, there was no binding agreement from the industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What was outlined was the path to achieve REDD, which allows the world's forests to be included in the carbon market as a false solution to climate change.

Without shame, the United Nations points out that REDD is an effort to create a financial value from the carbon stored in forests - meaning creating a new commodity to put on the financial market. In addition, a plus is added, since REDD + goes beyond deforestation or forest degradation and includes conservation and the so-called “sustainable management of forests and forest carbon storage”. The latter can even be interpreted as an increase in plantations since the definition of a “forest” in the United Nations includes forest plantations.

The REDD + project not only favors the privatization of the atmosphere, but also subjects the countries of the South to new forms of appropriation of their forests and biodiversity. In this way, control of the territories will go to the hands of polluters, carbon market speculators or merchants of environmental services.

Laws in Ecuador become REDDes

In the country, the Ministry of the Environment is promoting the Ecuador UN-REDD National Program (PNE) that aims to consolidate the preparation phase for the development of the REDD + mechanism in Ecuador.

One of the expected results of the PNE is the design of policies and instruments for the implementation of REDD. According to the document of the Ecuador National Program, the Ministry of the Environment "leads" the process to define the corresponding regulations, to regulate Article 74 of the Constitution, which establishes that "Environmental services shall not be subject to appropriation; its production, provision, use and exploitation will be regulated by the State ”. In its paragraph No. 30 the PNE says:

“Art. 74 of the Constitution calls on the State to regulate the production, provision, use and exploitation of environmental services (SA). In some way then, it can be argued that the character that has been given to SA in the Constitution is similar to that applied to the strategic resources of the State such as: hydrocarbons and minerals. This gives recognition to the strategic nature of environmental services for their contribution to the economy and society as a whole ”.

According to the PNE, it is clearly stated in paragraph 32 that the Ministry's objectives are to regulate environmental services, of which 3 have been prioritized: “hydrological regulation, including flow regulation, reduction of risks of landslides and floods, reduction of sediments and erosion, maintenance of water quality and recharge of aquifers; (2) the provision of habitat that facilitates the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and; (3) the regulation of greenhouse gases, for example the fixation and storage of carbon and other greenhouse gases ”.

Biodiversity, water and carbon in vegetation therefore receive the same treatment as non-renewable resources such as oil and minerals, despite the great difference between them.

Biodiversity is a broad concept that includes:

* Genes and all the variety that exists in the same species. This includes all the rich agrobiodiversity of Ecuador: the seeds and the bases for the reproduction of animal species, all elements on which the subsistence of the peoples depends.

* The species. They include a large number of useful species that are used in harvesting, hunting or fishing processes and that are very important in the popular economy.

* Ecosystems, which are the material basis of life in communities, where water is generated, useful species are protected and the ecological balance is maintained in general. Furthermore, above all, they constitute the territory of peoples, nationalities and communities.

With the alleged regulation, Article 74 of the Constitution is contrary to its spirit, which prevents any form of appropriation of environmental services. In practice, they would be seeking deprivation of access and privatization, and profit from the purchase and sale of water, biodiversity and all vegetation that contains stored carbon.


Another legal instrument that is coupled with this is the Environmental Code, whose draft states, among other things, that “The National Environmental Authority will design and propose for its issuance, within the framework of the provisions contained in Article 74 of the Constitution, complementary regulations to regulate its production, provision, use and exploitation. Mainly we can cite some articles that point to the aforementioned: the creation of "mechanisms of economic, cultural and social incentives for people, communities, peoples and nationalities, for the protection and maintenance of environmental services", "the rights that their use and exploitation correspond to the State, as the sole owner of the same, in the event that their provision is in charge of third parties "," The establishment of rights for the collection of those that are provided by its own management "," The protection of ecosystems that provide environmental services ”.

Regarding the definition of environmental services, the Environmental Code makes such a broad definition that an environmental service may still be the one determined by the technical standard in the future.

“They are environmental services… the diversity of ecosystems, natural and managed. They can be environmental, ecological, social, cultural, spiritual or economic ”...

Numeral 5 already clearly indicates the intention to make the State the owner of environmental services. Here we can affirm that "owner" is someone who has a right in their favor, and owns something, in this case environmental services, and has dominion over them.

In this way, all the functions of nature - and even the cultural and economic heritage of the peoples - will be the domain of the State. Which may, as with other "services", sell, give in concession, assign rights, privatize, etc. The purpose is to turn this cultural and natural heritage of the peoples into merchandise. This is clear in Article 187 of the draft Code.

“The National Environmental Authority is responsible for estimating environmental services and issuing titles of any nature, be these certificates, bonds or others, the form of commercialization and the mechanisms for their collection for the benefit of the State. Likewise, the establishment of rights for the collection of those that are provided by their own management ”.

It continues, in its Art. 190, "The State may establish agreements and mechanisms with other states, or with other natural or legal persons, in pursuit of fair and equitable compensation and recognition for the environmental services provided to the national community." In other words, the State can carry out the pertinent negotiations with the heritage of the peoples, thus contradicting the Constitution of Ecuador and the international agreements that protect indigenous peoples.

On the other hand, the National Development Plan plans to expand protected areas from 18% to 35% of the national territory. Local governments (provincial councils, mayors, etc.) may create protected areas. Individuals may take control of the protected areas. Most of these areas are in indigenous territories. The authority over these areas is the Ministry of the Environment, which can even take away the ownership of the territories from said peoples, if they do not comply with the management plan imposed by the Ministry.

Furthermore, the figure of fragile ecosystems is created in moorlands, humid forests and dry forests where indigenous peoples live. Compulsory - even against their will - they must accept the authority of the Ministry of the Environment, which will impose a management plan that they must comply with. Otherwise, they will be subject to the penalties imposed by the Ministry, which includes the loss of ownership of the territory. This figure of fragile ecosystems is created with the aim of opening the so-called “ecological corridors” (territories to unite protected areas among themselves).

From what has been said, it can be inferred that the Ministry of the Environment stands, by itself and before itself, as the only authority in those territories, with the capacity to take away rights of use, management, control -and even ownership- of the peoples living in those territories. Likewise, the ability to grant rights over them to companies, NGOs and legal entities or individuals is reserved.

In practice, conservation, understood by government plans, means the dispossession of the communities' rights to their lands and territories.

Socioforest and Sociopáramo

In Ecuador, REDD claims even contemplate the “voluntary waiver” of the rights of the peoples over their territories through the signing of the Socio Bosque and Socio Páramo contracts, with a 20-year duration - renewable for 20 more years. automatically and indefinitely! -. The adherents to the agreement must sign an affidavit at the beginning of the contract, each year, and as many times as the Ministry deems necessary.

The commitments of the sworn declaration imply the resignation, by the native peoples, to the use, control and management of their own territory. In this case also, the management of the territory passes from the community authority to the environmental authority. It also guarantees the maintenance of the moorland or forest in the same conditions as they were at the signing of the contract. It also implies that the signer uses his money exactly in the way he promised in the investment plan. Failure to comply with the declaration means "perjury" whose penalty can be jail.

The Socio Bosque project affects collective rights over the territories because it limits access and traditional use (agriculture, hunting or fishing) to forest user peoples; establishes a situation of encumbrance when making any transfer of domain, since it forces you to continue with the contract. Also, in the event of early departure from the contract by the communities, they are obliged to return the money received. The sanctions for non-compliance by the communities are criminal, civil and administrative. Likewise, they renounce their judicial domicile and submit to the ordinary justice in Quito. Additionally, the communities are subject to new norms and regulatory frameworks that the Ministry will create for this purpose in the future. In this way, the Ministry safeguards the possibility of negotiating environmental services in these territories in the future.

It is striking that one of the prerogatives of the Socio Bosque and Socio Páramo projects is to not allow native communities to develop productive activities within their territories, in no way does it mean a commitment by the State not to carry out extractive activities such as oil. and mining at project boundaries.

The intention of the Ministry is to achieve control over 4 million hectares of forests and 800,000 hectares of moorlands. This will allow the State to enter the REDD negotiations and the international carbon, biodiversity and water market. Until the end of 2010, the Ministry reports that they have managed to compromise around 700 thousand hectares, and more than 50 indigenous communities.

REDD and the Public Security Law

The Public Security Law insists on the nature of biodiversity as a strategic resource. What will happen if the communities that have been custodians of that heritage for centuries do not agree with the government's plans for the use of biodiversity or water? Will these communities be treated the same as those that oppose mining and will they also be labeled "terrorists"?

"Art. 42.- On the Regulation of strategic sectors of State security.- Strategic sectors of State security are those provided for in the Constitution… "

At the request of the Public and State Security Council, the Ministry of Security Coordination, or whoever acts in its place, will issue the corresponding report on the impacts on State security that have been generated or may be generated by the activities concerning the sectors strategic.

Art. 43.- On the protection of facilities and infrastructure.

The Minister of National Defense, in the face of critical insecurity circumstances that endanger or seriously endanger the management of public and private companies responsible for the management of strategic sectors, will instruct the Armed Forces to take preventive measures for the protection of facilities and infrastructure necessary to guarantee its normal operation.

This means that if the Organic Environmental Code and the application of REDD were approved in Ecuador, the rights of the peoples would be even more violated. Can we attend impassively and in silence to this ritual of cynical dispossession of all kinds of rights over our own territory, and, fundamentally, of the vulnerability of the human beings that inhabit it?

Can we remain inactive - and still complicit - in the face of ecological tragedy and the stripping of all kinds of guarantees for communities that have always been the only safeguards of national and global habitat?

Is it possible that we allow - horrendous irony! - that under the pretext of "protecting the environment" a few counterfeiters, whose greed knows no limits, apply in our countries the so-called REDD projects, which still try to snatch their elementals from indigenous peoples means of survival?

Ivonne Ramos - www.accionecologica.org

Attached documents of interest:

UN-REDD Program Document of the National Program- Ecuador. Presented at Da Lat- Vietnam, March 2011
http://www.accionecologica.org/images/2005/servicios/gobierno/unredd.pdf

Draft Environmental Code
http://www.accionecologica.org/images/2005/servicios/gobierno/codigo%20ambiental.pdf

Socio Bosque Operating Manual
http://www.accionecologica.org/images/2005/servicios/gobierno/manual.pdf

Execution Agreement for the Socio Páramo Project
http://www.accionecologica.org/images/2005/servicios/gobierno/convenio%20ejec.pdf

Affidavit of the Socio Bosque Project
http://www.accionecologica.org/images/2005/servicios/gobierno/declaracion%20juram.pdf

Agreement for the execution of the Socio Bosque Project
http://www.accionecologica.org/images/2005/servicios/gobierno/convenio%20bosques.pdf


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