Opening opportunities for indigenous peoples through forest certification

The World Bank estimates that about 60 million indigenous people are almost wholly dependent on forests and forest resources.

There is a clear link between the loss of indigenous peoples’ lands and the discrimination and disempowerment of indigenous communities. The loss of forests threatens the way of life and the very livelihoods of the indigenous communities that live and work in forests and forest landscapes.

For many indigenous communities facing socio-economic exclusion, the contribution that forests and trees can make to improving their livelihoods will help address inequality.

Forest certification as a way forward
In recent years, indigenous communities have made significant progress in securing acknowledgement of their human rights and the property rights for their land and their traditional knowledge. Forest certification has the potential to enhance this positive development and further the recognition of indigenous rights.

The PEFC Sustainability Benchmarks require that areas fundamental to meeting the needs of indigenous peoples and local communities, such as health and subsistence, shall be protected or managed in a way that takes due regard of the significance of the site.

Furthermore, our benchmarks require that forest management shall give due regard to the role of forestry in local economies. Special consideration shall be given to new opportunities for training and employment of local people, including indigenous peoples.

Indigenous people are also one of PEFC’s nine major standard setting stakeholder groups, ensuring they are able to contribute to the development of forest certification at national level.

What does this mean on the ground?
What we describe in theory in our standards has substantial effects for indigenous peoples around the globe. For example, in Chile, PEFC/CERTFOR certification ensures that indigenous Mapuche people can enter private forests and collect wild fruits and medicinal herbs, securing a livelihood as gatherers.

In Malaysia, PEFC/MTCS certification requires that the legal and customary rights of indigenous peoples are recognized and respected. In Gabon, children from local and Pygmy communities have increased access to education thanks to PAFC/PEFC certification.

Indigenous Peoples across North America are empowering their communities through responsible forest management that is rooted in their cultural values and traditional practices. 40 indigenous groups adopt, support and utilize the certification of SFI, one of our PEFC-endorsed national systems. Over 4 million hectares of forests owned or managed by indigenous peoples are certified to SFI standards.

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