Climate Change and Low Carbon Development Initiatives

Kamana mountain scene, Region 8

Initiatives designed to reduce emissions from forest degradation and deforestation (REDD+ programs) are moving quickly in Guyana, and these will have a direct impact on indigenous peoples who occupy most of the forested interior of the country. The government states that it has consulted with indigenous communities, but these ‘consultations’ were inadequate – the meetings were held for groupings of communities for an average of two hours, no information was given in advance, and very technical information was given at the time of ‘consultation’.  While it has been reported that the government’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) (linked to the REDD programs) has widespread support from indigenous and non-indigenous communities alike, many indigenous communities have said that they understand little about the initiative. The information provided was clearly beyond the comprehension of most leaders who have therefore been unable to return to their communities to tell their constituents about it in any detail.  Representatives from 66 communities – almost half of all indigenous communities in Guyana – who attended the Amerindian Peoples Association’s General Assembly in May 2011, stated “None of the communities represented during this Assembly consider that they have been adequately consulted on the LCDS and REDD+”.

Indigenous communities throughout Guyana have demanded that all outstanding land and territorial issues be resolved before any LCDS/REDD+ projects that may affect customary lands and resources can proceed.  Despite government claims that land rights and  the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are included in the national LCDS and REDD+ programs, communities are concerned that they will not be adequately addressed and that FPIC is restricted to titled lands only.  For example, a draft Project Document for an Amerindian Land Titling Project submitted by the MOAA and UNDP to the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) in early 2011 was not based on prior consultation, and for the most part did not call for community engagement, decision making, participation, or use of community mapping initiatives or other initiatives.  It did not meet international standards and safeguards for indigenous peoples’ rights, and indeed is based on the faulty procedures set out in the Amerindian Act, as described above.  Finally, it did not establish a clear and fair process for describing which areas would be eligible for recognition, or when.  The project  proposal has apparently been revised but it is yet to be seen if it will address the concerns described above.   Given past practice, communities are concerned that if carried out improperly, a land titling and demarcation exercise could provoke increased conflicts and problems, and would not adequately settle long-held demands for land and territorial rights.

The Low Carbon Development Strategy Concept Paper, May 2010

“Opt In Mechanism Concept Paper”