FPIC protocol a priority for accountable and transparent forest monitoring

A video presentation on the importance of FPIC protocol from the residents of Bethany Village.

The Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) continued to stress the importance of adhering to the practices of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) when approaching indigenous villages with project proponents. This was done at the Association’s closing activity of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) funded project entitled Supporting priority actions for Amerindian communities to participate in the Guyana Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process. The event was held at the Cara Lodge Hotel, Georgetown, on Tuesday with representatives from various organisations, agencies, non-governmental organisations and villages from across Guyana.
The main objective of this project was to equip Amerindian villages with the tools to design, develop and test approaches to community-based independent monitoring mechanisms within the extractive timber sector. Another component of the project was focused on developing a local protocol on FPIC which communities can use to engage with external parties that have interests in their resources. This project was initiated with the aim of supporting legally compliant timber supply chains under the European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (EU-FLEGT) Guyana VPA initiative.
The project was launched in November 2016 with a grant of US$70,000. The launch included a national workshop where community leaders from various parts of Guyana brainstormed ideas for FPIC protocol and forest monitoring frameworks. At that workshop it was decided that Bethany Village, Region 2, would be the pilot community to develop those frameworks.
Forest Policy Officer, Michael McGarrell, explained that over the last year the APA has been working with two teams of 12 persons from Bethany who were selected at the village’s general meeting. These persons were guided in developing the village’s FPIC protocol and a monitoring framework that they can then implement. They were then mandated by their entire village to develop project documents which were then approved, with the necessary consultations, at their village general meeting. On Monday before the closing activity, Bethany village presented to representatives of other villages from Regions 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9 in Georgetown at a final workshop facilitated by the Association to discuss the project documents and see how they can adapt it to suit their various communities.
In his address at the activity closing, FAO Country Representative, Reuben Robertson explained that his organization aims to promote sustainable forestry through building the capacity of community residents. “The FAO along with the EU and its supporters have agreed to provide the technical capacity for communities with the help of organisations,” said Robertson. He noted that these projects must be conducted through systems that promote accountable and sustainable practices.
Presentations were also made by Bethany residents Roel Wilson and Nolan Marslow on the documents the teams developed on FPIC protocol and their monitoring framework. These documents were distributed at this workshop so that the representatives can take it back to their villages. The documents aim to inform communities on the rights they are entitled to when engaging with the extractive sector, especially with regard to logging, and the steps they can take to hold external parties accountable to their practices.

Roel Wilson of Bethany Village presenting their FAO project document on following FPIC practices to village representatives from Regions 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9.

Wilson explained that there are many instances whereby Amerindian communities have experienced negative impacts from projects that purported to have positive intentions. “It should be decided by us that we have received enough information and enough time to decide whether a proposed project is good for our communities. They have to respect our rights,” affirmed Wilson.
President of the APA, Mario Hastings said that there needs to be the participation and full inclusion of indigenous peoples in projects that directly affect their customary lands. “Many indigenous communities live in the forest. We live there, we hunt there, we fish there, we farm there,” said the President. He explained that as a result of the FAO project Bethany is now in a better position to articulate the problems that they face and find solutions to solve those problems. Furthermore, Hastings said that the role of indigenous peoples in the FLEGT-VPA process must be underscored as “it has been proven that we are the best at monitoring and protecting our forests and our lands”.