By Kimberly Gill, Clea Paz-Rivera, Nina Kantcheva, Madeline Craig
The onset and swift spread of COVID-19 is causing grave consequences for indigenous peoples and local communities around the world. This zoonotic disease is the result of increased contact between humans and wildlife when it’s moved outside its natural habitats. Humanity’s broken relationship with nature is evident in the continuation of wildlife trafficking, deforestation, and industrial agriculture– and the expansion of these practices will only lead to further public health crises. Deforestation poses a serious risk to climate, biodiversity, and human health as forests provide key services such as global food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, natural disaster protection, and water security, among others. As forests continue to be destroyed and as regulations weaken with the onset of this pandemic, the indigenous peoples who largely preserve and manage them face increased challenges and inequalities, further curbing progress towards global public health, well-being, and security.
For indigenous peoples and local communities, the impacts of COVID-19 are exceptionally diverse and multidimensional. Generations of economic and political marginalization including discrimination, forced displacement and environmental violence have contributed to communities’ distinct vulnerabilities.
Climate change related forest fires and flooding are among the key factors impeding the resilience of their close relationship to ancestral territories. Encroachment on indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ lands, degradation of their forests, and weak enforcement of their human rights have also contributed to the erosion of their cultures, values, and lifestyles.
Survival International reports that governments are now using the spread of COVID-19 to open additional pathways into the forests for logging and mining purposes. According to FAO, it is expected that the COVID-19 crisis will increase the forest sector’s demands on resources, whereby legal activities may be sacrificed for quick economic gains. They also warn that reduced monitoring activities of forest resources on the ground might increase tenure conflicts and land grabbing which could further exacerbate impacts on indigenous peoples and local communities and forests.
In addition to these sustained pressures, indigenous peoples and local communities must now protect themselves from the disease’s expansion, secure access to already scarce food and healthcare, and, when available, seek out government aid. Alarmingly, more than 500 cases from 38 indigenous groups and 103 deaths due to COVID-19 were reported in Brazil alone, including isolated groups in the Amazon.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the United Nations Development Programme and other UN agencies are mobilizing to help stakeholders prepare, respond, and recover while country offices are responding to the emergency through existing and new programs. NGOs, advocacy groups, and indigenous peoples’ coalitions have implemented emergency response and are setting up funds to help distribute resources. Indigenous peoples and local communities are also mobilizing themselves to share resources and information and have convened virtual gatherings and events to communicate and emphasize the importance of this issue. Through outreach conducted by UNDP’s Global Programme on Nature for Development and the New York Declaration on Forests, indigenous peoples and local communities around the world shared their concerns. These concerns mainly focused on health and wellbeing, including a lack of adequate healthcare, hygiene supplies, and culturally relevant and language-appropriate health guidelines on COVID-19.
Many ancestral territories are located in remote areas, and some have indicated that their communities have closed themselves off entirely in order to protect elders, their most vulnerable members. In these cases, it is even more challenging to obtain vital services and resources. Fear, combined with a lack of information, has kept some individuals from seeking the medical care they need outside of the community and some share that relief assistance is not sufficient.
The spread of COVID-19 has also significantly impacted indigenous peoples’ local economies. The closure of borders and sometimes entire industries such as tourism and domestic services, has significantly reduced their access to income. Restrictions on mobility and public market closures have also impeded agricultural activities and cut off workers and families alike from staple resources such as water, firewood, food, and medicine.
As is so often the case, indigenous women are at a unique intersection of these risks. Often responsible for the transfer of ancestral knowledge and the preservation of traditional food systems and medicine, they are integral to the continuation of indigenous culture. Yet, according to a UNDP and FAO’s webinar on COVID-19 challenges for rural territories through a gender lens, indigenous women experience greater domestic violence, food, and nutritional insecurities. They also face significantly weaker physical, economic, and political autonomy. Support to local communities must include gender mainstreaming and support the effective inclusion of women and girls.
To heal the human-nature divide and ensure that no one is left behind, global threats such as pandemics and deforestation require a collaborative and inclusive response. Special consideration for those who are most vulnerable must be given and recovery related decision-making must include indigenous peoples and local communities’ full and effective participation. Priority must be placed on strengthening communities’ resilience so they can preserve their own health, rights, and livelihoods while protecting forests. For guidance on providing intersectional support to indigenous peoples during this crisis FAO and UNDESA, among others, have shared suggested actions and solutions.
Indigenous peoples and local communities live in and manage the healthiest ecosystems on Earth. They steward more than one quarter of all land, at least 36% of the world’s remaining intact forests, and about 80% of global biodiversity. The NYDF Assessment Report on governance (NYDF Goal 10) illustrates that when indigenous peoples and local communities hold secure rights to their land and forests, forests are less likely to be destroyed or degraded. The New York Declaration on Forests targets to halt deforestation by 2030 and restore degraded forest lands, endorsed by over 200 governments, companies, and civil society institutions, cannot be achieved without the full recognition of indigenous peoples and local communities’ rights.
If the global community is to achieve the NYDF goals, including Goal 10 to strengthen forest governance, empower communities, and recognize the rights of indigenous peoples, coordinated and inclusive international action is essential to support them through this crisis and beyond. With indigenous peoples as essential guardians of the forest, continued action to recognize their rights and protect them from the impacts of the virus, will accelerate the achievement of the NYDF goals.
Kimberly Gill - Programme Assistant, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Engagement, UNDP
Clea Paz-Rivera - Senior Programme Manager, Climate and Forests Programme & Nature for Development Programme, UNDP
Nina Kantcheva - Senior Policy Adviser, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Engagement, UNDP
Madeline Craig - Programme Analyst, New York Declaration on Forests, Nature for Development Programme, UNDP
By Stasiek Cabezas
This article was previously published on 23 March 2020 on the Climate Focus Blog.
The measures being taken in some parts of the world to reduce the spread of the coronavirus – while obviously necessary to defeat the contagion – are starting to raise multiple concerns beyond public health. In particular, the uncertainty of spillovers effects on global trade and specifically food supplies can cause people and markets to act out of panic.
The extent to which our food supply chains will be affected by the pandemic depends on the economic measures taken as well as their duration. However, there are already initial reports and analysis on the virus and its impact on China’s meat market and trade and as well as resulting effects on tropical forests which merit some reflection.
After the first cases of coronavirus were reported, the price of pork rose across China, whereas the beef, chicken and lamb prices remained stable. Pork is the most consumed meat in China, and the recent shortages due to swine fever are still fresh in the memory. Fears of another pork shortfall led Chinese consumers to buy up and stockpile whatever pork was available, driving up prices. The government reacted quickly and controlled the rise by releasing massive amounts of pork from its reserves into the market. Overall, the disruptions of the food supply due to coronavirus were minor, and the fears turned out to be ill-founded.
Though China did not face major disruptions in its pork supply chain, the changes in Chinese demand and market measures may have some indirect impact on tropical rainforests. There are still many unresolved questions regarding the spillover effects that global measures and collective behavior might have beyond immediate food supply effects. However, we know that global markets have an important effect on regional deforestation dynamics.
Episodes such as the swine fever and the US-China trade war evidenced that disruption and adjustment of agricultural commodities supply chains can have unforeseen impacts on the economic drivers of deforestation. For example, as a result of the US-China trade conflict, the Chinese shifted their soy imports from the US to Brazil, which generated a premium of up to USD 90 per ton for Brazilian soy. The positive prospects for Brazilian soy exports led to a clearing of forests for cattle and soy expansion in Brazil.
In the first months of 2020, due to the corona crisis, trade flows between China and its partners suffered delays and re-directing, even though soybean imports in the first two months of 2020 rose by 14.2% year-on-year as cargoes from the U.S. booked during a trade truce at the end of 2019 cleared customs. As the transport of refrigerated meat containers from ports to other facilities slowed down, Chinese ports had limited space to receive more refrigerated containers and shipments were delayed.
There are also indications of reduced meat imports from different regions of the world, notably the US, which had hoped to resume its exports after having settled the conflict with China, and Argentina, which due to the virus did not manage to agree with China on a price. In other regions, the crisis has generated spikes in meat exports to China, notably exports from Brazil   and from Australia. However, their delivery is now facing bottlenecks mentioned before.
In many cases the uncertainty of what will happen and how long the crisis will last does not allow for supply chain actors to make long-term decisions. Meat and livestock futures markets are now reaching a ten-year low due to concerns that the coronavirus may impact the demand for meat. On top of that, the world economy is now slowly being infected by the coronavirus spillover effects which will have other type of ramifications for agricultural commodities supply chains (e.g. investments, profits, etc.).
Although it is still very early for conclusive evidence, this should signal to markets the need to cut the volumes of meat supplied to the main consumer markets. However, it remains unknown how much demand will drop, and, if that reduction will last, leading to a long-term reduction in pressure on tropical forests.
On the other hand, the decisions made now will determine how agricultural commodities transform in the long term. In the case of China, authorities are pushing to accelerate the adoption of refrigeration and upscale the stockage capacity. They are also looking towards an increase in meat imports to reduce the over-dependence on domestic meat supply, which had not yet recovered from the swine fever before it started to suffer from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
This might lead to an increase in Chinese meat imports and a decrease in soy imports, which are currently destined to feed pig and poultry in China. It might also lead countries currently exporting meat to China to increase their soy imports as well as their meat production and exports to China. This type of shift may drive deforestation in Brazil and other Latin American countries.
We need to keep an eye on the potential impacts that major trade disruptions might have on deforestation and climate change – in particular when they occur in China, whose economy increasingly drives global trends. We also need to think pro-actively about how to be a step ahead of those changes and their spillover effects.
The future is now, and there is only one Earth!
Stasiek Cabezas is a Land-use consultant at Climate Focus.
 AMIS (2019), Market Monitor, Number 70, retrieved from https://bit.ly/2QxJusl
Photo processed by Sentinel Hub and modified by Copernicus Sentinel data (2016)
By David Landholm and Jillian Gladstone
This week marks the official launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a decade dedicated to restoring ecosystems with the aim to prevent, halt and reverse environmental degradation worldwide. Restoration of ecosystems, including forests, is critical to realizing global climate, biodiversity and development goals.
Realizing the 1.5°C climate target will require halving global GHG emissions each decade and reaching net zero by 2050. Restoration initiatives in forests, peatlands, and coastal wetlands – combined with improved plantations and agroforestry – could provide about 10% of the mitigation needed to attain the 1.5°C target. Together with avoided deforestation, these measures represent the most promising climate measures in the land sector. In addition, the restoration of degraded landscapes can benefit an estimated 3.2 billion people.
This is why restoration of forests was enshrined in Goal 5 of the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) and sets an ambition to restore 350 million hectares by 2030. Despite numerous pledges from both the public and private sector, the implementation of restoration initiatives remains slow: the latest assessment of NYDF Goal 5 estimated that restoration efforts were underway on only a fifth of the 2020 interim target of 150 million hectares.
Although the definition of ‘restoration’ can be elusive, numerous initiatives, such as the annual NYDF progress assessments, accept the concept of forest landscape restoration adopted by the Bonn Challenge. Forest landscape restoration “incorporates multiple objectives in landscape mosaics that include regaining ecological integrity and enhancing human well-being”, presenting a balance between meeting environmental and socioeconomic needs.
The Bonn Challenge, which provides a framework for NYDF Goal 5, is also connected to various regional processes, including the Initiative 20x20 in Latin America and the Caribbean, the AFR100 in Africa, and the ECCA30 in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. On top of these initiatives, major corporations stepped up their ambition in 2020 by pledging to protect and grow 1 trillion trees.
Effective restoration monitoring is critical to successful realization of restoration goals because it allows the global community, restoration organizations and implementers to track progress and celebrate success.
Detailed maps describing forest and landscape restoration opportunities have been available for at least a decade, and global databases on sustainable land management have also continued to grow. Promising new platforms continue to emerge to monitor land degradation.
However, in contrast to our ability to track tree cover loss, which occurs instantaneously and is technically easy to capture, monitoring tree growth across multiple years is more difficult. Assessing global restoration progress is challenged by incomplete data and local implementation complexity. Until this point it has also had to rely on remotely sensed tree cover gain data as a proxy, creating important oversimplifications. Tree cover gained through plantations, abandoned land, or active restoration interventions are often indistinguishable from forest landscape restoration in satellite data.
Monitoring challenges not only limit our ability to understand progress against climate and biodiversity targets but also pose serious risks in terms of perceived legitimacy of restoration. For companies and investors to seriously consider this avenue of climate mitigation, we need increased transparency in restoration, credible reporting, and coordination across restoration actors. In an article published this week, Climate Focus and other NYDF Assessment Partners who contribute to the Goal 5 assessment argue that advancing monitoring efforts will build the necessary trust required by investors to prioritize long-term investment in restoration.
Accordingly, many tools & initiatives are coming online in 2021 to support restoration planning, implementation and monitoring. Restor, grown out of the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich, will provide ecological data and high-resolution time-series imagery to project implementers. TerraMatch from World Resources Institute (WRI) matches potential funders with implementing partners; while WRI’s Land and Carbon Watch will come online in late 2021 to map and monitor land-cover and its change over time. IUCN will also release an updated Restoration Barometer this year to support governments and private sector actors who have made restoration commitments to track progress on enabling factors. Meanwhile the Task Force on Monitoring for the UN Decade, facilitated by FAO, will present a Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring (FERM) to improve data access and transparency.
In light of the number of tools being developed, it is clear that coordination across initiatives to build cohesion in this space will be critical to address many of the above-mentioned challenges. Improving restoration monitoring and working together across platforms to share best practices and create complete data sets will provide transparency, demonstrate legitimacy, and build trust. Supported by the NYDF Global Platform, Climate Focus is convening the Global Restoration Observatory (GRO), a collaborative initiative made up of many restoration experts and practitioners -- including those noted above -- to coordinate initiatives, facilitate information sharing and build linking architecture between restoration monitoring platforms. These collective efforts are driving increased collaboration among initiatives to make monitoring more effective, efficient and straightforward for companies, governments and donors.
All of these developments demonstrate more support than ever for those working on restoration at all levels; and will make it easier for a wide variety of stakeholders to monitor, report and track restoration progress. And importantly, this collective investment in restoration monitoring signals a long-term investment in supporting companies, countries & practitioners to realize their goals – not just this month or this year, but through the 2030 target of the NYDF and beyond.
David M. Landholm is a senior consultant at Climate Focus. His work focuses on research, advisory and implementation projects related to tropical deforestation drivers, sustainable agriculture and Greenhouse Gas accounting methodologies.
Jillian Gladstone is a senior consultant at Climate Focus where she focuses on climate & deforestation mitigation and restoration. She leads the NYDF Goal 5 assessment, and coordinates the Global Restoration Observatory (GRO).
Banner photo: Field with recently planted acacias and put to production near Likolo, Yanonge - DRC. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR via Flickr.
By Jimena Solano, Leah Samberg, and Maddie Craig
For the New York Declaration on Forests Global Platform, 2020 has been a year to take stock of progress towards the ten goals set in 2014. The five-year assessment report published last year confirmed that the world is not on track to halve deforestation and we will fail to restore 150 million hectares by the end of 2020. Further, the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have created more challenges to protecting forests and ensuring Indigenous peoples and local communities’ rights.
With barely a decade left to meet the NYDF goals by 2030 and a shrinking window of time to stay within the global carbon budget for limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, time is of the essence to preserve forests and meet the climate targets set out in the Paris Agreement. Six years have passed since the Declaration was launched, and the science could not be more clear: forests provide one-third of the solution to climate change and the difference of just 0.5°C can have a significant impact on natural and human systems. Meeting the NYDF goals is crucial to preserve forests, which, as natural carbon sinks, are essential to limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and ensuring health, livelihoods, and food security.
The COVID-19 pandemic has once again confirmed our planet has limits. All endorsers and stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring current production and consumption patterns stay within the planetary boundaries. We must avert another crisis and we all have a role to play. The actions of governments and the private sector in particular will have a heavy impact on our ability to reach these goals.
While there are no silver bullets that can save forests or the climate, there are initiatives that can set us in the right direction on forest conservation. The Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) is one initiative that can help set endorsers of the NYDF and other key governments and companies on the right path.
The AFi can help NYDF endorser and non-endorser companies alike meet Goal 2 (eliminate commodity-driven deforestation) and Goal 10 (strengthen forest governance, transparency, and the rule of law while empowering communities and recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples). The framework provides a pathway for companies on a journey to achieve ethical supply chains by eliminating deforestation, conversion, and human rights violations from their supply chains.
The Accountability Framework was developed by a group of leading non-governmental organizations, including the AFi Steering Group members National Wildlife Federation, Proforest, Rainforest Alliance, Resourcetrust, Social Accountability International, The Nature Conservancy, Verité, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund, as well as Supporting Partners Forest Peoples Programme, Imaflora, and Rights and Resources Initiative. Other supporting partners include CDP, Ceres, Global Canopy, Forest Trends/Supply Change, Lingkar Temu Kabupaten Lestari, NEPCon, and the New York Declaration on Forests Global Platform. The AFi is co-led by Meridian Institute and Rainforest Alliance.
The Accountability Framework is grounded in a set of twelve Core Principles. The principles are supported by detailed Operational Guidance, and a common set of Terms and Definitions. In addition, the AFi has developed tools and guides to support usage of the Framework.
Companies that produce or source agricultural or forest commodities can apply the Framework in all stages of their journey toward ethical supply chains:
As companies scale up and implement their corporate climate commitments, protection of forests and other natural ecosystems must be an essential component of that effort. Utilizing the broadly accepted and clear principles and guidelines of the Accountability Framework can provide a key building block for success and contribute to the achievement of their climate strategies and the NYDF goals 2 and 10 by 2030.
Jimena Solano - Mediator and Programme Associate, Meridian Institute
Leah Samberg, Ph.D. - Scientist, Global Programs, Rainforest Alliance, Accountability Framework
Madeline Craig - Programme Analyst, New York Declaration on Forests, Nature for Development Programme, UNDP
This blog was originally published in Spanish in El País.
By Tuntiak Katan
As deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and other countries reaches dramatic and unprecedented levels, the country’s indigenous communities are increasingly under siege, reflecting a trend seen throughout Latin America.
Leaders of indigenous organizations in Brazil this week launched a campaign to demand the expulsion of illegal miners from the Yanomami territories. Nearly 14,000 miners have invaded the region of such emblematic people.
Unfortunately, the Yanomami story reflects what is happening in tropical forests throughout Latin America. Deadly infections of COVID-19 are showing up in even the most remote regions of the rainforests of the region, and legal and illegal miners, loggers and land grabbers are acting under cover of the pandemic to take over our lands and poison our rivers, particularly in the Amazon Basin.
We welcome the unprecedented commitment made by the prestigious High Ambition Coalition in a declaration that reflects what peer-reviewed science has shown definitively and the IPBES report confirmed. In its declaration, the High Ambition Coalition stated, “…we cannot safeguard the world’s remaining biodiversity without partnering with and respecting the rights and the traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, who often are the world’s best stewards of nature.”
We are the forest, the river, the biodiversity, the ecosystems and all sacred spaces; therefore, we safeguard all these resources based on our ancestral knowledge. It is urgently necessary to respect and ensure indigenous and local communities' rights as we represent the guarantee of a global balance with nature.
I speak representing my brothers and sisters who cannot denounce invasion of illegal miners because they have been muted, and as a leader of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, representing a coalition of Indigenous Peoples and local communities from the tropical forest countries of Latin America and Southeast Asia.
We are prepared with our own proposals and our own solutions for advancing almost every objective embraced by the United Nations and global organizations, investors and other corporate entities. Science has shown that recognizing and enforcing the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities allows us to outperform all other groups, public or private, who are charged with managing vulnerable ecosystems.
In a recent report, the World Economic Forum estimated the value of intact biodiversity globally to the economic sector at $33 trillion. In the same text, the authors noted our role as protectors of 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity, and called us the best stewards of Nature. And yet, too often we are marginalized in concrete proposals for conserving biodiversity and reducing deforestation.
The attitude of our national governments during the COVID-19 crisis suggests we are disposable. As more science emerges about the link between the emergence of new pathogens and biodiversity loss and deforestation, the conservation world should consider our survival as protective, not only of the planet, but of humanity.
The pandemic—a symptom of a world out of step with Nature— has captured the global public’s attention. We hope the world will be prepared now to hear what we have to say.
Tuntiak Katan is the General Coordinator of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities and Vice Coordinator of the Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA).
The Global Alliance of Territorial Communities represents Indigenous Peoples and local communities of the Amazon Basin, Brazil, Indonesia, Central America and Mexico, grouped in the territorial organizations Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN), Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) and Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA).
COICA (Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin) is an indigenous organization of international convergence that guides its efforts towards the promotion, protection and security of indigenous peoples and territories through the defense of their ways of life, principles and values. social, spiritual and cultural. Our pre-existence is framed in the defense of life and the Amazon to continue as seed on earth and conserve forests for a living planet that ensures the continuity of our present and future generations.
COICA is an NYDF Endorser.
Photo: Amazonia Colombiana. Credit: OPIAC
By Jamison Ervin
2020 was supposed to be a ‘Super Year for Nature.’ The year began with two sobering reports by the World Economic Forum showing that more than half of global GDP is dependent on nature and recognizing that biodiversity loss is a top global risk along with climate change. Forest and biodiversity loss and climate change combine to create cascading societal risks of human-made environmental disasters, water crises, involuntary migration and interstate conflict. 2020 was supposed to mark a milestone for the New York Declaration on Forests and other global forest goals to halt commodity-driven deforestation, restore 150 million hectares of degraded forests and respect indigenous rights. None of these goals have been met. 2020 was also supposed to be the year for three forest-significant global meetings that were to catalyze global will for action on nature (The World Conservation Congress UNFCCC COP26, and CBD COP15). But Covid-19 had other plans and all three forest-significant global meetings are postponed until 2021.
The impacts of Covid-19 have caused devastating loss of human life, both from the disease and as a result of weakened enforcement of human rights and environmental regulations. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased at an alarming and record pace, on top of already record-breaking deforestation, and governments are now using the spread of COVID-19 to open additional pathways into forests for logging and mining, putting indigenous peoples and local communities’ lives and livelihoods at risk. Forests matter now more than ever and 2020 can still be a Super Year for Nature and a milestone year for forests. The New York Declaration of Forests plays a crucial role in driving action and building the momentum for forest protection and it provides a framework for a forest-positive future that can accelerate a green recovery. There are three areas of action all stakeholders can take now to position forests at the heart of recovery and sustainable development.
First, use green stimulus packages to build back better by tackling forest issues and addressing the current unsustainable patterns of consumption and production.
Second, ensure recovery efforts align with the Paris Agreement, the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and the Sustainable Development Goals, recognizing the role of forests in tackling the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, economic growth, and human prosperity.
Third, invest more in forests as a long-term strategy for a more resilient future and to cope with future disasters and shocks.
This year has shown us that the New York Declaration on Forests is even more relevant, especially in a time of global crisis. If these three steps are prioritized to put forests at the heart of green recovery and sustainable development, and we use the extended time created by the postponement of major forest-related global meetings to accelerate progress and mobilize political will for forests, 2020 may still be a Super Year for Nature!
Jamison Ervin is the Manager of the Nature for Development Programme at UNDP