July 08, 2009
Conflict has long plagued the forestry industry, but questions over land conflict have been renewed by emerging interest in REDD, a proposed mechanism for compensating land holders for preserving forests. In places where rights are poorly defined, REDD could increase the risk that forest-dwelling communities and indigenous people will lose access to lands for which they have no formal title but have occupied for years or generations. Many groups fear that the scheme could cause them to be further disadvantaged, depriving them of land and resources as well as leaving them out of carbon payments.
"Most companies in the forest sector have no formal systems to address conflict, despite there being clear ethical and business cases for doing so,” says Emma Wilson, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and author of the report. “Forest certification schemes often require companies to have systems for local stakeholders to raise grievances, but very few companies are certified and those that are tend to have systems that are ad hoc or in their early pilot stages.”
The report, titled Company-Led Approaches to Conflict Resolution in the Forest Sector, says "a range of mechanisms and flexible, locally tailored approaches" are needed to address conflicts:
A range of mechanisms and flexible, locally tailored approaches are required to address conflicts. This poses a challenge to the development of industry-wide and company-wide mechanisms, tools, standards and guidelines. Solutions need to be designed for the local context and in close collaboration with local stakeholders (government, communities, local enterprises and civil society). However, this does not preclude the need for industry-wide sharing of experience and knowledge, and the development and testing of broadly applicable principles and methodologies.
The report says that companies will need to engage a wide range of groups – including indigenous peoples, forest owners and user groups, unions, other businesses, civil society organizations, community leaders and government – to address environmental and social concerns. While companies need supportive local policies and laws, the report notes "the potential for good practice in company-led approaches to influence the local policy environment through demonstration."
Wilson, Emma (2009). Company-Led Approaches to Conflict Resolution in the Forest Sector. [PDF 298K] The Forests Dialogue, Connecticut, USA.