May 30, 2013

You have the right to remain informed

¡Hola readers!

This past February and March, EcoLogic began its FPIC process in the three land-holding Mayan communities in La Sierra Cojolita Communal Reserve in Chiapas, Mexico. Workshops and information sessions designed to inform the communities about REDD+ were held in the communities of Frontera Corozal, Nueva Palestina, and Lacanhá Chansayab. As the new human rights research intern at EcoLogic, it has been a whirlwind of activity as I learn a ton about the project area, about REDD+, and about the ins-and-outs of working in a non-profit. If you'd like a brush-up on REDD+, David Kramer, Senior Program Officer, has written an excellent post about the mechanism. But wait, you may be saying, what exactly is FPIC and why is it important? Let me take a moment to unpack this term and its importance for both REDD+ and for the EcoLogic project.

Cattle gather in Nueva Palestina, one of the three communities EcoLogic is working with in Chipas. The pressure of ever expanding cattle ranches is one of the principal threats to the Lacándon forest and its natural resources.

FPIC stands for “Free Prior, and Informed Consent,” and is a rights-based approach that puts the emphasis on the rights of local communities to make decisions about the use and management of their land and natural resources. It was codified in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples over five years ago. For REDD+, FPIC is especially important because forest-dwelling communities are often disenfranchised and historically marginalized groups. FPIC is an approach that is central to empowering communities to make informed decisions about their futures.

EcoLogic is making the FPIC process in La Sierra Cojolita Communal Reserve a central part to the project planning stage. As I mentioned, there were a series of workshops in February and March that had the goal of giving the communities information about REDD+ and of completing a participatory factor analysis in each community.

Participants in the workshop prioritize community concerns.

EcoLogic spent three days with each of the three communities, working to address the specific issues and concerns of each, depending on the community context. While this FPIC process has been, and continues to be, a lot of work for EcoLogic, we are committed to ensuring that the communities are empowered to make a truly informed decision about whether or not they want to take part in a REDD+ project. It’s important to stress that the communities will make the decision, and that EcoLogic's role is that of a facilitator and mediator. Our aim is to inform communities about their options.

In the workshops, there was an overarching agenda that was open to change and adaptation depending on the needs of the individual communities. Generally speaking, the first day was devoted to providing introductory information to all community members about EcoLogic, climate change, and REDD+. At the end of the first day, 20 to 30 people were selected by the community to participate in the second part of the workshop, which was the community analysis of factors that impact the possibility of implementing REDD+.

Andrea Savage (center), EcoLogic’s Carbon+ program manager, meets with community members to assess their interest in the project.

Now that the first steps in the FPIC process have been taken, it will be exciting to see how the conversation with the communities continues to evolve and bring to light new information. The experience has been amazing and educational so far, and I'm excited to be learning about a new and still-evolving development tool under the mentorship of EcoLogic, an organization that is doing so much hard work to “do REDD+ right.”

- Anneliese Abney, CarbonPlus Community Engagement Intern
Anneliese works closely with EcoLogic’s CarbonPlus team on project execution and community involvement. She will be graduating from Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management in 2014.

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