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FSC Indigenous Foundation Launches Global Development Alliance for Indigenous Peoples

The Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development aims to create solutions to empower world’s Indigenous Peoples with long-term capacity to manage, develop, and govern their territories based on the principles of self-determined development, traditional practices, environmental conservation, and respect to their customary rights.

Portrait  tribal woman - shaman, with traditional tattoos, at his rainforest home Uma, during the traditional ceremony for the protection of the clan

The FSC Indigenous Foundation is launching the Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD), a five-year, $13 million partnership to support the world’s Indigenous Peoples. The IPARD is part of a Global Development Alliance (GDA), a unique partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and FSC International. The Foundation signed a cooperative agreement with USAID on August 12. The Foundation is the proud recipient of a $6.5 million award from USAID, while the remaining amount will be matched by private sector partners in the GDA, including FSC International.  

Despite managing nearly one quarter of the earth’s surface, Indigenous Peoples face an immense range of challenges—challenges which limit their capacity to secure their rights, strengthen their livelihoods practices, and consolidate sustainable development and governance within their territories.

The GDA aims to change that. Enhancing and diversifying the capacities of Indigenous Peoples’ organizations and communities will set Indigenous Peoples on the path to self-sufficiency and will be a key component to create positive and long-lasting impacts for their communities.

Led by the FSC Indigenous Foundation, IPARD will center Indigenous Peoples in the continued management and preservation of the world’s forests. By bringing national governments, private sectors, CSOs and other key stakeholders, this new GDA will develop and implement nation-level actions driven by Indigenous Peoples’ vision and priorities aimed to achieve three systematic and interlinked objectives:

  1. To organize and convene a Capacity Development Program for Indigenous Peoples’ organizations and stakeholders;
  2. To foster an enabling environment for Indigenous Peoples’ recognition, effective participation, and joint decision-making in matters affecting them, and;
  3. To promote Indigenous Peoples’ sustainable development based on self-determined economic models.

The IPARD envisions that if Indigenous Peoples are provided with increased access to capacity-building training, spaces for inclusive decision-making, and support for Indigenous-led business enterprises, then they will be better equipped to influence public-private decision-making to secure self-governance of their territories, catalyze an enabling environment that recognizes and incorporates Indigenous Peoples’ interests into policies and investments, and partner with the private sector to create opportunities to strengthen their economies.

Francisco Souza, FSC Indigenous Foundation Managing Director, says that

IPARD has the potential to build a new generation of Indigenous leaders, prepared to transform the owners of one quarter of the planet’s land mass into providers of global solutions to better protect nature, rights, and self-determined development, through more responsible and inclusive policies, development, partnerships, and investment models.

Throughout this process, Indigenous Peoples will be the protagonists, building innovative ways to implement strategies on the ground. The partnership is driven by and for Indigenous Peoples to create the underlying conditions necessary to achieve long-term impacts for Indigenous communities worldwide.

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FSC Launches Indigenous Foundation

To give a voice to Indigenous Peoples on the continued management and preservation of the world’s forests, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has established the FSC Indigenous Foundation.

Masai in traditional clothes joining hands in unity (Zanzibar, Tanzania).

The FSC Indigenous Foundation is an extension of FSC’s commitment to working with Indigenous Peoples to find solutions for the sustainable management of forests. It is a strategic and operative unit established to develop creative and innovative solutions to support Indigenous communities and enable them to build and guide the sustainable management of their land.

For supporting Indigenous Peoples, the Foundation will adapt an Indigenous cultural landscapes approach. This approach was developed by FSC in 2016, to acknowledge the social, cultural and economic value of Indigenous land. The approach appreciates the enduring relationship of Indigenous Peoples with the land, water, fauna and flora, and their spiritual significance to cultural identify, knowledge and livelihoods.

FSC’s commitment to working with Indigenous Communities is part of its DNA and has always been central to its work. This commitment became explicit in 2011, with the establishment of the FSC Permanent Indigenous Peoples Committee, an advisory unit to the FSC board of directors, to ensure the voice of Indigenous Peoples is heard at FSC’s decision-making level.

FSC Director General, Kim Carstensen explained that FSC’s decades of experience were proof that Indigenous communities were one of the most important factors for the sustainable management of forests.

“I’m delighted that FSC’s Indigenous members have wanted to come together with us to facilitate the establishment of this unique Foundation. It is Indigenous led and Indigenous governed and has a very strong link with FSC. For me, this is a major opportunity for forest-dependent Indigenous Peoples worldwide, and is a breakthrough for FSC’s mission and our global strategic plan, which is deliberately designed with Indigenous input at its core,” Carstensen said.

The Indigenous Foundation is headed by Francisco Souza, who is an Indigenous person himself with decades of experience working with environmental and Indigenous organizations particularly in Latin America. Souza aims to use his experience working with Indigenous communities across over 70 million hectares of Amazon rainforest to ensure increased Indigenous engagement in creating and leading sustainable forest-based solutions across the globe.

“We expect to increase the degree of engagement of Indigenous Peoples in the FSC certification system in a more strategic way by creating Indigenous community models with long-term safeguards for their rights and improved access to markets. At the same time, we will develop tools and promote business partnerships to improve forest management and income in indigenous cultural landscapes” said Souza.

The results of the initiatives and projects carried out by the Foundation will strengthen the mission and long-term objectives of FSC to promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.

The FSC Indigenous Foundation is headquartered in Panama. The Permanent Indigenous Peoples Committee will continue its role as advisor to FSC’s Board of Directors, and its activities will be serviced by the Indigenous Foundation.

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