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REDD and Forests Case Verdict

International Rights of Nature Tribunal

Lima, Peru – December 2014

by Tom BK Goldtooth, December 6, 2014

Click for REDD and Forests Case

10857746_10103178434553503_5098729597474806947_nI have listened to the interventions of this market phenomenon and a so-called solution to the climate crisis that the world is experiencing – this is called REDD (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). Thank you to the Presenter of this case that laid the context of how REDD violates the rights as explained in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. Thank you to the Experts of your expertise on this complex topic that begins to break the boundaries on how we understand the destructive effects and complex interactions of neoliberal capitalism, governance, the legal and political regimes of property rights, human rights, Indigenous peoples rights and Nature.

17910_10103473906235883_3892063967688949105_nAs a Judge of this Court, I would like to say a few words about our Indigenous cosmology related to our relationship with Nature – and my articulation of our relationship with our Mother, our Grandmother, the Earth. This regards my summary and recommendation to the Tribunal on the deliberation of REDD.

Working for environmental and economic justice is spiritual work that re-affirms our human relationship and responsibility to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth, of11079651_10103473896680033_3170385950833117503_n Nature and recognition of the indigenous concepts of Father Sky. Within this way of Life, we have Natural laws of Nature that have been developed since the beginning of time that allow us to live in harmony within the sacredness of Creation. These Natural Laws of Mother Earth and the rights of her territorial integrity are being violated.

Indigenous peoples and people of the land of the world, such as small farmers and peasants, participating in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP climate negotiations and other UN meetings are in the frontlines of a foreign power structure that minimizes the importance of indigenous cosmologies and worldview and land-based and fisher culture communities. These power structures reside within the UN process, the World Bank and financial institutions, and by governments systems that have economic systems that objectify, commodify and put a monetary value on land, water, forests and air that is contrary to indigenous worldview. Indigenous peoples, North and South, are forced into the world market systems with nothing to negotiate with except the natural resources relied upon for survival.


History has seen attempts to commodify land, food, labor, forests, water, genes and ideas, such as privatization of our traditional knowledge. REDD, and related regimes such as carbon trading and carbon offsets follow in the footsteps of this history that turns the functions of the forests and the sacredness of our Mother Earth’s carbon-cycling capacity into property to be bought or sold in a global market. This means any provisions of title to property by modern governmental legal regimes carries with it the legal authority to destroy the natural communities (which includes human communities and ecosystems) that depend on that property for survival.

Through this process of creating a new commodity – carbon – Mother Earth’s ability and capacity to support a climate conducive to life and human societies is now passing into the same corporate hands that are destroying the climate.

I have heard testimony that REDD and these carbon markets will not contribute to achieving protection of the Earth’s climate. It is a false solution which entrenches and magnifies social inequalities in many ways.

10850185_10103178447093373_2566746474574572495_nI heard testimony that REDD is a pillar of the so-called Green Economy that places a monetary price on Nature and creates new derivative markets that will only increase inequality and increase the destruction of Mother Earth. In my understanding, any promotion of REDD and market solutions to mitigate climate change is to put the future of Nature and humanity in the hands of financial speculative mechanisms. This includes other market systems of conservation and biodiversity offsets and payment for environmental and ecological services.

Mr. President, Judges, Prosecutor and the participants of this Tribunal, here are my conclusions:

The presentations of this Tribunal have demonstrated that REDD projects are a Nature destructive model that claims it is protecting forests. However, testimony, based upon research, has shown that it is actually a capitalist, financial mechanism set up to benefit financial institutions, including the World Bank, conservation and environment NGOs, governments and the fossil fuel industry.

Any continued implementation of REDD projects would be at the expense of the Rights to Mother Earth; expense of Nature, and expense of the human rights of communities and peoples.

I submit to this Tribunal that it reject REDD. REDD projects inherently violate the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. In my analysis, the Rights of Nature – of Mother Earth are inherent. Nature’s rights already exist and any human law that denies those fundamental rights is illegitimate.

Article 1. (of the 2010 Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth)

  • Just as human beings have human rights, all other beings also have rights which are specific to their species or kind and appropriate for their role and function within the communities within which they exist.

REDD projects restrict movement within and use of forested areas. REDD projects have and are causing the forced eviction of local communities. The presentation of the case of the Sengwer demonstrates that indigenous tribal peoples in Kenya are experiencing massive evictions and forced relocation is an example of this. They are one of the remaining hunter-gatherers of the world, being removed from their ancestral home.

When these governmental (REDD) restrictions are applied through these REDD projects, this violates the “role and function within the communities within which they exist.” In other words, the role and function of the area becomes relegated to a simple equation, an offset, which is neither the role nor function of the ecosystem.

Article 2. (1) Mother Earth and all beings of which she is composed have the following inherent rights: (d) the right to maintain its identity and integrity as a distinct, self-regulating and interrelated being;

There is an inseparable relationship between humans and the Earth. The Earth and Nature have inherent rights that must be recognized for the sake of our future generations and all of humanity.   Just as historically the Doctrine of Discovery was used to justify the first wave of colonialism by alleging that Indigenous peoples did not have souls, and that our territories were “terra nullius,” land of nobody, now carbon trading and REDD are inventing similarly dishonest premises to justify this new wave of colonialization and privatization of nature. Mother Earth, and her creation; of all Life, of Nature and biodiversity is the source of life which needs to be protected, of rights, not a resource to be exploited and commodified as a ‘natural capital.’

Herman Daly, the father of ecological economics, once said, “There is something fundamentally wrong in treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation.”

"The forests are not for sale"

“The forests are not for sale”

The carbon stored in Nature, in the air; in the atmosphere and in the photosynthesis processes of the forests make up a part of those beings which have rights. The carbon and the trees have a right to not be used as a commodity. This commodification is a twisted form of financializing something that cannot be monetized. It is also used to justify more pollution. It puts a price tag on Nature and Air, and violates their rights, their “identity and their integrity as a distinct, self-regulating and interrelated being.”

Just as the Indigenous peoples of Costa Rica have testified on the REDD project in the Bribri tribal Indigenous community have not been consulted and not included the implementation of a REDD project. This raises the questions of “What is the governmental mechanism that recognizes the consultation rights of Nature – of Mother Earth?”

Under paragraph L of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth

  • promote economic systems that are in harmony with Mother Earth and in accordance with the rights recognized in this Declaration.

History has witnessed the commoditization of land, food, labor, forests, water, genes and ideas and has privatized traditional knowledge. Carbon trading follows in this history by using a corrupt and unbalanced economic system that turns the sacredness of Mother Earth into a carbon-cycling machine turning out ‘property’ to be bought and sold on a global stock exchange. Through this process of creating a new commodity – carbon – Mother Earth’s capacity to support a climate conducive to life and human societies is passed onto the same corporate hands that are destroying the climate and the Earth.

Testimony had been provided charging that REDD and its implementation and operations are committing a crime against humanity and Mother Earth, resulting in Eco-cide and Terra-cide. Community representatives have asked not only for justice for their people, but justice for Mother Earth.

And, as the Indigenous leader from Accre, Brazil says, “Our Mother Earth should not be for sale!”

My recommendation to the Tribunal, is to submit this case for admission. This Tribunal would commission a process for continued study and presentation to the next Tribunal being proposed to be held in Paris 2015.

REDD has been described by the presenters in this Tribunal as the pillar of the Green Economy, and a pillar of the Financialization of Nature.

REDD requires this Tribunal to examine the link of capitalism with its legal regimes of property rights; it’s roots based upon the principles of dominion; it’s application based upon the neo-liberalization of Nature and privatization of Nature. It is a global phenomenon being forced upon communities throughout the world. REDD is a crime against humanity and Mother Earth.

I recommend to this Tribunal, to recognize the reality of criminalization and threats of harm that is being experienced by local community members who resist REDD, who try to seek credible information on all risks of REDD, and who only try to recognize the principles of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, called FPIC. FPIC also reserves the right of communities to say no to REDD. I call upon this Tribunal, when required, to have resources that would ensure the human rights of presenters to be protected who are only exercising their free right to speak. For any governmental reprisals of witnesses coming forward to this Tribunal, this Tribunal will communicate to the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other relevant UN and international human rights instruments and mechanisms to take appropriate action.

REDD has many implications on our duties and responsibilities as humanity to recognize the creative and life-cycles of Mother Earth – of her Nature and of Father Sky.

Scheduling and organizing regional Tribunals on REDD and carbon markets in Latin America and Africa have been talked about in the hallways of this Tribunal. This Tribunal must support the planning of these regional Tribunals that could bring their articulation and recommendations to Paris in 2015.

All My Relations, thank you.