Tropical rainforests are home to a vast array of biodiversity. In addition, 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on tropical rainforests to survive. However, these rainforests are under immense pressure: 108 million hectares were lost between 2010 and 2018. What’s more, deforestation is often accompanied by land grabbing and environmental and human rights violations.

Header photo: © Jan van der Ploeg / Mabuwaya Foundation

This is why IUCN NL contributes to more sustainable and inclusive management of tropical rainforests, in a way that promotes climate mitigation & adaptation, human rights and preserving the livelihoods of Indigenous peoples and local communities. We do this in the Forests for a Just Future programme by the Green Livelihoods Alliance. This programme builds on the Forested Landscapes for Equity programme that ran from 2016 to 2020.

Together with civil society organisations, Indigenous peoples and local communities this alliance works in 11 countries in South America, Africa and Asia in landscapes where forests and the communities who have traditionally lived there are threatened by the expansion of agriculture (e.g. palm oil, soy), infrastructure, mining and oil and gas extraction, where there are opportunities to influence policy and practices.

Forests & climate

Forests are vitally important. The preservation of forests and the planting of more forests is essential in the fight against climate change.

Effective policy and regulations

To tackle the causes of deforestation and forest degradation, we need effective policy, supplemented with voluntary and binding regulations by governments, the EU and the UN. Therefore, we urge these bodies to establish the necessary frameworks to combat further deforestation, so that forests can retain their important functions for people and biodiversity, and contribute to the fight against climate change. We also advise financial institutions and banks on applying policy and standards that combat deforestation. 

Responsible value chains

Every year, large areas of forest are cleared to make way for soy and palm oil plantations, which largely supply the Western, as well as the Chinese market. Mining, including for the energy transition, is also taking its toll, with devastating consequences for climate and biodiversity. IUCN NL focuses on several levels to make the commercial chains of these products greener and more sustainable.

Sustainable solutions to combat deforestation

In addition, we promote the development of sustainable alternatives to deforestation, such as increasing the value of sustainably harvested forest products. For example, the production of nut oil is more lucrative than directly selling the candle nuts.

Management by and with local communities

When forests are cleared for expanding agricultural or mining activities, this often happens at the expense of the territory and rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities. With their extensive knowledge and experiences, these communities have a key role to play in forest governance, and should be key actors in any decision-making processes concerning their land and livelihoods. This is especially the case for groups like women and youth, who are often under-represented in decision-making.

Safeguarding land rights

In order to address these problems, it is important that the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities– especially women and young people – are recognised and respected, and that they play a greater role in policy and decision-making. After all, they possess the necessary knowledge and experience for sustainable landscape management, with a view to adapting to the changing climate.

Therefore, we work with local partner organisations to safeguard land ownership and access rights and to make local institutions more inclusive.

Recognising the rights of communities

We also advocate for the development and implementation of policy that respects the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities. This involves seeking the cooperation of influential stakeholders, such as local governments and businesses.

Safeguarding the rights of environmental and human rights activists

Lastly, NGOs and environmental and human rights activists – civil society – have less and less scope to express themselves in many countries. Their work is increasingly hindered, they are threatened, criminalised, or silenced through violence.

Binding law and regulation for environmental and human rights activists 

This is why we work to guarantee the freedom of movement and the safety of nature conservationists. We do so, for example, by advocating for binding laws and regulations at the UN level.

Use of local evidence

It is also important that courts and authorities allow evidence of environmental and human rights violations from communities. This is necessary because it is often difficult for communities to prove abuses, due, for example, to the remote areas where crimes take place.

Providing protection

We ensure action can be taken quickly if environmental and human rights activists find themselves in difficulty. One of the ways we do this is by strengthening networks with other organisations and Dutch embassies. We make funds available as well so that people can be brought to safety or receive legal aid.

Learn more about this project

Want to know more about Forests for a Just Future? Visit the website where we and our partners of the Green Livelihoods Alliance regularly share news.

Our core team

Maartje Hilterman
Project Leader – Forests for a Just Future
Tedros Medhin
Tedros Medhin
no longer working at IUCN NL