français | español | english
Online Knowledge Base
Natural Resource Governance around the World

The « guardians of the forest » in Europe: the union advocates. (Ed. # 39)

Written by: Leticia Doormann

Writing date:

Organizations: Association pour contribuer à l’Amélioration de la Gouvernance de la Terre, de l’Eau et des Ressources naturelles (AGTER)

Type of document: Newsletter

With the support of AGTER, 20 « guardians of the forest » from local and/or indigenous communities in the tropics toured several major cities in Western Europe before joining in November Bonn, Germany, for the COP23.

The story of this group called « guardians of the forest » dates back to 2014, during the United Nations Climate Summit convened by former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York. There, forest community leaders met and discussed. They realized that they were sharing the same issues, concerns and environmental demands. To make their voices heard in international forums, they decided to do advocacy together in political and media spaces.

At present, this group brings together five organizations from tropical regions that represent forest peoples, indigenous and/or local communities: the Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques (AMBP) of Mesoamerica, the Aliansi Masiarakat Adad Nusantara (AMAN) of Indonesia, the Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (COICA) of the Amazon, Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB) of Brazil and the Network of Indigenous and Local Populations for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems of the Democratic Republic of Congo (REPALEF).

The « Bonn Road » tour, supported by a Ford Foundation-funded project, took them to the host city of the 23rd International Convention on Climate Change (COP23). It allowed 20 representatives from four major forest regions of the world to travel across Western Europe to present their points of view, discuss their concerns and suggest solutions to tackle climate change. The aim of this nearly one-month campaign was to engage with European policy makers and gain visibility with the media, civil society, and international research and cooperation organizations.

These Guardians of the forest see a clear correlation between the non-recognition of their rights over their land and the processes of land grabbing, deforestation, climate change and situations of marginalization, violence and criminalization. Conversely, effective recognition of the right to own, manage and develop their traditional lands and resources would translate into better protection of forests and reduction of violence.

Several studies presented during the tour at press conferences in London and Berlin reinforce this claim. Researchers from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have stated that between 2000 and 2015, 83% of deforestation in the Amazon took place on lands outside the boundaries of indigenous communities and protected areas. Moreover, in the same period, deforestation in indigenous territories without legal recognition has increased in more than 50%. In parallel, the year 2016 was marked by the assassination of 200 environmental defenders around the world, almost half of whom were indigenous leaders (Global Witness). In Brazil, where 65% of territories claimed to be indigenous still await a response from the government (Indigenous Missionary Council CIMI), 60 defenders were assassinated in 2016.

Accompanied by a communication campaign on social networks, the tour has not only aimed to advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the political field, but also to remind the international community that to act for the protection of these rights is also a way to fight against climate change.

To learn more about the « guardians of the forest »: The documents mentioned in this editorial are accessible here: RRI:… EDF:… Global Witness Campaign :


With this newsletter you will find articles on land, water, forests and fisheries, which illustrate the diversity of topics on which members of the association or its partners work, as well as three new interviews with AGTER members.

We draw your attention to the report of the first meeting held in the premises of the National Assembly (France) by the Citizen Collective in France Against Land Grabbing, of which AGTER assumes the coordination.

We relay the petition launched by the NGO BLOOM to call for a total and definitive ban on electric fishing in Europe. We invite you to sign it quickly, the vote in the European Parliament is scheduled for January 16, just after the parliamentary holidays. Together, we can convince MEPs to take into account the problems raised by electric fishing: 1 / the desertification of the sea and 2 / the announced death of artisanal fishermen. See the article below.

Do not forget to watch the video of Maëlle Gédouin’s conference on the financialisation of agriculture in Uruguay, which is now available. (in French)