22 associations of Indigenous Peoples and local communities with customary tenure rights from 33 countries, supported by 169 allied human rights and environmental civil society organisations including CIDSE, urge EU policymakers to incorporate a requirement for businesses to respect land rights as part of the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products.
While the draft Regulation to restrict imports linked to deforestation is welcome, they warn that the Commission’s approach is likely to fail unless it also protects the customary tenure rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, who are among the most effective protectors of forests. This significant gap in the Commission’s proposal needs to be bridged. In particular, the co-signatories are asking the following :
- The Regulation should explicitly require that companies placing products on the EU market respect customary tenure rights as required by international law and standards. This would also mitigate the impact on forest-dependent peoples of domestic regulatory rollbacks of rights protections – such as Indonesia’s 2020 Job Creation Law, which weakens legal protections for Indigenous Peoples’ organisations, and the Brazilian government’s ongoing attempt to curtail Indigenous Peoples’ ability to reclaim traditional territories from which they were forcibly removed.
- In order to respect these rights, the Regulation should require that businesses placing products on the EU market ensure that their suppliers meaning fully consult affected communities, and obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples and local communities with customary tenure rights where business activity impacts their ownership, tenure, or access-rights. They should also identify and address adverse impacts and risks that their operations pose to forest defenders.
- To support implementation, the EU Observatory foreseen by the European Commission should also monitor respect for land rights, for example by superimposing satellite deforestation data over national land registries and data generated by civil society and local communities about the delimitation of traditiona lterritories. The EU Observatory should also be able to receive and investigate specific instances of non-compliance raised by third parties.
- Finally, the Commission should take into account information about land rights abuses in the context of industrial agriculture, as well as violence against forest defenders, when determining the level of risk assigned to a producer country.
The full letter is available for download:
Credit cover photo: Mídia Ninja