The Forest Peoples’ Programme (FPP) has a long track record of working with indigenous peoples in addressing their problems with the extractive industries, notably through the World Bank’s Extractive Industries Review, which proposed a standard that the International Council on Metals and Mining and the World Bank are still reluctant to accept. FPP and its partners conclude that this refusal to accept a ‘best practice’ standard – and the fact that the Bank routinely fails to adhere to its own lower standards that it has incorporated into its safeguard policies – means that the extractive industries can and do operate in a way which has a destructive impact on indigenous peoples and their environment (Caruso 2003: 105, World Bank 2011).
FPP also works directly with indigenous peoples and other non-governmental organization (NG0) partner organizations in Cameroon, Indonesia, Peru, Suriname, Guyana, Colombia and many other countries, on these issues. Through field programs and policy dialogues, it also endeavours to get the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other conservation organizations to ensure mining, logging and agri-business respect indigenous peoples’ rights.
While the standards that extractive industries should be required to accept (but do not) are quite clear with respect to the direct impacts of their operations, one of the really difficult areas is getting them to accept any responsibility for the wider, often indirect, impacts of their operations. Road building that opens forests for extraction also opens them to other outsiders, as do dam building to supply power, power lines, pipelines etc., often with a direct and devastating impact on the forest and forest peoples. Remote sensing over decades shows that these infrastructures trigger widespread regional land use changes that have huge long-term impacts on forest ecosystems and forest based livelihoods (Asner et al. 2009, Laurence et al. 2009). From the point of view of indigenous territories and natural habitats, it is these wider, indirect impacts that pose the greatest threats, rather than the localised impacts of mines and oil and gas wells themselves.
This paper focuses on the interplay between the extractive industries, indigenous forest peoples and conservation. It examines the impact of the extractive industries and the overlap between indigenous territories and those of the great apes, arguing that conservation needs to rapidly expand its focus from seeking to control territory to protect particular species or ecosystems, to supporting the rights and sustainable livelihoods of forest peoples. Such an alliance stands a far greater chance of securing the forest and forest peoples’ sustainable livelihoods than an approach in which indigenous peoples are often incidental victims in the ongoing battle between extractives and conservation.
The first part of this paper examines the dynamic between extractive industries, conservation and indigenous peoples’ rights in a context where there is an increasing recognition of rights and a decreasing ability and willingness of governments to recognize and act on those rights. The second part, drawing on examples from Indonesia and Liberia, examines whether voluntary standards such as those adopted by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil might provide a model for the extractive industries to follow.
The third part of the paper highlights the evidence that the drivers of deforestation are large-scale businesses such as agri-business and industrial logging, examines evidence that forest peoples are the best guardians of the forest, and draws on examples from Cameroon to examine how conservation can reorientate itself in line with forest peoples’ rights and aspirations. The fourth part of the paper uses examples from Papua, Guyana, Cameroon and Peru to examine the importance of legally binding standards on the extractive industries, and concludes by seeking to chart a way forward in the current context where REDD+ raises the stakes for all parties.