Forests of fear: The abuse of human rights in forest conflicts
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Abuses of human rights occur in forest conflicts all over the world, from Canada and the USA to Brazil, from Kenya to Indonesia. In many cases, blatant and often brutal abuses occur when a conflict escalates, following the violation of internationally recognized rights to land, a decent standard of living, and a clean and healthy environment. Looked at on their own, many of these examples of abuse may be regarded as isolated incidents of criminal activity. Put together, it becomes clear there is a recurring pattern of human rights violations linked to forest loss. Why? Forests are a contested resource, with many different values and functions for different people. Fair decisions on their use thus need wide participation from all sectors of society. While sustainable development rhetoric and international declarations emphasize the need for participatory decision-making, lack of respect for human rights and democratic processes renders this impossible in many cases. Giving a political voice to all sectors of society, upholding human rights and ensuring a more equitable balance of power amongst those with differing interests in forests is essential to halt the forest crisis. When this does not happen - when civil society is muzzled and the rights of local communities denied - forests are open to the most ruthless of interests. This report illustrates the widespread nature of human rights abuses linked to forest destruction. While not attempting to provide comprehensive coverage of such abuses, it provides examples from North to South, from tropical, temperate and boreal forests. Five detailed case studies in four different continents document the chain of causalities leading to human rights abuses. Three country analyses - of Indonesia, Mexico and Canada - sketch how human rights abuses are 'institutionalized' by forest laws, power structures and lack of participation. A list of shorter examples illustrates the range of human rights abuses and the spread across different continents. All cases have been carefully checked with the people directly involved and contact details for more information are provided. The case studies and country reports clearly show that the forest crisis is intricately linked to human rights abuses. Without halting these abuses and creating a climate in which the fate of the forests can be discussed in an open manner with all involved, there is little hope that the ongoing destruction of the world's forests can be stopped. Yet despite these overwhelming political and social imperatives, in national and international debates forests are often regarded, by NGOs as well as government officials, as a narrow environmental issue; the sustainable management of forests is often discussed in technical terms only. Even though human rights abuses may be outside the normal remit of environmental groups and government officials addressing forest issues, this report argues that addressing these abuses and the direct and underlying causes that lead to them, is central to a sustainable future for the world's forests. --Summary given in report
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