REDD+ and Costa Rica, another form of colonialism and commodification of natural resources? An indigenous perspective

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Virginia Tech


The primary objective of the international initiative, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), is to conserve carbon by protecting forests and/or planting trees. The World Bank's Forest Partnership Carbon Facility (FPCF) introduced the REDD+ program to Costa Rica in 2008 and consultation with key stakeholders has been ongoing since. The major participants involved in the program include small landowners, representatives of the timber industry, and indigenous nations. Notwithstanding some native groups' opposition to and misunderstanding of the REDD+ program, the Costa Rican government signed an agreement with the World Bank (WB) in 2013 guaranteeing the sale of up to $63 million in carbon credits through the REDD+ program (World Bank, 2013). The government of Costa Rica has plans to continue implementing the initiative, despite the intense opposition of a number of Bribris, an indigenous group located in Talamanca in the eastern portion of the country near the border with Panama. The Bribri are also the largest native population in Costa Rica. This inquiry samples indigenous peoples' perspectives, specifically the Bribris from Talamanca and the Ngäbes from Abrojos Montezuma, concerning key elements of the REDD+ program to understand more fully why they perceive the program the way they do. The principal findings of this study concerning those views include the following: the government has violated indigenous people's rights throughout the REDD+ implementation process, many interview respondents remarked that they lacked information about REDD+, feared privatization of their land, and were opposed to the initiative's commodification of natural resources. These results illuminate key policy and implementation concerns that could inform government and World Bank policy, while also providing study participants an opportunity to exercise individual agency concerning the topic. This research contributes to the growing body of literature about REDD+ by providing the first-hand perceptions of members of Costa Rican indigenous communities of the initiative and their stated reasons for those views.



REDD+, Costa Rica, government, neoliberalism, indigenous peoples, World Bank