The problem with forest restoration that doesn't support the rights of Indigenous Peoples

There’s growing awareness that forests are the single most effective way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But despite the rising popularity of forest restoration as one way of tackling the climate crisis, there are serious concerns about how some schemes are executed.  

With no coherent, agreed definition, forest restoration is often conflated with tree-planting initiatives, including creating large-scale monocultural plantations. These do little to restore biodiversity or help the climate. What’s more, so-called “restoration” projects frequently side-line local communities, are used to justify land grabs and result in human rights violations. 

What do Fern and our partners want? 

If done with a rights-based approach, forest restoration can not only capture carbon, but also recover life support systems, enhance biodiversity, and support the rights of local and Indigenous Peoples.  

Evidence shows that the best types of forest restoration see people as part of forest ecosystems and are therefore designed and implemented in a participatory way, driven by the wellbeing and the respect of the rights of communities. 

What are we doing? 

Our latest report ‘Restoring More Than Forests’ includes a definition of ‘rights-based forest restoration’, which was drafted with our partners in Ghana. The report outlines five restoration principles, and showcases replicable models. We continue to work with partners to uncover other models and to influence national policy reviews.  

In the lead up to the UN Decade of Ecological Restoration we are convening conversations with conservation NGOs, policy makers and funders about this alternative approach to restoration so as to shift the restoration away from profit and greenwashing, towards genuine enhancement of human rights and community participation. 

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