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Forests of Fear: The abuse of human rights in forest conflicts

1 December 2001

Forests of Fear: The abuse of human rights in forest conflicts

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 recognised 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 emphasise 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. 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.

Categories: Reports

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