The Challenges of REDD+ Projects in Colombia: A Look Beyond Environmental Promises

The Challenges of REDD+ Projects in Colombia: A Look Beyond Environmental Promises

The Challenges of REDD+ Projects in Colombia: A Look Beyond Environmental Promises

By Rocío Rodríguez Granados
Colombia Director
Bogotá, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia

REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) projects have become a popular strategy for mitigating climate change by preserving forests. However, their success and sustainability rests on the careful consideration and integration of territorial and cultural knowledge of of the local communities and indigenous peoples depending  on these ecosystems.
REDD+ projects offer the promise of multiple benefits, from climate change mitigation to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. However, as has become evident in Colombia, without due consideration of territorial and cultural aspects, these projects can also generate tension, violate rights, and displace  communities, compromising their long-term sustainability.

In Colombia, REDD+ projects have generated considerable controversy regarding their implementation and their impact on local communities. While these projects promise forest conservation, emissions reductions and sustainable development, debates have arisen about their actual effectiveness in protecting the rights of indigenous and local communities, as well as the equitable distribution of benefits. The lack of meaningful participation and appropriate consultation with communities has been a recurring concern, leading to tensions, mistrust and conflicts over land tenure and natural resource management. The need for stronger safeguards to protect territorial and cultural rights has become the necessary epicenter of the discussion around these projects in Colombia.

In several territories of the country there have already been multiple criminal proceedings to address the lack of respect for the rights of local communities. The manifestations of these challenges are diverse and profound. The flagrant violation of community rights, the displacement of communities from their ancestral territories, the erosion of cultural wealth, the increase in internal inequalities and the risks associated with corruption and mismanagement of funds are just some of the many consequences.

The judicial process exposes the complex reality faced by local communities in their struggle to maintain their rights and traditions in the face of REDD+ project implementation nearby. The environmental benefits promised by REDD+ projects must be considered within the context of any consequences faced by communities struggling to protect their ancestral rights and preserve their culture.. An approach is needed that prioritizes the protection of territorial and cultural rights alongside environmental conservation.

The effective integration of territorial and cultural aspects in REDD+ projects requires the use of specific strategies such as respect for existing local structures and forms of government, participation and ongoing consultation with all stakeholders, valuing and integrating traditional knowledge in conservation strategies, and enforcing an equitable distribution of benefits from any conservation or development activities. For this to be achieved and to restore confidence in these mechanisms, project implementers must start with - at minimum - involving local and indigenous communities from the very beginning of the project. Organizations must build a plan based on early participation and consultation, recognition of rights and tenure of territories, transparency and accountability, an honest approach to training and capacity building, and effective communication.

In summary, REDD+ projects offer an important alternative that contributes to climate change mitigation by conserving forests, but their effectiveness and sustainability depend on a careful integration of territorial and cultural aspects rooted in local communities. The protection of territorial rights and the meaningful recognition of traditional knowledge are fundamental priorities to ensure that future REDD+ projects not only address environmental conservation, but also respect and promote the fundamental rights of all communities in Colombia.