Pablo Reed, MEM

2010 Compton Fellow in Ecuador

REDD and the Indigenous Question: A Case Study from Ecuador

One of the main issues regarding the implementation of REDD in Latin America has been the growing concern that such projects may infringe upon the rights and negatively affect the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities. Various indigenous and civil society organizations are ardently opposed to the initiative. Such is the case in Ecuador, where indigenous opposition to REDD represents a considerable obstacle in the creation of a national strategy, since more than 60% of the country’s remaining forest cover is on indigenous land or occupation. One of the most critical challenges remaining for Ecuador will be the construction of a strong legal, financial, and institutional framework that the greater indigenous community might be willing to accept. Closer examination of this topic however, reveals just how difficult this may become. Lack of information, a recent political split between national authorities and the indigenous sector, and the dissimilar organizational capacity levels of indigenous communities make the feasibility of carrying out REDD projects on these lands extremely complex. However, the biggest obstacle may be ideological. Many indigenous groupsview REDD, with its possible emphasis on international markets and neoliberal origins, as a continuation of the type of policies that have impeded their arduous quest for sovereignty and self determination. As such, indigenous people are only willing to consider such projects if they clearly see preconditions in place that would guarantee the safeguard of their cultures, territories, and autonomy.