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Thematic Focus 3/2006: Logging and indigenous peoples

IWGIA has just published a thematic issue of our journal "Indigenous Affairs" focussing on logging. We bring articles documenting the threats of logging to the livelihoods of indigenous peoples as well as examples of innovative approaches that seek to respect the rights of indigenous peoples. The various articles can be downloaded by clicking here.

On this page, we have compiled a number of links to reports and articles by other organizations and journals that document and analyse different aspects of indigenous peoples' problems with logging. We have organized these sources by themes, and the intention is that this can serve as an entry point for readers who wish to explore this theme further. The compilation is in no way exhaustive, and if you have suggestions for other sources that would be good to include here, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Destruction of forests and livelihoods

Many of the world's indigenous peoples live in and around forests, and practise lifestyles that are closely linked to these forests in terms of subsistence, cash income, medicinal, cultural and spiritual values, etc. They are highly dependent on their forest homes for their survival. On a global scale, it is estimated that 60 million indigenous people are almost wholly dependent on forest resources for their livelihood. Many of these people find their livelihood, their cultural integrity and, in some cases, even their survival as peoples threatened as their forest homes are encroached upon by logging companies and other businesses seeking to make a profit from the forests' resources.

A human rights perspective on forest management and indigenous peoples' rights

In recent years it has become more and more common for indigenous organizations to approach forest conflicts from a human rights perspective and use international human rights law to claim their rights. They argue that their right to practise their distinct lifestyle and maintain their cultural integrity and survive as peoples is threatened as logging destroys their forest homes.

Read more about the Saami struggle against logging in their traditional reindeer herding area on the Saami Council's homepage:


Read the official complaint to the UN CERD Committee by Pygmy organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the Forest Peoples Programme's homepage: www.forestpeoples.org/

Read about the Malaysian Human Rights Commission's response to a visit in Penan communities of Sarawak, threatened by logging: http://brimas.www1.50megs.com/

Read FERN's report on the abuse of human rights in forest conflicts with case studies from Indonesia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico and Kenya: http://www.fern.org/

Sustainable forest management and protection of indigenous peoples' livelihoods

Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the global discourse on sustainable natural resource management has increasingly emphasized human aspects of sustainability. At the policy level, it is now widely recognized that indigenous communities play a vital role in natural resource conservation and that they have rights to the territories and resources they have traditionally used. This is reflected in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and other international conservation policies. Ensuring implementation of these rights remains a serious challenge.

Read more about the CBD and indigenous peoples' rights on IWGIA's website by clicking here.

Among many others, the Tropenbos-Cameroon Programme has explored the role of local populations in the exploitation and management of the forest. Read more about the Tropenbos-Cameroon project:


Certification: Timber trade and indigenous peoples' rights

Needless to say, the widespread destructive logging that threatens indigenous communities all over the world is driven by an international market where timber is in high demand. In the early 1990s, a joint initiative between the timber industry, environmental organizations and human rights organizations established The Forest Stewardship Council certificate, known as the FSC label. It is currently the major global sustainability label for timber and wood products. Buyers of wood products carrying an FSC label are guaranteed that they have been produced in a sustainable way and in respect of forest-dwelling indigenous communities' livelihoods.

Read more about the FSC certification scheme and its special reference to indigenous peoples' rights:


Certification: Problems with the Malaysian MTCC certificate

Some countries have established and promoted their own certification schemes instead of using the international FSC certificate. The Malaysian Timber Certification Council (known as MTCC) is one of these, and it has been strongly promoted in Europe the past years. It claims to be a proof of legality and sustainability, but this has been strongly contested by indigenous and environmental organizations, among others JOANGOHutan, the national network of indigenous peoples and NGOs on forest issues. They claim that indigenous peoples' rights to their territories, livelihoods and cultural integrity are not respected by the MTCC which is thus neither a proof of legality nor sustainability. 

Read JOANGOHutan and FERN's joint report on forest governance in Malaysia: www.fern.org/

Read Greenpeace's critical report on the MTCC: www.greenpeace.org/

Find more information on indigenous peoples problems with logging in Sarawak on BRIMAS' web site: http://brimas.www1.50megs.com/


Other articles on indigenous peoples and logging

Read the BBC article: Consumers must stop forest destruction by John Nelson who is Africa policy adviser for the Forest Peoples Programme

Read the Montreal Gazette's article on the Pessamiut Innu's court case against the Quebec government for illegally exploiting their resources when issuing logging permits on their land: www.canada.com

Tags: Land rights, Climate



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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