The Kakum Park, part of the famed Kakum Forest. Photo credit: Africaeyereport

A report by the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC) has revealed significant deficiencies in the global financing of efforts to support Indigenous Peoples and local communities preserving biodiversity-rich tropical forests across 24 countries.

The research highlights the continued use of outdated systems by donors, resulting in inadequate documentation and delivery of development assistance. Funds are often routed through third parties, leading to limitations in the actual amounts reaching the intended recipients.

The findings are based on input from Indigenous Peoples and local communities, analysis of donor data, a survey of partners, and insights obtained during a Paris workshop focused on overcoming challenges in fund tracking and impact reporting.

Mina Setra, a Dayak Pompakng woman of Indigenous descent from West Kalimantan, Indonesia, and the Deputy to the Secretary-General of AMAN (Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago), an Indigenous organization encompassing 2,565 member communities, expressed their commitment to collaborating with donors to establish a system that can benefit both parties.

“We believe that by doing so, we can scale up our contributions."

Unveiled during a side event at COP28, the GATC results are being disclosed as UN climate negotiators gear up for negotiations on a multi-trillion-dollar agreement to implement and finance "nature-based" solutions for the climate crisis.

Indigenous Peoples' territories house approximately 36% of the world's remaining intact forests, a minimum of 24% of above-ground carbon in tropical forests, and potentially 80% of the world's remaining forest biodiversity. Despite these statistics, the UNFCCC's inaugural global stocktake refrained from advocating funds to support the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, overlooking their proven and significant role in conserving and restoring tropical forests.

 The GATC report's authors, in outlining their discoveries, assert that only a minor proportion of international funding for biodiversity, climate change, and sustainable development is designated for Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

In instances where data is available, the report underscores the widespread discrimination faced by these communities while emphasizing their pivotal role in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss, ultimately contributing to sustainable development for all.

GATC leaders emphasize that the convergence of climate change, biodiversity loss, and inequality poses challenges to maintaining a sustainable way of life and transmitting traditional knowledge, practices, and innovations to succeeding generations. Ground-level data highlights the limited financial support reaching these communities.

A GATC survey reveals that a majority of local organizations within their networks function with budgets below US$200,000, with many operating on an annual budget of less than US$10,000. The report underscores the disparity between the significant tasks assigned to these communities and the limited financial resources at their disposal.

A second report, released on Friday by the Forest Tenure Funders Group (FTFG), consisting of donor countries and philanthropic organizations committed to delivering a total of $1.7 billion in five years directly to Indigenous Peoples and local communities, highlights the dual challenge of insufficient information regarding inadequate funding.

The FTFG report reveals that last year's figures overestimated the money directly provided to communities, with the actual percentage being 2.9%. Despite a modest increase in funding to $8.1 million in 2022, the overall percentage of direct funds decreased to 2.1%, contrary to the group's pledge to enhance direct support.

Levi Sucre Romero, a Bribri leader from Costa Rica who is a member of the GATC council and chairs the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), expressed that while philanthropic organizations and donor governments sincerely wish for their success, the percentage of funds allocated to communities under the US$1.7 billion pledge has decreased from 2.9% in the first year to 2.1% in the second year.

“This means we are going backwards; it is becoming more evident that it is hard for donors to trust us with the money that we need to scale up our guardianship role."

Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, who provided an introduction to the Forest Tenure Funders Group report, acknowledged the issue, emphasizing that donor practices and priorities "are not changing fast enough." He highlighted that funding continues to be insufficient, inequitable, and inflexible.

“In 2022, an unacceptably small volume of funding—only $8.1 million—flowed directly from pledge donors to Indigenous Peoples, local communities and Afro-descendants. I am disappointed by our slow progress on this point, and I know our Indigenous, local community and Afro-descendant partners will be, too.” 

Indigenous-Led Solutions Aim to Rectify Flawed Aid Delivery Systems

In November, the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC) hosted a two-day workshop in Paris, bringing together 65 representatives from Indigenous Peoples' networks, local communities, donors, funders, UN agencies, civil society organizations, and researchers.

The workshop, held under Chatham House rules, contributed to the release of a report addressing significant flaws in global efforts to fund communities conserving tropical forests.

Participants at the workshop recognized the need to address the identified systemic gap and collaborate on building a better tracking system. The current reporting relies on estimates, ad hoc methodologies, and surveys, leading to complexities and risks of miscalculations.

The aim is to develop a plan that addresses basic questions, including the amount of money earmarked for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, its purpose, and its impact.

In addressing the difficulties they encounter in securing direct funding for their communities, members of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC) expressed gratitude for partner NGOs with closely aligned missions that receive earmarked funds for Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

The GATC report underscores that the intention is not to divert funds from partners but highlights the urgent necessity to enhance funding for their organizations to establish a fair and equitable funding landscape.

The process of gathering data for the GATC report exposed a recurring issue of exclusion faced by Indigenous Peoples and local communities in discussions regarding funding for their territories and organizations. Furthermore, global reporting systems for development aid, including the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), were found to inadequately track funding directed toward Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Lord Goldsmith, former Minister of the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office of the UK Government, emphasized the need for swift progress in fulfilling the funding pledge made in Glasgow. Despite the urgency, progress has been described as painfully slow by Lord Goldsmith and other high-profile donors who committed to the pledge.

“The money often appears to evaporate in complex transactions through numerous layers of multilateral institutions, raising concerns that too little is being done to support the quest of Indigenous Peoples and local communities for their land rights as a climate solution.”

Global Indigenous Leaders Establish Direct Funding Mechanisms for Communities

Indigenous leaders worldwide, representing numerous communities, have taken proactive measures to address the funding challenges faced by their communities.

These leaders have established funds and mechanisms designed to directly channel financial support to Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

The goal is to support community activities, enhance technical capacity, and develop tailored indicators and priorities aligned with community needs. The initiative is rooted in extensive consultations to align with community priorities, allowing for swift responses to emergencies and evolving situations on the ground.

In a move towards greater transparency and accountability, the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC) has introduced the Shandia platform. This platform is dedicated to supporting Indigenous- and community-led funds, advocating for increased direct, effective, and sustainable funding, and ensuring accurate tracking of funds.

The Shandia platform aims to serve as a crucial tool for engaging with funders, facilitating direct investments in territories, and supporting initiatives combating climate change, conserving biodiversity, and upholding rights.

“Without it, we will not have the opportunity to be in the driver's seat in designing climate solutions that work; we will not be able to influence what these donors fund and where.”

The Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC), comprising Indigenous peoples and local community organizations across 24 countries in the Amazon Basin, Mesoamérica, the Congo Basin, and Indonesia, stands as a united front protecting approximately 958 million hectares of vital tropical forest.

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