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28 Jan 2022

Human Rights Watch

Over 191 Indigenous, environmental & human rights groups sign open letter calling on EU to include protection of land rights in anti-deforestation law proposal

"EU: To End Deforestation, Protect Land Rights", 27 January 2021

The European Union’s landmark anti-deforestation law should require businesses to respect traditional communities’ rights over their territories or risk failing to deliver on its objectives, more than 191 Indigenous, environmental, and human rights organizations from 62 countries said today in an open letter to EU policymakers. These communities’ territories host many of the world’s best-preserved forests but face pressure from soy farmers, cattle ranchers, loggers, and other industries whose products are sold in European markets.

The EU’s draft regulation on deforestation-free products proposes to restrict imports of key agricultural commodities – cattle, cocoa, coffee, oil palm, soy, and wood – grown on land that was deforested after 2020, but does not place restrictions on commodities linked to rights violations as defined under international standards. Globally, industrial agriculture is the chief driver of forest loss, and environmental destruction is often entangled with rights abuses against forest-dependent communities. Many of the most influential companies driving deforestation have yet to adopt policies to root it out from their supply chains, and those that have, have not enforced them.

“The crucial flaw in the EU’s proposal is it doesn’t compel businesses to uphold international standards in regard to our land rights,” said Puyr Tembé, Executive Coordinator of the Pará State Federation of Indigenous Peoples (FEPIPA). “The world knows that the lack of protection for our rights has been a disaster for the Amazon and exposed Indigenous leaders to violence from cattle ranchers, loggers, and other invaders.”

Among the signatories of the letter are 22 Indigenous organizations from 33 countries, including key EU trading partners like Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, the main producers of EU soy, palm oil, and rubber imports. The groups represent hundreds of thousands of Indigenous Peoples...

...In the coming months, the European Parliament and EU member states will amend and vote on the regulation on deforestation-free products. The organizations urge EU member states to ensure that the regulation requires businesses to respect communities’ property and land rights. As part of this obligation, businesses should also identify and address risks that their operations or those of their suppliers may pose to forest defenders...