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Three Indigenous Nations in Altamira area, Para, signed REDD contracts with an untrustworthy individual, Benedito Millleo Junior, representative fromTopoGeo.Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
By Rebecca Sommer
I was in the city of Altamira, the Amazon area in the state of Para, preparing to leave the next day. It was with a knot in my throat when I promised the young chief of one of the three indigenous nations in this area that had signed REDD contracts, not to reveal their identity.
For years I have tried to inform indigenous peoples about the lies and wrongs that one day soon they will be told in order to obtain their consent for REDD projects on their indigenous territory.
But it is indeed a very abstract issue, and unfortunately, my explanation had no effect on this particular young chief, and other young leaders that were standing in a circle around me, with their REDD contract signed, in their hand, in June 2011.
They were worried, thus the reason why they approached me with the contract. They trusted me enough to allow me to photograph it. (To view the original contract in Portuguese with the names that could identify the indigenous nation removed CLICK HERE)
The young leaders wanted to know what the contract actually said, as they admitted, it wasn’t exactly clear to them.
The first thing that I spotted was that the contract was signed by an individual and not by a company. Benedito Milleo Junior.
The chief showed me Benedito Milleo Junior’s business card.
[TopoGeo | Surveying and Geo-referenced GIS | Annotation Legal Reserve IBAMA and IAP | Accredited at INCRA under Code APO | Benedito Milleo Junior | Agronomist | Federal Judicial Expert | CREA 13.062/D-PR]
I asked the young leaders why they thought he had signed as an individual, while they had to sign with their positions, under their Indigenous Association.
They did not know why.
I ask them if they knew this (sinister) gentlemen, and asked about the location of his companies’ office.
“He lives in a rather shabby house in Altamira, with no sign or logo of his company. We wondered about that. But he promised to pay us a lot of the money in June 2012.” said the young chief.
However, when we went to the location, the neighbors informed us that the carbon cowboy and his assistant had vacated the house, and that we were not the first ones to look for them.
The neighbors said many small landowners would come every day, with the goal to sign “the contract that would make them rich”. Further, during the time Mr. Benedito Milleo Junior from TopoGeo had resided next door, hundreds of contracts had been signed in the region, and sometimes there had been a line of waiting folks, in front of Benedito Juniors’ house, that was in a shabby condition, with paint peeling off of it.
The second issue I raised with the indigenous young leaders was the language of the contract, the way it was actually written. I told them that Portuguese is not my mother language, but the text was confusing, without comas and proper punctuation, in my view leaving some sentences seriously unclear.
I told them that I am not a lawyer, but that in my view important parts have been left out in the contract, such as who will pay whom. I couldn’t find clear articulation who would pay them. This articulation was left out by Mr. Benedito Milleo Junior.
However, what was not left out in the contract was that the indigenous nation was charged for all the costs. Including the costs of the project and the costs that the broker, Mr. Junior himself would incur. Do these costs include promotion of the sale of carbon credits, his office expenses, travel costs, gasoline, utilities website administration and whatnot?
I asked them to imagine what he could charge them for, as this wasn’t clarified in the contract.
“We don’t know, he didn’t say,” responded the young chief, while the others were looking down, poking their toes in the sand.
I told them that in my view this man is a criminal, and that they will not only not receive any payments, but also won’t be able to trace the carbon credits sold on behalf of their forest.
I explained to them the problems of REDD, the lies and wrongs, but to no effect.
“We wait for June 2012, and hope he will pay,” they said. “And please, stick to your promise and don’t reveal our identity.”
I wasn’t able to meet the Elders and the traditional chief of this indigenous nation, to which I had the year before explained the problems with REDD, with not only the young chiefs present, but that of the entire community. Yet I firmly believe that I know what the Elders and old chief would have told me.
I have attempted to translate the contract from Portuguese to English as accurately as possible. It is as follows:(download original here)
PRIVATE CONTRACT TO PROVIDE PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL SERVICES AND PARTNERSHIP FOR CARBON CREDIT AND AVOIDED DEFORESTATION
For this particular instrument of RENDERED PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL SERVICES, that makes one side the prominent CONTRACTOR: BENEDITO MILLEO JUNIOR, Brazilian citizen, married, agronomist, holder of identity card RG. No1.494.076-6-SSP-PR and CPF / MF. under the 320838409-25, resident Marechal Candido Rondon Street No 911, center, GUAIRA-PR.,
On the other hand the prospective Contracted: INDIGENOUS ASSOCIATION XXXXXX, Civil Society, CNPJ XXXX XXXXXX Location In the municipality of Rio XXX ALTAMIRA, to the State. THE AREA WITH A TOTAL OF XXXX HECTARES, THE INDIGENOUS LAND XXXX, Located in the municipality of ALTMAIRA, state PARA.
1) THE CONTRACTOR AND THE CONTRACTED will receive on both sides the importance of 50% (FIFTY PERCENT) FOR EACH OF CARBON CREDITS SOLD IN THE Stock Exchange OF CHICAGO - U.S. and or STOCK EXCHANGE LONDON - ENGLAND, NATIONAL BANKS OR INTERNATIONAL BANKS or anyone interested in Buying, AND THE COSTS ON BEHALF OF THE PROJECT AND PLACEMENT FOR SALE IS ON ACCOUNT OF THE CONTRACTEE, AND THE PROJECT OF CARBON CREDIT and avoided deforestation, the OWNER agrees to not deforest THE AREA OF THE PROJECT BEING THE TOTAL OF NATIVE FOREST DETERMINED IN THE UPDATED SATELITE PICTURE OF THE ABOVE CITED PROPERTY, GEOREFERENCED ACCORDING TO INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS, ON BEHALF OF CONTRACTEE THE AMOUNT OF RS 4,000,000.00 (Four million dollars) paid WHEN RECEIVING THE 1rst part of the payment of Carbon Credit and Avoided Deforestation. The contracted shall pay 10% (ten percent) INCOME TAX and 10 (ten percent) BROKERS COMMISSION FOR THE SALE OF CARBON CREDITS. FOR THE PERIOD OF 25 (TWENTY FIVE) YEARS. THEIR SUCCESSORS SHALL COMPLY WITH THIS AGREEMENT, IF THE TERM IS EXTENDED BY 40 (FORTY YEARS) OR HIGHER THIS CONTRACTS DEADLINE EXTENDED
2) Therefore we are under contract, having signed this particular instrument in two identical copies and form
ALTAMIRA - PA, JUNE 28, 2011
CONTRACTOR - JUNIOR BENEDITO MILLEO
PRESIDENT OF THE INDIGENOUS XXXX
VICE PRESIDENT OF THE INDIGENOUS XXXX
VICE PRESIDENT OF THE INDIGENOUS XXXX
DECLARATION OF MEMBERS OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ BIOCULTURAL CLIMATE CHANGE ASSESSMENT (IPCCA) INITIATIVESaturday, November 26th, 2011
Durban, South Africa, November 26th
The participants of the workshop on REDD and Biocultural Protocols organized by the Indigenous Peoples Biocultural Climate Change Assessment (IPCCA), from Ecuador, Panama, India, Nicaragua, Peru and Samoa met on 24 and 25 November 2011 in Durban, South Africa to share emergent findings and analyse how REDD is affecting our territories in order to respond through our assessments. We discussed strategies for addressing climate justice.
We, the Indigenous Peoples denounce the serious situation we are facing; the harmonious relationship between humans and Mother Earth has been broken. The life of people and Pachamama has become a business. Life, for Indigenous Peoples, is sacred, and we therefore consider REDD+ and the carbon market a hypocrisy which will not impact global warming. For us, everything is life, and life cannot be negotiated or sold on a stock market, this is a huge risk and will not resolve the environmental crisis.
Through our discussions and dialogue we identified the following inherent risks and negative impacts of REDD+, which we alert the world to:
1. REDD+ is a neo-liberal, market-driven approach that leads to the commodification of life and undermines holistic community values and governance. It is a neo-liberal approach driven by economic processes such as trade liberalization and privatization and by actors like the World Bank whom have been responsible for the destruction of forests and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples all over the world. The concept of “Green Economy” is a vehicle for promoting trends of commodification of nature. It is a vehicle to impose neo-liberal environmental strategies on developing countries, which undermines traditional communal land tenure systems. Indigenous Peoples have well-performing and self-sufficient economies, but these economies are ignored. Indigenous Peoples have used their wisdom for thousands of years to manage forests in a way that cannot be quantified and is priceless. Meanwhile, Northern countries and their economic policies have destroyed the climate and planet and, therefore, have a significant ecological debt to pay.
2. REDD+ policies and projects are directly targeting Indigenous Peoples and their territories, as this is where the remaining forests are found. Corporations, conservation organizations and powerful state agencies will capture the benefits by grabbing forest land and reaching unfair and manipulated agreements with forest-dwelling indigenous peoples. REDD+ is triggering conflicts, corruption, evictions and other human rights violations. Calculating how much carbon is stored in forests (monitoring, reporting and verification) is a very complicated and expensive process, and indigenous knowledge is being ignored within it. As a result, the overwhelming majority of REDD+ funding will end up in the hands of consultants, NGOs and carbon brokers like the World Bank.
3. Indigenous Peoples and local communities use their own governance systems, which include laws, rules, institutions and practices, to manage their forests and territories, many of which are implicit and part of oral or otherwise unwritten traditions. REDD+ policies and projects are undermining and violating indigenous governance systems. Through developing REDD+ readiness programs national Governments are creating new institutions, which will further concentrate control over forests into the hands of State institutions, and violate the rights and autonomy of Indigenous Peoples. These new institutions, however, fail to address the drivers of forest loss.
4. REDD+ locks up forests, blocking access and customary use of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to their forests. This impacts negatively on traditional forest-related knowledge, food sovereignty and food security, and traditional health care systems, which are lost as communities are manipulated or forced to sell their rights to access and use of their forests.
5. The drivers of forest loss and forestland grabbing will not be addressed by REDD+. Governments that are elaborating REDD+ policies are also promoting economic sectors such as cattle ranching, bio-energy, mining, oil exploration and agro-industrial monocultures that, ironically, are the main drivers of forest loss. In countries like Ecuador, governments are promoting massive oil exploration schemes in forest-protected areas.
6. The focus on carbon in REDD+ policies promotes the establishment of monoculture tree plantations, including genetically modified trees, and ignores the social and cultural values of forests. Institutions like the Forest Stewardship Council legitimize this trend by certifying plantation establishment as ‘sustainable forest management’. Corporations take over lands that, within shifting cultivation systems, are fallow, and destroy them through tree plantation establishment. In a country like India, REDD+ is becoming a tree plantation expansion program that triggers land grabbing on a massive scale, undermining the Forest Rights Act.
7. National biodiversity and carbon-offset schemes, especially in large countries like India and Brazil are a vehicle for implementing REDD+. Large polluting corporations, such as mining and dam companies, are allowed to compensate the environmental damage they cause by planting trees. Indigenous Peoples and local communities suffer two-fold; they suffer from the environmental damage caused by their pollution, as well as from the negative impacts of projects that compensate them. Furthermore, conservation organizations profit from such compensation projects, and will thus be tempted to turn a blind eye on the negative impacts of such industries.
8. Due to problems with reference levels, leakage, permanence, monitoring, reporting and verification, problems which policy makers are not inclined and unable to solve, REDD+ is undermining the climate regime. REDD+ violates the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. It creates major inequities and grants the right to pollute to developed countries and their industries. Climate change is today one of the biggest threats to the lives and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples, and for that reason, false solutions such as REDD+ form a direct threat to the survival of Indigenous Peoples.
REDD+ threatens the survival of Indigenous Peoples. We emphasize that the inherent risks and negative impacts cannot be addressed through safeguards or other remedial measures. We insist that all actors involved in REDD+ fully respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular, the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). We caution, however, that adherence to the principle of FPIC is not a means to solve these negative impacts and this principle should not be used to justify REDD+. The right of self-determination of Indigenous Peoples should not be used to justify the destruction of our territories. Indigenous peoples should not commit themselves to a process that does not respect them. We denounce the hypocrisy of REDD+ and the many false financial promises that have been made. REDD+ is a market-based approach through which outside actors try to commodify what is sacred to Indigenous peoples: the heritage of our ancestors and the guarantee of life for future generations, not just Indigenous Peoples, but for all of humanity. Many Indigenous Peoples and communities are not aware of the threats and impacts of REDD+, which is a political trap, and will lead to enhancing climate change. We call upon these communities to maintain their integrity in this respect.
We call upon all people committed to climate justice to support life, and we implore the global community to take responsibility for reducing emission of green house gases at the source and to reject REDD+ as a false solution that breads a new form of climate racism.
Ashiñwaka – Association of Sápara Women
Fundacion para la Promocion del Conocimiento Indigena
Land is Life
Indigenous Peoples’ Bioucltural Climate Change Assessment initiative
Kunjam Pandu Dora
Adivasi Aikya Vedika
Anthra - Yakshi
Universidad de las Regiones Autonomas de la Costa Caribe de Nicaragua
Fiu Mataese Elisara
O’le Siosiomaga Society Inc.