Indigenous People & Social Issues
The social dimension is part of the definition of sustainable development and consequently sustainable forest management.
As the UN summit of 2005 put it, ‘the three components of sustainable development – economic development, social development and environmental protection – [are] interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars’
The social dimension in sustainable forest management deals with a wide variety of aspects, from indigenous peoples rights to health and safety issues to contributions to local employment.
In addition to legal, policy and institutional arrangements such as participatory decision-making, the 2007 FAO publication State of the World’s Forests describes the socio-economic functions of forests, as follows:
"The Forest resources contribute to the overall economy in many ways such as through employment, values generated through processing and marketing of forest products, and energy, trade and investment in the forest sector. They also host and protect sites and landscapes of high cultural, spiritual or recreational value. This theme thus includes aspects of land tenure, indigenous and community management systems, and traditional knowledge. "
The importance of social issues in forest management might be best highlighted by the fact that forests contribute to the livelihoods of some 1.6 billion people worldwide. This includes 60 million indigenous people who are fully dependent upon the forests and an additional 350 million who depend on them primarily for income and subsistence. The loss of forests would threaten the way of life and the very livelihoods of many of the indigenous communities that live and work directly in forests and forest landscapes.
PEFC Certification & Indigenous People and Social Issues
By requiring that local stakeholders be involved in standard-setting and decision-making before a system can be endorsed, PEFC ensures that standards are adapted to meet local cultural, socio-economic, physical, biological, climatic, and geopolitical realities while at the same time meeting internationally-recognised benchmarks for sustainable forest management.
We also require that forest management activities shall be conducted in recognition of the established framework of legal, customary and traditional rights, which shall not be infringed upon without the free and informed consent of the holders of the rights,
Furthermore, PEFC criteria demand that forest management has due regards to the role of forestry in rural development, and especially considers new opportunities for employment. Management practices make best use of local forest related experience and knowledge.
PEFC has been requiring compliance with all fundamental ILO conventions in forest management since 2001, setting new benchmarks for social issues.
For the certification of tropical forests in Africa, PEFC requires e.g. the existence of health care centers, programs on vaccination and sensitization campaigns on HIV/AIDS, and that children in local communities have access to the concessionaire's school infrastructure. PEFC criteria also specify that families and communities living within or near a certified forest receive a portion of the revenue generated by the exploitation of the forest.