Indigenous Peoples & Certification

Raising the awareness of indigenous communities in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines to the opportunities and benefits offered by forest certification.

Indigenous Peoples & Certification


It is estimated that some 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods, including 60 million indigenous people who depend directly upon forest resources.

The loss of forests would threaten the way of life and the very livelihoods of the indigenous communities that live and work directly in forests and forest landscapes. As the sole custodians of some forms of traditional knowledge, such as knowledge of medicinal plants, if these communities were to be lost, so too would be the knowledge they hold.

Introducing forest certification to indigenous people as a possible tool for rights recognition

In recent years, indigenous communities have made significant progress in securing respect for their human rights and the intellectual property rights stemming from the use of their traditional knowledge and resources.

It is today important that the momentum created in the recognition of their rights and knowledge be maintained. Forest certification has the potential to contribute to maintaining this momentum. It can also serve as a tool to promote the different systems that indigenous forest-dwelling communities have developed to sustainably manage forests.

At present, however, many indigenous communities, especially in Asia, have limited knowledge of the processes and benefits of certification.

As part of efforts to correct this, we entered into a partnership with the organization KADIOAN to launch a project to raise awareness of indigenous communities in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines of the opportunities and benefits offered by forest certification, and notably Group Forest Certification. The project was supported by the 2011 Collaboration Fund and the Malaysian Timber Certification Council.

The project had three overarching objectives:

  • Raise awareness and improve understanding of the potential of forest certification among indigenous communities.
  • Demonstrate the linkages between forest certification and the sustainability of indigenous forest management systems.
  • Share experiences of forest certification among indigenous communities and promote cooperation between communities for sustainable forest management.

Several activities were carried out as part of this project, including

  • A training module was developed for use by facilitators engaged in meetings and workshops intended to introduce and raise awareness of forest certification and its linkages to the rights of indigenous peoples, especially indigenous forest communities. The module was drafted in English and then adapted in the languages of the different participants in training and workshop exercises.
  • A case study, conducted by a KADIOAN staff member to assess the current status and knowledge of forest certification among indigenous communities in Malaysia.
  • A series of events which brought together members of indigenous communities with company representatives, government representatives and NGOs to promote interest in developing national forest certification schemes, including
  • In Malaysia, meetings were organized to discuss the findings of the KADIOAN-led case study;
  • In Thailand a leaders’ forum was organized which brought together NGO leaders, community leaders and community organizers;
  • In the Philippines community meetings were held in Itogon, Benguet; Sagada, Mountain Province; and Banaue, Ifugao. These communities are all located in ancestral domains where the possibility exists to obtain Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC). Members of the indigenous communities were keen to understand how forest certification could potentially be used to strengthen their applications.

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