We are all Forest Defenders: CIEL launches key rights tools for YOU to push for stronger international policy on REDD+

By Allie Silverman, Staff Attorney, Climate & Energy Program
By Allie Silverman, Staff Attorney, Climate & Energy Program

When you work on international environmental law and policy issues as I do, it can sometimes be challenging to feel optimistic. However, I am pleased to share at least two reasons to be hopeful. As the global community prepares for the climate discussions at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany, CIEL has developed not one but two tools to enable you to push for stronger international policies and greater harmonization with your own domestic laws regardless of your plans to visit Beethoven’s birthplace this week.

Allow me to present our ForestDefender webtool and My Guide, a community resource guide to REDD+ Rights, available in both English and Spanish. These two complementary tools are geared towards safeguarding forests and sustainable livelihoods using CIEL’s “rights-based approach,” which integrates respect for human rights into laws and policies. They were developed with an eye to ensure the required REDD+ safeguards and rights protections are enforced. They can also be used for other forest governance and climate initiatives.


We created these tools in response to specific requests from partners, local community members, indigenous peoples, and supporters like you. They help translate relevant international law to the national level and empower lawyers, activists, and community leaders to defend their rights and their forests. We believe that both increasing access to information and improving comprehension of such information will support real progress towards stronger laws, safeguards, and enforcement related to forest protection in REDD+ countries.

Civil society, local communities, and indigenous peoples in forest-rich countries represent an important group of REDD+ decision makers whose rights are often unacknowledged or violated. These tools seek to empower advocates and encourage engagement in REDD+ decision making processes.

pubs REDD_Guide_May2014
My Guide: Know Your Rights Related to REDD+

You may or may not know this, but we are a pretty small shop here at CIEL. Therefore, we built these tools to leverage our expertise in international environmental and human rights law and expand our reach beyond our current partners, supporting communities all over the world and the greater community of climate justice activists.

Because one size rarely fits all, we created ForestDefender to provide an interactive legal database that is easily accessible to and usable by lawyers and others familiar with legalese. It provides a snapshot of international human rights and obligations relevant to forest governance by capturing the large amount of information found from various sources. Various search options allow you to choose how you want to engage with the information. You can find information about a specific country’s involvement in REDD+; discover what international obligations your country has to its people; build a stronger command of a particular right; and gain a better understanding of the rights implicated by a specific legal instrument. There is even a page related to relevant accountability mechanisms for cases in which rights have been violated.

To complement ForestDefender, we developed My Guide to better inform community leaders about REDD+. My Guide breaks down and translates key human rights relevant to REDD+ found in the international treaties, declarations, and decisions included in ForestDefender. It also suggests options for what to do if these rights are violated. Additionally, My Guide provides negotiating tips and critical questions communities should consider when REDD+ and other forest governance activities are moving forward in and around their communities. My Guide is based on assessed community needs of indigenous communities in Honduras and engagement with other community leaders and civil society representatives working on these issues around the world.

Snapshot of My Guide
Snapshot of My Guide

Every day we are inspired by individuals and communities who dedicate their lives to protecting forests, animals and communities. Your commitment inspired us to develop these tools. We hope that these tools, in turn, inspire and enable you to better shape REDD+ policy and implementation at the domestic level. Let’s keep the momentum going. Please use ForestDefender and My Guide and share them with others!

Originally posted on June 5, 2014.