COONAPIP, the National Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples in Panama, has written a series of extremely critical letters about the UN-REDD process in Panama. The process “has been riddled with incongruences and inconsistencies”, COONAPIP wrote in a letter dated 20 June 2012, adding, “We feel used in this process.”
Indigenous Peoples in Panama are well organised, with democratically elected leaders who all participate in the national coordinating body, COONAPIP. And as COONAPIP’s letter points out, “Indigenous Districts and Territories contain an estimated 85% of all remaining forests outside protected areas, and as such play a central role in any proposed REDD+ initiative or mechanism.”
COONAPIP’s letter, which is signed by Betanio Chiquidama, President and General Cacique, Emberá Wounaan District, and Elivardo Membache, Secretary and General Cacique, General Congress of Emberá and Wounaan Collective Lands, asks the question:
“If we are having such problems in a process that is just beginning and the agencies involved behave in ways that are fundamentally inconsistent with the principles that are supposed to apply to REDD, what can we expect when the REDD strategy actually begins to be implemented?”
The letter provides a timeline of COONAPIP’s involvement in the REDD process. It all got off to a bad start in September 2009, when Panama’s National Environment Authority (ANAM) announced that Indigenous Peoples had endorsed Panama’s REDD strategy. COONAPIP were understandably angry at this, and set up an Indigenous Working Group to “analyse the deficiencies of the REDD documents,” from an indigenous perspective.
In October 2009, COONAPIP, ANAM and UN-REDD agreed on a “consensus document” that included 19 points and three annexes to be incorporated into the REDD document. On the basis of this agreement, UN-REDD provided US$5.3 million to the Government of Panama to formulate a REDD strategy. COONAPIP was supposed to be directly involved in this process.
In May 2011, COONAPIP prepared a strategic plan (PEIP) aimed at strengthening COONAPIP. Three months later, COONAPIP delivered this plan to UN-REDD, and COONAPIP states that in a meeting on 21 September 2011, UN-REDD agreed to sign a Cooperation Agreement with COONAPIP with a budget of US$1,789,845.95. A few days later, Vanessa Retana of the UNDP Regional Centre, publicly announced that UN-REDD would transfer US$1.7 million to COONAPIP.
But COONAPIP received none of the money. As a result, by early 2012, COONAPIP could not pay their rent, or their staff. UNEP has subsequently provided US$18,000, so that COONAPIP can afford to rent an office for one year. In April 2012, UN-REDD and ANAM presented a work plan for 2012, that includes US$200,000 to strengthen COONAPIP and US$69,390 for consulting Indigenous Peoples on REDD. “They never consulted COONAPIP about the budget, and, needless to say, those amounts bare no relation to what was negotiated and agreed on previously,” COONAPIP points out in its letter.
Predictably enough, nothing about any of this is available on the UN-REDD website. COONAPIP is listed there as a primary partner of UN-REDD in Panama (together with ANAM). But while COONAPIP designated a technical commission headed by the organisation’s President, Cacique Betanio Chiquidama, COONAPIP complains that neither UN-REDD nor ANAM have designated a counterpart to work with COONAPIP’s technical commission. “At this point COONAPIP has lost all communication with UN-REDD and ANAM,” the letter states.
On 23 August 2012, Gabriel Labbate, a Senior Programme Officer at the UN-REDD Programme in Panama, circulated UN-REDD’s response to COONAPIP. Labbate acknowledges “a serious disagreement” with COONAPIP and adds that, “We would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the UN-REDD Programme to full transparency in its operations and to the free, informed and full participation of Indigenous Peoples in REDD.”
But an Annex to the UN-REDD letter disputes COONAPIP’s version of the events leading to the disagreement and denies that UN-REDD ever agreed to provide US$1.7 million to COONAPIP:
It is crucial to indicate that the PEIP’s budget significantly exceeds UN-REDD´s budgetary allocation for participation of indigenous groups and that several of the PEIP’s activities lie outside the UN-REDD framework.
COONAPIP wrote a second letter to UN-REDD in which they note that,
The spirit of the PEIP is for COONAPIP to become a counterpart responsible for the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in the formulation and implementation of the REDD Strategy in Panama. To make this possible, COONAPIP must be strengthened as it has been insisting, appealing to articles 3 and 4 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In the meantime, on 24 August 2012, COONAPIP issued an Official Notice denouncing ANAM, UNDP, UNEP, FAO and the World Bank for their failure to comply with UNDRIPs in the UN-REDD process.
June 20, 2012
Mrs. Lucía Chandeck,
General Administrator of the National Environment Authority (ANAM), Panama
Mrs. Kim Bolduc,
Resident Coordinator of the United Nations, Panama
Dear Mesdames Chandeck and Bolduc:
As Traditional Authorities of COONAPIP, principal Caciques, Sagla Dummad, King, Bülu, General Congress and General Council Presidents, and Regional Caciques, we send you greetings. May the all-powerful God bless you and your activities.
As leaders of COONAPIP and the maximum authorities representing the Indigenous Peoples of Panama, we wish to inform you of our position regarding the participation of COONAPIP and Indigenous Peoples in the preparation of the REDD+ Strategy for the Republic of Panama, coordinated by UN-REDD and the National Environment Authority (ANAM). Before doing so, however, we must point out that Indigenous Districts and Territories contain an estimated 85% of all remaining forests outside protected areas, and as such play a central role in any proposed REDD+ initiative or mechanism.
Some of the relevant events that have occurred include the following:
1. In September 2009, ANAM claimed that Cacique Gilberto Arias of the Guna General Congress and Cacique Betanio Chiquidama of the Embera-Wounan Congress had endorsed Panama’s REDD strategy on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples, and it assured the international agencies concerned with REDD that was the case. That false claim angered the Traditional Authorities of COONAPIP and led us to create an Indigenous Working Group to analyze the deficiencies of the REDD documents from the perspective of the Indigenous cosmovision and the participation mechanisms that existed at that moment. The Indigenous Working Group conducted its activities between September 23 and October 14, 2009.
2. As a result of this effort, on October 6, 2009, COONAPIP, ANAM, and UN-REDD agreed on a consensus document, which specified 19 points to be integrated into the main REDD document and added three annexes, which the process was to take into account. This document was subsequently presented to UN-REDD authorities and ANAM officials in Washington on October 29, 2009, who accepted it in its entirety (Annex 1).
3. On the basis of that agreement, UN-REDD provided US $5.3 million to the Government of Panama, to formulate the REDD Strategy in coordination with the indigenous communities, including the direct participation of COONAPIP, in representation of those communities. At the time, Mr. Leslie Marín, the ANAM official responsible for REDD, announced that there would be an indigenous coordinator for the REDD Strategy, in addition to the national coordinator.
4. In their reflections on the REDD process in Panama, the Traditional Authorities made clear that for COONAPIP to participate effectively in the process it would need to be strengthened as an institution. With this in mind, COONAPIP, with support from other organizations, prepared a strategic plan (PEIP), which it approved on May 6, 2011. COONAPIP formally delivered its strategic plan to UN-REDD and ANAM in August, 2011, with a proposed budget of US$ 1.9 million. The President of COONAPIP followed that up with another letter in October 2011, expressing concern about the lack of progress related to the PEIP.
5. After COONAPIP presented the PEIP and budget and the letter mentioned above, UN-REDD and ANAM made a counterproposal to COONAPIP, offering US$ 1.3 million to fund COONAPIP´s participation in the activities to formulate the REDD Strategy between October, 2011 and December 2013. Later, in a formal meeting between COONAPIP, UN-REDD, and ANAM on September 21, 2011, the three agreed that COONAPIP and UN-REDD would sign a Cooperation Agreement with a budget of US$ 1,789,845.95 (Annex 2). Soon after, Ms. Vanessa Retana, of the UNDP Regional Center, officially announced that UN-REDD would transfer US$ 1.7 million to COONAPIP so it could be an integral part of the REDD process in Panama. She made that statement during a workshop titled “Mesoamerican Consultation on the Common Approach to Environmental and Social Safeguards of the FCPF in the REDD+ Framework”, organized by COONAPIP and the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests, in the Roma Hotel in Panama from September 26 to 28, prior to the Intersessional Meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Panama.
6. After this official announcement, UN-REDD asked COONAPIP for documentation of its legal status, so that they could transfer the funds related to REDD. That generated a discussion among the Traditional Authorities, since COONAPIP’s role is to represent the Indigenous Peoples in policy processes and to facilitate; it is not an NGO that implements projects. Given that, the authorities provided the UN-REDD with a list of Indigenous organizations that it trusted to administer the funds on behalf of COONAPIP. They proposed this option to Ms. Giselle Didier, the official responsible for UN-REDD in Panama, but she indicated that UNDP only had a few possible mechanisms that would allow it to transfer the resources (she mentioned five), and that there was no way to them to transfer more than a maximum of US $50,00 to COONAPIP using the only really valid mechanism.
7. This situation caused the COONAPIP to lose its offices and paid technical staff in early 2012, and led to great delays in implementing the PEIP, which was a very strong blow to the organization, particularly given the current difficult state of relations between Indigenous Peoples and the Government of Panama. Recently the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) provided COONAPIP US $18,000, in coordination with the Panamanian Embera and Wounan Youth Organization (OJEWP), so that it could lease an office again from April, 2012 to April, 2013. On March 5, 2012, COONAPIP presented UNDP a budget of $54,880 to hire technical staff needed to participate in the REDD process, which it was asked to present again on April 20th, however, UNDP has yet to respond.
8. In April, UN-REDD and ANAM presented a work plan for 2012 that says that they will provide US$ 200,000 to strengthen COONAPIP and $69,390 for consulting Indigenous Peoples about the REDD+ process. They never consulted COONAPIP about the budget, and, needless to say, those amounts bare no relation to what was negotiated and agreed on previously.
9. At this point COONAPIP has lost all communication with UN-REDD and ANAM, despite the fact that COONAPIP designated a technical commission to work on these issues, headed by Cacique Betanio Chiquidama, COONAPIP’s President. UN-REDD and ANAM have not designated any counterpart to work with the commission, which has made it impossible to continue work. Instead, ANAM official have made various attempts to meet Traditional Authorities separately and try to negotiate outside the framework of COONAPIP, which is totally improper.
10. In synthesis, 29 months have gone by since this process first started and we have seen no progress and no financial resources have been made available to carry out activities in our territories and communities. Nor have we seen good will and good faith on the part of UN-REDD; and even less from ANAM, the government entity responsible for the process of preparing the REDD+ strategy in the Republic of Panama in coordination with the Indigenous Peoples.
Given the above, we are obliged to conclude the following:
11. The process initiated by UN-REDD and ANAM has been riddled with incongruences and inconsistencies both with regards to the content of the proposed documents (R-PP) and the process itself.
12. UN-REDD+ and ANAM have failed to understand that COONAPIP is the political representative of the Indigenous People and a facilitating body, and not merely an implementing agency.
13. As COONAPIP we feel used in this process. We do not understand how it is possible that the United Nations— as the promoter and disseminator of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other initiatives to support Indigenous Peoples— can act in ways that are so inconsistent with these principles in its treatment of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama.
14. The mechanisms that UN-REDD and ANAM have used to strengthen our institution are not appropriate. The way they have acted with COONAPIP has generated confusion and inconformity in the indigenous communities and is an assault on principles and aspirations of our peoples, and their desire to seek unity and consolidate their efforts.
15. The annual plan that UN-REDD and ANAM presented in April in no way reflects the agreement they had made to provide $1.79 to strengthen COONAPIP and implement the PEIP.
16. Informality and lack of transparency have been constants in the way UN-REDD and the ANAM have behaved in this process. To this date we COONAPIP has been unable to sign the agreement with these organizations that was negotiated and agreed in September, 2011.
17. This situation has left us with big doubts about the future: If we are having such problems in a process that is just beginning and the agencies involved behave in ways that are fundamentally inconsistent with the principles that are supposed to apply to REDD, what can we expect when the REDD strategy actually begins to be implemented?
Therefore and given the above, COONAPIP has decided the following:
1. To denounce the failure of UN-REDD and the ANAM to comply with their commitments in the process and content of the REDD initiative in Panama.
2. To demand the establishment of a High-level Political Commission including UN-REDD, ANAM and COONAPIP to once again take up:
- The original proposal to strengthen COONAPIP that was incorporated in the PEIP, with a budget of US$ 1.79 million
- The signing of the tripartite cooperation agreement negotiated in September 2011 and the definition of a clear work plan and appropriate mechanisms for transferring the resources promised to support COONAPIP.
3. To call for the government to issue the decree creating the National REDD Commission, including COONAPIP, civil society entities, and other government agencies that should be involved in preparing the REDD Strategy
4. To give the agencies involved a non-negotiable deadline of 30 working days from the time that this letter is formally delivered to comply with these demands. If that is not done, COONAPIP and the Indigenous Peoples of Panama will formally definitively withdraw from the REDD process in Panama, and we will communicate that to all pertinent entities.
With all of this in mind, we once again extend the good will and trust that characterizes us as Indigenous Peoples of Panama, and we fervently hope for a more open and direct relation with the government agencies and the international organizations that finance REDD+ in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
cc: Secretary General of the United Nations
UN-REDD Programme Inter-institutional Secretariat, Director, Yemi Katerere
World Bank, FCPF, Dr. Benoit Bosquet
UNDP Administrator, Dr. Helen Clark
UNEP Executive Director, Dr. Achim Steiner
FAO Director General, Dr. Graziano da Silva
Foro de Naciones Unidas sobre Bosques, Sra. Jan McAlpine
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Dra. Mirna Cunninghan
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, Mr. James Anaya
Presidency of the Republic of Panama
Ministry of Foreign Relations
The Norwegian Government’s Forests and Climate Initiative, Director Hans Brattskar
Ministry of Environment of Norway, Sra. Ellen Bruzelius Backer
NORAD, REDD, Sr. Ivan Jorgensen
Embassy of Norway in Guatemala
Embassy of the United States in Panama
Executive Secretary of the Central American Commission on Environment and Development, Dr. Nelson Trejo
REDD, GIZ, CCAD Regional Program, Dr. Laszlo Pancel
Alianza Mesoamerican de Pueblos y Bosque (AMPB), Mr. Levi Sucre
Consejo Indígena de Centro América (CICA), Chief Counselor, Amadeo Martínez
Congreso Nacional Indígena de Mexico, Mr. Aldo González
Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE)
Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (ONIC)
Ford Foundation, Dr David Kaimowitz
International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Regional Office for Mesoamerica and Caribbean Initiative, Dr. Grethel Aguilar
Inter-Church Organisation for Development Cooperation, ICCO, Sra. María Pía Hernández
Programa Salvadoreño de Investigación sobre Desarrollo y Medio Ambiente- PRISMA, Dr. Susan Kandel
Congreso General de la Comarca Guna Yala, Mr. Inocencio Martínez,
Congreso General de la Comarca Guna de Madungandi, Mr. Manuel Pérez
Congreso General de la Comarca Guna de Wargandi, Mr, José Pérez
Congreso General de la comarca Ngäbe-Buglé, Mrs. Silvia Carrera
Congreso General Buglé, Mr. Marcelo Guerra
Congreso Nacional Wounaan, Mr. Gardemio Mémbora
Consejo General Naso Tjërdi, Mr. Reinaldo Santana
Consejo General Bribri, Mr. Joaquín González
Congreso General de Alto Bayano Emberá, Mr. Guillermo Ramírez
Congreso General Guna de Dagargunyala, Mr. Luis Tovar
August 8, 2012
Mr. Betanio Chiquidama
President and Cacique General
de Tierras Colectivas Emberá y Wounaan
Coordinadora Nacional de Pueblos Indígenas de Panamá
Mr. Elivardo Membache
Secretary and Cacique General
Congreso General de Tierras Colectivas Emberá y Wounaan
Dear Mr. Chiquidama and Mr. Membache:
This letter follows up on an earlier communication from the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Panama, dated June 28th, in which she replies to your letter dated June 20th, 2012, referencing a series of events within the framework of the design and implementation of the National Joint Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Panama (UNREDD Panama Programme) that is being implemented by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente (ANAM, acronym in Spanish) as the national counterpart.
In accordance with the spirit of respect, goodwill, and collaboration that has always guided the UN-REDD programme, the undersigned wish to, on behalf of ANAM and UN-REDD, invite Mr. Betanio Chiquidama, Cacique General of the Emberá-Wouunaan Comarca and President of the National Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples of Panama (Coordinadora Nacional de Pueblos Indígenas – COONAPIP, in Spanish) and Mr. Elivardo Membache, General Congress of Emberá and Wounáan Collective Lands (Congreso General de Tierras Colectivas Emberá y Wounaan) and Secretary of COONAPIP to a meeting to discuss the following matters:
a) The strengthening of COONAPIP within the framework of UN-REDD, and
b) The procedures proposed by COONAPIP to speed up consultations with all Indigenous People involved, at the national and sub-national levels.
ANAM and UN-REDD reiterate their willingness to work together with COONAPIP and clarify interpretations and understandings that may exist regarding the two issues above and other items that COONAPIP may wish to discuss during the meeting mentioned above. Please set the date and time when you wish to meet and advise us as early as possible so the respective representatives can program the date in their agendas.
As part of the effort to clarify the situations described in your letter of June 20, 2012, we also deem it appropriate to provide some replies contained in the Annex to this letter below.
In reiterating the willingness, goodwill, and trust that characterizes the UN-REDD Programme, we remain,
Assistant Country Director
Regional Office for LAC
Assistant Regional Coordinator for Central America and Representative to Panama
Deputy Administrator General
Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations, H.E. Ban Ki – moon, Secretary General.
Secretariat UN-REDD Programme, Mr. Señor Yemi Katerere, Director.
World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, Mr. Benoir Bosquet, Director.
United Nations Development Programme, Ms. Helen Clark, Administrator.
United Nations Environment Programme, Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director.
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, Mr. Graziano da Silva, Director General.
United Nations Forum on Forests, Ms. Jan McAlpine.
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Ms. Mirna Cunningham.
UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mr. James Anaya.
Presidency of the Republic of Panama, H.E Ricardo Martinelli, President.
Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, H.E Francisco Alvarez De Soto.
Norwegian Government Initiative on Forests and Climate, Mr. Hans Brattskar, Director.
Norwegian Ministry of the Environment, Ms. Ellen Bruzelius Backer, Adviser.
NORAD REDD, Mr. Ivan Jorgensen.
Embassy of Norway in Guatemala.
Embassy of the United States of America in Panama, H.E Jonathan D. Farrar, Ambassador.
Central American Commission on Environment and Labour, Mr. Nelson Trejo, Executive
Regional REDD GIZ – CCAD Programme, Mr. Laszlo Pancel.
Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests, Mr. Levi Sucre.
Indigenous Council of Central America (CICA), Senior Councillor, Mr. Amadeo Martínez.
Confederation of the Autochthonous/First Peoples of Honduras (CONPAH), Mr. Bayardo
National Indigenous Council of Mexico, Mr. Aldo González.
Confederation of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONIAE).
National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), Mr. Luis Evelis Andrade.
Ford Foundation, Dr. David Kaimowitz.
International Union for Conservation of Nature, Regional Office for Mesoamerica and the
Caribbean Initiative (UICN – ORMA /IC), Ms. Grethel Aguilar.
Inter-Church Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), Ms. María Pía Hernández.
Salvadorian Research Programme on Development and Environment (PRISMA), Ms. Susan
General Congress of the Guna Yala Comarca, Mr. Inocencio Martínez.
General Congress of the Guna Comarca of Madungandi, Mr. Manuel Pérez.
General Congress of the Guna Comarca of Wargandi, Mr. José Pérez.
General Congress of the Ngäbe Buglé Comarca, Ms. Silvia Carrera.
Buglé General Congress, Mr. Marcelo Guerra.
Wounáan National Congress, Mr. Gardemio Mémbora.
Naso Tjërdi General Council, Mr. Reinaldo Santana.
Bribri General Council, Mr. Joaquín González.
Emberá General Congress of Alto Bayano, Mr. Guillermo Ramírez.
Guna General Congres of Dagargunyala, Mr. Luis Tovar.
Clarifications of some points raised in the COONAPIP letter of June 20, 2012
The UN-REDD Panama Programme shows an implementation rate clearly below that which United Nations agencies consider optimum. Delays, due to various factors, some of them beyond the control of the UN agencies, have affected all phases of project, including those involving indigenous groups. Although it is important to recall that Panama is one of the first countries in the region to have such a project, it requires a learning curve in terms of coordination. It is also important to reiterate that both ANAM and the UN agencies consider it a priority to significantly improve the rate of programme execution.
Nevertheless, we hope that neither the various points mentioned in COONAPIP’s letter of this past June 2012, nor the delays in programme implementation, be regarded as a lack of commitment by ANAM and the UN agencies to include the genuine participation of indigenous peoples in the UN-REDD process. We, therefore, include clarifications and information in this Annex with the sole purpose to enable the continued participation of the indigenous peoples in UN-REDD and to arrive at solutions that expedite progress in these activities.
1. In regards to the process of consultation and participation prior to the programme’s approval including the validation meeting.
- A letter to ANAM’s Directorate of Protected Areas and Wildlife dated February 12th 2009 and signed, among others, by Caciques Mr. Gilberto Arias y Mr. Betanio Chiquidama, as members of the Board of Directors of the Original Authorities of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama, stated that there was no knowledge of the content of Panama’s proposal on REDD and that they were ready to review all documentation provided on the subject.
- With regards to this, in September 2009, the UN agencies, and particularly FAO, provided financial support for a technical team from COONAPIP to analyse the UNREDD Panama programme document. As a result of that review, various documents detailing the analysis carried out by COONAPIP with respect to the REDD proposal were prepared, among them: Minutes 001, dated October 6, 2009, regarding the submission of the UN-REDD document; Framework of Principles for REDD operation, dated October 13th, 2009; and a document entitled “Indigenous Peoples and REDD.”
- The meeting to validate the UN-REDD Panama programme document was held on October 13th, 2009. Present at that meeting was COONAPIP’s President, Mr. Betanio Chiquidama, who at the time expressed his agreement with the validation process and witnessed that COONAPIP, together with the Government, had been consulted by the UN agencies in the preparation of the document mentioned above. The United Nations Organization in Panama, in turn, recognized COONAPIP as the organization authorized by the indigenous peoples of Panama to act on their behalf and requested the President to increase efforts to include and represent the interests of all the country’s indigenous peoples and campesino communities as a means of ensuring the effective engagement of all key stakeholders in the UN-REDD Panama process. (Annex 1: Minutes of Validation Meeting).
- Having fulfilled the requirements of the UN-REDD Secretariat, including convening a validation meeting, the UN-REDD Panama programme, with a budget totalling 5.3 million dollars, was approved at the Third Session of the Policy Board held in October 2009. We have been unable to locate any minutes specifying an agreement to provide for an indigenous coordinator to be paid from UN-REDD funds. However, provided that policies and procedures in place are followed, the UN agencies are willing to support contracts that may, as part of the strengthening of COONAPIP, facilitate the full participation of indigenous groups in the UN-REDD programme.
2. In regards to support for COONAPIP through the PEIP
a) As a result of coordinated actions by ANAM and the agencies of the United Nations System involved in the UN-REDD programme, at the end of 2010 the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) agreed to fund the preparation of COONAPIP’s statutes, procedures manual, and strategic plan. GIZ assigned this task to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which undertook the work of assisting COONAPIP in starting the process of institutional support and ensuring the success of the consultation process and the participation of indigenous people in UN-REDD. This process ended in mid-2011 and yielded the Strategic Plan for Political Impact (referred to as the PEIP).
b) It is essential to highlight that the PEIP’s scope ended up being broader than the framework of the UN-REDD Panama programme in scope and results; therefore, at all meetings to review the PEIP’s content and budget, the UN agencies emphasized the fact that UN-REDD could not fund the entire content of the PEIP and its activities. In this regard, several working meetings were held among COONAPIP, UNDP, and ANAM delegates with the goal of identifying PEIP components aligned with the UN-REDD programme’s framework for results (September 21, October 28, and November 1st, 2011). It is crucial to indicate that the PEIP’s budget significantly exceeds UN-REDD´s budgetary allocation for participation of indigenous groups and that several of the PEIP’s activities lie outside the UN-REDD framework. Although we have been and remain committed to facilitating the broadest participation possible of indigenous peoples in UN-REDD, neither ANAM nor the agencies of the UN System ever made a formal counter-proposal for support in the amount of US$1.3 million. The documentation supporting this includes the minutes of meetings and their annexes, as mentioned above, which are attached to this letter (Annex 2: Minutes of the Meeting of September 21, Annex 3: Minutes of the Meeting of October 28, and Annex 4: Minutes of the Meeting of November 1st, 2011).
c) In review of the final report of the “Mesoamerican Consultation on the Joint UNFCCC Approach to Environmental and Social Safeguards within the REDD+ Framework,” we found no documentation regarding the alleged statement made during the meeting’s plenary of US$1.7 million in official support from UN-REDD. On the contrary, Ms. Vanessa Retana, Adviser to the UNDP Regional Centre, indicates that following the announcement made by a COONAPIP member that UN-REDD would transfer US$1.7 million to COONAPIP, she took the opportunity to clarify that any specific amount would be defined by the parties at a later date.
d) The proposal introduced through your letter of June 2012, and which would involve the direct transfer of all funds (US$1.7 million) to the General Congress of the Emberá-Wounaan Comarca, does not correspond to the legal instruments and/or format that UN agencies are authorized to sign and neither does it comply with the fiduciary standards that regulate them.
e) In this regard, at the last meeting to review the PEIP, held on November 1st, 2011, UNDP officer Ms. Gisele Didier explained the five ways to create joint actions with civil society organizations, emphasizing the need for the organization to obtain legal status. Among the five strategies, she indicated that only two would be appropriate in the case of COONAPIP: a) a special agreement – Grant Agreement – that allows for funding of $150,000 for one year, up to an accumulated total of $300,000 throughout the life of the project; or b) a competitive process in order to make a direct contract with COONAPIP. Ms. Didier expressed UNDP’s willingness to undertake the necessary consultations with the parties involved in order to seek a waiver of the competitive process and in order to sign a direct agreement with COONAPIP. See the minutes of the meeting held on November 1st, 2011, attached. (Annex 4: Minutes of the Meeting of November 1st, 2011). We reiterate our commitment to facilitate actions that can expedite implementation of the process of consultation and participation of indigenous peoples in the UN-REDD programme, within the framework of the agencies’ required procedures and policies.
3. In regards to the legal status (personería jurídica) of COONAPIP and the
a) After meetings began in September 2011,
UN-REDD specified the requirement that COONAPIP obtain legal status in order to be able to formalize its relationship as a responsible party for implementing UN-REDD, and through a letter dated September 22nd 2011, COONAPIP asked UNDP for financial support to do this. UNDP agreed to the request and offered to finance the amount of US$1,300.00 to the lawyer designated by COONAPIP. Although an advance of $500.00 was disbursed, we have received no letter or information regarding the progress made towards this effort. See the invoice attached (Annex 5: Invoice and proof of payment).
b) We note the fact that, although COONAPIP formally requested financial support for processing its legal status in September 2011, in its letter dated June 2012 it informs us that this is no longer a goal of those represented in the Coordination, arguing that there is a contradiction between having a legal status and playing the role of adviser to the traditional leaders of indigenous peoples. The UN agencies absolutely respect COONAPIP’s change in thinking but reiterate that the lack of legal recognition is the reason why it has been impossible to channel funds directly to COONAPIP, using the strategies explained in part (e) above.
c) Although COONAPIP does not comply with the formal requirements to receive and implement programme funds, the UN agencies involved in the programme showed their commitment to the indigenous peoples and were, as an exception, able to support COONAPIP with an amount of about US$ 35,000 during the period 2009 – 2012 (see Annex 6 about Financial Contributions to COONAPIP). This includes support channelled through UNEP that provides rent for the COONAPIP offices in the city of Panama as well as resources for activities related to the consultation processes. It is worth mentioning that UNEP had to request an extraordinary authorization to provide these funds on time and in response to COONAPIP’s need to have an office in the city of Panama.
d) There is no evidence in UNDP files of a request for the amount of US$ 54,880 to hire staff and we reiterate that funds cannot be transferred because the lack of legal status would not enable such a transfer. The UN agencies are nevertheless willing to find other ways to provide support for such things as hiring as part of the process of consultation and participation of indigenous peoples in UN-REDD, provided it is done in compliance with current procedures and policies.
e) UN-REDD’s annual work plans are dynamic planning tools that incorporate both projections and information about implementing programmes and reflect an estimate of what is possible during a given period. The amount of funds assigned to strengthen COONAPIP are, therefore, proposed figures of what may be achieved in 2012 and were estimated by taking into account the existing difficulties in transferring funds as described in previous sections.
4. Communication with COONAPIP
a) There has been open and uninterrupted communication between the UN-REDD programme and COONAPIP, thus far directed through Mr. Alexis Baules, Coordinator of the UN-REDD Programme. When requested, he has provided timely information, as shown in the communication exchanges documented in programme files, including a recent request to lend support for COONAPIP’s General Assembly, scheduled July 2012. See the latest communications during the last trimester (Annex 7).
Based on the considerations expressed under numerals 1-4, we wish to state the following:
- UN-REDD and ANAM are fully aware of COONAPIP’s social function and legal status; acknowledge the nature of this fact, as expressed in its Statutes, approved on May 5th and 6th 2011; and value its goal to consolidate, sustain, and strengthen the unity of all indigenous peoples and their traditional political, juridical, social, cultural, and environmental groups and institutions and their traditional knowledge, as expressed through their identity and cultural worldview. The assertion contained in the letter of June 2012 to the effect that COONAPIP is being regarded as a mere “operations entity” does not reflect the reality of the treatment that it, and all representatives of the indigenous peoples grouped into Panama’s seven indigenous groups, receive by both the UN System agencies and ANAM.
- The UN agencies have played a key role to advance recognition of the rights of Panama’s indigenous peoples, not just by disseminating the principles and rights published in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but also by promoting and protecting those rights through strengthening the capacities of indigenous organizations. This is in addition to the follow-up of the recommendations made in-country by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A recent example is the publication of Law 11 of 2012, achieved under UN auspices through the well-known dialogue process between the Government and the Ngäbe people.
- All actions undertaken thus far in Panama by UN-REDD adhere to programme and donor guidelines, which must be locally and nationally implemented in strict accordance with the rules and procedures regulating such projects. The guidelines have been consistently applied even before the approval of the UNREDD programme, at the stage when the agencies involved and ANAM began exploring strategies to directly or indirectly support COONAPIP.
- ANAM is currently considering to issue a resolution that creates the National REDD Committee, which involves the participation of key stakeholders, as part of the consultation process for the National REDD Strategy due to begin in the near future. The committee, following UN-REDD guidelines, will adopt all necessary provisions to create an entirely participatory process that ensures the involvement of indigenous peoples and representatives of other communities that depend on forests. We hope that we can count on your participation in this process.
- The review of COONAPIP’s PEIP (with a total budget of US$1.7 million) sought to identify those activities planned by COONAPIP that could be financed through the UN-REDD programme, under the ‘Indigenous Consultation and Institutional Strengthening’ component of the programme’s framework for results. The joint review did not mean that the UN-REDD programme was committed to transferring US$ 1.7 million to COONAPIP in order to finance the entire PEIP and its activities.
- There is no agreement in force between COONAPIP and UN-REDD because the UN agencies participating in the programme cannot sign a legal instrument with an authority lacking legal status.
- The proposal introduced through your letter of June 2012, which involves a request to transfer all funds (US$ 1.7 million) to the General Congress of the Emberá Wounáan Comarca, does not comply with the legal instruments and/or formats through which the agencies of the United Nations System can sign, and neither does it comply with the fiduciary standards that regulate them.
- Finally, although COONAPIP has indicated that it has changed its original intention to obtain legal status in order to receive funds from UN-REDD, the UN agencies remain interested in, and committed to, finding other strategies that may be proposed by the indigenous peoples and found in compliance with the fiduciary rules that regulate these relationships.
We trust the content of this Annex helps clarify historical issues and we reiterate our interest in, and commitment to, working together with Indigenous Peoples of Panama in the implementation of the UN-REDD programme.
Mrs. Lucia Chandeck, General Administrator of the National Environmental Authority – ANAM, Panama
Ms. Kim Bolduc, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations, Panama
Dear Ms. Chandeck and Ms. Bolduc,
We acknowledge the receipt of the note signed by the following people: Ms. Katyna ARgueta, Deputy Director of country of UNDP, Ms. Margarita Astralaga, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of UNEP, Mr. Deep Ford, Subregional Coordinator for Central America and Panama Representative for the FAO and Mr. Gerardo González, National Director of Integrated Watershed Management of the ANAM dated August 8th, 2012 with reference DIGH-1417-12 and received on August 20th.
We want to mention that as Traditional Authorities of indigenous peoples and of the congresses and general councils represented in COONAPIP, we are holding internal discussions to establish the next steps with regard to REDD, but not before recalling, that in our note from June 20th, in point 2 of the resolutions, we spoke of the need to establish a High Level Political Commission between UN-REDD, ANAM and COONAPIP to take up the Strategic Plan for Policy Advocacy (PEIP), which breaks down the elements that we consider fundamental to this process, and sign a tripartite agreement between UN-REDD, ANAM and COONAPIP that would advance the possibilities of collaborative work on REDD. However, without your presence, it will not be possible for us to accept the invitation for a meeting made to us by the aforementioned officials that signed the note.
In the same way and since we are sending this acknowledgement of receipt, we would like to clarify the following:
- The argument that you make regarding the legal status of COONAPIP and the financial resources that you mention, are not the relevant substantive issues that COONAPIP would like to dialogue with UN-REDD and ANAM for two fundamental reasons. One, because we have said in the past, UN-REDD could transfer resources, with our direction, to several indigenous NGOs that have the full confidence of COONAPIP, and two because we know from experience that when there is political will, these issues can be resolved. The foregoing in compliance with article 5 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- The other priority issue for us has to do with the operationalization of the PEIP and other issues that affect indigenous territories, based on the fact that COONAPIP is a political and unified body, which facilitates linkages with the traditional authorities to carry out work in its territories, comarcas, and collectively owned lands.
- The spirit of the PEIP is for COONAPIP to become a counterpart responsible for the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in the formulation and implementation of the REDD Strategy in Panama. To make this possible COONAPIP must be strengthened as it has been insisting, appealing to articles 3 and 4 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this sense, the PEIP remains our pathway for work, and we want discuss and deepen this process, but to make this viable, a dialogue and a high-level political agreement is necessary.
- COONAPIP must be watchful of the compliance with the safeguards and rights contained in the United Nations Declaration such as Free, Prior and Informed Consent to ensure that the implementation of the United Nations Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of Forests in Panama (UN REDD), does not mean the violation of our rights as indigenous peoples.
- In view of the impossibility of arranging a High Level Political meeting, we are planning, with international assistance, and within the framework of the Mesamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests, a work mission of COONAPIP’s Commission, with the mandate of its General Assembly through resolution No. 007 held on the 13th and 14th of July 2012. The Commission was authorized to visit the Embassy of Norway in Guatemala and to have a meeting with the Ambassador in that country, to visit Washington DC, the World Bank, FCPF, to talk with Dr. Benoit Bosquet and finally a visit to New York to the UN-REDD Programme at the Interinstitutional Secretariat, to speak with the Director, Yemi Katerere adn other officials related to issue of REDD and the rights of indigenous peoples (Article 42 of the Declaration).
 Article 5: “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.”
 Article 3: “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
Article 4: “Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.”
 Article 42: “The United Nations, its bodies, including the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and specialized agencies, including at the country level, and States shall promote respect for and full application of the provisions of this Declaration and follow up the effectiveness of this Declaration.”
“The rights of Indigenous Peoples are not negotiable;” They are respected, recognized and guaranteed, democracy as a system of government, is not truly democratic if a group of people suffers from the inequalities of discrimination and exclusion due to their ethnic origin. No more Panama without indigenous peoples” Ubiliguina
The National Coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama (COONAPIP) wishes to denounce the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) of Panama and the United Nations agencies such as UNDP, UNEP, FAO and the World Bank for the failure to comply with the provisions contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the process of the elaboration of the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests in Panama (UN REDD).
We Indigenous Peoples have participated in good faith in the Panamanian Government’s process in the search for alternatives to combat the effects of climate change which, in our particular case, affects us directly causing damage and pain to our communities. We Indigenous peoples of Panama have witnessed the persistent obstruction by our counterparts (ANAM-UN) in not allowing a full and effective participation of COONAPIP in the consultation process for obtaining free, prior and informed consent, and at the same time, allowing our legitimate interests which safeguard the survival of our peoples to be ignored and not taken into consideration in the elaboration of the program.
The adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted in 2007 establishes the human rights of the Indigenous Peoples of the world, including those in Panama, and the intent to ignore the provisions of the Declaration in Panama’s UN-REDD programme is legally unacceptable, morally reprehensible and socially unjust. The rights of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama are not negotiable and any initiative intent on promoting a program that ignores our rights to our lands, territories and resources including OUR FORESTS will be rejected and denounced at national and international levels.
COONAPIP calls on the officials of ANAM and of the UN to not impose their personal criteria on a process that must respect human rights recognized at national and international levels and to beging a process of elaboration of the UN REDD program for the benefit of the country according to the standards of transparency, good faith and respect for human rights. Given in Panama City on the 24th day of August 2012.