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Appeal to India & to the UN on Forest Communities’ Biodiversity & Human Rights based Development

Contact-address of this appeal: , Friends of the Earth Finland

We appeal to India and to the UN governing bodies on human rights and biodiversity to ensure that the rights and protection of India’s vulnerable forest communities and biodiverse environment are not violated. We appeal to ensure that India allows no regress or removal of the legal safeguards set for these vulnerable communities’ rights or environment under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) or other laws of India – and that:
1. In the name of ‘development’ India shall not violate human right to development or other human rights and particularly not the rights of forest communities as they are often most vulnerable in terms of human rights. As governments’ “primary responsibility” is to secure the right to “development in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized” (1), right to development is violated by any regress in realising economic or other human rights – no less so if a government prefers to call such violations ‘development’. We are deeply concerned that India in the name of ‘development’ increasingly violates right to development and other human rights in order to serve corporate profits, threatening to remove diverse legal safeguards of human rights and environment provided under the FRA or other laws on human rights and environment.(2)
This would diminish the rights on which India however just affirmed to the world its ”solemn commitment to respect […] and in no way diminish the rights of indigenous peoples” – like rights to determine the priorities of their development or survival on their ”traditional subsistence activities” like food gathering or other land uses that ”sustain their environment” – as affirmed by the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples 22/9/2014.(3)
2. India shall not in the name of ‘conservation’ violate its biodiversity conservation commitments set by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), including those on customary sustainable use of biodiversity. India has held the international CBD Conference of Parties’ (CoP) presidency which it is now to complete and is thus responsible to lead by example such due implementation of the CBD-commitments which secures indigenous and local communities’ customary sustainable use of biodiversity. If as a result of completing its CoP-presidency India still does not respect but violates its forest communities’
rights of customary sustainable use of biodiversity, it undermines India’s own and also CBD’s credibility. Forced eviction of tribal or traditional forest communities is not development or conservation but violates CBD as well as right to development and other human rights which any due development has to promote.

3. Vulnerable forest communities and biodiversity they have sustained shall thus not be forcibly displaced without their consent by mining, highways, dams, plantations, sanctuary/wildlife tourism or other industries: a) India has thus to obtain due consent of tribal forest communities for any relocation or other measures that affect their life, culture or environment and to prevent retrogression of their rights – as required by India’s diverse commitments under the international law, its own laws and its Supreme Court judgement. (4) When such “communities are alienated from their lands” in the name of ‘development’ “such projects result in human rights violations involving forced evictions, displacement and even loss of life” and are “certainly not
what we mean by development” as noted by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in respect to India’s particularly vulnerable tribal community. (5) As past 17 years of India’s high commercial growth have continued to maintain nearly 30% of world’s hunger in India, such GDP growth which does not reduce but maintains hunger is not development. In Chhattisgarh
and Gujarat the years of growth above India’s average maintained child malnutrition/underweight levels even higher above India’s average. Such growth that maintains such hunger violates human rights to life, food and health (6) and particularly the rights of vulnerable tribal communities, depriving them of their indigenous land, food, health or subsistence falsely in the name of ‘development’, violating their equal right to development.(7)

b)Displacement without community’s consent violates human rights also by discrimination of tribal people.(8) While less than 9% of India’s population are tribal, still its 30 million displaced tribal people are more than 40 % of the people displaced in India since its independence.(9) Such severe discrimination against their human rights to habitat, tenure etc. India has “to prevent, prohibit and eliminate”. Human rights like “protection from forced eviction should not be made conditional on a person’s land tenure status, such as living in an informal settlement” that has to be equally protected by legal safeguards (10) as duly provided under the FRA.

c) India’s forest communities are best adapted to live by the regeneration of India’s ‘in-situ’ biodiversity as integral to its survival. Thus also to conserve biodiversity they have to be protected from displacement and secured rights to their customary sustainable use of biodiversity – as also provided by the FRA. (11)

In-situ biodiversity has survived quite well in such tribal forest areas of India, where tribal communities have decided the use of the forests. Forest plantations or other commercial capture of forests remove tribes from forest to urban or industrial life, displace India’s in-situ biodiversity and create food-scarcity for wild animals who get forced to shrinking habitats, artificially divided, bordered and declared as national park or sanctuary. Such sanctuaries or wildlife corridors displace indigenous inhabitants and their ecosystem-adapted life – but allow tourism, plantations, highways, dams, even mining or mineral transports (12), even by corporations like Vedanta-Sterlite-Balco who has violated diverse legal safeguards of vulnerable tribes and environment. (13)

As wildlife has been adapted to live in situ not in areas of sanctuary tourism business but in areas co-habited by forest communities, thus – not to provide show for tourism but – to conserve biodiversity duly ‘in-situ’, India
is obliged not to displace but “respect, preserve and maintain””practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity”. (14)

If India does not respect and maintain these community practices with which the wildlife has lived ‘in situ’ but evicts the communities and fragments their ancestral forests into areas where to keep the wildlife for tourism industry, this disturbs wildlife and restricts its gene pool. Wild animals easily flee the stress from such tourism areas – like tigers flee from Kanha – again into the forest areas sustained by tribal communities. (15)

4.As modern development and tourism disturb wildlife, thus in areas the communities traditionally conserved they have a legal right also in sanctuaries “to regulate access to community forest resources and stop” what “adversely affects the wild animals, forest and the biodiversity” covering also the respective gene pool. (16)

As communities have this established right to control such access by sanctuary or other business to secure wildlife or its gene pool to remain safe, India is under the Nagoya Protocol obliged to “ensuring that the prior informed consent or approval and involvement of indigenous and local communities is obtained for access to genetic resources where they have the established right to grant” such access (17) in their traditional forests.

Affected communities’ “prior and informed consent to or approval of, and involvement in, the establishment, expansion, governance and management of protected areas” is needed along with their “full and effective
participation” and with “application of traditional knowledge and customary sustainable use in protected areas” – as the CBD Hyderabad summit under India’s CoP presidency promised to be promoted. (18)
Otherwise commercial takeover of habitats disturbs wild animals and forces them to flee to tribal areas that get oversaturated by such forced, restricted movement of wildlife. Stressed wild animals like elephants attack the communities, their fields or life-stock around many wildlife areas in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Karnataka,West Bengal, etc. Who is responsible when wildlife exposed to tourism even continues to kill increasingly the people who dwell near sanctuaries like in Sundarbans (19) – maintained in the name of CBD commitments?

5. Due “in-situ conservation” does not allow tourism, plantations or other sanctuary based industry to disturb wildlife in a manner which exposes people to be increasingly violated or even killed by the disturbed wildlife. India has to secure forest communities’ right to their customary sustainable use of biodiversity, to live by their traditional occupations and “land tenure in the traditional territories of indigenous and local communities”.(20)

6.India is obliged to ”granting a secure and inalienable right to those communities whose right to life depends on right to forests” (21) that allow them to survive by “their own means of subsistence and development”.(22)

If the government does not respect forest communities’ rights and consent on development of their forests, it deceives its promises to respect the village council’s “inputs for developmental processes” and to create people’s participation based development “preserving the unique identities” of tribals. (23) It deceives its recent promises to the world how its “early implementation” of Nagoya Protocol would be India’s “priority” “as the CoP president” and “once again showcases its leadership in biodiversity in the global arena”. (24)

If in completing its CoP-presidency India continues to forcibly displace local communities and their customary sustainable use of biodiversity and diverts its forest for industries four times faster than before, it undermines the credibility of the CBD, Nagoya Protocol, of its laws and commitments on human rights and development.

India has earlier made crucial contribution to the world peoples’ right to self-determined development based on their communities’ self-rule and sustainable life-heritage – as India’s in-situ biodiversity has sustained for ages more people per cubic meter of such biodiversity than perhaps anywhere else. This local communities’ self-ruled biodiverse India has given a valuable model for Earth’s life and future. It should not be sold out to the “world powers” invited to “make in India” plastic, satelite, submarine, etc. – leaving India merely another “net exporter of goods” for global over-consumption ruled by globalised western technology or market model inherited from the colonialism. (25) Instead of serving world’s overconsumption by low-cost production India can follow what it told in the UN to the world: “We need to change our lifestyles” to achieve “development, prosperity and well being without […] going down the path of reckless consumption”. To secure equality on Earth, “we should work together to ensure that all countries observe international rules and norms”. (26)

Signatures on 13 October 2014
– Friends of the Earth International,
– Global Forest Coalition,
– World Rainforest Movement,
– ICCA Consortium, Indigenous peoples’ and community conserved territories & areas,
– All India Forum of Forest Movements, AIFFM, India,
– National Adivasi Alliance, South, East & North-West Zones, India,, and
– Réseau Communautaire pour le Pauvre RCP-Network/OLEDD-NGO, D.R.Congo,
– Acción por la Biodiversidad, Argentina,
– NGO-Federation of Nepalese Indigenous Nationalities (NGO-FONIN), Nepal,
– ADECRU, Accão Académica para o Desenvolvimento das Comunidades Rurais, Mosambic,
-Penagmannaki, Pederasyon sa Nagkahiusang mga Mag-uuma nga Nananalipud ug Nagpasig-uli sa Kinaiyahan
Inc. (Farmers’ federation that protects and conserves the environment), Philippines,
– Gaia Foundation,
– Biofuelwatch,
– Friends of the Earth Germany,
– Kirdti, India,
– Kirat Chamling Language Culture Development Association, Nepal,
– Friends of the Landless, Finland,
– Indigenous Nationalities Women Youth Network (INWYN), Nepal,
– Friends of the Earth Finland,
– Kirat Youth Society (KYS), Nepal,
– MTPOFI Mt. Talinis People’s Organization Federation Inc., Philippines,

Notes and references
1. UN General Assembly resolution 41/128.Declaration on the Right to Development preface and articles 1 & 3.1
2. While “the current model of development is unequal, unstable and unsustainable” and continues to “undermine the
realization of the full range of human rights for millions across the globe” (A/HRC/27/27 and A/69/36), such regress in
safeguards of human rights and environment which undermines right to development is still however often presented as
if it were ‘development’ which would justify the regress. India plans currently a regress or dilution of legal safeguards:,,,
114090900008_1.html, ,,
forest-survey-of-india/articleshow/44438126.cms ,
3-months/article1-1262676.aspx ,,
114091400055_1.html and

3. World Conference on Indigenous Peoples 22.9. 2014, paragraphs 4, 25-26 and 35-37 and United Nations Declaration
on rights of Indigenoys Peoples (UNDRIP) articles 20 and 23. India is responsible to review its legislation to comply with
the current requirements of the legal safeguards and not to allow regress of safeguards. See the new publication by the
UN and by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU):
4. See for example UNDRIP article 10 which says that “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands
or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples
concerned”. See also Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment 7 E/1998/22
paragraphs 1, 2, 4 & 17, UNDRIP, articles 8.2 b and 26.2, A/HRC/4/18, Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate
housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, paragraphs 6, 8, 28 and 29, Forest Rights Act(FRA), section 4.2 (a) and Tribal Ministry of India, FRA implementation guidelines 2012, section v (d)), Supreme Court of
India, Judgement on Niyamgiri 18.4.2013, UN Doc. CERD/C/62/CO/2, of 2 June 2003, paragraph 16, UN Doc. A/67/18,
paragraphs 27(20), 32(17), 33(17) and 37(15), UN Doc. A/64/18, paragraph 41(14), UN Doc. A/65/18, para. 48(14), and
UN Doc. A/65/18 of 31 October 2010, para. 34(16)

5. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 9 August 2011, “Let us ensure that development for some is not to the
detriment of the human rights of others” on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, 5 August 2011, (see also A/69/271
Achievement of the goal and objectives of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People Report of
the Secretary-General, 6 August 2014, paragraphs 20 and 27)
6. Despite its GDP growth India “has the highest absolute number of food insecure people”. (UN Secretary General
A/69/279, paragraph 35) Having “high percentage of people living below the poverty line despite the GDP growth” India
has “the prevalence of poverty among children”, “high levels of neonatal mortality”, “maternal mortality”, “food insecurity,
lack of access to natural resources, safe water” among rural women and “anaemia […] which leads to low birth weight of
babies”. (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: Concluding observations on India; CRC/C/IND/CO/3-4, 13 June
2014, paragraphs 63 (a)-(b) and 69 and Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Concluding
observations on India CEDAW/C/IND/CO/4-5, 24 July 2014, paragraph 32.) See also:, IFPRI: Global Hunger Index 2012, pages 11-12 and 14,
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As all these violations prevail also under India’s high commercial growth, India has to “require companies to undertake
[…] full public disclosure of the environmental, health-related and human rights impacts of their business” (UN
Committee on the Rights of the Child: Concluding observations on India; CRC/C/IND/CO/3-4, 13 June 2014, paragraph
30(c)) Otherwise such commercial growth endangers also the rights of women under CEDAW articles 12(2) and 14(1).
See also:
keeping-pace-with-economic-development-113070800662_1.html,, page 15, and
The government has to secure “inherent right to life” which requires it also “to take all possible measures to reduce infant
mortality” by “measures to eliminate malnutrition” (ICCPR, article 6 and CCPR, General Comment 6, 1982) and to
secure the right to adequate food and to the highest attainable standard of health for all “by all appropriate means” “to
the maximum of its available resources”. (ICESCR, articles 2.1, 11 and 12.1) UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
noted on 25 September 2014 that “if […] heads of government or heads of state are not doing what they should to uphold
the rights of these – the smallest, most vulnerable of their people – then such omissions may well amount to criminal
negligence.” ( See also:,
7. In India “children from scheduled tribes have the poorest nutritional status on nearly every measure.” (N. Bajpai ja R.
H. Dholakia: “Improving the integration of health and nutrition sectors in India”, Working Paper No. 2, May 2011, page 8,
see also UNDP, Draft country programme document for India (2013-2017), March 2012, page 2) This violates rights
recognised under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, articles 2, 6, 24, 27 and 30. (see also CRC General
Comment 11, CRC/C/GC/11. India has to “ensure that all children” of “Scheduled Tribes enjoy the whole range of rights”
for being protected from “chronic malnutrition (stunting), wasting (acute malnutrition) and underweight among children”.
As these are “closely linked to maternal undernutrition and aneamia”, India needs to promote “women from scheduled
tribes in gaining access to […] maternal health services” and other basic services by being “attended by trained healthcare
(UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on India; CRC/C/IND/CO/3-4, 13 June 2014
paragraphs 32 (b), 63 (c) and 79-80 and UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Concluding
observations on India CEDAW/C/IND/CO/4-5, 24 July 2014, paragraphs 34 and 35 (c))
On right to food, UN General Assembly ”calls upon States to take special actions to combat the root causes of the
disproportionately high level of hunger and malnutrition among indigenous peoples and the continuous discrimination
against them” by also “enhancing access of […] indigenous peoples” to “secure land tenure”. (A/RES/68/177, paragraph
18 and A/RES/67/228, Agriculture development and food security paragraphs 20 and 23 )
As the hunger and malnutrition among the tribals are the worst among the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)
and as “the livelihoods of PVTGs are subsistence in nature, closely linked to land and natural resources, including forest
products” then “warding off malnutrition and poverty amongst PVTGs must be […] closely linked to the protection of their
lands and resources”. As PVTGs’ livelihood and life-heritage “are intertwined with land and the forest” “drawing their
sustenance from the flora and fauna which regenerate naturally” the “secure tenure and rights over their habitat and
natural resources is the foundation” of their survival and the government has to “accord first priority to ensuring that the
habitat and other forest rights of the PVTGs are recognised at the earliest”. But “many PVTGs have already been
displaced by dams, mining and other development projects or relocation of their habitats notified as sanctuaries or
national parks/tiger reserves and are no longer in their original habitats.”(Recommendations of the National Advisory
Council, (NAC); Development challenges specific to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups 2013,, recommendations 3, 4.6 & 5.1-5.2 and 9.2)

As “a people may not “be deprived of its means of subsistence”, States parties should ensure that there is adequate
access to water for subsistence farming and for securing the livelihoods of indigenous peoples”. (CESCR, General
Comment 14, E/C.12/2002/11, paragraph 7) “Development-related activities that lead to the displacement of indigenous
peoples against their will from their traditional territories and environment, denying them their sources of nutrition and
breaking their symbiotic relationship with their lands, has a deleterious effect on their health.” (CESCR, General
Comment 14, E/C.12/2000/4, paragraph 27)
8. CERD Chairperson letter to India 2010,GH/st,
see also CERD, General Recommendation No. 23: Indigenous Peoples : . 08/18/1997, paragraphs 3-4 and UN Doc.
A/64/18 of 28 November 2009, para. 41(14), Observation by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of
Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) – adopted 2011, Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957 (No.
107) – India, published 101st ILC session (2012)
Tribal people face thus discrimination through the evictions and how that affects their rights to food, health, shelter, etc.
while the government has to “combat the root causes of the disproportionately high level of hunger and malnutrition
among indigenous peoples and the continuous discrimination against them”. (A/RES/68/177, paragr. 18) ‘Development’
that continues to forcibly evict particularly the vulnerable tribal people – suppressing them to malnutrition and bonded
labour – is “persistent discrimination against indigenous peoples” and the government has to stop such violation. State
has thus “to ensure that development models and programmes targeted towards indigenous peoples are grounded in
their own cultures”, “correspond to indigenous peoples […] perceptions of development and well-being” compliant to their
“right to define and pursue their self-determined development paths in order to safeguard their cultural integrity and
strengthen their potential for sustainable development” (A/69/267 Rights of indigenous peoples, including their economic,
social and cultural rights in the post-2015 development framework, paragraphs 16, 37, 39, 65, 67, 84)
10. ICESCR, articles 2 & 11.1 and CESCR, General Comment 20 on Non-discrimination, E/C.12/GC/20, paragraphs 9,
18, 25-26, 34 and 36 and NAC Recommendations on PVTG development 2013, recommendations 5.1-5.2. The forced
evictions violate also the rights under the articles 2, 16, 20, 27 and 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. See
also CRC General Comment 11 (2009), CRC/C/GC/11.
11. As “integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystems” forest communities are legally recognised
by the FRA as crucial for the conservation of in-situ biodiversity which becomes displaced when forest communities are
displaced. Thus their rights have to be settled and their consent to resettlement obtained under the FRA (sec.4.2) before
any relocation of these communities can take place. See also
“The Ministry of Environment and Forests and the National Tiger Conservation Authority must ensure that no relocation
of PVTGs (and other forest dwellers) takes place from protected areas without recognition of rights under FRA and
obtaining prior informed consent of Gram Sabhas of […] villages whose […] rights (such as NFTP collection, grazing and
cultural and religious rights) are being affected”.
“Most PVTGs are forest dwellers whose ancestral territories have been notified as reserved forest, protected forest and
also National Parks, Tiger Reserves and sanctuaries without recognising their rights. Most of them do not have the
concept of private property and their customary community lands have been declared as a state owned forest or revenue
land leaving them most vulnerable to eviction and displacement without any entitlements to compensation or
rehabilitation”. “Displaced Baigas from the Achanakmar wildlife sanctuary in Chhatisgarh for example are landing up in
distant urban slums, losing access to all the special benefits designed for them. […] Many more are under threat of
similar displacement or relocation from their traditional territories in the name of economic advancement or wildlife
conservation. But in return they receive landlessness, impoverishment and long term degradation of the environment on
which they wholly depend.” (NAC recommendations on PVTGs, 2013, paragraphs 1.4, 5.1 and 5.2)
13. Vedanta-Sterlite-Balco has expanded its mining and/or mining related industries in areas of Particularly Vulnerable
Tribal Groups like Dongrias, Baigas, Pahadi Korbas and Kutias.
14. Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD, article 8 j
January/articleshow/27804560.cms and
16. Forest Rights Act, FRA, sections 2a, 3.1(i) and 5 d
17. Nagoya Protocol, article 6.2
Their consent has to be obtained thus also for the sanctuary’s access to genetic resources. And where even mining and
its heavy traffic roads are expanded in the sanctuary corridors, it “adversely affects the wild animals, forest and the
biodiversity” which the communities have traditionally conserved. They have thus right “to regulate access to community
forest resources and stop” mining and tourism industry there.
18. CBD Hyderabad Conference of Parties (CoP) decision XI/14. Article 8(j) and related provisions, section “F. Article 10,
with a focus on Article 10(c), as a major component of the programme of work on Article 8(j) and related provisions”,
paragraph 10 (c) and UNEP/CBD/WG8J/8/L.3, 10 October 2013, Draft Plan of Action on Customary Sustainable Use of
Biological Diversity; V. Elements of the first phase of the draft Plan of Action on Customary Sustainable Use of Biological
Diversity, Tasks 1, 2 and 3 (i)
19. How the disturbed elephants kill people, see:
How tigers kill people continuously in around Sundarbans tiger sanctuary see for example:
Also in other areas of forest communities tigers kill the people like for example in Baiga area of Central India.
articleshow/38996769.cms . To the Baiga area in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh the government plans a
tiger corridor between Kanha and Achanakmar tiger reserves. This threatens to displace the Baigas or to kill their
lifestock of tens of thousands of animals, which would be endangered to become the prey to feed the tigers for
maintaining the sanctuary tourism business
20. CBD article 10 c and CoP XI/3, Monitoring Progress in implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-
2020 and the AichI Biodiversity Targets, B. Development of indicators relevant to traditional knowledge and customary
sustainable use, paragraphs 1-7
21. Supreme Court of India, Judgement on Niyamgiri 18.4.2013, section 42. While tribal people have thus “a secure and
inalienable right” to their ancestral forest even according to the government-set National Advisory Council they are
“under threat of […] displacement or relocation from their traditional territories in the name of economic advancement or
wildlife conservation” whereas “in return they receive landlessness, impoverishment and long term degradation of the
environment on which they wholly depend.”(NAC Recommendations on PVTG development 2013, recommendation 5.2)
22. UNDRIP, article 20
25. India’s Independence day speech 2014 by Prime Minster N. Modi
26. Statement by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the UN General Assembly 69th Session, September 27, 2014

14 oct., 2014
Posted in Noticias, Supporting Community Conservation, Bosques y Cambio Climático