Forest smallholders – a term encompassing forest communities, small private forest owners, and Indigenous Peoples – manage many of the world’s forests that are at risk of disruption or destruction due to competition over land use. For many of these people, the forest is not just about food, fuel, and shelter. Forests also act as safety nets when drought, crop failure, or diseases strike. Unfortunately, the drive for profits often takes precedence over the rights of forest-dependent communities and overwrites the voices of marginalized groups. In turn, these activities entrench poverty, while also destroying forests, their ecosystems, and their communities.
FSC has a 20+ year legacy of giving voice to people who have been under-represented in forest management decision making. Today, FSC is adapting forest certification solutions that specifically work for smallholders, community forest managers, and Indigenous Peoples, while maintaining a balance with the credibility of FSC certification to ensure social, economic, and environmental impacts.
Solutions for Smallholders:
Smallholders and community forests play a key role in combatting climate change, but only a fraction of them are certified to FSC. FSC is working to change that fact and make the system both more relevant and accessible to this very important group of forest owners. From adapting our standards through continuous improvement and collective impact models, to promoting markets for smallholder forest and non-timber forest products, FSC is committed to developing these new approaches for smallholders and communities.
Protecting workers’ rights as per the International Labour Standards has always been part of FSC’s certification requirements. Forest Managers must adhere to FSC’s Principles and Criteria for Forest Stewardship; Principle 2 of is dedicated to safeguarding the protection of workers by specifically upholding their rights and maintaining or enhancing their social and economic welfare. FSC certification also assists the forest sector in respecting and applying human rights such as gender equality for forest-dependent people.
FSC has been committed to Indigenous rights since its inception; the first FSC Principles and Criteria (1994) are guided by the international standards of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), and some Indigenous groups are founding members of FSC.
FSC’s international Board of Directors has been advised by a Permanent Indigenous Peoples’ Committee (PIPC) since 2013, which is comprised of Indigenous leaders and representatives from different regions of the world who work to shape FSC’s position on Indigenous rights, resource management, and income and livelihoods in Indigenous territories. In 2018, the FSC Indigenous Foundation was established as a new Indigenous-led entity with a global office in Panama.