Life as Commerce: Criticizing Market-Based Conservation

Barcelona, Spain – As the international financial crisis grows and markets become more unstable, Global Forest Coalition [1] launched a timely new report, "Life as Commerce: the Impact of Market-based Conservation" [2] today at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress.

"Life as Commerce" features case studies from India, Costa Rica, South Africa, Paraguay and Colombia about the impact of market-based conservation mechanisms like ecotourism, forest certification, biodiversity offsets and carbon trade on Indigenous Peoples, local communities and women. These impacts are particularly important in light of the proposal by some countries to include forest conservation into the global carbon market.

At IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Global Forest Coalition managing coordinator Simone Lovera said: "The report provides a number of fascinating real-life stories on how these mechanisms work out at the community-level.  It forms an important addition to the increasing number of studies that focus on the potential benefits of these mechanisms for local communities and the rules and standards that are needed to generate these benefits. As the case studies describe, such rules and standards seldom exist, and even where they exist, they are not well-implemented as market mechanisms make it attractive for powerful actors to circumvent them. The costs of these mechanisms, also in terms of undermining community governance, seem to outweigh the benefits in real-life situations."

Market-based mechanisms are often seen as solutions to the lack of funding for public conservation, but they are false solutions.  The current economic crisis has also shown the unreliability of global markets as a potential funding source for conservation.

Wally Menne from the Timberwatch Coalition, who coordinated the case study of South Africa related: "Take for example forest certification.  Our case study showed that the Forest Stewardship Council’s certification system, as practiced in South Africa, actually seems to be masking many of the environmental, social and economic problems experienced by communities living alongside monoculture timber plantations.  The expansion and development of the sector to meet increased global demand for timber products has increased unemployment and functional poverty into the area, and has led to encroachment into land and water resources required for food production and food security."

Emphasizing the importance of food security, a biofuel (agrofuels) review [3] issued this Tuesday in Rome, Italy from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN stated, "food security concerns loom large….Particularly at risk are poor urban consumers and poor net food buyers in rural areas. Many of the world’s poor spend more than half of their incomes on food."  The Global Forest Coalition welcomes the FAO’s call to review biofuel policies and subsidies in the light of their impact on food security and precious ecosytems like forests.

For more information, contact:
Simone Lovera, GFC managing coordinator mobile +31 6 15345379
Orin Langelle, GFC media coordinator mobile +34 6 71253660

PHOTO: Global Forest Coalition’s managing coordinator, Simone Lovera (center), describes GFC’s new report, Life as Commerce: the Impact of Market-based Conservation, at a press conference today at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Spain.  Dr. Andrei Laletin (left), Friends of Siberian Forests and Global Forest Coalition and Victor Benitez Isfran (right), Director of Alter Vida Paraguay and coordinator of Pojoaju, the Paraguayan federation of NGO networks also spoke at the press conference. Photo: Orin Langelle/GJEP-GFC

[1]  The Global
Forest Coalition is a worldwide network of Indigenous Peoples Organizations and non-governmental organizations that promotes effective rights-based forest conservation policies. See for more information.

[2] The Life as Commerce report can be downloaded HERE in English

Spanish: La Vida Como Mercancia

French:  La Commercialisation de la Vie