Contested UN-REDD program restored in Panama

Panama’s government reopened a UN REDD program suspended in March over disagreements with indigenous forest communities. The UN-REDD Program Policy Board on Tuesday announced the approval of a no-cost extension of Panama's National UN-REDD Program until June 2015.

According to Reuters, the  three-year, $5.3 million scheme began in early 2011 with the purpose of providing a financial incentive to protect the country’s forests and to reduce tropical deforestation.

In 2012 the National Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples in Panama (COONAPIP) raised concerns over the lack of guarantees for the respect of indigenous rights and the effective participation of indigenous peoples, accusing the government and U.N. agencies of not including indigenous groups in decision making, nor offering enough funding to support their participation and gain legal security for their territories.

In February the COONAPIP announced its withdrawal from the program. In May the UN-REDD Policy Board suspended all new activities under the scheme and it commissioned an independent investigation that concluded in August 2013, identifying many incongruities that deteriorated the relationship between the National Environment Authority of Panama and indigenous communities.

According to UN-REDD official release, over the past months discussions were held to revise the program’s framework, approved by the COONAPIP in November.