Forest Peoples Programme                            DEF0019

Written evidence submitted by the Forest Peoples Programme

Intro to your organisation, reason for submitting evidence

Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) is a human rights organisation working with forest peoples to secure their rights to their lands and their livelihoods. FPP works alongside more than 60 partner organisations representing indigenous peoples and forest communities across the tropical forest belt in 19 countries. 

Deforestation is highly correlated with human rights impacts on the indigenous and forest peoples with whom we work. FPP (and our partners) considers it important that demand-side countries such as the UK, who imports goods produced in tropical forest regions, regulate supply chains. To be effective and to comply with the UK’s own human rights obligations, such laws must equally address environmental and human rights violations.

In recent years, including through our membership of the UK NGO Forest Coalition and Corporate Justice Coalition, FPP has engaged in advocacy connected to Schedule 17 of the Environment Act and calls for a broader corporate accountability law. FPP was involved in the government-initiated Global Resource Initiative that resulted in the 2020 report and set of recommendations.[1]

FPP notes that the Environmental Audit Committee has already set out key areas for the UK Government to step up efforts, including “reducing the impact of UK consumption, trade and supply chains on nature”, by regulating finance; as well as the need for the UK Government to advocate for a stronger, more ambitious Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework at the upcoming UN Convention on Biological Diversity, COP15.[2]

Given the nature of our work, FPP’s submission to this Inquiry focuses on questions under section 2 ‘the effectiveness of UK efforts to reduce global deforestation’ and section 3 ‘working with international partners to tackle deforestation’.

The responses unpack why the UK’s approach to addressing deforestation should include the protection and fulfilment of the internationally-protected rights of indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities. It is imperative that these rights-holders have ample opportunities to engage directly in national and international policy-making processes as these too can negatively impact their ways of life when their human rights are not adequately protected.

We note here that the UK Government should pay particular attention to indigenous women’s human rights and to indigenous human rights, land and environmental defenders, who are most directly and negatively impacted by deforestation linked to investor and business value and supply chains.



The effectiveness of UK efforts to reduce global deforestation

  1. In what ways and to what extent are UK value chains (in the form of public procurement, goods, services, or the private sector) contributing to global deforestation?

UK business and investor value and supply chains cause, contribute and are directly linked to global deforestation, human rights violations, and other environmental harms in several ways:[3]

Private Sector and Supply Chains

The supply chains of private sector companies, often financed by UK banks and other financial actors, across multiple sectors such as agriculture, timber, mining (including critical minerals needed for the green transition and automobile sector),[4] have all been implicated in serious human rights abuses.

Forest Peoples Programme and our partners have published several reports that detail the interlinkages between deforestation and human rights abuses in agricultural supply chains, including of soy, beef, palm oil, timber, pulp & paper and sugar.[5] Indigenous peoples have also provided evidence of how extractive and agricultural commodity supply chains are destroying their customary forests and violating their human rights.[6]

The Zero Tolerance Initiative - a global coalition of indigenous peoples, local community representatives and supportive NGOs working collectively to address the root causes of killings and violence against human rights defenders linked to global supply chains - issued a report (2019) detailing the need to recognise collective protection of lands, territories and resources and the urgent need to put defenders at the centre of solutions to tackle environmental destruction.[7]





Financial Services and Value Chains

The UK financial sector plays a substantial role in facilitating the production and trade of such commodities, both for products bound for the UK and for foreign markets and is highly exposed to nature-related risks like deforestation and conversion through its investment and lending.[8]

Several forms of investment, including UK pension funds, loans and Revolving Credit Facilities issued by UK banks, are linked to deforestation, as well as broader environmental destruction and human rights violations, as these often finance the development of infrastructure such as roads or hydroelectric plants, and to continue expansion of agricultural production or extraction.[9]


Goods and Products

Machinery used to deforest, convert land and cause human rights violations such as land clearance on indigenous peoples’ customary lands, are not only manufactured by UK companies such as JCB, but several banks are financing the production of such machinery.[10] The persistent and incentivised use of pesticides and herbicides, which negatively impact on human health, livelihoods and food sovereignty amongst other crucial human rights, are manufactured in the UK and exported for use in the Global South even though many of these products are banned from use in the UK and EU due to their toxic impacts.[11]


  1. How effectively is the Government monitoring the UK’s contribution to global deforestation and its progress in tackling the issue? And what progress has been made by Government to develop an indicator on overseas environmental impacts of UK consumption of key commodities?

The UK Government has begun work on an Outcome Indicator Framework that is linked to the ten goals of the UK’s 25-year Environment Plan.[12] The four indicators for the ‘international’ component (K1, K2, K3 and K4) are still in development or at an interim stage.[13]

K1 seeks to measure progress on ‘overseas environmental impacts of UK consumption of key commodities’[14] and is linked to related reporting commitments, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, Aichi Target 4[15] and the Sustainable Development Goals 12, 14 and 15.

The interim indicator K1.1 measures the global tropical deforestation risk of certain agricultural commodities. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) – tasked with developing this indicator – tracks the environmental impacts embedded in commodity consumption by the UK, this shows that (as of [2017]) cattle (beef and leather) was the highest volume deforestation-risk commodity in the UK. In descending order, the other agricultural commodities detailed are oil palm, industrial roundwood, soybeans, maize, coffee, rice, beans, cassava and cocoa.[16]

The JNCC sets out that to measure impact the K1.1 indicator data refers to (a) deforestation rates (described as the “headline result”), (b) biodiversity loss, (c) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to tropical deforestation, (d) water consumption and scarcity-weighted water footprint, (e) cropland area harvested and (f) material consumption (tonnes of biomass production).

Absent from this list are underlying drivers of deforestation, such as the violation of collective land and resource tenure rights of indigenous peoples and other communities with customary tenure systems. Also absent are indicators that can monitor whether commodities produced for consumption in the UK are linked to the violation of other associated human rights – the indicators should be seeking to provide answers to questions such as “has the free, prior and informed consent of customary land owners been granted where commodities are produced?” and are there links between the commodity production and violence against - and killings of - land, human rights and environmental defenders?”

During initial discussions with civil society on the development of indicators,[17] there was reference by JNCC to indicators related to livelihoods and poverty, yet there is no public mention of this. Aside from inclusion of land, conflict and corruption indicators amongst other human rights indicators, the data would be more useful if presented at sub-jurisdictional level and if it was expanded to other sectors that impact on human rights and the environment, including those that will be required in a larger quantity for the green transition (sugar and others used for biofuels; mining and minerals including those used in transition technologies) – this would better demonstrate the full extent of the UK’s footprint in relation to all “material consumption” as called for by the Environmental Audit Committee.[18]


  1. How effective are the measures to improve due diligence and ban imported products of illegal deforestation in the Environment Act 2021? Do these measures target the right sectors? Given that they do not extend to all products of deforestation, are they adequate?

Measures incorporated in Schedule 17 in the Environment Act are inadequate and short-sighted for several reasons. This response sets out the two that are most concerning for indigenous peoples.

Firstly, Schedule 17 does not require adherence with international human rights law. Instead, certain businesses will be required to prove that their products are deforestation-free and compliant with relevant local laws, which means there is no guarantee that the rights of indigenous peoples and other customary rights-holders will be protected (see section below).

This demonstrates the UK Government’s failure to grasp the centrality and importance of indigenous peoples and local communities in protecting forests and that their ability to do so depends on the protection of their rights to self-determination and value systems (see Q2.2). It also represents a missed opportunity to recognise that human rights and the environment are interconnected and need to be addressed together in policies and laws, as has been recommended to the Government by their own taskforce, the Global Resource Initiative (see Q4).

Secondly, the singular focus on the agricultural sector (and a limited number of commodities) means that a number of sectors and products linked to deforestation and human rights violations are excluded.

It is not possible to assess at this time whether the secondary regulations being developed for Schedule 17, Environment Act (2021) will incentivise companies to take action where violations are occurring, or whether specific reporting and disclosures by companies will be required to demonstrate (a) their compliance with national-level laws related to land ownership, use and indigenous peoples customary rights, (b) show a reduction in deforestation rates and (c) undertake and publish full supply chain mapping of all the direct and indirect suppliers in their supply chains. It is also unclear whether there will be a centralised system where these disclosures will be publicly accessible or whether the Enforcement Body will be able to receive complaints directly from indigenous peoples.


Inadequacies of using national laws as the standard

Unlike the EU’s proposed Regulation on Deforestation-Free products,[19] the UK Government decided not to address legal deforestation. This legitimises weak deforestation laws in ‘producer countries’ and provides a potential perverse incentive to relax or eliminate national laws to make illegal deforestation legal and therefore compliant with the UK law. Recent and planned legal rollbacks in forest-rich countries such as Brazil and Indonesia show that this is not pure speculation but a very real risk.[20]

As referred to above, the Environment Act’s ‘due diligence’ obligation in Schedule 17 - only requiring compliance with national-level laws - is insufficient from the perspective of indigenous and local community rights-holders. The three main reasons are:[21]

  1. Not all ‘producer countries’ have laws that expressly recognize and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.
  2. Where laws do exist, they often fall short of international standards.
  3. Where laws do exist, enforcement is often weak or non-existent (even when communities have registered property titles) or is compromised by competing and contradictory legal requirements.

The UK Timber Trade Regulation has proven the shortcomings of a narrow legality definition based on national laws.[22] The main findings of a rights based analysis of the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) are that they fail to evaluate human rights law compliance across the participating countries; that the VPAs themselves do not reference international human rights standards and instruments; that the verification processes rely on top down assurances or certification with little checks and balances, making the falsification of documentation commonplace; and, that consultation standards related to indigenous peoples are not included.[23]

An example of this is in Indonesia, where the Government committed to Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu (SVLK) certification for all timber exports as well as timber traded in the domestic market. However, the SVLK system is aligned with Indonesian national forestry laws and is doesn’t fully protect against land tenure rights abuses. Under this system, the company PT Toba Pulp Lestari was certified despite displacing the Toba Batak people of North Sumatra from their customary land and converting their forests and agroecology systems to monoculture eucalyptus plantation for paper production.[24]


A new UK law is needed

The importance of upholding international human rights law and frameworks in relation to supply chains was underscored in the Just Transitions declaration made at COP26.[25]

There are increasing calls for a new UK corporate accountability law modelled on the UK’s Bribery Act that goes beyond the ‘due diligence’ provisions in Schedule 17 of the Environment Act aligns with international human rights law. Indigenous peoples’ rights would be more adequately protected under such a legal model and FPP has developed guidance to demonstrate how indigenous peoples’ human rights can be respected in corporate human rights and environmental due diligence.[26]

Such a law was recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in 2017[27] and has been found legally feasible by the British Institute for Comparative Law.[28] Moreover, a new law is supported by businesses,[29] investors[30] and a wide range of civil society organisations[31] as well as by the public. Indeed, a new UK corporate accountability law is supported by over 75% of the UK public polled - this support is demonstrated across all UK age groups, regions of the UK and supporters of the three main parties - Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat - in the 2019 General Election, in addition to both Remain and Leave voters in the 2016 Brexit referendum.[32]

Given the European Commission’s proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive[33] goes further than the UK’s ‘due diligence’ provisions in Schedule 17 of the Environment Act and will apply to UK companies and investors operating in the EU single market over a certain threshold, the UK Government must start to build on the commitments it made in the G7 Communiqué (June 2022).

In this, G7 countries express that they will work towards mandatory measures to halt human rights and environmental violations in transnational value and supply chains.[34] However, UK Government responses to parliamentary questions[35] on this topic reveal a contradictory approach whereby the focus remains on voluntary measures alone, or on existing but inadequate sector-specific laws such as the Modern Slavery Act (2015), rather than a “smart mix” of mandatory and voluntary measures that is aimed at all sectors as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles.[36]


  1. To what extent have the Global Resource Initiative (GRI) Taskforce’s recommendations on deforestation and land conversion been met by the Government?

The UK Government introduced Schedule 17 of the Environment Act (2021) in response to the 2020 Global Report Initiative (GRI) recommendation on mandatory due diligence in relation to forest-risk commodities; however, the recommendation was only partially met because the law omitted human rights completely (see Q3). The relevant 2020 GRI recommendation details that:

“The government urgently introduces a mandatory due diligence obligation on companies that place commodities and derived products that contribute to deforestation on the UK market and to take action to ensure similar principles are applied to the finance industry.

The mandatory due diligence obligation should require companies to analyse the presence of environmental and human rights risks and impacts within their supply chains, take action to prevent or mitigate those risks, and publicly report on actions taken and planned. The financial sector should also be covered by a similar mandatory due diligence obligation, requiring them to exercise due diligence in order to avoid their lending and investments funding deforestation.” [37]

In addition to the failure to act on the human rights aspect of the recommendation, the Government also failed to include the financial sector.  The need for action on financial institutions has been further developed by the GRI and its recommendations published in May 2022.[38] In practice, an obligation on financial institutions to carry out mandatory due diligence must be aligned with international human rights law.


  1. What role can sustainable certification and Government Buying Standards (GBS), have in tackling deforestation? How can the UK Government support the private sector to reduce its contribution to furthering deforestation?

Sustainable certification can have a role within human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD), but certification and supplier management systems must not become a synonym for effective due diligence.

Supplier compliance systems, of which certification is a part, can be a legitimate element of HREDD if their criteria align with international human rights laws and so can sector specific industry standards, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which recognise the links between human rights and the environment and have embedded the rights of indigenous peoples, including to free, prior and informed consent.

The strength of different certification standards varies when it comes to the protection of human rights, and even where standards are strong on paper, significant problems exist with implementation and auditing.[39] Other serious issues relate to the lack of efficacy of certification grievance mechanisms and land restitution.[40]

A recent blog from Norman Jiwan, a Dayak indigenous leader from Borneo, West Kalimantan Indonesia who has worked on human rights and palm oil for over 20 years, unpacks the issues with certification and makes the case that for company due diligence schemes proposed by the EU and the UK is to be meaningful for indigenous peoples and local communities, these must look certification and towards the reality of production and the human rights and environmental harms it causes.[41]


Working with international partners to tackle deforestation

1.1   How effectively is the UK engaging with international partners to tackle deforestation? Is the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use an effective mechanism for halting and reversing forest loss? How can the UK ensure its £1.5bn commitment to the Global Forest Finance Pledge is used to best effect?

FPP notes the potential importance of the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use and its commitment to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030” and wishes to highlight that in order to meet this goal, leaders must recognise that “the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as local communities, in accordance with relevant national legislation and international instruments” must be strengthened.[42]

The Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Forest Tenure Joint Donor Statement (IPLC Pledge) at COP26 could support these aims as there is a clear reference to “support…national land and forest tenure reform processes and their implementation”.[43] The pledge mentions that funds will be directed at “channelling support to Indigenous Peoples and local communities…”, which has been widely interpreted as a commitment to provide direct funding for indigenous peoples, a welcome and necessary shift towards supporting indigenous peoples’ self-determined priorities, with the co-benefit of positive environmental outcomes.

Direct funding will be a crucial element of funding in the next decade and beyond. In part this renewed focus is a response to the recent finding that over the past decade $2.7 billion, a mere 1% of ODA used for climate, went towards supporting indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ tenure rights and management. Of this $2.7 billion, only 17% reached projects that included indigenous peoples and local community organisations.[44]

Although the IPLC Pledge is very welcome, it is highly concerning that no centralised documentation has been made publicly available since COP26 on how much each donor is contributing to the total $1.7 billion between 2021 – 2025; how each donor will allocate the funds; and how much will be channelled directly to indigenous peoples and local communities.

There are also no documents available, as far as we’re aware, on the £1.5 billion commitment made by the UK Government towards the Forest Finance Pledge (FFP) and how this money will reach the ground. The FFP mentions that “the full, effective, and willing participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in programmes that protect and restore forests, reduce deforestation and forest degradation, and ensure benefits reach smallholders and local communities will be sought and that donors will enable “activities that support and strengthen forest and land governance and clarifying[45] land tenure and forest rights for indigenous peoples and local communities”. In line with these commitments, we urge the UK Government to ensure that any use of the £1.5 billion puts the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities at the centre.

It is also important that the UK Government advocates for human rights-based approaches in international partnerships such the FACT dialogue and the LEAF coalition. The FACT roadmap is currently stripped of any focus on human rights, and while the LEAF coalition seeks to support the production of carbon credits that align with the Cancun Safeguards of the UNFCCC, there are risks that loopholes in the safeguards; lack of defined carbon rights in many places; and high pressure on forested lands for credits where customary land rights are not protected will lead to land grabs. Finally, cuts to the UK’s Overseas Development Aid budget could potentially impact planned future work by the UK on global land governance, which would be highly detrimental in achieving positive impacts on the ground, where it matters.[46]





2.2 What impact will the UK’s measures to tackle deforestation have on producer countries, indigenous peoples and local communities?

There are several types of measures currently being pursued by the UK to tackle deforestation (See Q3 and Q1.1), however, in general, these are not taking a Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA)[47] which is necessary for all laws and policies to impact indigenous peoples effectively and positively.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) recent Values Assessment report (July 2022) forensically details that the very way that nature is narrowly valued in political and economic decisions is itself a key driver of the global biodiversity crisis.[48] Whilst the UK Government’s Integrated Review (2021) set out that effort to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss is one of the Government’s top priorities, and notes that these are long-term challenges that “unchecked threaten the future of humanity”,[49] there is too much focus by the UK Government on market-based, or nature-based solutions rather than human-rights-centred ones.[50] 

Continued focus on short-term profits and economic growth, and the predominance of these values means that UK policymaking often overlooks diverse values of nature that are non-market based but rather rooted in cultural diversity, traditional knowledge and spiritual beliefs that do not separate nature from culture and vice-versa. The UK Government needs to better understand different ways of valuing nature and properly integrate international human rights law that safeguards the rights of peoples who do value nature differently in its policies and laws.

Broader, more holistic visions and value-based understandings of what equitable, just, and ultimately successful, policy solutions need to encompass are urgently necessary to tackle the intersecting human rights, climate change and biodiversity crises. Only then will it be possible for ‘demand side’ countries to measure positive impacts on indigenous peoples, such as fulfilment of their human rights to land, territories and resources, their right to self-determination, right to culture, and right to self-governance amongst many others, as well as the co-benefits of reduced global deforestation and other environmental outcomes.[51]  


September 2022


[2] It may be of interest to the Committee to know that FPP supports the Indigenous Peoples and Local Community Caucus in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework Negotiations.

[3] Please note these are indicative examples, rather than a fully comprehensive list; also see;


[5] Human Rights and Timber Supply Chains: A Rights-Based Analysis of EU FLEGT VPAs, available here:; Closing the Gap: Rights Based Solutions for Tackling Deforestation, available here:; Supply Chain Solutions for People and Forests, available at:; Demanding Accountability - Lessons from ten case studies of the Indonesian palm oil sector, available here:; The Green Monster: Human Rights Impacts of the Sugarcane Industry on Black Communities in Colombia, available here:; Palm Oil Expansion and Conflict in Indonesia (2021) available here:; Identifying the Human Rights Impacts of Palm Oil: Guidance for Financial Institutions and Downstream Companies, available:

[6] Shipibo peoples,; Wampis’ peoples:; Wapichan peoples,










[15] Note that this indicator will be replaced by indicators 9, 14 and 15 if the new Convention for Biological Diversity framework is adopted at negotiations in December 2022.


[17] This UK Consumption Indicator Stakeholder Engagement Workshop was held 09/02/2021 by the JNCC


[19] The EU proposal for a Regulation on Deforestation-Free products was strengthened by the ENVI Committee on the 12th July 2022, amongst improvements made were proposals for finance to be included and compliance with international human rights law required, with particular attention to the rights of IP/LCs. These will be voted on by the European Parliament between 12-16 September 2022. The Parliament, Member States and the Commission will then start “trialogues” to agree on the EU’s final Regulation. The original proposal can be found here:

[20] , , ,

[21] For more analysis from Forest Peoples Programme, please see this news article on our website:; For more information see this Forest Peoples Programme briefing (which includes the case of Ocho Sur):




[24] FPP report forthcoming (2022)















[39] See, for example, and;






[45] Sic – direct quote from the pledge