© Jose Balta

Francisco Souza, Director of the FSC Indigenous Foundation, shares his vision and expectations regarding this new body that will actively contribute to increase the level of engagement and communication between Indigenous Peoples, the FSC system and partner organizations

How did the idea of creating the FSC Indigenous Foundation arise?

During the 2011 General Assembly, the Permanent Indigenous Peoples Committee (PIPC) was established as an advisory unit to the FSC Board of Directors, and in 2018 an operational unit was created for them, which would later be established as the Indigenous Foundation (FSC IF). 

How would you describe the Indigenous Foundation?

It is a multi-sectoral strategic and operative unit established to develop creative and innovative solutions to support Indigenous Peoples and enable them to build, guide and lead alternatives of sustainable management of the territories by means of the FSC certification scheme. All while respecting their cultures, rights, and traditional practices. The FSC IF is composed of indigenous leaders who will ensure that responsible forest management reflects their expertise and concerns. 

What is the scope and extent of the work you will be doing?

The FSC IF will have a global scope and work closely with indigenous organizations. Our scope and performance responds to the significance of Indigenous Peoples, who manage or own about a quarter of the earth's surface. We will create opportunities for multi-sectoral partnerships and provide them with tools and instruments so that they can manage, maintain and use their territories in an effort to consolidate indigenous cultural landscapes. 

How are you going to coordinate with the different instances and areas of FSC?

At the internal governance level, we will support the PIPC in its advisory role to the Board of Directors and seek to improve the level of engagement and communication with members on indigenous issues. The PIPC regional meetings will also help us increase the visibility of equitable governance and establish shared risk management with positive effects on expanding the number of certified communities with access to the markets. Technical coordination will be aligned with the Strategic Plan 2021-2026. Moreover, it is important for us to consider the Indigenous Cultural Landscapes (ICP) forest development framework and approach as an opportunity for the integration of multiple benefits provided by forests that are linked to region-specific indigenous livelihoods and practices.

What are the objectives of the Indigenous Foundation in the short and medium term?

Our priority in this first quarter is the preparation of the annual Strategic Plan of the Foundation and the PIPC. Also, we will develop a plan to improve communication internally with and between FSC, the PIPC and the FSC IF, as well as a platform to give visibility and make known the positions of Indigenous peoples on market certification and FPIC, preventing risks to the communities' customary rights. We will then develop our fund raising strategy for the implementation of programs and projects and during the General Assembly, we will present the first version of our five-year Strategic Plan, which should be aligned with the final version of FSC Global Strategic Plan for the same period. 

What are your expectations regarding the relationship between FSC and the communities now that the Indigenous Foundation exists?

We expect to increase the degree of engagement of Indigenous Peoples in the FSC certification system in a more strategic way. We hope to create indigenous community models with safeguards for their rights and also to develop tools to improve forest management and income in certified indigenous territories. The launch of the Foundation should expand and create opportunities to implement initiatives led by local and regional indigenous organizations, with greater impact on peoples' priority issues. The results of the initiatives and projects will strengthen the mission and long-term objectives of FSC.

How do you feel about having been chosen to lead this initiative?

For me, as part of the Apurinã Indigenous People of the Brazilian Amazon, it is an honor to join the efforts of indigenous brothers and sisters of the planet in establishing the FSC Indigenous Foundation with the aim of increasing the relevance of our peoples. From this position, I will be able to contribute to the transformation of indigenous territories into providers of innovative solutions to global challenges such as climate change and the unsustainable use of forests and natural resources. To achieve this, we will need to work closely with businesses, financial institutions, governments and civil society. FSC multi-sectoral platform is perfect for building this global alliance. 

What do you want to contribute with your expertise?

I wish to support the strengthening of the Indigenous Foundation and the FSC in three strategic areas: consolidation of the FSC IF vision based on a holistic and comprehensive perspective of Indigenous Peoples, their territorial governance and natural resource management strategies (currently, communities manage multiple products and services that could be linked to the certification system). The second strategic area covers long-term cooperation with different sectors to build a network of alliances in support of Indigenous Peoples, so that the market can be positively influenced towards large-scale sustainable chains. The latter focuses on fund raising and development with companies, foundations, multilateral agencies and development banks to support programs and projects with indigenous organizations in different countries.

Who is going to make up your team?

At this stage of the FSC IF, I am accompanied by Daniel Rosas - FSC Indigenous Affairs Officer. He is a key person supporting us with the coordination and communication with the indigenous organizations of the world through the PIPC and FSC. He has an important role in facilitating and planning PIPC regional meetings and regularly updating FSC members and staff on progress and outcomes. An Executive Assistant should also join the team in the coming weeks.

What message would you like to send to the indigenous communities of Latin America?

Indigenous peoples in Latin America own or manage a natural forest area of nearly 220 million hectares, storing large amounts of carbon that could increase the effects of climate change if deforested. They also provide invaluable environmental services to the well-being of society and different economic sectors. They have the natural resources to become the world's largest producers of sustainable goods and services. The FSC Indigenous Foundation was created and is managed directly by and for you. We are at your disposal to make you "Guardians of the Forest", benefiting your communities while recognizing your rights and traditional ways of life.