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Human Rights and Rainforests




Hundreds of millions of people depend on the world’s forests for survival. From the Amazon and the Congo to the jungles of Indonesia, rainforests are epicenters of cultural diversity. Tragically, rainforest destruction goes hand in hand with social conflict around the world as large corporations and other powerful interests expropriate the ancestral lands of forest peoples. Egregious human rights abuses including slave labor, forced relocation of whole communities and loss of livelihoods and cultural traditions are commonplace wherever corporations are allowed free reign to clear large expanses of forests for industrial commodity production like pulp, palm oil and soy. 

Rainforest Action Network believes the best way to maintain rainforests is to support and empower the people who are connected to these ecosystems and who depend on them most. Forest dependent communities are the most knowledgeable and the most invested when it comes to the fate of forests. Given the chance, rainforest communities tend to be a forest’s strongest and most reliable defender. From food and medicine to sustainable agroforestry and small scale harvesting of forest products, forest dependent communities often know how to draw what they need from the forests without destroying them in the process.

Indo Forests

In Indonesia there are over 500 different language groups and between 60 and 120 million Indigenous peoples, many of them dependent on standing natural forests for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, with the Forestry Ministry and national government claiming control over the majority of Indonesia¹s land area, forest dependent communities have uncertain ownership rights over their traditional lands and resources.

The lack of formally recognized traditional land rights in Indonesia compromises local food security, undermines local economies, alienates local communities from their customary lands and livelihoods and prevents the requirement of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of forest peoples. In turn, this feeds a vicious cycle of increased rainforest destruction and community conflict with the companies involved.

Who RAN Works with to Protect Rainforests

Rainforest Action Network cultivates and maintains a network of allies on the ground in the regions where we work. From Indonesia, Ecuador and the Amazon to Alberta and Appalachia, RAN stays in contact with the communities and local organizations closest to the forest destruction we are seeking to stop.  These relationships are invaluable to ensure the work we do at the national and international level is aligned with and mutually supportive of the efforts of those on the frontlines.

The type of support RAN offers to communities and small grassroots groups varies widely, but can include offering skills trainings, bringing delegations from impacted communities to speak at corporate shareholder meetings, calling attention to stories of conflict through case studies and social and conventional media channels, researching chain of custody connections, small scale funding through our Protect-An-Acre program and solidarity advocacy like filing complaints to oversight bodies such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). 

The following blogs illustrate RAN’s approach and involvement in human rights issues related to forest dependent communities:


Learn More

The average North American touches paper countless times a day. Yet the true environmental and social costs of these everyday products often go unnoticed.
Green tells a moving story about the corporate conversion of rainforests in Indonesia for palm oil, tropical wood and paper through the eyes of a dying orangutan - a victim of deforestation and resource exploitation. This film is a visual journey illustrating the impacts of land clearing, the effects of consumerism, the tragic loss of biodiversity and the other harsh realities that Indonesian rainforest destruction is inflicting upon endangered species like the orangutan.
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