No place at the climate table, Nepali communities say

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Nepali participants meeting at ICC, Forest users group boycotted the meeting after raising their voice on denial. Photo: Ramesh Prasad Bhushal

Ramesh Prasad Bhushal on December 7th, 2011

Originally posted by the Climate Change Media Partnership

Community forest groups demand access to climate negotiations, but lose out as fight between ministries heats up

Members of a federation of community forests from Nepal accused the government of Nepal of being biased towards them by refusing to accept their representative as a party delegate at UN climate talks.

Members of domestic and international NGOs were accepted as delegates, in addition to government officials. They are here in South Africa with delegates from 195 countries at the 17th annual UN climate summit.

“When we asked the government to give status of party to some of our members they denied. But we found out here (in Durban) that they have brought the people from NGOs and INGOs as the party delegates. It’s not fair, “said Dil Raj Khanal, who represents the Federation of Community Forest Users Nepal (FECOFUN) and is also the legal expert on natural resources.

“Everybody talks about communities by mouth but at the inner heart there is no respect for the communities,” added Khanal.

However, Batu Krishna Uprety who is the head of Climate Change Management Division at the Ministry of Environment who leads the UN climate negotiations said that they didn’t received any request from FECOFUN. “We haven’t received your request,” he replied to the query of community forest users’ representatives.

The community forest members said that the Ministry of Environment had advised them to make their request to the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) as the forest ministry is the line ministry for the community forests group. But when the forest ministry sent the letter onward, it was rejected by the environment ministry.

“Everyone  is selling our name but when it comes to do some favor for us then everybody starts sweating,” said Ganesh Karki, General Secretary of FECOFUN. “We have especially realized this with the Ministry of Environment, so we boycott this meeting.”

The rift between the Ministry of Forests and Ministry of Environment is widening due to climate change in the country. The Ministry of Environment is the focal ministry to deal with climate change, something with which the Ministry of Forests has not been happy from the beginning. The forest ministry is one of the biggest and most powerful ministries in the country, far more powerful than the relatively new Ministry of Environment.

To complicate matters, the major forest initiative on climate change under the UN — known as Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) — is looked over by the forest ministry. On the other hand, the focal point for the whole UN climate treaty, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is under the  oversight of  the environment ministry.

The forest ministry seems like it’s not happy with the limited role given to the UNFCCC processes.

These ministerial disputes have affected even the personal relationships of the officials from both ministries. In many forums they keep on criticizing each others’ work. It has become clear that they are actinag as rivals when it comes to the issue of climate change.

The rift between the ministries increased dramatically due to a cabinet meeting at Mount Everest base camp in 2009,  as ministers even stopped talking to each other. The main reason behind the fallout was the leadership of the erstwhile forest minister Deepak Bohara in organizing the cabinet meeting at the base camp of Mount Everest prior to the UN  climate change meeting in Copenhagen. The forest ministry’s lead at that time had irked environment ministry officials.

FECOFUN is a federation of more than 15,000 community forest user groups in Nepal and is one of the key players in the forestry sector. The fight between the two ministries could be one reason for the denial to include FECOFUN representatives in the government delegation.

“We don’t get any information on what’s going on inside the negotiation from the government. If our representative was included in the government then we would have been updated about the process and that could have been very useful to disseminate information about the real negotiations to our members across the country,” said Bhim Prakash Khadka, Vice-Chairman of FECOFUN, who is also here in Durban.

 

Ramesh Prasad Bhushal is currently working with GFP as the in-country journalist in Nepal. He is attending COP17 as a Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP) fellow, with the support of GFP.