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Centering cross-sector collaboration to protect and empower Indigenous communities across the world

Colleen Casimira
November, 2021


Learn more about our projects focused on Indigenous and traditional peoples and environments acutely threatened by the effects of climate change. 

Reos Partners’ work to address complex challenges in the world includes several initiatives aimed at dismantling colonial, institutional, and systemic barriers to the well-being of First Nations, Indigenous, and traditional peoples. Two of our projects—one in the Emerald Edge region of the Pacific Northwest, the other in the Brazilian Amazon— were focused on Indigenous and traditional peoples and environments acutely threatened by the effects of climate change. 

In both cases, Reos team members have woven continuous learnings of cultural and ecological issues with braided methodologies inspired and informed by our Indigenous and local community partners. The approach involves creating space for multi-stakeholder dialogue—engaging practitioners across sectors and bioregions to learn together, exchange best practices, and forge connections that strengthen and accelerate shared initiatives. This overview of the Emerald Edge and Sustainable Amazon projects includes updates from Reos’ team leaders on the progress underway and the direct, positive impact being driven by Indigenous and local peoples and their collaborators.

Co-creating a new paradigm for conversation in the Emerald Edge 

Spanning 100 million acres across Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska is the Emerald Edge — the largest intact coastal rainforest remaining in the world, and home to more than 35 First Nations communities. In the last century, unsustainable logging, fishing, and other extractive industries have thrust the region into a state of peril, posing a dire threat to the land and waters that fuel an intricate web of life. 

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is committed to establishing sustainable conditions for this iconic treasure of biodiversity and the people who live there. To advance their efforts, for the last five years TNC has partnered with Reos to increase collaborative capacity in the Emerald Edge and deliver innovative economic development solutions for Indigenous territories that reinforce cultural and environmental priorities. Specifically, Reos works closely with the TNC Emerald Edge team and local partners to “build the capacity of local champions to collaborate across sectors and organizations to address community challenges that sit at the nexus of conservation and economic and community well-being,” explains Reos project consultant Paul Hackenmueller. The work intends to “co-create a new paradigm for conservation — one that centers communities and recognizes people and land as being interconnected,” says Hackenmueller.

The latest initiative supported by Reos is the establishment of the Seacoast Trust, a fund spearheaded by individuals and partner organizations from the Sustainable Southeast Partnership in Alaska. Reos’ work in service to this effort involved nurturing the conditions that allowed the emergent partnership to flourish. Inspired by the Coast Funds in B.C., “the Seacoast Trust represents a powerful shift in resourcing: Indigenous-led, local financial support, governed and directed by a consortium of local and regional stakeholders,” says Hackenmueller.

"The Seacoast Trust represents a powerful shift in resourcing: Indigenous-led, local financial support, governed and directed by a consortium of local and regional stakeholders,” says Hackenmueller.

As the Emerald Edge project moves forward with new momentum, Reos continues to partner with TNC to deepen the impact of the existing work and strategically weave new resourcing and initiatives into the Emerald Edge network. Future plans include the integration of programming that supports Natural Climate Solutions in ways that will meaningfully contribute to carbon sequestration efforts while increasing economic initiatives that positively impact the area’s Indigenous communities.

Collaborating for a just and sustainable Amazon


River Boat

Photo: Stephanie Morcinek via Unsplash

The Brazilian Amazon is a tropical forest that plays a crucial role in regulating global climate. The devastating fires of 2019 resulted in a massive increase in Brazilian emissions, drawing national and international attention. During that same period, crime and violence involving illegal invasion and occupation of public lands, illegal extraction of wood and minerals, and mining in Indigenous territories all increased. Devastatingly, 2019 also marked the highest level of assassinations of Indigenous leaders in the region recorded in the last 11 years.

The Sustainable Amazon Forum is one of the key initiatives to raise awareness and understanding of the Amazon’s critical role in climate regulation and other urgent issues — namely, the human rights abuses and violence toward the local, traditional, and Indigenous populations, as well as the potential of the region to host a thriving socio-bioeconomy that preserves the forest while providing livelihoods and well-being to local populations. 

In 2020 and 2021, Reos Partners co-facilitated a series of eight meaningful dialogues among multiple stakeholders from diverse sectors, with these goals: to catalyze alignment for a just and sustainable Amazon; to guarantee the rights of traditional, local and Indigenous peoples; and to effectively contribute to the development of a standing-forest socio bioeconomy.

"In a time of fragmented public debates, this multi-sectoral process encouraged dialogue between diverse perspectives and led to new and deeper shared understandings, which is a precondition for coordinated action” says Reos consultant Lucas Matarazzo. 

A defining feature of the Forum's strategy has been to guarantee that Amazonian peoples’ perspectives and on-the-ground realities shape the agenda and design of these multi-sectoral processes. In 2021, leaders from grassroots Amazonian organizations joined the governing body of the Forum. Reos also began a series of dialogue sessions dedicated to engaging and listening to locals, providing assurance that their priorities and perspectives were designed into every meeting, and that their voices were represented in panels with leaders from diverse sectors.

Out of these meetings, three working groups were formed. The first one focuses on influencing public policies that can catalyze a sustainable and just forest economy, and advocating against those that are detrimental to this agenda. The second group focuses on strengthening the forest economy through strategic action contributing to the socio-biodiversity of the region, while shifting the narrative around the forest economy to center traditional, Indigenous, and local peoples’ perspectives. 

The third group formulates and mobilizes around common multisector position papers. The group’s first paper, “10 Measures for a Standing-Forest Bioeconomy,” was launched at the Brazil Climate Action Hub at COP26. The document outlines a series of measures that together amount to an Amazon development paradigm that preserves its fauna and flora while generating well-being for the traditional, Indigenous, and local peoples that inhabit and protect the forest. 

Going forward, the Forum intends to include more strategic focus on the challenges and opportunities specific to urban areas within the Amazon. Of the 20 million people who live in the Amazon, more than 13 million live in urban areas and face distinct socio, economic, political, and environmental issues. Future work of the Forum will also include leveraging the federal elections in 2022 to support and accelerate the just and sustainable development of the region.

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