International Pacific

World needs action on forest land rights to meet climate goals: Helen Clark

Image: Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current Administrator of the United Nations Development Program, speaks during an interview in New York April 4, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files

By Paola Totaro

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, has warned that global climate change goals cannot be achieved without a united push to secure land rights for the world’s indigenous forest communities.

Clark, who announced her bid to succeed Ban Ki-moon as secretary general of the United Nations last month, said a worldwide push to reform land rights for indigenous communities also offers a unique opportunity for diverse nations to unite to eradicate poverty.

In an opinion piece for the new Thomson Reuters Foundation website,, Clark said efforts to implement new sustainable development frameworks, including the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement on climate change, create the potential for “a new era of co-operation.”

“As the international community moves to implement these ambitious frameworks, there is the potential for a new era of co-operation around eradicating poverty, reducing disaster risk, spurring green growth, and significantly reducing inequalities,” she said.

“However it will be impossible to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change without decisive action to protect the world’s forests.

“A growing body of evidence shows that when indigenous and community rights are recognised and enforced, communities successfully protect and manage their forests, making crucial contributions to climate change mitigation.”

Clark, New Zealand’s prime minister from 1999 to 2008, in April said she would campaign to be the next U.N. secretary-general, pledging to improve transparency and touting her leadership experience in a bid to become the first woman to head the world body.

Now head of the U.N. Development Programme, Clark wrote in her opinion piece that securing land rights was an imperative not just for indigenous communities but for also for women.

“Gender-sensitive laws and regulations are needed: land laws which support women’s rights must not be undermined by family and inheritance laws; awareness of women’s legal rights must be raised and; those rights must be upheld, she said.

“Securing the rights of indigenous and forest communities and of women to land and natural resources will be an important step towards achieving sustainable development for all.”


(Reporting by Paola Totaro, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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