case study

Introducing Journalists to World's Forest Guardians

A man standing in a forest with a hat on, holding a stick over his back.

The Challenge

The world’s forests are being destroyed at a rate of 50 soccer fields every minute, accounting for 11 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. A solution exists that is both cost-effective and available: deforestation rates are dramatically lower in forests where governments actively enforce the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities over their land. Forests are recognized as playing a fundamental role in slowing climate change, yet land rights for rural and Indigenous Peoples remain tenuous, constraining their capacity to protect the world’s last standing forests upon which they depend for their livelihoods, food and culture. Weak legal protection for forest communities serves as a major obstacle to addressing climate change.

Our Approach

To draw attention to the role that Indigenous Peoples and local communities play in protecting the world’s forests and in curbing climate change, Burness worked closely with World Resources Institute and the Rights and Resources Initiative to release the report Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change: How Strengthening Community Forest Rights Mitigates Climate Change. The report was the first to assert through a comprehensive review of new and existing research that Indigenous Peoples and local communities are the best caretakers of the world’s forests—and, in turn, are important players in a global effort to slow climate change. The team invited a handful of reporters from influential targets in Germany, Mexico and Brazil to the forests of Mexico and Guatemala, where communities with strong rights have been able to create sustainable enterprises and successfully protect their forests. To illustrate the value of community forestry through a site visit required detailed planning, as well as the development of compelling press materials, stories and messages, and in-depth collaboration with partners on the ground. The team followed the site visit with extensive media outreach to the most influential outlets in Europe, South America, Mesoamerica and Asia.

There is one group for whom subsidies and land-tenure improvements are an unqualified success: indigenous people…the forest is their home and they do not want to sell it, even if that would be profitable.

The Economist, “A clearing in the trees,” August 23, 2014

Results and Impact

Outreach to a targeted group of journalists worldwide secured over 65 original stories in over 10 languages, most notably in the Economist and the Guardian (UK), which ensured that key decision makers in the United Kingdom and globally were exposed to the report’s findings. Most notable were stories published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, El Financiero/Bloomberg, Notimex and O Globo, written by reporters who attended the site visit, offering key audiences a view of the benefits and challenges of community forestry from the perspective of indigenous and local forest communities. Regional wires in Europe, Brazil and Mesoamerica ran pieces that were picked up by hundreds of outlets, giving the report’s messages global breadth.

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