The board of the United Nations’ (U.N.) Green Climate Fund (GCF) suspended disbursements for the project “BioCLIMA: Integrated Climate Action to Reduce Deforestation and Strengthen Resilience in Bosawás and Río San Juan Biospheres” in Nicaragua, due to “instances of policy non-compliance […],” GCF reported.
“One of the biggest mistakes of the regime is to impose this proposal and seek funding behind the backs of these indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, because they never realized what were the activities they were going to do,” Amaru Ruiz, biologist and president of the Nicaraguan nongovernmental organization (NGO) Fundación del Río, which follows the case, told Diálogo on September 8. “The project is still active, and the Ortega-Murillo regime is going to try, by all its means and with all its capacities, to present a level of compliance to the points made.”
The decision to suspend disbursements stems from an investigation initiated by the GCF’s Independent Redress Mechanism, after natives said the project was harmful due to the lack of free, prior, and informed consent to the activities; environmental degradation; invasions of indigenous territories; violent attacks by non-indigenous armed settlers, and an increase in these cases of aggression.
Based on the complaint, the GCF initiated an investigation and its findings were reflected in its Compliance Review Report, where it emphasizes that this project, approved on November 13, 2020, should “promote sustainable land use and forest management to restore degraded forest landscapes in the Bosawás and Río San Juan Biosphere Reserves in the Caribbean region of Nicaragua.”
“The board of the Green Fund, which granted millions of dollars to the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship, finally made the right decision and determined to suspend granting the money to Nicaragua, for non-compliance with policies and procedures,” Felix Maradiaga, a former presidential candidate in Nicaragua and one of the political prisoners in exiled in the United States, told Spanish daily El País. “It is widely known that this fund, designed with good intentions in the framework of the Bio-CLIMA program, has been manipulated for years to finance political structures of the dictatorship.”
Three of the major problems that are difficult to solve in order to continue with the project are: first, the project was formulated from a vision far removed from the conflicts and interests of these territories; second, the native families do not want the invading families, who in many cases have displaced them or murdered their relatives, to live in this territory; and third, the project benefits invading families that have contributed to the deforestation of the forests, Ruiz explained.
The Unity Platform for Democracy (PUDE), made up of nine opposition organizations in Nicaragua and in exile, requested that the disbursement for the Bio-CLIMA project not be authorized, because the funds could be used for human rights violations in indigenous territories, Swiss news site Swissinfo reported.
“This fund, instead of favoring indigenous communities, will oxygenate the authoritarian and violent actions of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship; it will allow them to continue with the systematic and repeated repression of the populations,” PUDE said via social media. “Various environmental and human rights organizations warn that the indigenous populations of Nicaragua are at risk of being exterminated by the constant invasion of their territories.”
The Observatory of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples registered 571 human rights violations in 83 communities within 17 indigenous territories of the Northern Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, including land invasion by settlers or third parties, criminalization of defenders, political violence, and repression against community autonomy, investigative news site Nicaragua Investiga reported.
“This is the first time that a complaint has reached the board and it sets a worrying precedent,” Florencia Ortúzar, a lawyer with the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense, told Climate Change News magazine. “We don’t know what non-compliance issues will be examined and how they will be addressed.”
The decision to suspend disbursements is the first of its kind since the fund’s creation in 2010. It comes at the end of a process that took more than two years since the indigenous and Afro-descendant communities filed a complaint, Nicaraguan news site Confidencial reported.
If the Ortega-Murillo regime wants to access the funds and continue the project it must carry out a free, prior, and informed consultation, identify an independent third party to oversee the project’s actions, and transparently use the resources, Ruiz concluded.