On Thursday I attended a couple of meetings on REDD+, typically giving experiences from different regions and on different issues. Being a new concept, REDD+ is generating such substantive attention at the side events of this UNFCCC COP.
Governance is one such issue that was the focus of discussion in an event organized by a Brazilian non-profit research institution - The Amazon Institute for People and the Environment (Imazon). To start with, governance is a development ‘buzzword’ that has come to mean different things to different people and at different times. In some instances, it has constituted a set of conditions for aid support from development agencies to developing countries.
It is therefore no surprise that it is creeping into REDD+ as a development issue that we have to contend with. But we do not need to conceptualize it in the traditional sense of it. In this case, it echoes the need for openness and transparency in making decisions that affect a wide range of REDD+ actors including Governments, local communities, indigenous peoples, NGOs, women and others at the global, national and local levels.
In fact, there are international legal instruments that can clarify it in case of REDD+. These include Principle 10 of the Rio declaration on Public Participation, Access to Information and Justice; and Article 19 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
From this event, I gathered that it is important to view stakeholder participation - not as an end in itself but as a means to an end (delivering desirable outcomes).
The wide range of REDD+ stakeholders raises questions of how to effectively engage them and at what stage in the process (given the technical nature of the subject and its current lack of clarity even to negotiators themselves). This is important as decisions that affect people’s current (and future) lives are to be made. Many development agencies and Governments will actually need to improve on this if REDD+ is to be successful.
REDD+ safeguards is another governance tool currently under negotiation, but where progress is being made in piloting them in various forest rich countries like Brazil and Indonesia.
The idea is that avoid risks and negative impacts on local communities their social systems and the environment. However, these safeguards need to be developed within the context of the local area(s).
From the case study from Brazil, there has been such a process to develop these safeguards, which could have relevant and timely lessons for Africa. After having in place a multistakeholder Platform in place with a clear guiding objective(s), the next steps could include the following:
- Effective participation of indigenous groups and local communities should be supported
- Consultations should be made after a capacity building session so that everyone is at the same level of understanding
- Building collective ownership - No leading organization (no convener, no logo)
- Uphold neutrality by working with the agreed objectives as the guide
- Work through consensus as much as possible. If not develop procedures that are agreeable to all
- Have procedures for registering comments and how they will be taken up as well as the commitment that these comments will be taken up
As one discussant summed it up: ‘ participation needs to be more that mere a mere box-ticking exercise.’ Hence, context specific participatory tools and methodologies will need to brought on board for REDD+ to be a success.