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Addressing legal reform needs as countries prepare for REDD+

Recent international studies have found that improving governance is among REDD+ countries’ top priorities. The REDD+ momentum may be an excellent opportunity to engage institutional and political stakeholders in improving frameworks and better law enforcement. Participants heard about effective approaches to foster good governance in Mexico, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia and Indonesia. Inter-sectoralcoordination was highlighted as essential to develop REDD+ engagement beyond the forest sector.

Jacob Werksman, principal advisor at the Directorate-General for Climate Action of the European Commission, highlighted the significant upfront investment of time and resources that has been made in REDD+, both at UNFCCC negotiation level and at national level through the preparation of national strategies as well as readiness and piloting activities. This enthusiasm for REDD+ has been linked both to the scale of potential greenhouse gas emission reductions as well as to the high levels of carbon finance expected. Nevertheless, many challenges remain as to how REDD+ can provide the opportunity to address the changes and reforms needed at national level.

Thais Linhares-Juvenal, senior officer of the UN-REDD Programme Secretariat, presented results of the 22 country needs assessments carried out by UN-REDD and the Forest Caron Partnership Facility. These studies aimed to scope out country priority needs in the context of REDD+ readiness. The results revealed that 80% of the 22 countries surveyed prioritised three governance areas: legal frameworks, benefit sharing and institutional strengthening and reforms. Regional perspectives on governance priorities varied: Asian and Latin American REDD+ countries emphasised the importance of benefit sharing, whereas African countries prioritised institutional strengthening, coordination mechanisms and legal frameworks.

Other panelists presented country experiences with governance efforts and challenges in legal reform and law enforcement. Thais Narciso, forest policy officer at GLOBE International, described work done by the Globe Legislator’s Forest Initiative, which supports legislators committed to sustainable development in their efforts to move the REDD+ agenda forward. The programme is currently active in Mexico, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia. Thais Narciso emphasised the achievements and challenges in Mexico and the DRC. She also cited the current political momentum on REDD+ as an opportunity for engaging with legislators to develop political support for REDD+ and secure investment flows.She also pointed out that the REDD+ process offers an opportunity for placing broader legal issues and law enforcement challenges on the political agenda.

In Colombia, agriculture and mining drivers are central to the REDD+ process, as described by Ivan Dario Valencia Rodriguez, advisor to the country’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. Colombia has also recently launched its ‘Pact for Legal Timber’. And progress is already evident in cross-sectoral coordination among ministries and industry, both in the agricultural and forest sectors. Zoning of the forest reserve presents its own challenges, since competition with the mining sector is significant and further institutional coordination is called for. Land tenure, in particular for forest communities, is another important governance issue at national level.

Mas Achmad Santosa, who heads the Working Group on legal review and law enforcement in Indonesia’s REDD+ Presidential Task Force, described the REDD+ institutional setting in this country, highlighting the cross-ministerial approach within the task force, as well as the country’s REDD+ strategy which was officially presented two months ago. President Yudhoyono´s moratorium on new forest concessions is still in place, with a possible extension under discussion. Santosa outlined the key governance challenges through a fishbone analysis of causes and effects such as lack of spatial planning, unclear tenure regimes, ineffective forest management analysis, and inadequate law enforcement.

During the discussion audience questions raised several issues. They first focused on benefit sharing and the link with the UNFCCC negotiation process. Valencia Rodriguez advised caution about raising overly high expectations for beneficiaries. He also mentioned the difficulty of advocating for national reforms without strong international signals.

The panel also discussed ways to address foreseeable disparities between national and subnational implementation. Experiences have varied from country to country. Brazil’s regions, for example, have progressed quickly and the often recommended nested approach could complicate development of a national approach. In contrast in the Democratic Republic of Congo, subnational capacity is almost nonexistent.

Lastly the question was posed, is REDD+ just a proxy for addressing larger land use change issues? Globe International’s experience working with parliamentarians suggests that taking a broader approach to sustainable forest management can certainly help to catch politicians’ attention.

Photo by Adeline Dontenville



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