Oslo REDD+ Exchange: Bridging the Gap: Political and Institutional Challenges as an Opportunity

-Oslo REDD+ Exchange 2016

This blog draws on discussions which took place at the Oslo REDD+ Exchange between 500 policy makers, government officials, civil society actors and indigenous peoples’ representatives. This blog considers the main challenges and spaces for improvement for REDD+ highlighted in key sessions during the conference.

By Eric Waweru

As would be expected, at this year’s REDD+ Exchange there remained a resounding consensus on the need to mitigate the impacts of deforestation and forest degradation. Although the conference and the plenary session speakers remained optimistic, political and institutional challenges were central to the discussions on how to effectively realise the goals of REDD+. Additionally, the generalisations made by government agencies, about what a commitment to deforestation really means left much to be desired, and revealed gaps between broader REDD+ policies and local implementation.

The commitment by international partners such as NORAD (Norwegian Agency for Development and Cooperation) and GEF (Global Environmental Fund) countries such as Norway, Germany, and the USA, as well as the ratification of the COP21 agreement, have all served to further affirm a positive step by the global community to address climate change and use forests as a natural resource for carbon sinking. Germany, for instance, announced at the conference, a commitment of an additional pledge of €50 million towards climate change programmes through the World Bank- thereby reassuring the delegation present of Germany’s commitment to collaborate with other stakeholders.

This support was echoed by the remarks of the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) Executive Director, who had earlier emphasised that is was time to adopt a different language: the language of love for the forest. This he illustrated through five factors: love for nature; need for political and global leadership; the power of business to influence the green economy; the power of good economics to secure the interest of future generations; the power of togetherness in collectively taking measures to slow deforestation; and the need to reward performance for gains realised.  In closing, he noted “the planet has enough for everyone’s needs but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

The plenaries provided platforms of dialogue between State agencies; civil society organisations; representatives of indigenous people; and private sector representatives; all sharing various accounts of successes and challenges in the implementation of REDD+. Indonesia, Guyana, Colombia, Brazil, Liberia and Ethiopia revealed that where government institutions are willing to reform their policies, the transformation of forest conservation and biodiversity protection is attainable. In the cases of Guyana, India, and Indonesia forest degradation has substantially been reduced as national and sub-national government and other stakeholders have engaged in realising these goals. Zero deforestation zones (jurisdictions that have strong institutions and are on a path to reaching zero net emissions from deforestation while increasing production and economic development), and forest conscious fiscal policy instruments have also been vital in realising these gains. Additionally, the use of technology has been instrumental in mapping forests for identifying areas of deforestation and areas that need to be protected in the future.

Consequently, there is still a growing concern on how realistic REDD+ objectives will be, as it requires an enabling political and economic environment that will be facilitated by the following:

  • Autonomy of the State and State agencies to effectively govern the management of their forests and the private sector;
  • The ability to make structural policy reforms to facilitate adherence to REDD+ and engender national and multi-level ownership;
  • Implementation of consultative and participatory arrangements to realise the rights of indigenous peoples to be part of decision-making on REDD+;
  • Transparency in policy implementation and ensuring accountability by strengthening public institutions, which would include the strengthening of civil society to agitate for the continued participation of indigenous communities;
  • Collective efforts by both civil society and the private sector to agitate for decision-making on policy reforms.

Moving forward REDD+ is instrumental as it has laid the foundations for the actualisation of COP21 Paris agreements and the operationalisation of Article 5 to promote the sustainable management of natural carbon sinks. The signing of a joint statement between the USA and Norway further affirmed the drive of the USA to work together with other governments in the realisation of forest restoration. Notably, US Secretary of State John Kerry affirmed that it is time for global citizens to pay attention to the impacts of deforestation on climate change, and more keenly to recognise forested areas as important natural carbon sinks. These sentimentswere echoed by Norway and Germany.

The conference further broadened the scope of various stakeholders to engage at a global political forum to further share their perceptions on the implementation of REDD+ and to increase networking opportunities that facilitate organisation between state agencies, civil society and the private sector.

Generally, there was a sense that indigenous communities face a losing battle of preserving the forest while depending on it. This is due to the interest of government parties in the forest as a source of economic capital through logging, charcoal harvesting and the expansion of agricultural land among many other factors. Although there has been a successful process of reversal in countries such as Indonesia, Brazil and Singapore, it remains a stumbling block for the implementation of REDD+ in many countries. The REDD+ policy proposes transformative changes that will accommodate forest protection, preservation and securing the interest of the indigenous people. However, these proposed changes require collaborative and consultative engagements of national and sub-national institutions; the inclusion of other NGOs; and also affording indigenous populations the right to have ownership in the process of change, and the ability to translate policy proposals into ones which work for their communities.

Overall REDD+ offers real promise, but faces significant challenges in achieving the ambitious aims, and in promoting institutional change. Nonetheless, by embracing these challenges as opportunities to make significant positive impact upon the worlds problems with deforestation and degradation, REDD+ could provide innovative solutions which make global governments, stakeholders and civil society organisations stand up  in a call to action.



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