Conflict and Cooperation in REDD+: Which way are we going?

RECOFTC’s Ahmad Dhiaulhaq, Forest Conflict and Governance Researcher, shares highlights from a recent paper on “Predicting Future Conflict under REDD+ Implementation,” the product of a collaboration between RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests and Forest Action Nepal.

Effects of land-grabbing

Effects of land-grabbing. Photograph source: Mak Remissa/EPA, via The Guardian

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) as a climate change mitigation instrument is an attractive way for developed countries to achieve their emission reduction targets, as well as an incentive for developing countries to sustainably manage their forests. While this may seem like a tidy win-win situation, it’s quite a bit more complicated than that. The ongoing discussions have highlighted the risks (e.g. conflict), as well as the opportunities (e.g. cooperation), that are inevitably part of REDD+ implementation.

Conflict might arise because REDD+ is expected to create new zoning regimes, which in turn result in more restrictions to forest access, overlap with other land uses, as well as competing claims over land, forest, and carbon. On the other hand, cooperation is possible if REDD+ implementation can address the array of existing forest management issues, including clarification of land tenure and rights. It is believed that the success of REDD+ hinges on its ability to address these existing challenges.

RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests recognizes the importance of addressing all of these fundamental issues (for the success of REDD+ but also for other forest management interventions) and seeks to address them by developing the capacity of various stakeholders in community-based forestry and natural resource management (e.g. local communities, policy makers, academics, practitioners). One of our approaches to capacity development is through strategically using research by organizations such as FAO, CIFOR, IUFRO, Wageningen University and Gajah Mada University to develop a sound knowledge basis for our capacity development. When our trainings focus on issues regarding which there is no current, relevant research, we conduct the research ourselves, as was the case with our work on conflict transformation.

One of RECOFTC’s recent research projects is trying to look at the existing and possible future sources of conflict in REDD+ project sites. We began by developing a preliminary predictive framework (Patel et al. 2013) to identify possible sources of impairment that may result in conflict over the management of forests and natural resources and then applying this framework to case studies in Nepal and Vietnam, with work ongoing in Cambodia and Myanmar. The study demonstrates that the framework can help in identifying, understanding and to some extent, predicting possible sources of conflict not only in REDD+ sites but also in forest management in general.

The research found that the following can be sources of conflict in the REDD+ sites: access and use restriction; benefit distribution; competing demands; conflict management capacity; leadership; legal and policy framework; participation and communication; quality of resources; and tenure security (Patel et al. 2013). It is argued that unless these fundamental issues are addressed, the battle against climate change through REDD+ is likely to lead to conflict amongst REDD+ proponents, national government agencies, and the communities themselves who are the key guardians of one of the most important tools in climate change mitigation.

Understanding possible sources of conflict is crucial to conflict management (and therefore project management). To reduce the potential for impairment and conflict under REDD+ implementation (and other externally driven forest management practices), stakeholders must be equipped to recognize and address these sources of impairments in a timely manner. The failure to do so will likely have considerable impact not only on the forest-dependent communities but also on the success of REDD+ itself. When forest conflict arises, local communities are often the most adversely affected and withstand the worst of its costs. In terms of REDD+, conflict would disrupt the implementation process and impact the credibility of the REDD+ mechanism and its proponents. Conflicts could also lead to intentional forest destruction, which would be detrimental to efforts to mitigate global climate change.

More information on “Predicting Future Conflict under REDD+ Implementation” can be found here.

Reference:

Patel, T.; Dhiaulhaq, A.; Gritten, D.; Yasmi, Y.; De Bruyn, T.; Paudel, N.S.; Luintel, H.; Khatri, D.B.; Silori, C.; Suzuki, R. Predicting Future Conflict under REDD+ Implementation. Forests 2013, 4, 343-363.

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  1. Anton’s Weekly International Law Digest, Vol. 4, No. 7 (2 July 2013) | Anton's Weekly International Law Digest

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