REDD+ is at a crossroads – and it’s no time to get impatient

Dr.Chandra Silori, coordinator of the Grassroots Capacity Building for REDD+ project , shares his reflections on REDD+ and the way forward, based on his experience at the Oslo REDD Exchange 2013, held last month. Setting the sight on COP19, he asks whether the expectations of the global and local community from REDD+ will ever be addressed.

More than 450 delegates from all over the world, representing civil society organizations, policy makers, academia, grassroots organizations, indigenous peoples organizations and media, gathered in Oslo at the end of October for the Oslo REDD Exchange 2013. The event was a chance for participants to review progress and discuss ways to revitalize REDD+, albeit in a setting where many arrived with the feeling that REDD+ is on life support, if not already dead. But is it really?

In her welcoming remarks, Ms. Tine Sundtoff, Norway’s Minister of Climate and the Environment, a newly created ministry that was about a week old at the time of the Oslo Exchange, stressed Norway’s commitment to being a part of the global climate change solution, which includes REDD+. Applauding the role of CSOs and NGOs in the fight against climate change, in particular those invited to showcase their results in the ‘results bar session’, Ms. Sundtoff highlighted that Norway is committed to further strengthening its development assistance to promote sustainable development pathways, poverty eradication, and strengthening the rights and active participation of indigenous people and local communities in decision-making process.

Ms. Frances Seymour, Oslo REDD Exchange 2013 Program Committee Chair, used an analogy where, in a basketball game, a time out 17 seconds before the end of the game was followed by a remarkable turnaround for the losing team, which scored 8 points to level the score. For REDD+, two days in Oslo were like the basketball game’s time out.

Simplicity and ability to bring about transformative changes were cited as key characteristics of REDD+ when it first appeared on the global platform. But now a key question is: has REDD+ lost both of these characteristics? The reason for such reflection is the fact that REDD+ has taken longer to bring about change than originally envisioned. But we must not forget that no single mechanism has ever before mobilized so much political attention, or financial resources, for tropical forest conservation and management. At this juncture for REDD+, it is critical not to get impatient. Rather, we must review what we have achieved so far, and come out with a specific agenda on how to move REDD+ forward.

Replying to a question on whether anything has changed over the last few years, Dr. Carlos Klink, National Secretary for Climate Change and Environmental Quality of the Ministry of Environment of Brazil, said that while many may question the ability of REDD+ in delivering tangible benefits so far, a review of the progress made during the last few years certainly reflects positive change. For example, REDD+ has provided a way for indigenous peoples to advance difficult and challenging issues at the national level in various countries, and even at the international level, and putting these issues in the outcomes of various COPs, such as the Cancun Agreements reached at COP 16, which advocates for clearly defining land tenure, promoting the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples, and adopting the human rights based approach for implementing REDD+ programs on the ground.

Over the two days of the Exchange, rich discussions filled the various parallel sessions, which focused on a wide range of important but yet-to-be-resolved issues around REDD+, spread across three major streams – The Landscape Approach, REDD+ Relevant Commodity Supply Chains, and Analysis, Concept and Methodology Development.

The REDD+/Landscape Approach calls for bringing in new actors into the REDD+ debate, which should not remain limited to large forested countries, such as Brazil and Indonesia, but should spread to more forest nations as it provides an opportunity for the reversal to forest loss. In this context, the call for engaging with the private sector seems to be getting louder and more prominent. Besides bringing various sectors and actors together, reviewing contradicting policies and drafting enabling policies to pursue the landscape approach, defining clear rights for indigenous people and other forest-dependent communities and equitable benefit-sharing mechanisms are important areas that will help REDD+ succeed in landscapes. However, this is easier said than done, as bringing various agencies and stakeholders together was cited by many as a real challenge, as was the development and implementation of complementary policies. Floundering political will was cited as another big risk to REDD+ and therefore political will and commitment is a must for sustaining REDD+.

Other suggestions on the way forward included analyzing the feasibility of various options within the complex landscape of REDD+, including devising transformative changes at various levels for building technical, social and political capacity of key stakeholders, including women and other marginalized groups; delivering on financial commitments, improving governance at national and local level, developing methods and approaches to measure impacts; and promoting REDD+ as a new low carbon emission model for rural development.

COP 19 is already underway in Warsaw, and it will be interesting to see how REDD+ moves forward there. Will COP19 deliver on the expectations of indigenous people and grassroots communities, whose very livelihoods are dependent on the forests, or add more frustrations to already impatient global and local communities? Until November 22, we await the answer to this question.

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