Effective Safeguard Information Systems for REDD+ in ASEAN countries still a challenge

Dr.Chandra Silori, coordinator of the Grassroots Capacity Building for REDD+ in Asia, shares his reflections on REDD+ Safeguard Information Systems (SIS) and the way forward, based on his experience at an ASEAN pre-COP20  meeting in Jakarta, held last month in advance of COP20. Setting the sight on COP21, he asks whether ASEAN countries will get the support they need to develop effective SIS.

Although REDD+ has come a long way, ensuring effective social and environmental safeguards for REDD+ implementation is still a real challenge. Corruption and misappropriation of funds from REDD+; exclusion of customary rights holders due to lack of clarity surrounding tenure arrangements in many REDD+ countries; withholding of carbon and non-carbon benefits by the elite; exploitation of poor and forest-dependent communities by the REDD+ project proponents due to lack of awareness among such communities on REDD+; loss of biodiversity due to displacement of unsustainable forest management practices from high carbon; and low biodiversity areas are some of the essential challenges that must be overcome for REDD+ to be successful.

Last year’s COP 19 in Warsaw addressed these issues and established a framework to guide the development of national REDD+ Safeguards Information Systems (SIS) – a system for providing information on how safeguards are addressed and respected. The Warsaw COP also invited member parties to submit opinions, views and experiences on what information should be included in a country’s SIS for consideration by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SABSTA) leading up to COP 20 this year.

In response to this, regional negotiators and civil society members held a pre-COP meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia last month. The meeting provided an opportunity for regional negotiators and civil society members to discuss the challenges of developing REDD+ SIS in their respective countries. Participants found that the capacities of ASEAN countries with regards to developing SIS varied significantly. For example, while Indonesia has made substantial progress, countries like Lao PDR and Myanmar are just beginning to build the capacities of key stakeholders in understanding REDD+ safeguards and the additional SIS. Clearly, we need to speed up the capacity development of the member countries in the ASEAN region with regards to REDD+ SIS. Moreover, issues regarding social and environmental safeguards of REDD+ are still ambiguous as different stakeholders have different perceptions on and understanding of safeguards and therefore different requirements in order to meet them; thus, SIS needs to be much more robust than simply a checklist of information.

It is time to scale up REDD+ awareness and capacity development initiatives in ASEAN and use them as a basis to take up more challenging tasks such as developing SIS based in countries’ existing legal, institutional and compliance frameworks. Moreover, since the implementation of social and environmental safeguards, and the distribution of related carbon and non-carbon benefits will affect the local communities the most, development of SIS needs to be a participatory process. This is also needed in order to strengthen recognition of local stakeholders’ rights and access to forest areas, a fundamental step for claiming for carbon and non-carbon benefits from REDD+. Research suggests that insecure access and tenure rights for forest-based people does not incentivize sustainable management of forest landscapes, and therefore may accelerate deforestation and forest degradation. Further, SIS development needs to be supported by raising awareness among the local level officials of forest and other like departments on the rights, roles and responsibilities of local communities with regards to REDD+.

As the global community gears up for COP 20 in Lima, Peru, and also focuses on the goal of achieving a new international climate change agreement during COP 21 in 2015 in Paris, the positive developments with regards to safeguards for the last couple of COPs need to be streamlined to support developing countries to develop SIS and the relevant capacity. We urge the UNFCCC to effectively address ASEAN’s needs.

In addition to the Joint Submission prepared by the ASEAN negotiators in response to the SBSTA call for further guidance on the types of information that national Safeguard Information Systems (SIS) should provide, RECOFTC has also drawn from the results of the Jakarta meeting in developing its own submission: “Community forestry and community-based forest landscape management: An important existing framework for safeguard information system design, implementation, monitoring and reporting.”

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