Even the most optimistic observers could not help noticing that the REDD+ Partnership became totally dysfunctional during last week’s UN climate meeting in Tianjin, China. The meetings were spent arguing about the agenda and civil society participation. By the end of the week, little or no progress had been made. The only important decision taken was to cancel the Partnership’s next meeting.
There has been much finger-pointing and blaming for the REDD+ Partnership shambles. But for anyone who had been observing the process, what happened in Tianjin was painfully predictable, given the record so far. Federica Bietta of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Junya Nakano of Japan as co-chairs have allowed (or even encouraged) the process to become a closed shop, taking place as much as possible behind closed doors.
RECOFTC’s Ben Vickers was in Tianjin, reporting on the REDD+ Partnership meetings. On Monday, 4 October 2010, he took part in his first REDD+ Partnership meeting:
I can now officially report that it is indeed as dysfunctional as I’ve heard, and perhaps more so than I expected. My sunny, optimistic outlook has taken a severe hit.
Vickers reports that an hour into the meeting, a delegate suggested moving onto the second agenda item. As there were only two agenda points, this seems like a reasonable suggestion. However, the co-chair pointed out that some delegations deserved the opportunity to agree to this, “for a second time,” as Vickers notes, adding dryly that “Perhaps it was the nature of that second agenda item itself – stakeholder participation – that was the sticking-point.”
After four hours, delegates had only talked about the agenda and had not dealt with any points on the agenda. In the following day’s meeting, the delegates also failed to agree on the agenda. Meetings were cancelled on Wednesday and Thursday.
The REDD+ Partnership has consistently failed to address the issue of civil society participation in its meetings. But it is a crucial point. Ecosystem Marketplace reports one attendee, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying:
“You can’t dive into the substance of a workplan and make decisions on if it if you don’t have agreement on the process of how stakeholders are going to be engaged and how their input is going to be incorporated, if at all. It doesn’t make procedural sense to get into substantive discussions until we finalize how we’re going to involve people in the process.”
Nils Herman Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway, in a statement put out by the Ecosytems Climate Alliance, said that
“The Partnership is illegitimate if it doesn’t find a way to meaningfully involve stakeholders, indigenous peoples and local communities. Forests cannot be saved behind closed doors.”
It’s not just NGOs that are upset. “This process is at risk of becoming a waste of time, and you, co-chairs, are encouraging that, said Peru’s delegate during the REDD+ Partnership meeting on Tuesday, 5 October 2010.
Vickers described Tuesday’s meeting as “a public farce”:
On Tuesday evening, the co-chair of the partnership, representing PNG, infuriated a roomful of delegates and civil society observers by single-handedly blocking – again – any discussions on stakeholder participation. Against the express wishes of the vast majority of delegations, stakeholder participation was at the bottom of the agenda. Two hours went by, agonizingly, as delegates, one after another, proposed discussing the topic immediately and the co-chair, with rapidly diminishing authority, continued to claim a lack of consensus to move forward.
Eventually, Bietta requested a five minute break to discuss the situation with her Japanese co-chair. “Instead,” Vickers reports, she “made a half-hour phone call to a mysterious contact.”
Vickers argues that the Papua New Guinea government should not take too much blame for this mess, despite the fact that Bietta is representing PNG as one of the co-chairs. Bietta is a Director of Finance and Administration at the Columbia Business School and Deputy Director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRn). She was raised in Italy and has apparently never set foot in Papua New Guinea. (Kevin Conrad, PNG’s Special Envoy and Ambassador for Environment and Climate Change, completed his MBA at Columbia Business School in 2005 – the same year as Bietta. Conrad is Bietta’s boss as Director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, which has its secretariat in Columbia Business School.)
Greenpeace puts the blame for the REDD+ Partnership fiasco firmly on PNG. Paul Winn, of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, told Australian Associated Press that:
“The PNG delegation is using its position to keep stakeholders, such as green groups and indigenous people’s groups, away from the meetings in an attempt to keep rules on social and biodiversity safeguards out of the REDD framework.”
Paul Chung, of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, attempted to put the blame for the stalemate on rich countries. He told Ecosystem Marketplace that
“Simply put, there is no money, and donor countries have used the stakeholder issue since the session in Brasilia to stall the negotiations. There is no money for developing countries and … they haven’t even paid the FCPF [Forest Carbon Partnership Facility] and UN-REDD for Secretariat Services.”
But as Ecosystem Marketplace points out, delegates from the following countries asked Bietta to make stakeholder participation the first item on the agenda: USA, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Germany Switzerland, Australia, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Kenya, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Clearly, this is not a North-South divide.
And, as Vickers notes, Chung’s argument that “there is no money” is disingenuous:
Indonesia, Nepal and Viet Nam have all received multilateral funds. CfRN [Coalition for Rainforest Nations] officials, on behalf of PNG, have actively stalled the initiation of the UN-REDD country program. It appears that they are unhappy with the scrutiny that UN agencies would have over the funds.
The final REDD+ Partnership meeting in Tianjin started with an announcement from the Japanese co-chair that the next REDD+ Partnership meeting had been cancelled. A workshop and technical meeting proposed for 25 October 2010, in parallel with the tenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10) in Nagoya, Japan, would now not take place. A delegate from the Dominican Republic summed up the futility of holding a REDD+ Partnership meeting in Nagoya: “I cannot ask my minister to fly 24 hours to announce the launch of a website.”
So what’s next for the REDD+ Partnership? One option is to wait until January 2011 when the current co-chairs will be replaced by Brazil and France. That, of course, would mean waiting until after the UN climate change negotiations in Cancun at the end of this year. RECOFTC’s Ben Vickers has another suggestion:
What can be done to move things along? Perhaps those who achieve great things by asking great nations to move aside should take their own advice…