in Congo Basin region, Ghana, Indonesia, Nepal, Panama, Peru

Smoke and Mirrors: A critical assessment of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility

A new report from FERN and the Forest Peoples Programme concludes that the safeguards put in place by the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership (FCPF) are inadequate.

The report looks at eight Readiness Preparation Proposals (R-PPs) submitted to the FCPF and finds that FCPF safeguards are not clear and do not conform to the World Bank’s own safeguards.

This is FERN and FPP’s second report focussing on the FCPF. A 2008 report, “Cutting Corners” reviewed the REDD concept notes presented to the FCPF and concluded that the process had been rushed “with little or no consultation with indigenous peoples, local communities or civil society organisations, and failed to meet the Bank’s own standards.”

The new report, “Smoke and Mirrors: A critical assessment of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility,” (pdf file 1.0 MB) finds that

FCPF is still failing to fulfil its social and environmental commitments, while national REDD Readiness Preparation Proposals (R-PPs) lack sufficient plans for policy and legal reforms that would uphold forest peoples’ rights, improve forest governance and reduce deforestation.

The report describes the way the World Bank and recipient governments appear to be colluding with each other to hide the problems with FCPF as a game of “smoke and mirrors”. The report reviews eight R-PPs, from Peru, Panama, Nepal, Indonesia, Ghana, the Republic of Congo and the DR Congo.

The executive summary of the report lists the following key findings:

  • It is unclear whether specific FCPF safeguard measures are mandatory requirements or are optional at different stages of the REDD process. Rather than strengthening and implementing the Bank’s safeguards, the FCPF has created a dense set of guidelines that appear to water down existing policies and obfuscate minimum standards.
  • R-PPs do not contain concrete proposals to address land conflicts and outstanding land claims, and overlook serious weaknesses in national legal frameworks, especially relating to respect for customary rights, FPIC and related land demarcation and titling procedures.
  • Most R-PPs rely on biased analyses of the causes of deforestation that blame indigenous peoples and local communities for forest loss and damage, without justification.
  • National consultations on draft R-PPs have been either non-existent or inadequate, and core observations and proposals of forest peoples are being disregarded or only given superficial treatment, in particular recommendations relating to land and territorial rights.
  • All the R-PPs reaffirm state ownership over forest lands and most focus on valuation and monitoring of forest carbon to the exclusion of livelihood, biodiversity and cultural values.
  • Though R-PPs acknowledge the need for governance reforms, most confine this to the establishment of new government institutions to oversee REDD and related forest and climate programmes.

In other words, things have not improved since 2008 and the “Cutting Corners” report.

Not only is the FCPF still ‘cutting corners’, it is now playing a game of ‘smoke and mirrors’ to distract attention from unresolved safeguard issues. At the same time the FCPF is moving ahead to create a global market in forest carbon credits, before governments have made such a decision and despite growing doubts about the risks to forests and peoples of such a market and the failures of carbon trading in general.


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  1. Press release from FERN and FPP about the launch of the “Smoke and Mirrors” report at the 8th Forest Carbon Partnership Facility meeting, which is taking place this week in Vietnam:

    World Bank’s forest climate fund slammed for sidelining indigenous peoples’ rights and failing to protect forests

    DALAT, Vietnam (23 March 2011) – A new report launched today at the 8th meeting of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) reveals that the Bank is not fulfilling its promises to protect the rights of forest peoples. Smoke and Mirrors: a critical assessment of the FCPF by Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and FERN exposes the World Bank’s failure to uphold its commitments on human rights and its engagement in never-ending changes to its social and environmental policies, weakening its accountability to affected communities and the public. Co-author of the report, Francesco Martone, FPP policy advisor, said:

      The FCPF is backsliding on its social commitments, using a smokescreen of constantly changing standards and guidance notes that pay lip service to forest peoples’ rights, governance and benefit-sharing without clear binding rules that would hold the Bank and recipient governments accountable. The whole question of which standards apply to the FCPF has just become more complicated as the Fund now plans to use different international agencies to implement its projects…

    The FCPF is administered by the World Bank. It is one of the main international climate initiatives set up to fund developing country schemes for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD). The report finds serious faults in government proposals seeking FCPF funding for planning and preparation activities in support of REDD schemes. It finds that while proposals for monitoring and measuring forest carbon are well-advanced, plans for activities that could actually reduce deforestation, such as clarifying and securing land rights and dealing with corruption and weak governance in the forest sector, are poor. Kate Dooley, FERN’s policy advisor, said:

      In none of the eight REDD preparation plans developed by the governments of Panama, Guyana, Peru, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Nepal and Indonesia are land rights adequately addressed or existing land conflicts acknowledged. Proposals for governance reform are often limited to setting up new institutions to oversee forest carbon trading, at the expense of legal reform, including land tenure.

    Many of the governments applying for funds have laws and national policies which are contrary to their international obligations to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities. Smoke and Mirrors shows that these shortcomings are ignored in REDD “readiness” proposals and, more worryingly, indigenous peoples and local communities are often unjustly blamed for deforestation. Onel Masardule of the Foundation for the Promotion of Indigenous Knowledge in Panama said:

      The FCPF must uphold indigenous peoples’ rights in line with its commitments. FCPF decisions on financing for national proposals for REDD must respect the demands of indigenous peoples without whom forest and climate schemes will not work. Full respect for our right to free, prior and informed consent is essential, yet this fundamental safeguard is missing in FCPF policies and World Bank safeguards…

    In Peru the government plans for REDD have attracted heavy criticism from indigenous peoples’ organisations for failing to address land conflicts and outstanding territorial claims. Daysi Zapata, Vice President of AIDESEP in Peru said:

      The FCPF says that all its activities will ensure that countries meet their obligations to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, yet state plans in Peru are not respecting our collective rights, including our rights to territories and free prior and informed consent. We have not travelled for two days to reach Vietnam for nothing: we have come here to obtain firm guarantees that our rights will be respected and that the FCPF lives up to its promises….

    The authors of the report are further concerned that the FCPF intends to move ahead with plans to make agreements to pay governments from its Carbon Fund before countries have completed the preparatory work that is required to ensure that future actions to curb forest emissions are fully sustainable.

    The report concludes that the FCPF Carbon Fund and finance for emission reduction agreements must not move ahead until readiness actions are completed and the social and environmental safeguards are strong enough to uphold human rights and protect the environment.

    The full report is available at: