in Guyana, Honduras, Indonesia, Norway, Panama, Suriname, Vietnam

“Concerns grow over weak safeguard implementation,” Forest Peoples Programme on REDD and safeguards

Forest Peoples Programme’s April 2013 E-Newsletter focusses on safeguards. The E-Newsletter starts by looking at why safeguards matter. Other articles explain and comment on the World Bank’s safeguards review, forest policy and oil palm policy, the failure of safeguards in the Camisea gas project in Peru and examples from the Congo Basin and Cameroon.

An article by Francesco Martone and Tom Griffiths gives a critical overview of safeguards in REDD. The article looks at how the safeguards included in the 2010 decision on REDD at the UNFCCC COP16 meeting in Cancun have been adapted and watered down in key REDD programmes:

While on paper the translation of the UNFCCC political mandate on safeguards seems to have led to some significant achievements in terms of recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights, when it comes to operationalisation and implementation the picture is so far less encouraging.

The article outlines the various problems that UN-REDD and the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and Forest Investment Programme have run into. Perhaps the most extreme case is in Panama, where in February 2013, indigenous peoples’ organisations completely withdrew from the UN-REDD Programme. The article concludes that,

Unless forest countries start to heed the calls for stronger actions on safeguards being made by indigenous peoples and social justice organisations, more complaints like the recent one to UN-REDD in Panama are likely to emerge.

The article is posted in full below. It is also available in Spanish, French and Bahasa Indonesia on Forest People Programmes website.

Safeguards in REDD+ financing schemes

By Francesco Martone and Tom Griffiths, Forest Peoples Programme
E-Newsletter Special Edition on Safeguards, April 2013
29 April, 2013
Among the many aspects of REDD+[1] under close scrutiny by indigenous peoples and civil society organisations, the issue of safeguards and their implementation is the one that continues to attract the most concern. This is particularly true now in the current debate on REDD+ and its degree of implementation and operationalisation. Since 2010, when the 16th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted its decision on REDD+ and related safeguards, a continuous process of elaborations, negotiations, and adjustments has taken place at various levels. The debate on safeguards has become both an opportunity for indigenous peoples and civil society to further enhance their calls for respect of internationally recognised rights and standards, and a leverage opportunity for donors to seek compliance for the use of funds transferred to REDD+ countries. As with other REDD+-related issues the safeguard debate has developed in a very complex manner, and has bifurcated into two streams. One stream is aimed at establishing norms and tools to prevent REDD+ from doing harm to the environment and forest peoples, the other is aimed at ensuring a proper assessment of potential benefits, known in technical jargon as a “do good” approach.
As the whole debate on safeguards moved from theoretical elaboration towards a translation of principles into operational tools, problems began to arise. The problems included a lack of capacity and interest among government agencies at the national level, and questions about excessive transaction costs. These ‘problems’ pose a substantial risk of dilution of safeguards, with the expressed purpose of accelerating disbursement of funds for readiness. In order to fully grasp the significance of this scenario, it is worthwhile going back in time and reconstructing the process that led to the development of various safeguard mechanisms and regimes in different REDD+ related initiatives, such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), the Forest Investment Programme (FIP) and the UN-REDD.
The Cancun Agreements adopted by UNFCCC COP 16 listed a series of safeguards that would have to be taken into account in REDD+ policies, programmes and projects. With regard to indigenous peoples, the safeguards noted the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and provided protections ranging from ensuring their full and effective participation, to respecting the “traditional knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of local communities, by taking into account relevant international obligations, national circumstances and laws”. The UNFCCC also adopted a work plan for one of its subsidiary bodies (the Scientific Body for Technical Advice – SBSTA) that would develop guidance on a system of information on how safeguards would be addressed and respected.
After some diplomatic wrangling, Parties adopted a text that provides important political backing to the relevance of social and environmental safeguards in REDD+, as well as of international human rights obligations and instruments such as UNDRIP, albeit conditioned to national circumstances and laws. In spite of its limitations, such a formulation offered space for further elaboration of safeguards within the various on-going REDD+ programmes and initiatives.
One of these REDD+ initiatives is the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility which recognises in its charter the obligation to respect the rights of indigenous peoples. Once the Cancun Agreements had been adopted, the FCPF put more effort into the development of its own safeguard regime. It should be noted here that the specific nature of the activities supported by the FCPF – notably REDD+ readiness plans, rather than projects – led to the “re-elaboration” and adaptation of traditional safeguard regimes, such as those of the World Bank, into more analytical and diagnostic tools like the SESA (Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment).
The purpose of the SESA is to anticipate potential harm and opportunities related to REDD+ very early in the planning cycle, and identify safeguards that would be triggered. With its analytical and diagnostic character, SESAs should have offered space for indigenous peoples to elaborate and provide substantial inputs on ways to ensure that REDD+ would not harm their livelihoods and rights. However, the record of indigenous peoples’ engagement in the definition of the Terms of Reference of the SESAs and the related Environmental and Social Management Framework is thus far mixed. It should be noted that one of the safeguards that indeed applies to the REDD+ readiness preparation process is related to access to information and public participation. Hence, the protracted lack of proper engagement and access to information evidenced in some countries is therefore in violation of the relevant safeguards.
The FCPF itself has also changed. Initially established as a financing scheme primarily within the World Bank (established with the Bank as trustee) the FCPF has developed into a more complex financing mechanism. Although the Bank remains the trustee, FCPF financing can be delivered through a number of possible identified ‘delivery partners’, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). This expansion in delivery partners meant additional further effort was needed to find a common approach to safeguards. The pattern adopted by the FCPF, the IDB and the UNDP (the FAO is still lagging behind in its process of alignment) envisages that the highest standards and safeguards would apply in case of divergence between the standards of the delivery partner and the World Bank and that the latter would in any case be the minimum threshold. This means that in cases where the UNDP is the delivery partner (and, being the UNDP, anchored to a rights-based approach) the UNDRIP and relevant provisions such as free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) would apply. This far though, as almost all REDD+ readiness activities are still being elaborated, no strong evidence exists about whether these standards are being met. Rather, as stated in the recent “Country needs assessment: a report on REDD+ readiness among UN-REDD Programme and Forest Carbon Partnership Facility member countries” (2012) the subcomponent of safeguards and public consultation, as well as Monitoring, Reporting and Verification still requires further support. The report underlined that: “The sub-component on safeguards also came up as an area of high priority, particularly for Asian and Latin American countries, and even in Africa the response rate was over 60 percent”.[2]
The Forest Investment Program (FIP) has followed a similar pattern to that of the FCPF, whereby each Multilateral Development Bank (MDB) is responsible for the use of funds transferred by the World Bank in accordance with its own fiduciary framework, policies, guidelines and procedures. Furthermore, the FIP programming approval and supervision processes will follow the relevant MDB’s policies and procedures. However, the FIP has not developed a common approach to ensure consistency between the Trustee (the Bank) and the other MDBs’ policies and safeguards. The lack of a standardised and consistent safeguard framework poses significant challenges both in terms of accountability and consistency, within the FIP, and between the FIP, the FCPF and the UN-REDD.
With regard to the UN-REDD, safeguards have been approached in a different manner. As a matter of fact, the UN-REDD adopted a set of guidance papers and guidelines related to stakeholder engagement which include a requirement to secure the FPIC of indigenous peoples, and the Social and Environmental Principles and Criteria (SEPC), which use a “rights-based approach”. The guidelines apply to UN Agencies as multiple delivery partners. The SEPC are subdivided into three principles: social issues, social and environmental policy coherence and environmental issues. They contain a number of relevant provisions for indigenous peoples, including requiring their full and effective participation, and requiring respect and promotion of their rights to land, territories and resources, FPIC and recognition of traditional knowledge and livelihoods. However, the associated Benefit and Risk Assessment Tool has not yet been finalised and adopted, thereby potentially crippling their application.[3]
Concerns grow over weak safeguard implementation
A recurrent pattern therefore seems to emerge at various levels. While on paper the translation of the UNFCCC political mandate on safeguards seems to have led to some significant achievements in terms of recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights, when it comes to operationalisation and implementation the picture is so far less encouraging.
The FCPF has received multiple complaints from indigenous peoples and civil society about violation of Bank standards on public participation and contravention of its own participation and consultation guidelines. In Honduras, for example, some community organisations have rejected the government’s readiness proposals outright due to the lack of consultation and failure to ensure inclusive policy making.[4] In countries like Suriname, despite repeated redrafting of national readiness proposals, government plans for REDD+ continue to omit any meaningful measures to uphold the land and territorial rights of forest peoples.[5]
In February 2013, indigenous peoples’ organisations in Panama withdrew from collaboration with the UN-REDD Programme and National Joint Programme in Panama due to longstanding concerns about the UN and government failure to ensure effective participation and the lack of effective and timely actions to uphold FPIC and ensure alignment with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.[6] The UN is now planning to investigate the complaint to find out what has gone wrong in the national programme.[7]
The UN-REDD programme is also coming up against problems in Indonesia and other parts of Asia. The programme admits that FPIC processes in Vietnam have been flawed (failing to explain risks and costs of REDD+ to communities). In the programme’s pilot REDD+ project in Central Sulawesi in Indonesia, locals complain that no meaningful FPIC process has yet taken place. Meanwhile, the same pilot project has so far paid little attention to securing land and resource rights and has focused on an outdated exclusionary approach to forest conservation which has resulted in intense criticisms from affected communities.
In Peru, the Amazonian indigenous organisation AIDESEP has growing concerns over the treatment of rights and land issues in the the process to develop a national Forest Investment Strategy financed by the Forest Investment Programme (FIP). In short, AIDESEP has been dismayed that previous pledges to address land tenure with adequate national budgets for demarcation and titling were broken when the government unilaterally redrafted the investment plan without consultation at the start of 2013. AIDESEP is now considering use of various complaints mechanisms if its safeguard concerns are not addressed.[8]
Community concerns over the lack of timely and effective safeguard implementation are increasingly being backed up by independent verifiers. In Guyana, for example, the verification body for the Guyana-Norway MoU on REDD+ found in November 2012 that after three years Guyana has failed to take suitable actions to uphold indigenous peoples land rights, while ineffective public consultations and a lack of transparency continue to plague the development of sustainable REDD+ policies in the country.[9]
The implementation of guidance on the System of Information on Safeguards, as well as on Monitoring, Reporting and Verification of their application in REDD+ finance at the UNFCCC offers further critical evidence that forest nations are being sluggish in acting on safeguard-related obligations under the Convention. It furthermore shows the need for an effective safeguard regime to be anchored in relevant national legislation and related legal and governance reforms, (as in the case of land tenure, or FPIC), such processes are still in their infancy, or not yet even started, in many countries. There are signs that the slow rate of action on safeguards may be due to a serious lack of government capacity on safeguards and reporting issues.
Indigenous peoples and NGOs, including FPP are emphasising that an effective national safeguard system has to be linked to a robust and effective compliance framework that includes performance indicators for safeguard implementation. Unfortunately this is something that most countries at the UNFCCC are strongly opposed to, either to make access to funds easier, protect their own “sovereign” space, or to accelerate readiness processes in order to start implementing projects and benefit from related carbon payments.
Unless forest countries start to heed the calls for stronger actions on safeguards being made by indigenous peoples and social justice organisations, more complaints like the recent one to UN-REDD in Panama are likely to emerge. For now, civil society and indigenous peoples continue to call for safeguards anchored to a strong compliance framework that would include the recognition of the right to FPIC, effective and accessible grievance and complaint mechanisms, robust governance reforms (in particular recognising indigenous peoples’ rights to land, territories and resources) and funding institutions’ and governments’ acknowledgement and support of community monitoring schemes, that include performance indicators for safeguard implementation.

[1] Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
[4] See, for example, letter from COPINH in Honduras sent to the FCPF in August 2012
[5] See
Español | Français | Bahasa Indonesia
FPP E-Newsletter Special Edition on Safeguards, April 2013

PHOTO Credit: A member of the indigenous caucus campaigning on safeguards and REDD at the UNFCCC COP17 © Conrad Feather.

Leave a Reply

  1. Which all goes to show, surprise surprise, that you should never trust the World Bank to do anything right, even when it has previously committed to doing so.

    The reality is that safeguards will NEVER be applied in any meaningful way in REDD projects, because that is what the political dynamic and structure of REDD dictates. Rich countries who pay for REDD need REDD much more than poor forested countries do, so the forested countries call the shots. The ‘diplomatic wranglings’ that the above article somewhat euphemistically refers to was, in fact, an all-out effort by some of the more vociferous (and corrupt) tropical forest countries to have all mention of safeguards removed from any agreements about REDD. They don’t want multilateral safeguards and have no intention whatsoever of ‘adapting them’ to their national laws and standards or reporting on their implementation; thanks to the pathetically weak negotiating by rich countries, they are under no actual OBLIGATION to do so.

    It’s difficult to see how proper safeguards could be applied in the World Bank’s FCPF, when the the whole decision-making process is such an amorphous, undefinable, and deliberate mess that even the Bank cannot say whether something (such as a proposed R-PP) has been definitively ‘approved’ or not, or indeed who is responsible for following and checking on previous ‘decisions’. No-one seems to have ultimate responsibility for the FCPF’s programmes.

    The vast majority of staff in the Bank clearly don’t want fiddly safeguards getting in the way, because that slows down disbursements, which risks them them losing pay increments and fat banker’s bonuses.

    The only real safeguard with the FCPF and the FIP would be to close them down and start all over again, with people who know what they are doing.

  2. It is worth noting that the industrialized countries that want cheap REDD credits such as the US, the European Union and Norway also opposed legally binding REDD safeguards on human rights, Indigenous Peoples’ rights and against the conversion of forests into monoculture plantations. As reported by REDD Monitor, the US did a brutal hatchet job on the safeguards in the middle of the night during the Copenhagen summit. It is time that Forest Peoples Program and others who have been pinning their hopes on meaningless safeguards stop wasting their time and recognize that REDD cannot be fixed and reject REDD in all its forms.