in Indonesia, Norway

Norway’s REDD deal has “triggered promising reformation processes” in Indonesia, say Rainforest Foundation Norway and AMAN

Earlier this month, I wrote an article for Development Today, in which I asked whether Norway’s rainforest billions have had any influence on rates of deforestation in either Brazil or Indonesia.

The glib answer is that Norway’s money hasn’t reduced deforestation. The rate of deforestation in Brazil has fallen dramatically since 2004, but Norway’s REDD deal with Brazil only started in 2008. In Indonesia, the rate of deforestation doubled in the two years after 2010, when Norway’s US$1 billion REDD deal was negotiated.

Development Today pushed for a re-thinking of Norway’s “hands off” approach to addressing deforestation, arguing that this approach could never work in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo or Papua New Guinea.

Frances Seymour and Nancy Birdsall discuss this “problem of attribution” in a recent post on the Center for Global Development’s website. Without Norway’s money, maybe Brazil’s deforestation rate would have gone back up and Indonesia’s deforestation rate would have been even higher. Or maybe not.

Seymour and Birdsall argue that it is too soon to know whether Norway’s REDD deals are making a difference to deforestation and add that,

[W]e may never know in a way that can be quantified, because reducing deforestation from what it might have been otherwise is likely to be the outcome of many factors, and the kind of ongoing, adaptive process referred to above.

Meanwhile, Anja Lillegraven, Programme Coordinator for Southeast Asia at Rainforest Foundation Norway, and Rukka Sombolinggi, Deputy Secretary General of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) have responded in Development Today. Their article is posted here in full, with permission from Development Today.

Neither cheap nor quick, but critical

By Anja Lillegraven (Rainforest Foundation Norway) and Rukka Sombolinggi (Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago – AMAN)

Published in Development Today, 3/2014 26 March 2014

In an opinion piece in Development Today, Chris Lang of REDD Monitor questions Norway’s Climate and Forest Initiative. He writes that REDD+ turns out to be neither quick nor cheap. Lang argues that Norway’s “rainforest billions” have not contributed to reducing deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia.

We will take a closer look at Indonesia, where deforestation is still high but where Norway’s initiative has triggered promising reformation processes. To be sure, it will not be easy – but rainforest protection is critical to combat climate change, biodiversity loss and human rights violations.

Anyone who has seen the Oscar-nominated film The Act of Killing will appreciate the challenges in Indonesian politics. By putting US$1 billion on the table, Norway is calling for reform of the forest sector, one of the country’s most notorious political domains, plagued by corruption and weak governance. Obviously, success will depend on national will and commitment. One billion dollars cannot compete with income from palm oil, pulp and paper and mining.

According to Forest Watch Indonesia, Indonesia has lost more than 40 per cent of its forest since 1950. Concessions have been generously granted to commercial companies at the expense of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities. Indonesia is among the world’s five largest emitters of greenhouse gases. A staggering 80 per cent of these emissions come from deforestation and land use change. This is what REDD+ is all about, but it cannot be separated from the systemic issues mentioned above.

Indonesia has not yet been able to change its deforestation rate despite Norway’s support. However, the Indonesia-Norway agreement has triggered positive policy reforms and institutional developments, slowly building the foundation for lasting changes in the sector.

Indonesia has developed a progressive national REDD+ strategy that targets underlying causes of deforestation previously outside the public discourse, such as corruption, weak governance, lack of law enforcement and unclear tenure.

The strategy was developed through an unprecedented participatory process, a result of the call for participation and transparency by civil society and the international community with Norway at the forefront. A REDD+ Agency, whose head has the rank of minister, reporting directly to the President, has been established.

Indonesian civil society organisations have called for a moratorium on forest concessions for over a decade. The agreement with Norway made it happen, although loopholes and serious limitations in scope make it less effective than it should be.

rukkaIndonesia’s One Map Initiative, closely linked to the moratorium and also financed by Norway, seeks to develop a reference map for land use in Indonesia, managed and commonly agreed by all line ministries. The Indigenous Peoples Alliance in Indonesia (AMAN) is working together with the government to incorporate indigenous peoples’ territories in the map. The agency coordinating the initiative has already accepted maps produced by AMAN covering 2.4 million hectares of indigenous territories.

The recognition of indigenous peoples has improved since Norway signed the agreement with Indonesia. Their crucial role in forest management has been officially acknowledged. The national REDD+ strategy recognises that tenure reform is a prerequisite for successful implementation of REDD+.

Last year, the Constitutional Court ruled that customary forests are owned by indigenous peoples and not by the state, a major breakthrough for AMAN and supporting organisations. Encouraged by this newly-won recognition, AMAN has developed a bill on indigenous peoples’ rights that is currently being debated in the national assembly.

AMAN’s work is supported in part by Norway’s Climate and Forest Initiative. Civil society organisations like AMAN act as watchdogs and advisors to the government, and their role should not be underestimated. Norway has strengthened Indonesia’s civil society in two ways, by setting aside a portion of the “rainforest billions” for civil society and by insisting on participation and transparency in REDD+. As a result, many Indonesian organisations now engage constructively and report improved relations with the government.

We would argue that more has been achieved in forest protection and the rights of indigenous peoples in Indonesia since the signing of the Indonesia-Norway agreement than over the course of the previous 15 years.

Norway’s “rainforest billions” have not yet brought about a reduction in the rate of deforestation in Indonesia, but they have triggered important steps towards improved forest governance. So what does this teach us about REDD+ and result-based payments?

A narrow focus on emissions is not productive. A broad, inclusive and rights-based approach to forest protection is needed. By adopting a phased approach in the cooperation with Indonesia, Norway has been able to support such processes with REDD money.

We recommend that Norway

  1. continue paying for results beyond carbon,
  2. increase its support to civil society organisations that are important agents of change, and
  3. make the investment portfolio of the Government’s Pension Fund Global (the Oil Fund) deforestation-free, by engaging with companies to make them commit to no-deforestation standards, and by divesting those that refuse to do so.

DT 3 2014/2014 March 26, 2014
© Copyright Development Today AS

PHOTO Credit: Greenpeace.

Full Disclosure: REDD-Monitor has in the past received funding from Rainforest Foundation Norway. Click here for all of REDD-Monitor’s funding sources.

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  1. This response seems to be aimed at saving face for the Norwegian government.

    “Corruption, weak governance, lack of law enforcement and unclear tenure” are anything but “underlying causes”. If anything they are merely contributing factors that distract attention from actual drivers of deforestation such as growing global consumption of palm oil and paper packaging.

    Unless Norway removes its blinkers and takes urgent steps to dispose of all its shares in fake-green companies like Unilever, it will remain a part of the problem but not part of the solution!

    Wally Menne

  2. Dear Wally, the comments you make are truly valid. That being said, being a Norwegian, and working for the paper industry I’ve pondering if there isn’t more sides to it than this:
    Firstly; I don’t have details around the control of the funds. But I’m not sure if I agree with the writer who simply suggest to continue the funds flow. A thorough analysis and measures CONTROLLING the flow and use of such should form a larger part of the project.
    Secondly; knowing that a tree grows to its full size in around seven years in Asia and SA, in huge contradiction to Here in the Nordics, where it takes three times longer to grow a tree to its full size. But here we manage to plant MORE THAN one tree, per the harvested one.

    Thus, I am questioning myself; how come that the deforestation is continuing to increase?

    That leads me to believe that there is something more fundamental that needs to be controlled, with the flow of the funds and detailed use of it, especially if the aim is to stop deforestation.

  3. Thanks Rune

    I agree that the global situation is complicated and this makes it quite risky to make any sweeping assumptions regarding the kinds of solutions that might work in Indonesia or Guyana or Tanzania or Brasil where Norway has recently made financial interventions.

    However what is clear to me is that local forest protection actions such as are being supported by Norway are unlikely to make a meaningful difference unless they are matched by a substantial reduction in demand for all forest derived or associated commodities at a global level.

    However there is another major driver of forest loss and degradation that no-one really wants to point fingers at because many people in affluent countries have invested much of their life-earnings into it.

    As in the Norwegian Pension Fund, there are billions of dollars held by employee pension funds, life and retirement insurance companies, and medical aid funds, mainly in so-called ‘developed countries’ that are being used to artificially drive up the financial value of all kinds of natural resources, especially arable land, in relatively poor developing countries.

    This artificial or fake wealth is needed to be able to meet the insurance and pension companies future commitments to their clients, who expect to retire in comfort or have expensive medical treatments in spite of having paid very little in actual premiums!

    This has led to a situation where the global economy has become heavily skewed by inflationary pressure which leads to the constant devaluation of local currencies in developing countries. This in turn allows investors with Euros or Dollars to buy up land or other resources in developing countries for far less than their true value.

    Those that lose their lands – Indigenous peoples and local communities – must carry the externalised costs or offset local losses in order to balance the undeserved profits or other benefits enjoyed by people in the North who have often done very little actual work to earn those benefits.

    On the other hand, hard-working plantation or forest workers in countries like Brasil, South Africa or Indonesia are exploited in every way besides being paid low wages that would never be acceptable in the EU or the US.

    So the actual cause of the problem is the global imbalance which leads to economic injustices being perpetrated by rich and powerful and polluting countries (including Norway), that also help drive the environmental injustices that lead to climate change. Throwing guilt money at the symptoms of the problem (deforestation, poverty etc) through REDD+ and CDM funding will do nothing to bring change where it is actually needed.

    Best wishes