in DR Congo

Implement in haste, repent at leisure: Critical new report on the World Bank’s Carbon Fund by FERN and Forest Peoples Programme

“Unless major changes are made in FCPF planning, design and validation of emissions reduction programmes to ensure alignment with the FCPF Charter and international human rights standards, the FCPF Carbon Fund risks enabling seriously flawed REDD pilots that could generate negative impacts on indigenous peoples and local communities as the FCPF moves towards implementation of activities on the ground.”

That’s the conclusion of a new report by FERN and the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) about the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). Two previous reports by FERN and FPP highlighted “failures to safeguard land rights, protect traditional livelihood activities, conduct social risk analyses and ensure meaningful prior consultation.” These failures are now becoming evident in the FCPF’s Carbon Fund operations.

The new report, titled, “Implement in haste, repent at leisure: A call for rethinking the World Bank’s Carbon Fund, based on an analysis of the Democratic Republic of Congo Emissions Reduction – Project Idea Note (ER-PIN)”, can be downloaded here (pdf file, 690.8 kB).

Here’s how the FCPF was supposed to work. First a “readiness” phase sets the framework for later REDD projects through multi-stakeholder processes. The readiness phase includes reviewing and revising national forest policies and regulatory frameworks, establishing relevant institutions and political mechanisms, and producing studies, for example into underlying drivers of deforestation. The Carbon Fund then supports the development of REDD programmes and buys the forest carbon credits generated from such programmes.

FERN and FPP note that in reality FCPF’s readiness programmes have been “protracted, bureaucratic and in some cases failing to deliver any meaningful improvements in sector governance or preparedness for REDD”. In many countries (including Guyana and Cameroon), five years after the FCPF accepted Readiness Project Idea Notes, indigenous peoples have still not been meaningfully consulted. In other countries (such as Peru), promises to reform policy and laws to secure indigenous peoples’ land and resource rights have not been met.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, FERN and FPP note that new institutions created since the start of readiness activities “seem to be at least partly non-operational”. Little progress has been made on building capacity to improve forest governance. Studies produced are of “dubious quality and are likely to be highly misleading in terms of policy and programme prescriptions”. Studies blame local communities for forest loss – a finding contested by both civil society and communities. The forest sector regulatory framework remains “woefully fragmented”. Meanwhile, progress on legislation to secure community rights and geographical planning and spatial management has been “chronically slow or has even gone into reverse”.

To make matters worse, the FCPF seems to have decided that countries can run emissions reductions programmes in parallel with (or even in advance of) readiness activities. In 2011, NGOs wrote to the World Bank expressing their concern about rushing the REDD readiness process. FERN and FPP write,

This all begs the question as to why the obvious sequencing structure has been broken, and why as a result there is now a rush for countries such as the DRC to prepare and submit ER-PINs long before any serious readiness work has been completed. As was noted in our earlier reports, whilst the actual implementation of meaningful readiness work has often been very slow, haste in moving forward through the various formal stages of the readiness funding has meant that consultation has often been superficial or non-existent. Difficult but critically important issues such as land tenure and indigenous peoples’ rights have often been given little or no attention or have been treated in perfunctory manner without meaningful and actionable plans for change.

The FCPF aims to have the first Emissions Reduction Programme Agreements (ERPAs) in place by mid-2015. FERN and FPP argue that the World Bank aiming to have developed market-based REDD programmes before the UNFCCC’s new global climate policy and financing regime, which is expected to come into force in 2020:

In effect, the FCPF is working backwards from a perceived deadline in the future, rather than working forward from the current actual situation in a genuine process of ‘learning by doing’, which would allow it to correcting mistakes as it progresses, and allowing sufficient time to do so.

FERN and FPP’s report includes a detailed critique of DRC’s ER-PIN, revealing major flaws with the report, including:

  • the lack of availability and critical analysis of basic data relating to the proposed project area, including rates, distribution and underlying causes of deforestation; lack of credible proposals for addressing these;
  • lack of government ‘ownership’ of the entire process;
  • lack of understanding of potentially complex tenure arrangements and the implications this has for carbon ownership and responsibilities for, and benefits from, the proposed activities;
  • lack of linkages to ongoing ‘readiness’ work, both within the formal FCPF readiness programme and more widely;
  • failure to conduct a meaningful analysis of potential social, poverty and human rights impacts linked to different emission reduction proposals;
  • lack of baseline data on land and resource rights in the proposed pilot project area;
  • absence of well-developed FPIC procedures agreed with local rights holders;
  • reliance on the completion of important but potentially controversial legislation (such as concerning community forests and carbon ownership rights) and spatial planning processes;
  • lack of consultation and participation, especially with communities in the relevant area (including indigenous people), but also civil society, national and international government agencies and experts.

Nevertheless, DRC’s ER-PIN was provisionally approved in April 2014 at the Carbon Fund’s meeting in Brussels.

FERN and FPP’s report ends with a series of recommendations for the Carbon Fund Participants Committee:

a) Put in place a moratorium on the further processing of ER-PINs until contradictions in FCPF sequencing have been addressed and core readiness requirements in pilot countries have been met, including time-bound governmental action plans to secure community rights to land, territories and resources.
b) Adopt measures to ensure that governments and the major partners in ER-PIN development follow required standards for multistakeholder consultation as outlined by EU and local NGOs involved in the FLEGT process.
c) Strengthen social and poverty risk assessments across CF operations, including inclusion of a robust Risk Assessment Table in ER-PIN design, incorporating all the social, rights and environmental risks explicitly or implicitly raised in the document and proposed ER actions.
d) Ensure that all ER-PINs contain thorough assessment of the existing customary land uses and rights within the proposed area, including a detailed analysis of the likely impacts on local people’s livelihoods.
e) Update ER-PIN guidelines so that they require that project proponents demonstrate compliance with applicable international obligations and adherence to key standards, including FPIC, alongside robust plans for the implementation of the UNFCCC Cancun Safeguards.
f) Revamp the procedure for deforestation analyses in pilot areas, including solid requirements for community participation in deforestation analysis and the development of proposals for action to tackle the indirect causes of forest loss.
g) Undertake an urgent review of the FCPF ‘validation’ process for ER-PINs to pinpoint problems and enable review of the findings by the FCPF Governing Body and civil society and put in place corrective measures, including third party verification procedures.
h) Ensure further revision of the Methodological Framework to ensure rights of local communities to land, territories and resources are being recognised and greater attention is given to non-carbon benefits.
i) Make substantial changes to the procedures of the CF Participants Committee for the assessment of ER-PINs to ensure ample time for careful review and rigorous quality control.


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  1. FERN’s ForestWatch Issue 193 includes the following about this report:

    World Bank Carbon Fund undermines rights and livelihoods

    FERN and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) released a report documenting the potentially grave impacts of a draft Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) REDD programme (ER-PIN).[1] The programme was submitted for funding to the World Bank’s Carbon Fund April meeting in Brussels. The DRC ER-PIN covers an area of 12.3 million hectares in the District of Mai-Ndombe, where the REDD program will directly affect the livelihoods of between 1.5 and 1.8 million forest dwellers and rural people, including hunters and gatherers, small farmers engaged in rotational farming and ‘bush charcoal’ producers.

    FERN and FPP highlight that the draft plan lacks a clear commitment to communities’ tenure rights, and is based on flawed deforestation assessments – which blame communities for forest destruction – and has defective plans for land use zoning, alternative livelihoods and actions to limit local subsistence activities. FERN and FPP criticise the Carbon Fund for failing to ensure that a robust poverty and social risk analysis is part of the project design. Based on an analysis of the DRC ER-PIN, the FERN FPP report calls for a rethink of the World Bank’s Carbon Fund.

    Of the ER-PINs submitted to the Bank’s meeting in Brussels, the DRC, Ghana, Mexico and Nepal1 plans were adopted and are now in the Carbon Fund ‘pipeline,’. They have been allocated up to US$650,000 to develop further plans aiming at accessing CF monies ranging from US$50 to 70 million. The plan for the Republic of Congo (RoC) was rejected.

    Prior to the April meeting, NGOs from RoC and DRC expressed serious concerns not only about the content of the plans but also about the lack of consultation. The plans had only been available in English and hence proper consultation had not been possible. NGOs suggested a moratorium on further processing of ER-PINs until readiness requirements in candidate countries were met, robust social and poverty risk assessments were provided in the ER-PIN design and effective multi-stakeholder consultations such as those in the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process were held.

    For its part, the government of DRC has promised to address concerns about the ER-PIN, maintain the current moratorium on industrial logging concessions and take actions to move forwards the Community Forestry Decree that has been stalled since 2010. Local NGOs and communities are now seeking to follow up with the government to hold it to its word.

    CF participant countries and organisations must now increase their vigilance to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly, that the selected countries respect their commitment to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of affected communities,’ and that underlying causes of deforestation are truly addressed. Participants must prioritise governance and community rights issues before considering new ER-PINs at the next CF meeting in June, and in the selected countries’ follow up plans; public-private partnerships that focus on generating carbon credits will neither contribute to poverty alleviation, nor address climate change. International organisations, including FERN and FPP, will continue to track this process to assess compliance with social commitments and agreed standards by the World Bank.

    [1] Emission Reduction Project Identification Note, the initial concept notes to access performance-based REDD+ payments from the Carbon Fund

  2. For all who know the Mai Ndombe, achieving FPIC, if consent is to be “informed”, and on a broad consultative basis, is highly problematic. Absent a capacity building effort to enable affected communities to understand the costs, benefits and risks with any proposed REDD programming, an initiative that will take years if one is honest about the local organizational baseline, is unlikely given the anathema of donors to invest in such activities with high so-called transactional costs. Yet without it, it is impossible to see REDD being feasible or achievable. And yet, the funding cycle as such goes on. to the ultimate detriment of forest communities. Is there scope for the FCPF to step up and take appropriate capacity building steps to enable FPIC to go beyond nominal signatures by chiefs? The governance spaces in the Mai Ndombe pose enormous problems when issues of transparency, accountability and corruption are considered, and deserve more than hasty, uncredible FPIC certification.

  3. In Pakistan, northern regions like The valley of Allai, in KP province is the worst effected in deforestation terms. Every day thousand and thousand green trees of saproos, koil, fur and other are being logged by the timber mafia with the connivance of forest department of KP. A green tree is providing oxygen to hundred people and filters carbon dyoxide. REDD started work in district Battagram headed by Miss Zulekha but soon they disappeared. We feel that it wasa bogus entry and the purpose was to earn money on carbon name.
    It is time for us to save forest as it is the most precious thing aAmd greenery is responsible for a pleasant life on earth. The cutting of trees is not only tantamount to human right violation nut birds Amd animal rights violation destroying their habitats.
    I appeal all tree Loving individual around the world to help us physically, financially, morally and legally to fight against the mafia agent who are bent upon in cutting the green coverage for enriching others elves.