in DR Congo

“It is now time that performance-based payments start flowing to REDD+ actors on the ground, in DRC and other countries”: World Bank response to Rainforest Foundation UK and US

Last week, Rainforest Foundation UK and US wrote to staff at the World Bank, asking the World Bank not to approve the Mai Ndombe integrated REDD programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo, because of the risks involved for local communities. Yesterday Laurent Valiergue, Senior Forestry Sepcialist at the World Bank, replied. His response is available in full below.

Here’s a chronology of the correspondence so far between Rainforest Foundation UK and the World Bank:

  • 1 August 2017: Rainforest Foundation UK wrote to the World Bank, attaching a critical analysis of the safeguards framework of the Mai Ndombe PIREDD project.
  • 23 August 2017: Valiergue replied.
  • 23 August 2017: Joe Eisen of Rainforest Foundation UK replied to Valiergue. His response included a series of questions. So far, these questions remain unanswered.
  • 24 August 2017: Rainforest Foundation UK and US wrote to the World Bank. A copy of this letter is available here.
  • 30 August 2017: Valiergue replied.

The emails are posted in full below.

From: Simon Counsell
Sent: 01 August 2017 11:18
To: Laurent Valiergue and others
Subject: Mai Ndombe PIREDD safeguard documents

Dear all

I am attaching for your attention an assessment by RFUK of the suite of safeguard documents produced under the FIP DRC programme and supposedly applicable to the Mai Ndombe Integrate REDD programme (PIREDD).

You will see that our overall conclusion is that the safeguards framework is so flawed and unclear that PIREDD-Mai Ndombe should not proceed, and an ERPA should not be signed, until the many concerns outlined in the attached briefing are properly addressed. This conclusion also applies to any financing of operations from the Government of Norway, through CAFI, to PIREDD-Mai Ndombe.


Simon Counsell

Below is the response from Rainforest Foundation UK’s Joe Eisen to Valiergue’s reply to the email above. Eisen’s comments are in red, Valiergue’s reply is in black.

From: Joe Eisen
Sent: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 4:25 PM
To: Laurent Valiergue and others
Subject: RE: Mai Ndombe PIREDD safeguard documents

Dear Laurent,

Thank you for this information. We have to say, your response tends to reinforce our key overall impression, which is of the complexity, impenetrability, incompleteness, and disparateness of the overall safeguards framework, which in our view will make it unworkable. Hearing that the various safeguard plans will be ‘developed’ (presumably through the experience of them failing) is hardly reassuring, and neither does it comply with the international community’s overriding obligation to ensure that it ‘does no harm’.

We will respond more fully in due course, but in order to enable us to do so, we are requesting below some additional information on some of your responses.

With best regards,

Joe Eisen

Dear Sir,

Thank you for sharing your assessment of the safeguards instruments for the PIREDD Mai-Ndombe Project. You make some good points and suggestions, which will be of use to the Government as the safeguards documents are revised over time.

We do believe that any safeguards instrument needs to benefit from a continuous improvement process based on implementation and testing on the ground. For that reason, we don’t agree with your overall conclusion that “the safeguards framework and plans are seriously flawed and that investments in the field should not proceed”. Safeguards instruments need to be used and experimented with in the field to be upgraded efficiently. On the other hand, stopping investments benefiting the poorest of the poor might not be appropriate. We certainly agree that investment in Mai Ndombe is needed, preferably based on a comprehensive benefit sharing plan which ensures that the majority of the benefits flow to those most needing them, rather than only a small fraction or none. The current version of the plan on the FCPF website lacks even the most basic information such as what the objectives and scope of the benefits are, who gets rewarded, why, under what conditions, for how long, and in what proportions. Could you provide an update on when a detailed benefit sharing plan will be produced?

As you may know, safeguards instruments for World Bank-financed projects are developed by the client country and cleared by the World Bank prior to project approval based on the assessment of potential risks and impacts and compliance with World Bank policies. As needed, they are revised during project implementation if new or unexpected issues occur, and based on learning from actual implementation.

The PIREDD Mai-Ndombe Project (P162837) is an additional financing to the DRC Improved Forested Landscape Management Project (IFLMP, P128887), which has been operational since April 2015. The IFLMP is funded by the Forest Investment Program (FIP), whereas the PIREDD Mai-Ndombe project is supported by the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). The latest Implementation Status and Results Report (ISR) of the IFLMP, dated June 2017, rates overall implementation progress, including safeguards, as satisfactory (ISRs are public documents).

Safeguards documents for the IFLMP were prepared by the Government in 2014 and cleared by the World Bank. In 2017, the safeguards instruments were amended to incorporate the scaling up of the initial investments under implementation in the Plateau District to the whole Mai Ndombe Province. The amended versions have been reviewed and cleared by the World Bank.

It is important to note that the IFLMP and the PIREDD Mai-Ndombe are not implemented in isolation but as part of the national REDD+ approach. Safeguards instruments of both projects mirror those developed by the Government in a participatory manner and in close cooperation with the civil society at the provincial and national levels, including national social and environmental REDD+ standards as well as a national-level Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) and five sub-frameworks (all based on a comprehensive national strategic environmental and social assessment – SESA). The PIREDD Mai-Ndombe, and any other REDD+ project or program in the DRC, is subject to the Government’s national REDD+ instruments in addition to project-specific safeguards instruments. Could you please send us a copy of these national level “instruments”?

Importantly, the National REDD+ Fund (FONAREDD), with support from CAFI, launched in April 2017 a call for proposals for a REDD+ Governance Program. The selection process is currently ongoing. This program will include funding for the M&E of social and environmental REDD+ standards for all integrated REDD+ projects (PIREDD) funded by CAFI and beyond. Specifically, this program will support exchange and learning about the implementation of safeguards at national as well as provincial levels, including the Mai-Ndombe province to improve the safeguards frameworks. Can you please explain the logic of running a REDD+ governance project long after major REDD projects have already started being implemented?

Many of your comments relate to weak institutional arrangements for the monitoring of safeguards in the PIREDD Mai-Ndombe Project. To mitigate risks related to weak institutions and capacities, the project includes several capacity building activities and institutional support, including through the FIP Coordination Unit. We do not refute that there are several capacity building activities set out in the documents, just that as explained in our briefing, they do not amount to a credible capacity building plan and do not go much beyond just a series of trainings listed.

The institutional arrangements of the PIREDD Mai-Ndombe build on those of the parent IFLMP Project, which have proven reasonably robust. They are combining expertise from a delegated implementing agency (WWF for the Plateau District under the IFLMP, and a firm or NGO to be identified under an ongoing competitive bidding process for the Mai Ndombe District Can you confirm if WWF was selected via a competitive process, especially important given its central role in developing the programme?) and the Congolese administration represented by the FIP Coordination Unit. The FIP Coordination Unit is composed of, among others, a Coordinator, a safeguards expert, a M&E expert and technical assistants. Additional experts on safeguards and M&E will be added to the FIP Coordination Unit as well at local levels to implement the PIREDD Mai-Ndombe Project. The team monitor the implementation of activities in the project area through regular field visits, and reports to the World Bank. The field visits include capacity-building measures for local executing agencies on the respect of social and environmental standards and application of safeguards instruments. The most recent monitoring mission under the IFLMP Project was conducted in August 2017 and included safeguards training. In case of any non-compliance issues regarding safeguards, which have not been observed as of today, the project could exercise a range of possible remedies.

The project’s Feedback and Grievance Redress Mechanism (FGRM) is operational, in line with the FGRM developed under the national REDD+ process. Can we please see a copy of this and could you explain how it has been disseminated and communities sensitized on its use? Training sessions are organized as part of the FIP team’s field visits at the level of the Local Development Committees (LDCs) to ensure access at local levels. A template to register complaints is also available. As of today, no complaints have been received This would be reassuring but again, depending on your answer to the previous point, it could be that this is the result of communities being unaware of how to access and use the FGRM. In addition, as a fall-back mechanism, the Bank has its own Grievance Redress Mechanism, which applies to all Bank projects. Is this referring to the Inspection Panel?

The implementation of activities under the IFLMP Project relies on consultations at local and provincial levels, including the LDCs and Provincial Steering Committee. Participation in consultations during project implementation is one of the project’s intermediate results indicators and measured regularly. As of June 2017, 15,406 people had participated in consultations, out of which 8,165 were women.

Finally, your note contains many observations and constructive suggestions, which will be considered in the next iteration of the project’s safeguards instruments, as appropriate. Here are some comments on a few key issues:

  • “The safeguards do not function as a coherent whole”. The ESMF provides the overall context for the implementation of safeguards under the project (in conjunction with the national REDD+ standards) and in practice the IFLMP has been able to use them in a coherent approach. If this is the case, then surely the documents should clearly articulate how they relate to the national REDD standards. Is there a flow chart available which explains how all of the different safeguard components relate to each other?
  • “A weak (World Bank-defined) definition of [Free, prior and informed consent] is used”. We believe that the required consultation processes built into the ESMF and the Indigenous Peoples Framework are robust and effective in ensuring that no investment goes forward without support from targeted communities. Above it states that 15,406 people had been consulted. This amounts to around one percent of the estimated 1.4 million people living in the province. Even with this, we note there is very little information included in the safeguard plan documents or on the FCPF website about what these consultations consisted of and how informed community consent was obtained.
  • “The frameworks appear to overlook key factors and developments within the proposed project area – such as oil exploration…”. The project is not intended to cover impacts of all possible development activities in the province. They do cover all activities financed by the project themselves.
  • “The cumulative impact of a whole series of smaller projects is being missed”. While it is a fair point that the ESMF focuses more on individual subprojects than cumulative project impacts, the FIP Coordination Unit does carry out the “bigger picture” analysis and it is also part of the World Bank supervision. Can we please see a copy of this “bigger picture analysis”?
  • “The IPP does not tackle the deep-rooted discrimination and the invisibility of indigenous peoples”. We agree on the importance of supporting Indigenous Peoples (IPs). The World Bank prioritizes benefits for IPs in the PIREDD Mai-Ndombe as well as through the Dedicated Grant Mechanism’s (DGM) Forest Dependent Community Support Project (US$6 million) and the CAFI-supported project on Sustainable Management of Forests by Indigenous Peoples (US$2 million). We are not denying that the Bank and CAFI are contributing some money towards indigenous people. Our point was that we do not see how this will tackle the deep-rooted discrimination against them, which could be a serious obstacle to equitable project implementation.
  • “The Process Framework is in itself highly confused and ambiguous”. By their nature, Process Frameworks (PFs) are rather complex documents (and will be phased out in the forthcoming revised safeguard policies of the Bank). For clarification, a PF only applies to economic exclusion from a protected area, and it is most unlikely it would be triggered under the PIREDD Mai-Ndombe. The programme includes strengthening of protected areas management. The management of protected areas within and adjacent to Mai Ndombe has been well documented to have been characterized by exclusionary practices. Effective protection of communities is better described in the ESMF.

I hope this is helpful. Thanks

Best regards

On 30 August 2017, Rainforest Foundation UK and US sent their letter to the World Bank pointing out the risks of the proposed Mai Ndombe REDD programme for local communities and asking the Bank not to approve it. The letter is available here.

Here is Valiergue’s response:

From: Laurent Valiergue
Sent: 30 August 2017 14:09
To: Simon Counsell and others
Subject: RE: Mai Ndombe Carbon Fund – PIREDD – programme, DRC

Dear Simon and Josh,

We thank you for your email and your interest in the DRC Mai-Ndombe program.

Overall, we share the social and environmental principles stated in your letter, and we welcome your suggestions on how to improve the design of the program.

We agree on the importance of proper arrangements for safeguards, benefit sharing plan and Feedback and Grievance Redress Mechanism (FGRM). We can assure you that the World Bank is undertaking a robust due diligence process for the Mai-Ndombe Emission Reductions (ER) Program in line with World Bank policies and the high standards set for REDD+ by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). We believe we have put in place an adequate system to avert and mitigate potential risks. At the same time, it is now time that performance-based payments start flowing to REDD+ actors on the ground, in DRC and other countries, for the benefit of poor people and forests. Implementation will generate considerable learning-by-doing to complement and/or adjust the systems in light of experience.

We welcome an opportunity to discuss further with you in person or by videoconference. For now, let us provide you with some clarifications.

With respect to the compliance of the Mai-Ndombe ER Program with the FCPF Carbon Fund Methodological Framework, please note that the program’s compliance with the Methodological Framework has been assessed and documented by an independent expert panel, the Carbon Fund Participants themselves and the World Bank. We believe the elements in place now justify proceeding with technical appraisal and negotiations of the Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA). There will still be opportunities to adjust features of project design during and after appraisal and negotiations.

Your comments on safeguards and the FGRM are identical with those already shared on August 1, to which we responded on August 23. Let us reiterate our offer to discuss those in person in greater detail.

For your information, the Groupe de Travail Climat REDD Rénové (GTCR-R) and the Réseau des Populations Autochtones et Locales pour la gestion durable des Ecosystèmes Forestiers (REPALEF) participated in the development of all REDD+ tools in DRC, e.g., the validation workshop of the national FGRM in January 2017.

Your analysis of the benefit-sharing plan is based on an early version of March 27. Since then, the DRC has developed the plan further based on another consultation workshop held in May 2017 and written comments submitted by ER Program stakeholders, including those from GTCR-R attached to your email. The advanced draft benefit-sharing plan considers many of the issues you raise. It will be made public prior to ERPA signature as required per the Methodological Framework.

As far as the decision-making on the Mai-Ndombe integrated REDD+ project (PIREDD) is concerned, the approach has been transparent and participatory. The National REDD+ Fund (FONAREDD), funded from the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), counts indeed on a technical committee to assess program documents submitted in the frame of calls of proposals. This committee is composed of: (i) representatives of the civil society, CAFI donors and delivery partners; as well as (ii) national and international experts.

FONAREDD has also approved a US$2 million project that is supporting civil society so it can play its rightful role during the implementation of the PIREDD Mai-Ndombe under CAFI.

Regarding your point on confidentiality, disclosure of information related to the ERPA is governed by the ERPA General Conditions, which are publicly available. The default is that all ERPA terms are public.

Your understanding that advance payments if any will not be made until the effectiveness conditions of the ERPA are met is correct.

Finally, we would like to clarify that the grant agreement for the Mai-Ndombe PIREDD Project has already been signed.

We remain at your complete disposal for further discussions, and we look forward to working constructively with you.



PHOTO credit: Greenpeace

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