The 2015 Paris Agreement has given a new impulse for the implementation of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programs. This was confirmed at the Oslo REDD Exchange conference, hosted by the Norwegian government last June, which was attended by 511 participants from 47 countries. The conference highlighted the importance of REDD+ for reaching the Paris Agreement's goal of reducing global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F).
REDD+ programs are regarded not only as an important tool for climate change mitigation, but also as a mechanism for strengthening governance of forests, promoting sustainable land-use planning, enhancing biodiversity and improving rural livelihoods. Such ambitious goals require the mobilization of significant resources. Several financing mechanisms support developing countries to develop and implement REDD+ programs, such as the World Banks’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the UN REDD Programme (UN-REDD) and bilateral funding from countries like Norway. While funding is crucial to get REDD+ programs of the ground, good forest governance is equally important to guarantee the success of programs that require the participation of a wide range of actors and sectors. National REDD+ programs need good policies and laws, a strong institutional framework, coordination among the different sectors that affect land use and transparency, and effective participation of all key stakeholders. Furthermore, monitoring systems and social and environmental safeguards need to be in place. On many of these issues, countries that are getting ready for REDD+ have made important progress.
A key aspect of forest governance that gets less attention is accountability, the relationship in which an actor or set of actors is held responsible for meeting a particular goal or adhering to a certain standard. Without strong accountability, REDD+ programs will not achieve their objectives and may lead to undesired impacts such as inequitable distribution of benefits, weakening of land and resource rights, and failure to achieve environmental outcomes.
In a new working paper, WRI’s Governance of Forests Initiative analyzes to what extent national REDD+ programs include mechanisms to promote and strengthen accountability. It reviews Emissions Reduction Program Idea Notes (ER-PINs) of 20 countries, submitted to the FCPF’s Carbon Fund. These ER-PINs lay out the activities and reforms a country has planned to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conserve forests, promote the sustainable management of forests and enhance forest carbon stocks. To review these documents, we developed a framework and set of criteria that outline key issues involved in designing REDD+ programs that strengthen accountability (Table 3). We note that the components and criteria identified in the framework are not intended to be a blueprint for achieving accountability in all situations, but to provide a simple and systematic set of criteria to evaluate accountability in design and implementation of REDD+ programs.
The review of ER-PINs provides a snapshot of the current status of the accountability issue in recent REDD+ program design and presents some initial trends that can be addressed as REDD+ programs move forward. Figure 2 identifies the number of study countries that address each of the accountability criteria proposed in this paper. In general, REDD+ countries have made progress in embedding national governance arrangements within existing institutions and acknowledging the importance of robust consultation processes and oversight mechanisms such as Feedback and Grievance Redress Mechanisms (FGRM). However, important challenges remain, particularly in relation to defining clear institutional arrangements and standardizing rules and procedures.
On the basis of our research, we identify several recommendations to consider as REDD+ countries move from readiness into implementation.
- Define and simplify institutional roles and powers across the different institutions engaged in REDD+. Specific mechanisms could include multi-stakeholder processes to clarify legal mandates as well as clear terms of reference for institutions, such that these actors can coordinate with one another and be held accountable for performance of their specific tasks. These approaches require an analysis of existing power dynamics among actors with roles in the REDD+ process.
- Strengthen rules and capacity to implement REDD+ programs in a transparent and participatory manner. As countries develop compliance systems for donor programs, they should also evaluate the extent to which national laws—for example, on access to information—and their implementation should be strengthened.
- Clarify monitoring and reporting roles and procedures. While significant attention has been paid to the design of MRV systems, REDD+ countries should also develop procedures to ensure adaptive management of REDD+ processes, such as dedicated procedures for sharing monitoring results with decision-making bodies such as the REDD+ Steering Committees.
- Accelerate progress on feedback and grievance redress mechanisms (GRM). Progress on developing FGRM has been slow. They should be operational prior to commencement of ER program activities and REDD+ countries should ensure that adequate readiness resources are channeled to work on FGRM.
- Improve coordination across REDD+ programs and partnerships at the national level. There is significant scope to improve coordination of REDD+ support. Both REDD+ donors operating in specific countries and governments themselves should maximize impact using roadmaps to ensure that financing and technical support are allocated on the basis of comprehensive needs assessments.