This paper presents practical ideas for REDD+ countries to consider as they implement activities that establish or strengthen accountability mechanisms. It presents a general framework for evaluating the institutions, standards, and oversight mechanisms that most countries are developing as part of their REDD+ processes.

Key Findings

POWER RELATIONSHIPS. In general, the relationships between the myriad institutions involved in REDD+ processes are ill defined. There is a need to more explicitly define the specific accountability relationships among government institutions tasked with decision-making, implementation, consultation, monitoring, and grievance redress for REDD+ programs in order to promote clarity and ownership over different components of the REDD+ process and avoid institutional conflicts.

FORMALIZING RULES AND PROCEDURES. Across the components of accountability, REDD+ countries rely heavily on “soft” accountability mechanisms that are largely informal in terms of their mandate or procedures. This is particularly true for discussions of participation and information. In the context of REDD+ programs, many of these processes lack a supportive legal framework or enabling structures for implementation, including clear performance standards or sanctions for noncompliance.

GRIEVANCE REDRESS. Discussions of Feedback and Grievance Redress Mechanisms (FGRM) are underdeveloped as compared to many other elements of REDD+ programs, such as monitoring or participation. A 2013 review of 32 readiness plans found that over 90 percent of REDD+ countries recognize the potential for REDD+ activities to create conflict and 63 percent stated the importance of conflict resolution for achieving REDD+ goals. Yet, to date, limited progress has been made on putting in place functional FGRM.

Executive Summary

International programs designed to compensate developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation or enhancing carbon stocks (referred to as REDD+) have catalyzed new interest and investment in forests in developing countries. REDD+ programs are regarded not only as an important tool for climate mitigation, but increasingly as a mechanism for improving governance of forests; promoting sustainable land-use planning; and enhancing biodiversity, environmental health, and rural livelihoods. In particular, donors, civil society, and REDD+ countries have all recognized the importance of ensuring that REDD+ programs address underlying governance challenges that contribute to deforestation and forest degradation.

Currently, many REDD+ countries are receiving financing for planning, capacity-building, and development of legal and institutional frameworks to support REDD+ implementation. In this paper, we emphasize the need for these efforts to consider accountability as a key principle within the design of REDD+ programs, particularly to ensure that development of new institutions, strategies, and processes reinforces accountability between institutions as well as with other stakeholders involved in REDD+ planning and implementation. To advance the discussion on constructing accountable national REDD+ programs, we propose a framework and set of criteria that outline key supporting issues for accountability within these processes. In this paper, we draw from a review of 20 Emissions Reduction Program Idea Notes (ER-PINs) submitted to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s (FCPF’s) Carbon Fund, and evaluate current trends in how these programs are being designed in order to identify promising approaches and highlight critical gaps.

The review finds that, 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. We highlight the following areas that require additional emphasis, both for countries whose ER-PINs were reviewed in this document, and for other countries seeking to develop national or subnational REDD+ programs.