This issue brief explores the complicated realities of how accountability tools functioned in land-use planning, zoning, and permitting processes in a pair of case studies from Brazil and Indonesia and draws lessons for government or civil society designers of REDD+ programs.

One case study focuses on how presidential decrees on land zoning are helping oversight actors achieve political accountability in Mato Grosso, Brazil. The other examines the role of the Indonesian primary forest and peat land conversion moratorium on the oil palm permitting process.

Key Findings

The author found that accountability tools had at least one of three main functions: bringing actors to the table to negotiate reforms, protecting people or the environment during the design and implementation of laws and policies, and giving oversight actors the ability to enforce the implementation of agreed rules. In each case, several factors played a role in the successful use of accountability tools, including the clarity of the relevant laws, the strength of oversight institutions, and the strength of the economic incentive.

Based on this research, we make the following suggestions to government and civil society actors participating in the design of national REDD+ programs:

  • REDD+ program designers may want to consider how to include accountability tools in REDD+ laws and programs that will engage and hold to account subnational politicians and administrators responsible for land allocation and use processes.

  • Where REDD+ laws, regulations and/ or other related program documents are being drafted, specific inclusion of civil society participation may help strengthen its ability to function as accountability actors, thereby also supporting more formal government institutions playing that role. Granting civil society other roles, such as a monitoring role, may also strengthen its ability to be an oversight actor.

  • During the design of REDD+ programs, economic and/or legal accountability tools should be linked to social and environmental outcomes for REDD+, as well as to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. Reputational tools are unlikely to be sufficient.

  • REDD+ designers may want to consider how REDD+ incentives, laws, and programs will provide or integrate accountability tools aimed at achieving three functions: bringing actors to the table, including marginal voices, and enforcing implementation.

  • REDD+ designers should consider how best to build on existing laws and institutions that are clear and effective. Layering REDD+ laws and programs over ineffective laws may reduce the ability of oversight actors to hold government actors to account. It is also important to clarify who has oversight for REDD+ laws and regulations, and make sure they have the authority to do the job.

Executive Summary

The global effort to save forests in developing countries, known as “REDD+,” would benefit from a set of tools that hold governments to account for their commitments. These accountability tools need to be integrated into national REDD+ programs.

A set of accountability tools affecting the reputational, financial, and legal interests of the government at the national and subnational levels would enable oversight institutions, individuals, and civil society to hold governments to account for the objectives that REDD+ programs hope to achieve. In particular, oversight actors need accountability tools to uphold social and environmental objectives beyond emission reductions in order to change the status quo required to achieve REDD+.