Environmental democracy and forest carbon (REDD+).

Author:Takacs, David
Position:Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation - VI. Case Studies from Vietnam and Cambodia: How Are ED Rights Implemented in REDD+ in Situ? through IX. Conclusion, with footnotes, p. 102-134

    In December 2012, I participated in a pro bono legal consulting trip to Vietnam and Cambodia for an international NGO that was planning REDD+ projects in Southeast Asia. While there, we met with numerous national, regional, and local government officials. A Vietnamese forest anthropologist, Dr. Binh Tran, and I spent time in prospective REDD+ villages interviewing local people about their knowledge of and participation in REDD+.

    Both Vietnam and Cambodia have actively engaged with REDD+ and have launched projects seeking to sell credits on the voluntary market. (153) Both have prepared Readiness Preparation Proposals (R-PPs) to obtain funding from the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). (154) These proposals seek funds to ensure effective consultation with affected citizens; each nation has suggested hundreds of thousands of dollars for ED procedures as part of multimillion-dollar REDD+ Readiness requests. (155) For example, preliminary stakeholder consultations in Cambodia have been guided by "two key objectives" of empowerment to engage in REDD+ and access to information on REDD+, stressing that the process should be "transparent," "inclusive," "iterative," "timely," and "adequately resourced." (156) The Cambodia R-PP addresses the third principle of environmental democracy by stressing that responsible parties should be "held to account" with a clear complaint mechanism and conflict resolution mechanisms. (157) They seek funds to translate aspirational ED norms into concrete programs. (158)

    It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the complex political milieus in which REDD+ operates in both nations. But each faces challenges in implementing REDD+ in a truly democratic way that respects local people's rights. As one example, both Vietnam (159) and Cambodia (150) have been criticized in reviews on resource development under the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), to which they are both signatories.

    1. Vietnam

      The UN--namely UNDP, UNEP, and FAO--the World Bank (via the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility), and other entities are working with NGOs and businesses to prepare nations to participate in the international REDD+ market. (161) Vietnam has submitted and had its R-PP approved to qualify for World Bank FCPF funding; combined, the UN and World Bank have spent about $8 million on REDD+ in Vietnam thus far. (162) Based on its pilot projects, Norway granted Vietnam $30 million to finance REDD+. (163) One study estimates that REDD+ could generate $80-100 million per year in the nation. (164)

      Local Management Boards or People's Committees could be granted land tenure and thus permission to enter into REDD+ deals, but only with explicit permission of the national government, following national guidelines. (165) In certain selected provinces, Vietnam is developing Provincial REDD+ Management Units to carry out the details of REDD+, including "participatory planning." (166) Devolution of land rights has included attention to the specific rights of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations. (167) It is not clear, however, how much say the local people would have in negotiating REDD+ schemes, given the strong hand of the central government and lack of capacity at the local level. (168) That is to say, the State manages all forestland on behalf of the people and has developed a complicated hierarchy of managerial responsibilities for forests. (169) In my interviews, it was clear that local and provincial forestry officials had little latitude to carry out programs or policies that were not devised or approved by central government officials.

      Vietnam was the first nation under the UN-REDD Programme to launch REDD+ in the field and the first to conduct and evaluate an FPIC process. (170) Despite the fact that "Viet Nam has progressed further with its national UNREDD Programme than any other partner country," they had still not approved a national REDD+ program, even as the government and NGOs were piloting projects and claiming to secure FPIC for REDD+. (171)

      The government has carried out an extensive stakeholder consultation project while developing national REDD+ policies. (172) Vietnam has established a network of sub-technical working groups for all aspects of REDD+, and an impartial evaluation suggests this network is working well to bring disparate expertise and concerns to the REDD+ planning process. (173) Furthermore, well-respected NGOs are playing an active role in representing multiple interests in the REDD+ planning process. (174) Among other projects, UN-REDD helped the government pilot an equitable benefit distribution system for REDD+ funding that included government officials at all levels, university departments, and local NGOs. (175) This consultation "is a living process" and has "shown that it is very essential and useful to get local communities to be involved in discussion of detailed activities (e.g., arrangement of labour forces to patrol forest and designing locally accepted benefit sharing regulations)." (176)

      UN-REDD has provided a multistep overview of their pilot FPIC project. (177) Vietnam has fifty-three ethnic minorities comprising sixteen million of their eighty million people. (178) The Vietnam FPIC pilot project took place in Lam Dong province, home to thirty ethnic minorities. (179) In the Lam Dong pilot, "interlocutors" were recruited who spoke local languages, and facilitated discussions without local government officials, thus encouraging local community members to speak more freely. (180) Project planners invented (and evaluated) an innovative role-playing game to help community members understand and design a benefit distribution system, given the potential variables and stumbling blocks along the way. (181) The processes they employed and the lessons they learned could be a model for robust--and likely legally secure--REDD+ FPIC. Their reports include recommendations on training methods, sociocultural appropriateness, recording results, including marginalized stakeholders, and flexible design of options from which local people might choose. (182)

      UN-REDD's evaluation of the Vietnam project revealed that crucial elements of even a well-designed, highly scrutinized FPIC fell short. These included: 1) Rushed information sessions, which precluded meaningful discussion and deliberation; (183) 2) Complicated information was not given until the time of the meeting and people did not have time to digest the material; and 3) Given that the contours of REDD+ in Vietnam have yet to be decided, it is not clear what local people were consenting to; (184) 4) Interlocutors focused on the prospective benefits of REDD+, and not the considerable risks--e.g., failure of benefits to accrue; opportunity costs for not using the forest; potential liability should carbon stocks not grow as robustly as contracted--that participation could entail, thereby failing to fully inform prospective participants; (185) 5) Because the process was rushed, "consent" may have been coerced and premature; (186) 6) The process lacked a grievance mechanism--a violation of the third Aarhus principle of ED. (187)

      Certainly the REDD+ project we visited demonstrated some of the ED difficulties described here. (188) For its FPIC process, an NGO hired and trained local interlocutors who spoke the local language, but who nonetheless knew little about REDD+ or forest management. During the three days of training, villagers reported that these translators did not actually translate the presentation into the local language, but only translated during the question and answer session. Most people with whom we spoke evinced no real understanding of REDD+. (189)

      While Vietnam has a Democracy Ordinance with the motto of "People know, People discuss, People execute and People examine," Vietnam does remain a one-party state and genuine local democracy is not well developed. (190) The REDD+ planning process involving multiple technical groups representing disparate interests does not seem well coordinated with the official government decision makers, who are concentrated in Hanoi; they have the ultimate say on REDD+ matters, and this lack of coordination is a definite ED weakness. (191)

      With a pilot project to guide them, other REDD+ developers are nonetheless attempting to improve ED in Vietnam. UN-REDD is funding a National REDD+ Information System that will be a public repository for all REDD+ information, (192) though it will be difficult for local villagers to find this information without access to computers. More promising, the funding is going to "interlocutors" to help translate and build capacity for REDD+, particularly in selected pilot provinces. (193) Furthermore, not only has Vietnam not concluded its own REDD+ planning, but the contours of REDD+ are still evolving internationally. (194) Genuine ED will remain elusive, and informed consent will remain illusory when information remains necessarily incomplete.

    2. Cambodia

      Cambodia has also submitted and had approved its Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) to qualify for World Bank FCPF funding and has also been approved as a UN-REDD Programme nation. (195) Note that both of these programs fund REDD+ "Readiness" (i.e., getting the nation prepared to run sustainable REDD+) and "stakeholder engagement." (196) These agencies have pledged over $3 million for REDD+ in Cambodia. (197) The Japanese government has further pledged $10 million for REDD+ in Cambodia. (198)

      Cambodia's first REDD+ demonstration project, the Oddar Meanchey Community Forest REDD+ project, (OM CF REDD+) has been submitted to the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) for certification, and was validated for CCBA certification by global company TUV-SUD in 2012. The NGO Pact, the UNDP, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation...

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