Enabling rights-based REDD+ frameworks in tropical countries

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) can improve lives, protect forests and biodiversity, and mitigate climate change. Forests serve as natural storage sinks for carbon, and deforestation is the second leading cause of carbon emissions contributing to climate change. Furthermore, more than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, and tropical primary forests are particularly high in terrestrial biodiversity. Important cases are illustrated below.

Man walking with beehive in woods

Since 2009 and with support of the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and of Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), IUCN has engaged with partners in a number of countries – including Cameroon, Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru and Uganda – to pilot and upscale frameworks and mechanisms that support and deliver rights-based and pro-poor REDD+ projects.

IUCN’s REDD+ programme aims to slow the global deforestation rate, with a strong focus on the sustainable management and protection of all types of forests within a broader land use context, conservation and enhancement of benefits from forests, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, and enhancement of forests' ability to act as ‘carbon sinks’. The aim of IUCN’s efforts is to ensure that by 2020, national climate change mitigation policies and initiatives have incorporated and are implementing the tenets of right-based approaches (RBAs) and pro-poor principles.

IUCN’s approach is rooted in an understanding that access to a decent livelihood is a fundamental human right. We work to ensure that existing and emerging social, economic and legal frameworks guarantee and secure the rights of people to decent livelihoods, particularly the access to and enjoyment not just of the basic needs, but also the broader satisfaction of other fundamental tangible and intangible rights and nature-based needs. Since the beginning of the ‘REDD+ Readiness’ process, IUCN has been working intensively with partners to profile RBAs as a sustainability mechanism for forest and climate strategies. Our efforts are making significant contributions towards the following pillars of RBAs:

  • Non-discrimination and equity;
  • Participation and inclusion;
  • Transparency and access to information; and
  • Accountability.

Environmental and social sustainability is at the heart of this approach and characterises its contribution to national and sub-national policies and strategies. Therefore, interventions and contributions can be structured around two main result areas where the need for rights and pro-poor oriented measures is critical. 

  1. Tangible livelihoods benefits: The work undertaken by IUCN and partners at the landscape, subnational and national levels is: (a) catalysing and enabling livelihood enhancing policy frameworks and landscape measures to reduce deforestation and forest degradation which contribute to poverty reduction, (b) setting in place mechanisms and tools that clarify, secure and guarantee tenure and resource rights both as a benefit and as a precondition for secure livelihoods, (c) setting in place mechanisms that work to ensure gender-balanced measures to tackle deforestation and forest degradation, and (d) empowering communities and local stakeholders to participate in, contribute to and have influence on natural resources management decision-making, and decisions about how benefits are generated, accessed and shared.
  2. Better policy and action on the ground: We are facilitating the deployment of improved natural resource governance frameworks at the jurisdictional, sub-national and national levels by supporting the design, demonstration and up-scaling of improved arrangements that clarify and secure rights, improve participation and decision-making, enable sustainable use and conservation of forest, and generate sustainable livelihoods.

To mainstream RBAs in landscape, subnational and national policies and programmes is a complex, multidimensional and transformative process as portrayed by the following outcome examples from IUCN and partners in various tropical countries.

Forest brief cover pageIn Ghana, work undertaken with Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) is an example of how IUCN and partners are building on, strengthening and profiling the roles and responsibilities of existing local and community institutions. A core assumption that underpins IUCN’s support to CREMAs in Ghana is that conservation is best achieved where there are tangible economic and cultural returns to local communities. IUCN and partners actively engage with CREMAs in Ghana to motivate smallholders to adopt a rights-based approach to sustainable livelihoods and resource management practices which directly contribute to REDD+ efforts. Linking rights-based REDD+ approaches to existing initiatives among Ghana’s CREMAs is opening up new streams of potential benefits for local communities and helping to ensure the long-term success of initiatives to foster natural resource democracy. Working with strategic partners, IUCN has engaged with Ghana’s CREMAs to deploy a wide range of rights-based approaches to REDD+ implementation, as highlighted in the following case example Advancing rights-based REDD+ through existing local forest governance initiatives.

cover page of forest brief

Indonesia’s case on Linking REDD+ benefit sharing with local forest governance – just like the Ghana CREMA case – is an illustration of how customary institutions could be empowered to work collaboratively with public forest governance mechanisms toward sustainable and livelihoods oriented forest management which clarifies and protect the rights of indigenous communities. The outcomes of the work undertaken by IUCN in collaboration with the Samdhana Institute show how leveraging existing Forest Management Units (FMUs) in Indonesia’s Papua and West Papua Provinces is playing an important role in advancing rights-based approaches to REDD+, sustainable forest management, national climate plans, forest tenure reforms and the country’s green growth strategy.

cover page of forest briefThe outcome of the work undertaken by IUCN and partners in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico as seen in Mexico’s subnational REDD+ efforts inform its national REDD+ strategy is a good illustration of the way RBAs-focused inputs can be generated and validated through multi-stakeholder processes, and up-scaled into sub-national and national policy design. Since 2013, the main objective of IUCN’s REDD+ activities in Mexico has been to support the Mexican government by generating appropriate knowledge as inputs to the design of fair and rights-based benefit sharing mechanisms at the local and state levels. To achieve this, IUCN and partners have several initiatives in the three states of the Yucatan Peninsula to advance participatory, pro-poor approaches to REDD+ benefit sharing that can inform and advance national-level efforts.

Livelihood enhancing options for reducing deforestation and forest degradation are key entry points to community level REDD+. IUCN and partners are successfully enabling and contributing livelihoods enhancing solutions as mechanisms to engage communities and sustain long-term grassroots efforts. In general, policies and strategies often oppose livelihoods – which are seen as a threat to conservation and sustainable forest management. This dichotomy is not only unfair to the poor, but also results in fears and resentment from rural communities toward top-down conservation and natural resources management. This results in difficulty to achieve successful and lasting conservation and natural resources management outcomes as rural communities who have de facto management and control over most lands feel excluded, harassed and insecure.

IUCN and partners are addressing this problem in various countries by, among other measures: (1) catalysing/enabling livelihoods enhancing policy frameworks and landscape measures to reduce deforestation and forest degradation which contribute to poverty reduction, and (2) empowering communities and local stakeholders to participate in, contribute to and have influence on natural resources management decision-making, and decisions about how benefits are generated, accessed and shared. The following cases from Peru and Uganda illustrate how we enable and deploy livelihood enhancing frameworks for REDD+.

cover page of forest briefIn Peru, comprehensive Conservation Agreements (CAs) with forest-dependent native communities are providing the framework to incentivize community engagement in long-term action to reducing deforestation and forest degradation as demonstrated in Using conservation agreements in Peru to enhance sustainable forest livelihoods. To contribute to curbing deforestation in Peru’s Amazon forests, IUCN is collaborating with Conservation International (CI) and selected native communities in Peru’s Alto Mayo Protected Forest area to help make the shift to sustainable forest livelihoods. Through CAs signed between households and the Peruvian National Service of Natural Protected Areas, the technical cooperation between IUCN and CI is supporting the efforts of more than 700 families to stop deforestation and reduce the negative impacts of agricultural and livelihoods activities. This work is encouraging families to adopt sustainable livelihoods, and promoting cultural and customary management of forests, and profile the importance of forests for vital environmental services such as water, health, climate change mitigation, etc.

Activities within conservation agreements include reforestation, ensuring seedling survival, protecting forests and reforestation sites, and protecting animals. Families engaged in these new forms of livelihoods receive land security, wages for managing nurseries, improved pasture seeds, improved cattle, orchards, training and capacity building. Conservation agreements use a rights-based approach that is rooted in free, prior and informed consent, and promotes gender-responsive provisions in the design of benefit packages.

cover page of forest briefIn Uganda, livelihood-enhancing initiatives in the Mount Elgon and Agoro Agu landscapes are offering innovative, rights-based incentives for communities to engage in reducing deforestation and forest degradation as discussed in Enhancing forest livelihoods in Uganda to advance REDD+. For many forest-dependent communities in Uganda, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is about more than sequestering carbon to mitigate climate change. The food, water, medicine, fuel and spiritual value derived from forests are often the primary motivation for communities to protect natural resources and use them in sustainable ways.

Moreover, the ways in which forests and other natural resources are valued vary according to community, gender, age or wealth. In Uganda, women have historically faced barriers to land ownership and landless community members often do not participate in forest management processes. These factors make it complicated to bring stakeholders together to promote sustainable forest management. Understanding these dynamics and how communities rely on forests is a critical first step in setting up equitable REDD+ benefit sharing mechanisms that provide incentives to communities to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

Since 2009, IUCN has deployed efforts to ensure that emerging REDD+ national policies and strategies are gender-responsive. IUCN and partners have focused on working with a wide range of local and national stakeholders in various countries to support the development and integration of gender-specific components for REDD+, and the early incorporation of gender considerations. Gender mainstreaming work in Cameroon, Ghana, Guatemala and Uganda has resulted in the establishment and enabling of gender within the national REDD+ and climate change architecture. This is reflected by the specific policies, measures and processes within landscape level, subnational, and national climate change and forest management strategies and governance frameworks that resulted from the project interventions.

Forest brief cover pageThe Guatemala case entitled Guatemala makes gender equality a priority for REDD+ is an example of this. In Guatemala, it has been an on-going challenge to integrate gender considerations into the development of the country’s REDD+ strategy. IUCN and partners focused on supporting several policy initiatives at the national level, and stakeholder outreach at the local level. Advancing these considerations in the early stages of strategy design was seen as the best way to ensure gender equality was not treated as an afterthought, but as an integral component of a robust strategy. With the support of IUCN and partners, Guatemala’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) and the Forest Service, re-analysed and updated their gender policies, and the country’s National Protected Areas Council (CONAP) designed its first gender strategy. These initial steps laid the foundation for a comprehensive gender analysis of Guatemala’s existing policies and legal frameworks, and helped to develop a roadmap for the inclusion of gender considerations in the country’s REDD+ strategy.

Forest brief cover pageLeveraging synergies and partnerships is a key dimension of, and sustainability mechanism for REDD+ as a whole, and successful mainstreaming of RBAs in particular. In Cameroon for instance, synergies between IUCN, government, civil society and key forest governance initiatives are successful mechanisms to streamline and scale-up support for rights-based approaches to REDD+. These synergies ensure successful demonstration and learning, and help to advance REDD+ and forest strategies that deliver tangible environmental and sustainable livelihoods benefits. IUCN’s facilitation of multi-stakeholder processes and partnerships are proving a good mechanism for participatory REDD+ design. The following story from Cameroon epitomises our approach to leveraging synergies and partnerships, Mobilising partnerships to advance rights-based REDD+ and forest governance.

For more information on IUCN’s approaches to REDD+, please visit IUCN’s REDD+ webpages.

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