A look at the procedural legitimacy of the governance structures for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in Mexico. A blog by Dr. Jovanka Špirić, postdoctoral researcher at the Environmental Geography Research Centre (CIGA) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and co-author of a new book on responsive forest governance.
REDD+ governance legitimacy
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), plus the conservation and sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks is a multi-level environmental governance structure intended to align the views of numerous stakeholders on how deforestation and forest degradation should be framed and addressed. Globally, REDD+ is conceived under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Mexico is one of around 50 countries in the global South undergoing ‘REDD+ readiness’. The inclusion of multiple actors in the readiness process provides an opportunity to share and mediate across different interests and backgrounds and therefore improve REDD+ governance legitimacy – that is the perceived fairness of decision-making procedures (input legitimacy), and of final decisions made and subsequent outcomes of their implementation (output legitimacy). The multi-stakeholder forums should help enhance governance legitimacy by helping to balance bottom-up and top-down policy approaches. For such reasons, they are an element of many national REDD+ governance approaches.
Mexico’s REDD+ trajectory
Mexico has demonstrated long-standing commitment to REDD+. It was the first country to join the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in 2008, and the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) has been designing Mexico’s National REDD+ Strategy (ENAREDD+). In addition, Mexico reformed its environmental laws to facilitate REDD+ design and implementation in 2012. Mexico is also unique for its land tenure system, with approximately 70% of the country’s forests being under social ownership by local communities, many of which are indigenous. In order to involve representatives from different sectors in the readiness process, the Mexican Government created the Technical Advisory Committees (CTC) for REDD+ at both national (2010) and state levels (2011). These forums are of a consultative or advisory nature – that is their participants provide comments or give input, while final decisions on ENAREDD+ design are made by government. IUCN is one of the participants in the REDD+ forums in Mexico, and it is particularly active on the gender and equity issues.
Two contrasting legitimacy perceptions
According to a study by J. Špirić (of CIGA-UNAM) there are two groups of REDD+ multi-stakeholder forum participants in Mexico with contrasting perceptions of legitimacy. The supporters (representatives of government, academia, large international and national NGOs) find the REDD+ multi-stakeholder fora in Mexico legitimate because they are inclusive to all important actors and favour indirect representation of local people through NGOs. The detractors (mostly representatives of rural communities and indigenous peoples’ organisations, national NGOs and academia) considered the forums illegitimate, because they lack transparency and representativeness – or balanced representation of various stakeholder groups. Unable to change the CTC’s characteristics, some rural community and indigenous peoples’ organisations have left CTC. These organisations lobbied for the establishment of the working group on ENAREDD+ within the National Forest Council that, in their opinion, meets the criteria or representativeness through membership accreditation. The same actors demanded more direct participation of local people in the readiness process.
To ensure the direct, full and effective participation of local actors, and in particular of indigenous communities, and comply with the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility guidelines, the Mexican Government organised the countrywide ‘national REDD+ strategy consultation process’ (2015-2017). The national REDD+ strategy consultation was the largest consultation process on environmental issues in Mexico, and it had three modalities: (1) locally based consultations with indigenous communities; (2) face-to-face state and thematic forums with representatives of local communities, women, youth, and the agriculture sector; and (3) online consultation with the general public.
The ENAREDD+ consultation with indigenous communities was created based on the protocol elaborated by the National Commission for Indigenous Development’s Consultative Council following the basic conditions for consultation with indigenous people provided in the International Labour Organisation’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO No.169) (1989). The application of the ENAREDD+ consultation protocol was consented to by the aforementioned national REDD+ multi-stakeholders’ fora, including the Indigenous and Rural Communities Roundtable that was specially established for this purpose. In total, 209 indigenous communities were consulted. However, the government reserved the right to make final decisions with the help of teams of experts if their recommendations were feasible to be included in the final ENAREDD+ (published in August 2017). The readiness process in Mexico officially ended with publication of the final ENAREDD+, reaching as much input legitimacy as it could. The next step is its implementation. Accordingly, future efforts should be directed toward reaching the high level of REDD+ governance output legitimacy, that is the acceptance and endorsement of decisions in the ENAREDD+ by local communities.
The research behind several chapters in this book was supported by the Responsive Forest Governance Initiative, a collaborative partnership among IUCN, the University of Illinois (USA), and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa. The opinions of the authors do not necessarily represent those of IUCN or its members.