The Importance of Public Participation and Governmental Oversight in REDD

Peru, the host nation for COP-20, is facing rapid deforestation. Due to pressures such as mining, logging and agriculture, Peru’s bio-diverse forests are shrinking fast. This is in spite of a comprehensive reform to forestry policy. The very safeguards that have been put in place to protect forests by the Peruvian government, are the same mechanisms being used to further exploit forests: permits and concessions are being violated and loopholes are being used to promote industry over conservation.

DeforestationGlobally, deforestation accounts for about 17% of greenhouse gas emissions. The UN Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is meant to address deforestation and forest degradation in least developed countries (where, as in Peru, natural resources are often rapidly depleted in the process of modernization).  56 Countries have joined the REDD Programme, 21 of which have active UNEP REDD projects. While the REDD Programme is designed to address deforestation and to combat climate change, it has been criticized for lacking effective oversight mechanisms and for leaving local peoples out of decision-making processes.

The principle that local peoples should have access to decision-making about their natural resources is articulated in the Bali Guidelines for the Development of National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. The Bali principles focus on  recognizing due process as a right within environmental matters. The right to free, prior and informed consent is emphasized. While REDD purports to be a programme that directly engages with local peoples, that is not always the case. For example, in Kenya, violent evictions are occurring to make forested areas REDD+-ready.

No-Redd-Forests-Are-Not-Commodities

The extent to which communities are given access to information and participation in the REDD process will in turn affect which projects are chosen, how they are implemented and what project outcomes are for local peoples. Many LDCs lack sufficient governmental infrastructure, which may make monitoring REDD projects difficult. As UNEP acknowledges, governmental monitoring is essential to ensuring that REDD projects comply with international human rights principles. UNEP has identified transparency, respect for local peoples and full and effective participation as essential aspects of the REDD programme. Going forward it is crucial that advocacy groups monitor REDD projects closely to ensure these principles are followed.