Sanity in REDD governance shock!

James Mayers's picture
Blog by 
James Mayers
24 August 2011

When it comes to forest governance — who gets to decide what about forests — REDD is a pleasant dream for some, a nightmare for others. I think it is depends on how you see the money and the leverage.

  Dream Nightmare

Money at last!

Enough to tip the balance to locally controlled forestry

Where's the money gone?

Money not enough, wasted, or in the wrong hands


Attention at last!

Enough to secure rights and local capabilities

More harm than good?

Local stakeholders disenchanted, disenfranchised and disempowered

Addition of the ‘plus’ to REDD certainly makes the dream happier, but even more confusing (and for those of you who are already leaving this blog because you don’t speak this bizarre REDD language, or think its users should just grow up, I can only apologise). So it is good to see practical progress from those who are actually trying to make REDD+ work on the ground. Here are a couple of things:

1. REDD+, governance and community forestry. A group of 12 experts — hands-on protagonists in REDD+ strategy and practice in India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam — came together to consider nine hard and critical questions about the future of REDD+. They came out with strong answers — mapping out a very stimulating agenda and calling for REDD players to focus on building on the foundations of community forestry.

2. Just forest governance — for REDD, for sanity. In ten forest hotspot countries across Africa and South and Southeast Asia, the IIED-steered Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG) has been working since 2003 on ways to shift power over forests towards those who enable and pursue sustainable forest-linked livelihoods. Teams in each of these countries have developed practical tactics for securing safe space, sparking dialogue, building constituencies, wielding evidence and interacting politically. FGLG has produced films about tackling forest governance issues that work locally and internationally, as well as local theatre pieces, comics, and targeted policy briefs and opinion pieces. All FGLG teams are increasingly savvy and engaged with REDD+. Recent in-country work can be characterised as follows:

• Collusion and collision of top-down and bottom-up governance reform approaches (Ghana)
• Seizing opportunities for increasing local benefits from forests (Cameroon)
• Critiquing key institutions without bringing them down (Uganda)
• Rights, small forest enterprise and REDD+ (Tanzania)
• Serious evidence and funny comics on forest transparency (Mozambique)
• Following through on sustainable charcoal options (Malawi)
• Small forest enterprise governance in land reform and industrial policy (South Africa)
• Stepping up high-level engagement on forest rights (India)
• REDD+ for community-based forest management (Indonesia)
• Community title at the heart of prospects for FLEGT and REDD+ (Vietnam)

I encourage you to dive into these reports for more. FGLG teams are increasingly insistent that REDD+ strategies must stop avoiding what has been painfully learnt about the importance of rights, capacity, and motivation for good forest management and livelihoods. REDD+ must be locally controlled, and FGLG teams expect to continue to help make them so — its just forest governance.

For more information see our pages on the Forest Governance Learning Group and films in the FGLG series 'Justice in the Forests'.