Features & Commentary
Representatives from 21 UN-REDD Programme countries in Africa meet to exchange and discuss best practices for building national strategies for REDD+
A regional knowledge exchange and South-South dialogue event has taken place under the auspices of the UN-REDD Programme to share experiences on how to build national strategies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), with a focus on Africa.
By Josep Garí, with the UN-REDD Africa Team
Participants included national coordinators for REDD+ or their delegates from the majority of UN-REDD Programme partner countries in the region, representatives from civil society and indigenous peoples' organizations, members of the donor community and UN-REDD Programme professionals, as well as REDD+ experts from two Latin American countries -- Ecuador and Mexico, via telecommunication facilities. Several types of experience-sharing sessions and interactive exercises were carried out, allowing participants to examine a range of issues together, strengthening the African community of practice on REDD+ along the way.
The workshop, held on 14 and 15 October, helped to identify common trends in Africa concerning the development of national strategies for REDD+. Countries highlighted the value of establishing specific teams to lead and coordinate REDD+ work. They also stressed the importance of conducting in-depth analytical work to fully understand the drivers of deforestation, as well as to identify best practices in sustainable forest management, to assess the multiple values of forest ecosystems and to scope the reforestation potential, among other aspects. If well carried out, such analytical work tends to reveal the extent to which deforestation issues and REDD+ options lie not just in the forests but notably in sectors such as agriculture, land-use policy and the green economy. Consequently, the creation of multi-stakeholder and cross-ministerial platforms proves necessary to engage the actors and build the partnerships that are required for REDD+ to prosper.
The workshop revealed the need for countries to tailor their REDD+ strategy work to their specific development context and the degree of their ambition for REDD+, holding realistic targets. A key question for countries and their political leaders to address in early stages is: Why do we intend to pursue REDD+? This question will guide them in crafting the national vision of REDD+, which is at the roots of the strategy. It will also serve to define the scope of ambition of REDD+ and anchor this to the national development process, building from the mentioned analytical work and stakeholder dialogue. Countries agreed that REDD+ is not a panacea to resolve all development challenges, but can serve as a catalyst for policy reforms and new investments towards sustainable development.
Participants appraised the fact that, when building a national strategy for REDD+, the product is as important as the process. Concerning the product – the strategy document – it should capture the vision of the country on REDD+, propose a credible pathway towards results (so as to mobilise stakeholders as well as attract finance) and indicate the sort of instruments and institutional arrangements that will be employed to ensure REDD+ is well governed. Concerning the process, this is the occasion to build multiple partnerships that will enable REDD+ implementation, including high-level political support and broad grassroots engagement. In essence, the process, as much as the product, compels countries to think through three key questions:
- Why: – the national vision for REDD+, anchoring REDD+ in the overall development agenda of the country and shaping the "business case" for REDD+.
- What: –. the set of policies, measures and actions that are likely to yield tangible REDD+ results (a choice to be carefully constructed, taking into account the analytical work, stakeholder views and degree of political commitment).
- How: – the specific approaches and institutional arrangements that will support the implementation of the proposed REDD+ policies, measures and actions.
Josep Garí (UN-REDD) and Alfred Gichu (Kenya REDD+ Coordinator) at the opening ceremony
In Africa, the design of a national strategy for REDD+ proves a useful process to federate stakeholders, experiences and actions around a vision for sustainable development and set of REDD+ objectives. It enables countries to merge their analytical work with the stakeholder consultations and policy deliberations, hence defining the scope of REDD+ action they envisage, with realistic targets. The overall process seems to require approximately three years of work and consultations. Early experiences suggest that the resulting national strategy for REDD+ should have a time horizon of around 20 years, if not more, while gradually being translated into shorter term investment and reform plans for ease of action. In addition, participants left with the understanding that international climate-change policy -- notably the UNFCCC Warsaw Framework for REDD+ -- allows for a stepwise approach to REDD+, which is particularly recommended in Africa, so that countries can adopt a pragmatic path.
Finally, participants discussed the roles of the UN-REDD Programme in supporting their national efforts to build REDD+ strategies and systems, providing guidance to enhance them. Countries appreciated the valuable cooperation provided by the UN-REDD Programme in supporting the preparatory analysis, stakeholder engagement and capacity building required in REDD+ readiness. They also identified aspects of the UN-REDD Programme’s work that have deficits and need improvement, such as the occasional proliferation of disconnected activities supported by the three collaborating UN agencies of the Programme, and the time it takes to jump start the projects that the UN-REDD Programme has committed to finance.
Finally, participants discussed the roles of UN-REDD in supporting their national efforts to build REDD+ strategies and systems, providing guidance to enhance them. Countries appreciated the valuable cooperation provided by the UN-REDD in supporting the preparatory analysis, stakeholder engagement and capacity building required in REDD+ readiness. They also identified aspects of UN-REDD work that have deficits and need improvement, such as the occasional proliferation of activities supported by the three UN-REDD agencies in a disconnected way, and the time it takes to jump start the projects that UN-REDD has committed to finance.
When evaluating this South-South workshop, countries expressed high satisfaction for this learning and knowledge exchange opportunity. It allowed country delegates as well as UN-REDD Programme professionals to better understand the challenges and opportunities ahead. Countries voiced appreciation for the UN-REDD Programme as a privileged partner in the region for boosting national capacities and knowledge on REDD+. The challenge for the UN-REDD Programme, they commented, is to provide qualitative technical and policy advice to countries on how to build REDD+ systems that simultaneously adapt to national circumstances and comply with international standards. Country delegates underlined that they hope the UN-REDD Programme can continue to offer them opportunities for accessing and exchanging knowledge and best practices, so that a genuine African community of practice for REDD+ can thrive.
The results of this regional workshop will be presented at the preliminary sessions of the 13th meeting of the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board, in Arusha, Tanzania, on 5 November 2014. The workshop report can be found on the UN-REDD Programme website
This article was written by Josep Garí (UNDP) with contributions from Thais Narciso (UNEP), Charlotte Jourdain (FAO) and Fabien Monteils (UNDP), among other members of the UN-REDD Programme Africa Team.
Josep Garí is the UN-REDD Programme Africa Advisor, based at the UN Office at Nairobi, and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The pictures of this article were taken during the workshop.