Features & Commentary
Main Findings and Lessons Learned from a Self-assessment of Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Participation in REDD+ in the DRC
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the pioneer countries in REDD+. As early as 2007 there were discussions in the country on opportunities linked to REDD+, the R-PIN was ready in 2008, and in January 2009 the government launched its preparation for REDD+ in collaboration with Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the UN-REDD Programme, resulting in the validation of the R-PP in March 2010.
By: Anne Martinussen
In November 2012 a preliminary REDD+ National Strategy was adopted and the country is now transitioning from the readiness to the investment phase. There are still certain steps, studies and structures missing, but the country is one of the most advanced in the REDD+ process and hence an example to the rest of the world.
Civil society has been involved in the REDD+ process in DRC since the beginning. In early 2009 they formed a national platform called the Civil Society Working Group for Climate Change and REDD+, or Groupe de Travail du Climat et REDD+ (GTCR), which today consists of over 300 NGOs, community-based organizations and indigenous peoples (IP) organizations. The GTCR has been actively engaged and has substantially influenced the process through providing concrete technical input, advocacy advice and critical constructive thinking. The participation of the GTCR has ensured focus on good governance, the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), on land rights and on traditional management of the forest. The REDD+ process in the DRC has often been recognized globally for the large degree of involvement of civil society.
The GTCR has also been active in calling for stronger IPLC participation in the national REDD+ process. In June 2012 the GTCR sent an open letter to the DRC government and the FCPF to express their concern about the lack of full and effective participation of civil society and IPLCs in REDD+. Among their grievances were the lack of full inclusion and functioning of civil society in the governing structures of REDD+ such as the National Committee, the very limited funding available for civil society to focus on their priorities independently from the government, and the lack of involvement in pilot projects and the final stages of the development of the National Strategy for REDD+.
In 2013 the civil society in DRC decided to undertake a self-assessment of their participation in the REDD+ process so far to assess the quality and quantity of their contributions as well as the enabling conditions for engagement, to gather lessons learned and develop recommendations for their future engagement. The self-assessment was facilitated by external consultants and financed by the UN-REDD Programme and Rainforest Foundation Norway. The evaluation took place in August and September 2013 and consisted of two parts: in-depth interviews with a number of key actors and a week-long workshop with 47 member NGOs present. A lessons-learned report will soon be published in English by Rainforest Foundation Norway and the UN-REDD Programme.
The main findings from the evaluation were:
- Not all members of civil society have been involved in the process
- Low participation of women in the process
- Lack of a long-term joint vision/strategy with clear priorities
- Lack of technical capacity on certain REDD+ issues
- Lack of clear systems for communication internally and externally
- Centralization of the process in the capital Kinshasa due to lack of resources
- Lack of robust governance and follow-up structures internally
- Prejudice from government and international organizations as to GTCR’s capacity
- Severe lack of funding to civil society to allow systematic organization and participation
- External actors operate with too short deadlines when requesting input from GTCR
- Funding has been too limited, even when specific tasks have been requested from GTCR by external actors, such as doing consultation processes or undertaking studies.
The GTCR concluded that getting organized takes time, especially in a country with the size and complexity of DRC, in a challenging context and with limited funds. The main recommendations were that the GTCR should focus on:
- Unifying and consolidating the interests and agendas of the individuals, the organizations and the networks within the GTCR
- Developing a joint strategy and priorities for the new investment phase of REDD+
- Continue developing robust internal governing structures, regulations and mandates
- Continue developing systems for internal and external communication
- Ensuring professional recruitment for key posts in the structure
- Assessing alternative ways of organizing the platform
- Developing an action plan for the inclusion of women
- Encouraging international actors to give long-term financial support and invest in professionalization and capacity building of the GTCR, not only finance short-term results
- Encouraging international actors to interact with civil society and have faith in their competencies and demonstrated ability to make substantial contributions to REDD+.
The key findings in the evaluation are not shocking or surprising; they represent the usual challenges in any complex organizing process. The recommendations are also straight-forward and logical. Nevertheless the main lessons captured are important and deserve attention from governments, international agencies and donors as well as national and international NGOs.
Civil society needs capacity building and resources such as time, money and technical support, from early on in the process, consistently and over time to function and be able to deliver what is requested from them. They must be given the opportunity to assess the positive and potentially negative elements of REDD+ independently, and allocated sufficient resources to develop their own strategy and priorities for their engagement at the international, national and local level.
Civil society is a heterogeneous group with different agendas and interests, and cannot be expected to operate as one single entity with full agreement on all aspects. The development of unity, joint visions and routines for smooth collaboration takes time and must be supported, facilitated and financed in a systematic, long-term manner by the responsible parties such as government, bilateral and multilateral agencies from the onset of every national REDD+ process.
|Anne Martinussen is Stakeholder Engagement Specialist for the UN-REDD Programme in Africa.