Strengthening Stakeholder Engagement in Sri Lanka
The UN-REDD National Programme in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with Department of Forest as lead implementing partner, organized two separate workshops to establish an Indigenous Peoples’ Forum and a Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Platform on 29 November and 10 December 2013, respectively.
Engagement is a vital process in addressing concerns of different stakeholders while ensuring ownership of long-term national REDD+ process. Against this backdrop, the UN-REDD National Programme in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with Department of Forest as lead implementing partner, organized two separate workshops to establish an Indigenous Peoples’ Forum and a Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Platform on 29 November and 10 December 2013, respectively. The Indigenous Peoples’ Forum and CSO Platform are intended to ensure effective and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples, civil society, non-governmental and community-based organizations in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Programme at this initial stage and to carry this participation forward into a broader, nationally-owned REDD+ Programme. Indigenous peoples and CSO representatives to the UN-REDD Programme Executive Board (PEB) were also self-selected during these workshops.
|Participants at the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum held on 29 November 2013 in Sri Lanka.
The Indigenous Peoples’ Forum held in Mahiyangana, included participation from Veddah communities, representatives from the Range Forest Offices of the Department of Forest and the Department of Wildlife Conservation, Divisional Secretaries, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka as well as non-governmental organizations and environmental activists. The Veddah communities represented Dambana, Hennanigala, Dalukana, Vaharei, Rathugala and Pollebedda settlements. Items discussed included how to best contribute to conserving and protecting forest and wildlife resources for future generations. Uruwarige Vannila Attho, the Veddah Chief in Sri Lanka as well as elected member of the PEB stated that “It is heartening to see that officials and policymakers at the highest level have taken a keen interest in consulting us to identify ways and means for sustainable management of forests, wildlife and other relevant resources.”
Mr. Anura Sathurusinghe, Conservator General of Forest and the National Programme Director of the UN-REDD National Programme pointed out that the Department of Forest has already initiated a wider consultation process in identifying policy areas and issues requiring changes, saying, “Now we are in the process of smoothening some of the rules and regulations so there will be more flexibility, especially in protecting and safeguarding rights of indigenous peoples, and involving them in sustainable management of forests.”
Establishment of the CSO Platform was a result of progressive deliberations between civil society members. Led by a voluntary Working Committee of six members from various civil society backgrounds, it facilitated the formation of a CSO Platform and the selection of CSO representative to the PEB. It also drafted Terms of Reference, and coordinated a workshop to establish the CSO Platform. Cognizant of the vibrant civil society community and to ensure gender balance, the Working Committee proposed two CSO representatives to the PEB. Workshop participants from environment, social justice and governance areas deliberated on the Terms of Reference before selecting a seven-member CSO Platform Convening Committee. This committee further self-selected two representatives to sit in the PEB: Mr. Hemantha Withanage from the Centre for Environmental Justice and Ms. M Renuka Badrakanthi from the Women Development Federation.
The UN-REDD Programme Management Unit in Sri Lanka continues to support the IP Forum and CSO Platform to perform their expected roles and responsibilities.