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Equity in forests and REDD+: An analysis of equity challenges as viewed by forestry decision-makers and practitioners in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam

Wed, 20 Jan, 2016

Considerable debate has developed in recent years over the potential of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) to either rectify or exacerbate social inequities in tropical forest countries. Despite agreement on the importance of equity issues in REDD+, few studies have considered differences in equity and equitable outcomes as understood at national and local levels, and related contextspecific barriers that frustrate the achievement of equitable outcomes. This paper surveys perceptions of REDD+ related challenges to equity and potential solutions of forestry decision-makers and practitioners in three Mekong countries.

Responses were analyzed from two sets of workshops conducted at the national and subnational levels in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam from 2013 to 2015. The paper draws on a framework for analysis of equity developed in recent REDD+ research, and eight “equity elements” developed in the course of the first set of workshops. Participant responses were compared across workshops in the same countries (i.e., national level versus local level) and across countries. Responses also were compared with recent literature on equity in REDD+ and forest governance in each country.

The results show that perceptions of equity differ deeply on international, national, and subnational levels. Participation, access to information, and benefit sharing were the most common equity challenges cited across groups, with tenure also seen as important. Workshop participants’ concerns regarding equity were highly interrelated, suggesting that work on equity is mutually reinforcing. Participants’ views on key equity challenges largely supported external research findings. However, feedback also suggested participation and access to information (at least in Cambodia and Viet Nam, respectively) are more important equity issues than seen in literature.

Recommendations based on the work include:

-Further research to better understand the local level perceptions on equity, enabling more targeted capacity development efforts.
-Capacity development initiatives should include further efforts to increase awareness among forest communities of forest governance and REDD+ related rights and mechanisms. The awareness raising should include utilizing the potential of increasing internet and mobile communication coverage.
-Current capacity development programs for subnational level government officials, on a wide range of technical skills (e.g., training on relevant laws, policies, and regulations) and ‘soft’ skills (e.g., participatory facilitation and communications with local communities), needs to be revisited and strengthened.

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