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Updates and improvements to the Safeguards Information Systems (SIS) – Part 2: Lessons from Costa Rica

Introduction:

The third session of the Safeguards and Integrity Working Group of the UN-REDD Program for Latin America and the Caribbean, held on October 20, 2023, was dedicated to sharing experiences related to the development of Costa Rica's Safeguards Information System (SIS). To achieve this, the safeguards team from the country's Results-Based Payments Program presented the current state of its SIS, along with lessons learned and areas for improvement to ensure the effective implementation of the system at the national level.

A SIS can be defined as a set of processes, institutional arrangements, and tools organized to report on how a specific country or jurisdiction is addressing and respecting the Cancun Safeguards and others, as applicable, during the design and implementation of REDD+. Furthermore, according to the Warsaw REDD+ Framework, the SIS is a requirement for accessing REDD+ results-based payments within the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

For more context on SIS, we suggest referring to:

Shared Presentations

Judith Walcott, Coordinator of the UNEP Team for the UN-REDD Program in Latin America and the Caribbean, highlighted the innovative approach of Costa Rica's SIS in her welcome speech. This is evident not only in the implementation of the Results-Based Payments (RBP) Project but also in the mainstreaming of gender issues and the involvement of multiple stakeholders. Therefore, it serves as a very interesting experience for all those working on safeguards in the region. Judith also emphasized the current challenge for SIS to report on how safeguards are being implemented in REDD+ activities with different approaches (e.g., RBP or carbon markets) and at various levels (national, subnational, and project-based). For this reason, the Costa Rican SIS model can provide valuable lessons learned in this regard.

Following this, Mariano Cirone, the safeguards focal point for UNEP LAC in the UN-REDD Program and the moderator of this session, underscored the importance of learning from Costa Rica's experience as a pioneer in global REDD+ implementation. Additionally, as a country working on an RBP project with the Green Climate Fund, there are several lessons learned that can be useful for other countries in the region. In terms of SIS, they all share a common challenge: transitioning from the design to the effective implementation of safeguards policies and tools to ensure the overall environmental and social integrity of REDD+ in their territories.

After the welcoming remarks, the main section of the event began, titled "Updates and Improvements in the Safeguards Information System (SIS) of Costa Rica, Lessons Learned and Challenges." This was led by the Safeguards Team of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the Results-Based Payments (RBP) Project of the Green Climate Fund in Costa Rica. To learn more about CR's RBP, visit: https://reddcostarica.net/fondo-verde-para-el-clima/.

This team consisted of:

Jorge Cole: Senior Social Specialist. REDD+ RBP Project UNDP CR.

Nielsen Pérez: Gender Specialist. REDD+ RBP Project UNDP CR.

Rebecca Rivera: Monitoring and Safeguards Specialist. REDD+ RBP Project UNDP CR.

Yanory Rojas Morales: Specialist in working with indigenous peoples, REDD+ RBP Project UNDP CR.

Safeguards Team of the Results-Based Payments (RBP) REDD+ Project in Costa Rica

  • Costa Rica's SIS has two cross-cutting themes: gender and the participation of Indigenous Peoples. In the case of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent with Indigenous Peoples, it is addressed through the Territorial Forest Environmental Plan (PAFT).
  • The National Center for Geo-Environmental Information (CENIGA) is a platform with information on multiple aspects of the country's environmental public policy. Since 2015, it has hosted the SIS with more qualitative information about the political and legal framework. However, it does not function as a true operational system with indicators. Therefore, through the RBP Project, the country is working on this new version of the SIS. A company has been hired to develop the new SIS platform, which will be interactive, with an interface for internal information management and open public information dissemination. This system will incorporate existing qualitative information and add quantitative information based on SIS indicators. It will also include a document repository.
  • To update the SIS, one of the first exercises conducted was to compare the main REDD+ strategic frameworks in the country: Cancun Safeguards, those of the UNDP, and the World Bank's Operational Rules. Indicators suitable for reporting to all three schemes simultaneously were identified through this comparison. It was observed that Cancun Safeguards are the only ones without explicit references to gender, human rights, or labor conditions. To address this gap, Costa Rica's SIS, based on Cancun Safeguards, incorporates specific indicators to report on these issues (e.g., gender and labor conditions indicators within the participation safeguard).
  • The country has made three attempts to create specific SIS indicators, which has been complex, resulting in too many indicators in the initial trials. In the second attempt, 28-30 indicators were identified, but finding safeguards experts to validate them was a challenge. Currently, with the third attempt, a first version of indicators is available, and adjustments to the system are being made.
  • Gender is a central focus for REDD+ and Costa Rica's SIS. To promote gender mainstreaming, the decision was made to include at least one gender-sensitive indicator in each of the 7 safeguards, rather than establishing a specific safeguard on the matter.
  • An Interinstitutional Body for the SIS was created to address technical aspects and manage system information, consisting of institutions such as the REDD+ Secretariat, CENIGA, and UNDP, among others.
  • Regarding SIS information sources, given the complexity of coordination with many institutions, a gradual approach was chosen, starting with some institutions, and aiming to incorporate more as experience is gained.

The country has already produced two Safeguards Information Summaries (1997-2017 and 2018-2020) and is currently working on the third for the period 2021-2023

Open Dialogue

Once the presentation by the UNDP team from Costa Rica concluded, a space was opened for exchange among the attendees.

Nielsen Pérez, Gender Specialist for Costa Rica's RBP, emphasized the importance of the gender perspective for the SIS, pointing out the various gender-sensitive indicators established and explaining the reasoning behind some of them. Venus Caballero, from the "Paraguay + Verde" Project, similarly highlighted the importance of reinterpreting technical concepts, such as the gender perspective with Indigenous Peoples, through intercultural dialogue. This approach helps to ground the language and facilitate effective participation. Yanory Rojas Morales, a specialist in working with indigenous peoples on the RBP REDD+ Project at UNDP CR, also emphasized the importance of creating spaces for the participation of indigenous women, "by them and for them."

Regarding registration in mechanisms for complaints and dispute resolution, Victoria Suárez, safeguards focal point for UNEP in the UN-REDD Program globally, emphasized the opportunity to disaggregate information not only by gender but also by sector and type of consultation or complaint. This allows for the identification of the most sensitive points in REDD+ activities.

In conclusion, after more than 10 years of experience in REDD+ work in the country, Yanory Rojas highlighted the challenge that indigenous territories often face in addressing all aspects of this complex mechanism, especially in the current context with different approaches and funding sources. In this regard, the UNDP expert emphasized the importance of allocating a specific budget for participation, a demand that indigenous communities themselves are currently making.

Highlighted Quotes

"The SIS being developed within the framework of the Results-Based Payments Project 'is a country system and responds to the demand of various actors in the carbon market, including the World Bank, the Green Climate Fund, ART-TREES, VERRA, and others that may come in the future."

Jorge Cole, UNDP, REDD+ RBP Project CR

 

"The term 'gender perspective' can often be a very complex issue to work with indigenous communities, at least in the case of Paraguayan culture. Therefore, it is important to work with them to understand how they conceive it and how they prefer to name it. In Paraguay + Verde, we approach the issue through preliminary gender analysis (baseline), through intercultural dialogue."

 

Venus Caballero, UNEP, "Paraguay + Verde" Project

"There is great diversity among the different indigenous cultures in the country (...). Therefore, the construction of the Territorial Forest Environmental Plan (PAFT) is a living process that needs to focus on capturing how indigenous women reconstruct the concepts addressed at a specific moment and place, (...) for example, what are the appropriate benefits of the Project. For this reason, it is essential to facilitate spaces for the participation of indigenous women (...), by them and for them."

 

Yanory Rojas Morales, UNDP, REDD+ RBP Project CR

Opportunities, Challenges, and Conclusions

According to the UNDP safeguards team for the RBP in Costa Rica, the planned areas of opportunity for improving/updating the SIS are as follows:

  • Review, inclusion, and mainstreaming of gender elements.
  • Continued demonstration of transparency in transactions for forests reaching territories through a process of participation and respect for free, prior, and informed consent.
  • The platform registering data interaction and documentation.
  • Updates to information and participation in national and international forums on the SIS. Presenting the third Safeguards Information Summary in 2024.

By the beginning of 2024, Costa Rica expects to have its new SIS platform operational, enabling the first run of information based on the indicators around that time

Next Steps

Victoria Suárez, from UNEP, oversaw closing the event. In addition to expressing words of gratitude, she mentioned the proposal to establish the "Indicators Lab," where individuals in this Working Group can voluntarily provide feedback on the gender indicators being developed by colleagues at UNDP Costa Rica. This creates a new form of exchange and collaborative work within the framework of this group.

Records and Impact:

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31 participants
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9 countries
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3 UN agencies
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90 minutes of session

Contact

For more information about this Safeguards and Integrity Working Group of the UN-REDD Program in Latin America and the Caribbean, please contact the UNEP team through Mariano Cirone at: mariano.cirone@un.org 

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