The UN Environment Programme is working with the Government of Honduras to design a National Safeguards Framework for Climate Change Projects and Programmes, a pioneering experience in the region. This is part of a project funded by the Green Climate Fund entitled, "Strengthening the understanding of social and environmental safeguards applicable to climate change programmes and projects in Honduras." This was developed at the request of the Government of Honduras through the Secretariat of Natural Resources and Environment (MiAmbiente +) to develop a better understanding of the country’s social and environmental safeguards.
In this context, safeguards are understood as a set of regulations, procedures or other instruments aimed at identifying, evaluating, avoiding, mitigating and compensating for potential negative impacts, while trying to maximize the direct and indirect positive effects that any project or programme on climate change can cause to the environment and society.
Objectives of the safeguards framework
In general, international organizations, donors and implementing agencies have their own safeguard policies and frameworks. In financing or implementing a project, partners and recipients must apply relevant safeguards, along with other requirements on risk assessment and management. For this reason, there is currently a large number of safeguard policies in Honduras that are applied to different climate change projects, each with its own requirements and procedures. From the first assessment carried out on this project, at least 12 safeguard frameworks were identified related to the implementation of climate change projects in the country between 2015 and 2020. This multiplicity of safeguard policies implies a high-level of complexity for the government in its effort to identify to what extent the legal and institutional framework of the country addresses and complies with these safeguards. On the other hand, this lack of clarity on how the political and legal context of the country complies with these safeguards could present a disincentive for donors and investors who may wish to work with the country, due to the difficulty in evaluating the potential risks of the project.
This project seeks to continue the safeguards work developed by the UN-REDD National Programme in Honduras. Between 2015 and 2020, the Programme worked with the government in preparing the country for REDD+. Among other activities, this included the creation of the National Committee for REDD+ Safeguards in Honduras (CONASAH). This body, made up of representatives of the central and local governments, indigenous peoples, local communities, NGOs, the private sector, academia and women’s groups, has the role of supervising the implementation of safeguards in the context of forest management for REDD+.
The project safeguards framework has initially identified 8 safeguards specific to the Honduran context. These include the cultural safeguard, the protection of the safety of activists and the right to water. For each safeguard, the relevant legal and institutional framework and priority aspects for its strengthening will be identified over the following months of project implementation. This will be made available, together with tools for the analysis of benefits and risks. This will include questions to determine if each safeguard is activated, a form to evaluate the risks and potential impacts and mitigation measures and a series of publicly accessible resources to evaluate each of the safeguards.
For the preparation of this safeguards framework, a multi-stakeholder participatory process is being carried out through webinars, bilateral meetings with experts and virtual surveys. The process and content of the framework is being designed with a clear gender focus to bridge the gap between women and men and to empower rural women, along with a cultural approach to contribute to improving the living conditions and rights of indigenous peoples and Afro-Hondurans. For the second stage of this project in 2021, work will be done on communications, capacity building and training for government officials on safeguards, including an analysis of environmental and social risks.
This project seeks to contribute to improving the performance of safeguards in the country and thus, to avoiding and mitigating potential socio-environmental conflicts. Likewise, by providing transparency and showing a political commitment, the Safeguards framework can help improve the opportunity for Honduras to be a recipient country for international climate financing and projects. This pioneering experience could inspire and later be replicated by other countries in the region.