The UN-REDD Programme is currently supporting the development of Safeguards Information Systems (SIS) in a number of countries. Countries implementing REDD+ under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are required to address and respect a set of seven social and environmental safeguards, commonly referred to as the Cancun Safeguards, throughout their REDD+ activities. By applying these safeguards, countries can enhance the positive impacts of REDD+ and prevent or mitigate any potential adverse impacts.
Developing a system for providing information on how safeguards are being addressed and respected throughout REDD+ activities is a key requirement for results-based payments under the UNFCCC and the Green Climate Fund. Many countries have been working on the design of their Safeguards Information Systems (SIS), but until now, only around 10 have put their SIS into operation.
As a result, there is a growing demand among countries to learn from each others’ experiences in setting up and operating effective SIS. In order to promote country-to-country learning, a two-day ‘Sub-regional Exchange on Operationalizing SIS’ took place in Hanoi, Viet Nam in December, 2019.
The event involved a practical exchange between several country teams in the Asia Pacific region in advanced stages of SIS design and operations, including: Myanmar, which is currently developing an SIS operationalization plan; Cambodia, which recently established its SIS; and Viet Nam, which established an SIS database and website late last year. The exchange was organized and facilitated by UNEP and UNEP-WCMC.
Key lessons on operationalizing SIS:
Start with a simple, flexible system that can accommodate different types of information and processes, as well as updates, improvements and future needs;
Accessing, compiling and reviewing information from a range of sectors and organizations is a significant challenge and requires political support as well as specific tools, such as information sharing agreements;
National REDD+ strategies and investment plans can provide a supporting framework, setting out roles and responsibilities, next steps and costs;
SIS should be linked to a communications strategy that covers what information to share and how to share it most effectively;
Specific and relevant indicators for each safeguard should be developed, for example, on the participation of women and local communities; and
Recognize the extent of work involved to collect, compile, analyze and write up the first set of safeguards information.
Viet Nam’s Challenges and Lessons Learned
Among the three countries, Viet Nam is the first country to have an established, online SIS in operation. One of their big challenges has been compiling information from 12 government ministries. In addition, funding for the long-term operation of the SIS needs to be secured and the country needs to show donors their progress on safeguards in order to move towards results-based payments.
“The cross-ministry coordination can be challenging,” says Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy, REDD+ Focal Point for Viet Nam, FCPF Phase II Project Director & Vice Director, Office of the State Steering Committee for the Target Program on Sustainable Development and REDD+ Implementation, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).
“Sometimes REDD+, or forestry, is not high on their development agendas, so collaborating and making this a priority is another challenge.”
She says that collaborating across ministries has been very important, and identifying priority sources of information for the SIS has helped them get the design right from the beginning. “We are starting with the forestry and agricultural sectors, and then integrating more information from other sectors and expanding,” she says.
Viet Nam has also benefited from a project to set up a forest information management system called FORMIS. “FORMIS is a platform that includes all forestry-related data,” says Le Ha Phuong, Safeguards Officer, Office of the State Steering Committee for the Target Program on Sustainable Forest Development and REDD+ Implementation, MARD. “For the first version of our SIS last year, the most data we extracted was from FORMIS. For SIS Phase 2, we will need to integrate that with information and data from the other national information systems.”
Le Ha Phuong said it was very useful to hear presentations from the other countries. “We share common difficulties and challenges in terms of SIS development,” she said. Although Cambodia and Myanmar haven’t yet launched their SIS websites, she notes “ they have a clear way forwards and a plan, and we were able to learn a lot from each other.”
Cambodia’s Challenges and Lessons Learned
Cambodia plans to launch its external website for safeguards in January, 2020 with an aim to disseminate the information publicly. There will be a form for civil society to contribute, and a form for feedback and complaints.
“It’s very important for us to learn how we can move from SIS design to operationalization,” says Tola Sreypeou, Stakeholder Engagement, Safeguards, Gender and Communications Officer for Cambodia’s FCPF REDD+ Project (UNDP). “Cambodia is in the drafting stage. We have a SIS, but we need to improve it to be more robust and operate at the national and sub-national levels. What I learned at this workshop is that each country needs to be aware of environmental and social risks and how to manage this so that when it comes to data collection and inputting that information into the SIS, we have information that is relevant."
With every country at a different stage, she said she was able to learn about things like coordinating with other ministries and best practice for managing databases.
Myanmar’s Challenges and Lessons Learned
In Myanmar, the SIS design is at a late stage, with draft indicators developed. The country also has initiatives underway such as the One Map Project, with help from the Swiss Development Agency, that aims to ensure that every ministry is using the same maps. With the current internal conflict in the country, the government also needs to work with ethnic armed organizations who have signed the national ceasefire agreement because they manage large areas of forest. If REDD+ implementation is to be successful, they need to be on board, along with other ethnic groups, local communities and policymakers.
“Right now, Myanmar’s SIS is under development and we are trying to get approval from higher authorities to come up with an operationalization plan,” says Ngwe Thee, Deputy Director, Forest Department. “Our country is in transition to the democratic process. This means we are trying to improve our governance and transparency. So stakeholder engagement is important. We are trying to reform our policy. A milestone development took place in 2016 when we adopted the National Land Use policy. This recognizes the customary right of ethnic minorities to lands. In developing a SIS for REDD+, we can contribute to the implementation of our nationwide policies and laws.”
At the session, Myanmar was able to learn about Viet Nam’s advances, having an established SIS and database. “We are in the beginning of the development of our SIS,” says Thee. “That means we need to establish a website and share information. We have similar challenges to Cambodia and Viet Nam, like data sharing between different institutions. I really appreciate that Viet Nam and Cambodia have already established their SIS and SOI [Summary of Information on safeguards]. As you know, the SIS is a living document and still needs to be improved, so we need to learn from each other.”
For more information on safeguards and SIS:
Watch the video interview from this exchange: Viet Nam (1/2)
Watch the video interview from this exchange: Viet Nam (2/2)
Watch the video interview from this exchange: Cambodia
Watch the video interview from this exchange: Myanmar
Read about lessons learned on SIS operations in Latin American countries
Visit the Safeguards Country Resources Hub to access safeguards materials by country
Read the UN-REDD brief ‘REDD+ Safeguards Information Systems: practical design considerations’