Cross River State, with more than 50% of Nigeria’s remaining tropical high forests, has been the focus of REDD+ activity in the country. Within the context of the National REDD+ Readiness Programme, a recent priority for Cross River has been safeguards. UN-REDD Programme Safeguards Coordinator Steve Swan speaks with Edu Effiom, Chairman of the National Safeguards Working Group, to learn about their experiences engaging in a multi-stakeholder process to meet international requirements on REDD+ safeguards.
Photo: Community women, Obanliku, Cross River State, Nigeria Source: Linus Mbu Ita, Nigerian REDD team
Steve: Very briefly, can you give an overview of the steps taken in Cross River to safeguard both nature and society in the context of REDD+? Edu: Over the past year or so, we have taken five key steps as part of our approach to REDD+ safeguards. Firstly, we set up a multi-stakeholder National Safeguard Working Group. This working group’s first task was to identify the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation (the problems), together with the possible policies and measures (the solutions) to mitigate the underlying causes of these drivers, at both state and national levels. Once we had an idea of the potential REDD+ polices and measures for the country and Cross River, the working group then set about analyzing, in depth, the possible environmental and social risks and benefits of the highest priority REDD+ actions. The next step was to review the relevant existing national polices, laws and regulations that could be used to minimize the identified risks and enhance the anticipated benefits. The most recent step has been to develop safeguards principles and criteria, at the state level, which will help us with a number of things, first and foremost being to mainstream environmental and social concerns into the refinement of REDD+ policies and measures that will go into the Nigerian and Cross River State REDD+ strategies.
Steve: That is an impressive and intense body of work on safeguards! Can you explain how these activities in Cross River State contribute to meeting Nigeria’s international commitments on REDD+ safeguards? Edu: By following the provisions of the seven safeguards for REDD+ agreed under the international climate change convention, in both in the risk/benefit analyses and the principles and criteria development, we have identified some the key safeguards issues relevant to Nigeria. Having identified these issues, we can incorporate them into the design of our polices and measures, not just to reduce emissions from forestry and land use, but also to achieve the non-carbon benefits, such as ensuring the rights of local communities are respected and their livelihoods are protected.
Steve: Right now you are concluding both national and state-level REDD+ strategy processes, how does the safeguards work link with these strategies? Edu: The safeguards principles and criteria, mentioned above have been used to assess the strategic objectives of both strategies, to identify their environmental and social potential, as well as that for reducing emissions. The criteria were also applied to the proposed policies and measures, under each of these strategic objectives, to mainstream environmental and social considerations into their design.
Steve: What have been some of the main challenges in the safeguards work, and what key lessons can you share with other countries, just getting started on safeguards? Edu: I think our main challenge was reaching a common understanding among the working group members of how the seven UNFCCC safeguards apply in the Nigerian and Cross River State context. Of course, there is never as much time, funding and incentives, to engage all the different stakeholders, as we’d like. Our success can largely be credited to the commitment of the safeguards working group. In coordinating the safeguard work, state-level members worked very closely with their national counterparts, noticeably the National Coordinator of the Nigerian REDD+ Programme, for advice and support. The working group also enjoyed the keen political commitment and support of the Honorable Commissioner for Climate Change and Forestry in Cross River State.
Steve: So, a formal multi-stakeholder body to coordinate the safeguards process, and securing political will, might be the top take-home messages for other countries? But, what’s next for REDD+ safeguards in Nigeria and Cross River State? Edu: We have two immediate priorities going forward into 2017. Firstly, at the national level, to develop a roadmap for the design of a safeguards information system, the key safeguards requirement under the climate change convention. Secondly, in Cross River State, we’ll be looking to see how we can contribute to ongoing national efforts to better address and respect safeguards through policy reform actions identified during the analytical work done this year. Nigeria’s and Cross River State’s shared aspiration for safeguard, as we transition from readiness to REDD+ implementation, is to ensure that benefits are maximized for all stakeholders, especially local communities, and reduce risks as much as possible.
Dr. Edu Effiom serves as Cross River State’s REDD+ Coordinator within the Ministry of Climate Change and Forestry
UN Environment’s Steve Swan coordinates the global safeguards activities of the UN-REDD Programme, as well as directly supporting countries on all-things safeguards.