Lessons learned in the process of engaging and structuring civil society participation in the nation
Three years after the restructuring of the Reformed Climate Working Group on REDD+ (or GTCRR, by its French acronym), which serves as the national platform for civil society in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), UNDP and the Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) have jointly published a report that highlights key lessons and proposes recommendations on how civil society can effectively participate and engage in the REDD+ process.
The GTCR, founded in 2009, represents DRC’s local communities and indigenous peoples in the REDD+ process and in national and international negotiations surrounding REDD+ issues. The civil society platform has contributed to the development of the Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) and ensured that key provisions for the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples in the National REDD+ Framework Strategy are well integrated.
“The GTCRR was also influential in climate negotiations at an international level, and its participation was critical for the advocacy carried out by civil society organizations and indigenous peoples," said Josep Garí, UNDP Senior Policy Advisor for Sustainable Development. "The GTCRR is also responsible for the continuous advocacy on structural reforms, including land tenure reform and land-use planning reform. An informed and committed civil society with the means and the ability to create and maintain a dynamic link between decision-makers and local communities is paramount in establishing and implementing fair and efficient policies.”
Responding to civil society’s willingness to be more engaged in the REDD+ process, UNDP and RFN agreed to collaborate closely with civil society, local communities and indigenous peoples to support the restructuring of the GTCR. As a result, in 2015, a Reformed GTCR was born, which was not only more effective on a national level, but also more firmly-established in the provinces and, therefore, more closely linked to forest-dependent communities.
Below are the key lessons that have emerged from the GTCRR restructuration process, which are relevant to the broader REDD+ agenda at the global, national and regional levels:
1. Government – Restructuring of the civil society arrangements and modus operandi represents a unique opportunity to showcase the REDD+ process on a national scale, whilst ensuring deeper commitment from local actors. The benefits derived from a thorough restructuring process can grant the national REDD+ process greater legitimacy.
2. Civil Society - Over the course of the restructuring process, particular attention was paid to the participation of women, indigenous peoples, and young people. Gender equality and youth engagement were pillars in the implementation of the participatory approach that inspires the work of the civil society platform. The challenging context in the DRC with weak infrastructure and limited access to knowledge and information justifies the need for a strong role by civil society.
“After two years of consultations in the provinces with the 230 signatories, and with the guidance of national and international experts, we spent time outlining a common vision to establish a smooth communication system for the platform,” said GTCRR’s National Coordinator Julien Kabalako.
Through the restructuring process, members of the civil society agreed to shared values and a joint vision for REDD+. "The objective of the Reformed Climate Working Group on REDD+ is to work hard to improve – by 2050 – the living conditions and the effective participation of women, young people, local communities and indigenous Pygmy peoples through sustainable management of forest ecosystems, which in turn contributes to global climate balance."
3. Technical and Financial Partners (TFP) - “The goal is to offer long-term targeted support– all the while guaranteeing independence, stabilization and good civil society management,” said Marine Gauthier, author of the report and a UNDP consultant who is responsible for the coordination of the restructuration process.
The process highlighted several key factors required for a successful and effective restructuring process:
Guaranteed independence of the platform through the diversification, sustainability and coordination of financing sources: The national, international and local advocacy actions carried out through the civil society platform requires long-term technical support, which is a key factor for stability. UNDP (a member of the UN-REDD Programme) and RFN have provided direct and continuous technical expertise, helped diversify the GTCRR’s support systems and opened new avenues to explore within the GTCRR.
Setting-up deadlines and participation mechanisms adapted to the context, goals and diversity of civil society. Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is a key principle of any REDD+ programme based on the enforcement of rights that could have an impact on the livelihood of indigenous communities. Technical and financial partners have a key role to play in this process, as guarantors of the principles of participation and representation and by encouraging civil society to achieve better results. During the restructuring process, UNDP and RFN promoted transparent and constructive dialogue among partners and developed a consultation guide on the REDD+ process.
Currently, GTCRR is adopting a widely-decentralized approach by promoting increased responsibility for the provinces, including the territories. To support decentralization, GTCRR has set up a provincial coordination unit to handle the local/national ties and capitalize on its members’ experiences in the field.
Looking ahead, recommendations are related to the inclusion of civil society organizations outside of the forest sector. "UNDP and RFN have had the privilege of being the international partners providing guidance and support to civil society organizations engaged in REDD+ that have now become members of GTCRR," said RFN Director Øyvind Eggen. "We were glad to be a part of this process. We will be there in the future to make sure civil society can play its role efficiently as REDD+ stakeholders and to ensure that good governance and participation principles are the foundations of the REDD+ process at both the national and international level."
The report, titled "Civil Society Gathered for the REDD+ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – Analysis and Lessons Learned in the Process of Engaging and Structuring Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples in the National REDD+ Process (2009-2015)" is available for download here.
Ela Ionescu, UNDP Knowledge Management Specialist for REDD+
As a Knowledge Management Specialist for REDD+, Ela provides advice to REDD+ countries on knowledge management, capacity building and communications.