Summaries of Information: The Next Generation

Learnings from reporting on REDD+ safeguards

Progress on REDD+ summaries of safeguards information as of end December 2018

Are you involved in preparing REDD+ summaries of safeguards information? Here’s what you can learn from other countries:

a. Build on the strong points and pay attention to:

  • How the Cancun safeguards have been interpreted;

  • How the safeguards information system (SIS) was developed and will operate;

  • How the summary of information was produced.

b. Learn from the weak points and ensure you:

  • Outline important environmental and social risks and benefits associated with REDD+;

  • Define what ‘addressing’ and ‘respecting’ safeguards mean;

  • Present information on institutional arrangements to address and respect safeguards.

Summaries of safeguards information are a key requirement for REDD+ results-based payments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The submission of summaries of information provides REDD+ countries with an opportunity to demonstrate how all the ‘Cancun’ safeguards were addressed and respected, as well as report on challenges or gaps, and plans of action to improve safeguards processes. It can also promote confidence among different stakeholders including local people, civil society, donors and the international community by showing a transparent, participative and effective implementation of REDD+ actions.

At the end of 2018, six countries had already submitted their first summaries of information to the Convention: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Malaysia, and Mexico. Two of them, Brazil and Colombia, submitted their second summaries of information within the past year. Other countries have started working on their first summary reports on safeguards. According to the UNFCCC decisions, countries undertaking REDD+ activities should provide summaries of information periodically; also the most recent of these needs to be provided before a country can receive results-based payments.

Key learnings

UN Environment’s REDD+ safeguards team looked across the first set of summaries of information and emerging second-generation summaries, to consolidate key learnings.

Among the positive developments, it is worth highlighting the incorporation of information on:

a. How the Cancun safeguards have been clarified or interpreted according to the country context. Countries included this information as narrative text that clarified terms or presented disaggregated elements, textboxes or tables with a description under each safeguard. National interpretation of the Cancun safeguards responds to UNFCCC guidance for summaries of information. It can also guide how information in the SIS is structured.

b. How the SIS was developed and how it will operate, including information about the system’s design (objectives, information content, structure and sources), and institutional arrangements for its management and operation. A national-level SIS is a safeguard requirement for results-based payments under the UNFCCC and GCF. Information on the SIS can engender domestic and international confidence in a country’s safeguards processes.

c. How the summary of information itself was produced. Details on methodology and stakeholder engagement and feedback received from different institutions for the elaboration of the safeguards summary report. This information responds to UNFCCC guidance on transparent processes and helps raise confidence that stakeholders were adequately engaged.

On the other hand, there are some common areas for improvement to consider:

a. Outlining the most important environmental and social risks and benefits associated with REDD+ policies and measures. More information could be included on the results of the risks and benefits assessments of REDD+ actions, and the measures determined to mitigate or avoid them. Such assessments can inform design improvements of REDD+ policies and measures comprising national strategies or action plans. Further details could be provided on the nature, scale and importance of non-carbon benefits identified and prioritised, together with actions planned to enhance these benefits throughout REDD+ implementation.

b. Defining clearly what ‘addressing’ and ‘respecting’ safeguards mean for each country. These terms are not defined by the UNFCCC, yet the purpose of summaries of information is to present information on how safeguards were addressed and respected. It is important to explain what these terms mean before attempting to report on the progress on safeguards implementation. These definitions can guide future actions for promoting and applying the safeguards, and inform the structure and contents of summaries of information and the SIS.

c. Presenting information on key institutional arrangements to address and respect safeguards. More information on the roles, responsibilities and processes for coordinating and implementing actions to address, respect and report on safeguards can help ensure these arrangements are transparent. To date, focus has been on the what (aspects of national legal frameworks that are relevant for safeguards); but less so on the how (mandates and procedures for implementing safeguards processes).

To access results-based payments for REDD+ under the GCF, summaries of information will be assessed for the quality of their information on how all the Cancun safeguards have been addressed and respected. Information on the nature, scale and importance of non-carbon benefits could also yield a price premium under the GCF pilot programme. Drawing on the experiences of other countries that produced these summaries of information can provide a valuable shortcut to inform on safeguards. However, it’s important to keep in mind that gradual improvements in safeguards performance are expected from one summary of information to the next as concrete lessons emerge.

For more information on REDD+ safeguards information systems:

About the authors

Victoria Suarez is a Safeguards Specialist for UN Environment. She can be reached at

UN Environment’s Steve Swan coordinates safeguards activities on the UN-REDD Programme and directly supports countries in meeting their safeguards commitments. He can be reached at

Judith Walcott is a Safeguards and Multiple Benefits Specialist in Latin America and the Caribbean for UN Environment. She can be reached at

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This resource is made possible through support from Denmark, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the European Union.


© 2019 UN-REDD Programme.  All images used courtesy of license holder or through Creative Commons license.

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