A Safeguards Information System (SIS) is “a tool or database that collects and/or provides country-level information on how safeguards are being addressed and respected by forest carbon projects” (UN-REDD, 2020), and is one of the key REDD+ safeguards requirements under the UNFCCC to access Results-based Payments (RBPs).
A growing number of countries around the world have developed their SIS as part of their REDD+ journey, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Indonesia, Liberia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Viet Nam and others. These countries are now having to ensure that these systems operate well, and that information is updated regularly – which, coming from various sectors such as forestry and social welfare to biodiversity conservation, remains challenging.
Viet Nam is recognised as a REDD+ pioneer country (adopted in 2009) and among the early participants in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the UN-REDD Programme. It was also one of the first countries in the world to finalise its SIS in late 2018.
Viet Nam’s SIS was developed and launched in 2018, following numerous preparatory steps carried out with stakeholders across the country including: determining the goals and scope of Viet Nam’s safeguards approach; developing a national clarification of the safeguards; and assessing safeguards-relevant governance arrangements, such as policies, laws and regulations. Viet Nam’s SIS draws on data from a range of sources: policy and legal documents; monitoring reports from forest sector and REDD+ programs; databases such as the national Forest Resources Monitoring System (FRMS); and statistical data from the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs and the General Statistics Office, among others.
Viet Nam has made significant advances in REDD+ implementation in recent years and even started an update of its SIS in 2022. With support from the UN-REDD project, ‘’Sustainable Forest Trade in the Lower Mekong Region’’ (SFT-LMR), the process of updating the SIS began with a review of the country’s first iteration of its SIS – examining availability of new information and whether the parameters or indicators were still appropriate.
Following restructuring of government agencies responsible for the forest sector and REDD+, the SIS database, administered by Viet Nam’s Forest Protection Department (FDP), was also transferred to a new website (https://sis.kiemlam.org.vn/).
In 2023, crucial updates were made to SIS, including refining its parameters and indicators to reflect new REDD+ developments in the country, and updating the information provided. The project also worked with FPD staff to build technical knowledge and capacity to maintain the server, administer the website and update information. The first round of updates was completed in 2023, with plans of additional updates and consultations on new safeguards information to be implemented in 2024.
The SIS is a crucial tool, enabling countries to promote the sustainability of REDD+, and to access REDD+ finance. Viet Nam’s experiences, challenges, and lessons learned can inform development and implementation of SIS in other countries:
- The operation of SIS requires a combination of different kinds of knowledge and expertise, including a strong understanding of REDD+ initiatives and safeguards approaches in a country, as well as information management and IT expertise. A single agency may not have all the expertise required but developing institutional arrangements with coherent mandates could ensure cooperation among different agencies in operating and maintaining the SIS.
- The SIS requires information coming from a range of different sources, and usually from multiple sectors. However, these sources of information will change over time. There is no simple solution to accessing and compiling these data but a detailed assessment of data availability against each indicator and a platform or mechanisms for engaging different sectors and organizations as data providers can help to address this challenge.
- Ongoing stakeholder participation is needed for effective operation and update of the SIS. Stakeholders should be actively involved in reviewing and validating safeguards information. This can be achieved through a mechanism for review of SIS data (such as a working group) and/or through stakeholder input to Summaries of Information, but such arrangements need to be clear, resourced and repeated whenever the information is updated.