Photo Credit: Ye Lwin
There’s a right way to conserve and sustainably manage forests, and there’s a wrong way! How to tell the difference? The “right” approach involves ensuring that the rights of local stakeholders are addressed and respected. The design of the REDD+ mechanism under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change emphasized that countries have to adopt this “rights-based approach”, with several of the Cancun Safeguards for REDD+ focused on the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.
One of these rights is the right to “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” (FPIC). That stakeholders have the right to FPIC should be obvious, yet in many countries, Myanmar included, when it comes to decisions affecting land and forests, this right has often been ignored.
Under REDD+, it cannot be ignored. But how can this right be addressed and respected in practice? If there is a proposal to build a new factory that will affect the land and resources of communities in the immediate neighourhood, it is quite easy to design a process to ensure that FPIC is secured (or not) from the affected communities. But when you think about policies and measures that may affect all the forests in the country, the scale of the challenge is daunting.
For this reason, the UN-REDD Programme is proposing to undertake a pilot exercise in Mawlamyaing District, Mon State, to learn lessons about what works and what doesn’t, which can then be integrated into guidelines that will apply at the national level. A consultation in March generated initial ideas for this pilot exercise. For example:
- Some REDD+ actions involve changes to national policies. Consent to these “national-level” policy changes is implied through active participation of ethnic organizations in good faith consultations undertaken with a view to reaching agreement in the validation phase of the National REDD+ Strategy.
- However, for those policies and measures that will be implemented on the ground, a process to ensure that affected communities have the opportunity to provide or withhold their FPIC is still required.
- Since the FPIC process needs to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice, but also needs to be practical, organizing consultations at the level of village tracts may be the best approach.
- Gender equality is essential (whilst remembering that there are also other minorities (e.g., youth, disabled) to be considered. Most villages have women’s association/group and a youth group – these should be utilized to ensure equality. There are also women and youth leaders in religious organizations – these are very influential
These issues and many others identified during the consultation will be integrated into the pilot exercise, which is expected to be completed by the end of July. A future REDD+ Knowledge issue will summarize the lessons learned.