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What should be the role of civil society in national Redd+ processes?

New report on lessons learned in the process of engaging and structuring civil society in the national REDD+ Process in DR Congo.

Congolese village women being consulted on the priorities for local communities and indigenous peoples in the national REDD+ process. Inongo district, Mai-Ndombe province. Photo: Marine Gauthier

A report published jointly this week by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) makes  concrete recommendations for civil society on how to actively and effectively participate and engage in the REDD+ process.

The report follows the restructuring process from 2009-2015 of the civil society platform on REDD+ and Climate (Groupe de Travail Climat REDD+ Rénové - GTCRR) in DRC. Last weekend, end of October 2018, GTCRR held their general assembly in Kinshasa. 

The GTCRR, which was founded in 2009, represents 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 ensuring 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. The GTCRR is also responsible for the continuous advocacy on structural reforms, including the land tenure reform and the 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,” said Josep Garí, UNDP Senior Policy Advisor for Sustainable Development.

Responding to civil society’ s willingness and enthusiasm to be a more engaged actor in the REDD+ process, UNDP and RFN jointly agreed to closely collaborate with civil society, local communities and indigenous peoples to support the restructuring of the GTCR. As a result, in 2015, a new Reformed GTCR was born, which was not only more effective on a national level but also more firmly established in the provinces and therefore closely linked to forest-dependent communities. 

The lessons outlined below that have emerged from the GTCRR restructuration process are relevant to the broader REDD+ agenda at the country, regional and global levels.

1. Government Level: Restructuring of the civil society arrangements and modus operandi represents a unique opportunity to showcase 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 level: 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 specifically were pillars in the implementation of the participative approach which will continue to inspire the civil society platform’s work. The challenging context in the DR Congo with a weak infrastructure, and limited access to knowledge and information justifies the need for a strong role of civil society. “Over the course of two years of consultations in the provinces with the 230 signatories of the platform, and with the guidance of national and international experts, we outlined a common vision and a plan for a smooth communication system for the platform,” said GTCRR’s national coordinator Julien Kabalako. 

Through the restructuring process members of Congolese civil society agreed to shared values and a joint vision for REDD+: 

"The objective of the Reformed Climate Working Group 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) level: “the goal is to offer long-term targeted support– all the while guaranteeing independence, stabilization and good civil society management,” says Marine Gauthier, author of the report and UNDP consultant responsible for the coordination of the restructuration process. 

The process highlighted key factors needed 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 UN-REDD) and RFN have provided direct and continuous technical expertise, helped diversify the GTCRR’s support systems and opened up new avenues to explore within the GTCRR.
  • Setting up deadlines and participation mechanisms adapted to context, goals and diversity of civil society, such as Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) – a key principle of any REDD+ programme based on the enforcement of rights – as that could have an impact on the livelihood of aboriginal communities. The technical and financial partners have a key role to play in this process, as guarantors of the principles of participation and representativeness and by encouraging civil society to achieve better quality results. During the restructuring process, UNDP and RFN promoted transparent and constructive dialogue amongst partners and developed a consultation guide on REDD+ processes.

Currently, GTCRR is promoting increased responsibility for the provinces, for the critical follow-up of local REDD+ programmes and advocacy for participation and rights. The GTCRR has set up a provincial coordination unit to handle the local/national ties and capitalize on its members’ experience in the field. 

Recommendations moving forward are related to 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," says 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+ stakeholder and ensure that good governance and participation principles are the foundations of the REDD+ process both at national and international level", Eggen added.

The report “La  société  civile  rassemblée  pour  la  REDD+  en  République  démocratique  du  Congo. Analyse  et  leçons  apprises  du  processus  d’engagement  et  de  structuration  de  la  société  civile  et  des  peuples  autochtones  dans  le  processus  REDD+  national  (2009-2015)“ (French only) is available for download here.