The UNFCCC has agreed a set of REDD+ safeguards to realise the benefits, and mitigate the social and environmental risks, that could arise from implementing REDD+. Countries undertaking REDD+ are requested to provide information on how these safeguards are being 'addressed and respected', which may present a significant challenge as the relevant information will need to be gathered from multiple stakeholder groups. This paper argues that some of these stakeholder groups – specifically indigenous and local communities living in or directly dependent upon forests – can often offer an important source of knowledge and capacity. This can support data gathering for safeguard information needs, especially in places where existing monitoring systems cannot do so comprehensively. Their involvement is important for protecting their rights, and critical for minimising the risk that REDD+, or the safeguards, could fail to meet their objectives.
The key insights found in the paper are:
- Information collected by forest communities will be helpful, and in some cases critical, for efforts to objectively describe whether the UNFCCC REDD+ safeguards have been ‘respected’.
- A lack of forest community involvement in gathering information on safeguards could pose risks to their implementation, to the success of REDD+ activities and incentives, and to the effective implementation of other major international conventions and agreements.
- Information collected by forest communities is important because forest communities are central to the aims and realisation of the REDD+ safeguards, and often well-positioned to make relevant observations within forest lands.
- Community information on a small number of indicators, consolidated at a national scale, can be useful for assessing the effectiveness of all of the safeguards.
- Information gathering by adequately trained communities can be as cost effective and accurate as professional information gathering, allowing decision-makers under budget and capacity constraints to build confidently on existing community-based information systems.
- In order to receive and respond to community-collected information, REDD+ safeguard information systems will need to incorporate communication channels that communities can access easily.