Look who isn’t talking now: REDD+ information flows in Indonesia

A lack of information exchange and collaboration between stakeholders in REDD+.

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 REDD+, a global mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, has been adopted in Indonesia as an opportunity for improving forest governance. CIFOR/Tomas Munita

REDD+, a global mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, has been adopted in Indonesia as an opportunity for improving forest governance. CIFOR/Tomas Munita

BOGOR, Indonesia (28 May 2013) – The REDD+ policy process in Indonesia is not fulfilling its promise of greater participation and inclusiveness, says a new infobrief by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

This is despite the fact that, more than any other policy issue in Indonesia, REDD+ has attracted and involved a multitude of diverse actors outside the government, including NGOs, donors and the private sector.

REDD+, a global mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, has been adopted in Indonesia as an opportunity for improving forest governance.

“Given the amount of interest and participation that REDD+ has evoked among multiple stakeholders, it is disappointing to discover that there is a lack of information exchange and collaboration between them, which are vital for the effectiveness of REDD+,” said Moira Moeliono, CIFOR scientist and lead author of REDD+ policy networks in Indonesia.

By analyzing the relationships between and within groups of actors in the REDD+ policy network during the period between October 2010 and February 2012, the researchers found that information is exchanged mostly within organizations rather than between organizations. Where interorganizational communication does take place, it does so mostly between similar types of groups.

For example, donors and international NGOs communicate with each other, as do local civil society groups – but the results show a marked lack of collaboration between these groups and the private sector or the government agencies responsible for administering REDD+.

“Inclusiveness and participation in REDD+ policy making is part of a process of educating stakeholders – not merely an awareness-raising exercise but one that endeavors to explain REDD+ and its implications,” Moeliono said.

“We would hope that when individuals and groups have this deeper understanding of REDD+, they would then be more open to the compromises and the costs involved.”

All roads lead to the ministry

Of special interest, the study authors noted, is the reported pattern of information exchange with Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry, widely perceived as having the greatest influence over relevant decision making and a central role in knowledge sharing.

“Our surveys showed that more organizations declared they exchanged information with the Ministry of Forestry than the Ministry of Forestry claimed they did with others,” Moeliono said. “This finding may have emerged simply because large actors such as the ministry only reported major partners in the information flow. But it could also indicate a pattern of one-way communication, rather than reciprocity.”

Certainly, businesses that are willing to support climate change mitigation activities need more information and leadership from the government, argued a representative of the private sector who was interviewed for the study – of particular interest given that all stakeholder groups agreed that the private sector must be involved in REDD+ implementation and financing.

“All stakeholders need to be more transparent and more willing to collaborate, cooperate and coordinate with others,” Moeliono said.

“While each stakeholder group may require slightly different information, they can each provide different types of information.”

A more adaptive approach is needed, she added.

“Although there has been considerable consultation among a variety of stakeholders, workshops tend to be hosted and attended by similar types of organizations. Substantive issues are not being sufficiently addressed within a more inclusive and common platform.”

Plus ça change 

Given the Ministry of Forestry’s influence and authority, stakeholders indicate that it must lead the way toward change – yet there is little evidence it is doing so. The report cites as an example the ministry’s practice of treating all concession types the same way. Restoration and conservation concessions are subject to the same time-consuming processes and high transaction costs as timber concessions, thus deterring the environmentally sustainable practices that need to be encouraged.

The Indonesian government’s organizational culture may be preventing it from connecting with others in a collaborative, transparent and accountable way, the research suggests – although other actors are similarly stuck in existing practices.

“Our findings re-affirm that the decision-making process in Indonesia still has significant room to improve,” said CIFOR scientist Levania Santoso, one of the study’s co-authors.

Santoso also noted the need for the government to break down boundaries between sectors when making policies for REDD+, in order to prioritize the broader national interest over each ministry’s individual interests.

“Although government agencies have the legitimacy to formulate policy and move the REDD+ initiative forward, the process continues to be hindered by the agendas and interests of various government actors that may not necessarily be aligned with the goals of REDD+,” she said.

Different paths to the same end

CIFOR’s analysis also found that policy actors agree on basic REDD+ objectives, but remain divided over implementation and funding.

NGOs tend to favor public funding, whereas government agencies support a combination of schemes, including trust funds and private sector investments. Both groups agree that the private sector should be involved through offset programs or by mechanisms that reward large-scale industries for lowering emissions.

Nevertheless, most stakeholders perceive REDD+ as offering an efficient, affordable and fair way to mitigate climate change and provide incentives to improve forest governance.

Yet if the common objectives of REDD+ are to be achieved, attitudes, discourses and power relations have to be changed, the research suggests. And as a first step, stakeholders must change how they communicate and interact with each other.

“To work better together, we need to share more targeted information in a more targeted way,” Moeliono said.

For more information on issues discussed in this article, please contact Moira Moeliono.

This research is part of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+, which forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. It is supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, AusAid, the UK Department for International Development and the European Commission. 

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Topic(s) :   REDD+ Community forestry