Are community rights being upheld in REDD+ safeguards processes and landscapes in East Kalimantan?

Examining the implementation of safeguards in Indonesia
A villager canoeing. Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Kate Evans/CIFOR

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This blog presents preliminary findings of our research on REDD+ safeguards in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province. The results were validated with key REDD+ stakeholders in East Kalimantan in June 2022.

Early criticism of the potential impact of REDD+ (the UNFCCC’s mechanism to reduce deforestation and forest degradation) on Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and local communities (LCs) has led to the development of a suite of ‘social safeguards’. These have been designed and conceptualized in various ways, and range from serving as barriers against potentially harmful impacts (‘do no harm’) to mechanisms that could catalyse improved well-being and livelihoods for IPs and LCs and their territories (‘do better’).

Under the Center for International Forestry Research – World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF)’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS-REDD+), we are researching the design and implementation of REDD+ safeguards in Indonesia, Peru, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). At the national level, we reviewed legal documents and interviewed specialists to understand the state of the recognition and protection of the rights of customary groups and local communities in the context of REDD+.

At the sub-national level, we are combining our deep engagement with REDD+ in Indonesia with an exhaustive literature review and interviews with actors with experience with safeguards – including NGOs, government actors, and university-based researchers – as well as representative groups affected by them. This study includes the national Safeguard Information System (SIS) and the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) initiative in East Kalimantan.

Our goal is to understand how safeguards (refers to the Cancun safeguards on IPs and LCs rights and its participation on REDD+) have been implemented, examine barriers to their implementation, and provide lessons to address those barriers.

Safeguards in East Kalimantan

East Kalimantan is one of Indonesia’s most experienced provinces in terms of REDD+ safeguards. Indonesia started its official ‘interpretation process’ of the Cancun Safeguards by developing its SIS  in 2011. SIS REDD+ is an important tool to document the FCPF’s safeguards implementation. There has been close coordination between the provincial government and the national government on SIS REDD+, specifically on technical aspects related to safeguard reporting. However, the FCPF safeguard standard requires strict compliance over aspects related to IPs and LCs rights, and this will need to go beyond what is required from SIS REDD+, as it results from the articulation of the Cancun safeguards. A year later, the first national safeguard was created, namely the PRISAI (Prinsip, Kriteria, Indicator Safeguard REDD+ Indonesia); both SIS and PRISAI were initially disseminated and trialled in East Kalimantan. In parallel, East Kalimantan developed its own social and environmental standards for REDD+ in 2012, with criteria and indicators that responded to the provincial context.

More recently, activities in East Kalimantan under the FCPF were compelled to align with the World Bank’s safeguarding guidelines to be eligible to receive results-based payments. East Kalimantan is committed to reducing CO2 equivalent emissions by 22 metric tons by 2024, for results-based payments totalling USD110 million – of which USD20.9 million has already been received by the Government of Indonesia.

Local NGOs, in coordination with the Project Management Unit (PMU), played a crucial role in supporting safeguard implementation in the province, and furthering East Kalimantan’s compliance with the World Bank’s safeguards requirements.

For instance, our research found that free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) workshops were carried out in 99 out of 150 targeted villages in early 2022. We also found that an integrated feedback grievance and emission reduction performance benefits mechanism system has been established, and reports from existing grievance and performance benefits portals from land-based government agencies will also be monitored.

A benefit sharing mechanism has also been developed: importantly, it ensures that both recognized and unrecognized communities access benefits from REDD+. East Kalimantan has a legal base in place for recognition of adat communities. Through a provincial regulation 1/2015, adat communities’ legal rights are recognized and protected, further becoming a legal precedent for customary communities to pursue their legal customary forest rights. There are also various schemes that are formulated under social forestry policy to provide customary and local communities legal rights to the forest. Unlike customary forests, which give the ownership rights to the recipients, others are contract-based schemes of 35 years, with possible extension in the future. This is a positive development, as unrecognized adat communities – those that have yet to receive legal recognition for their customary identity and forest territories – tend to be excluded from these initiatives. Under the mechanism, the intermediary bodies, selected by the Indonesian Environment Fund (BPDLH) of the Ministry of Finance, distribute benefits and/or incentives from the FCPF to the village government and community groups, including recognized adat groups. Mr Pathur Rachman As’ad, the chief of the PMU mentioned that “the adat community group who do not yet legally recognized would be also received benefits of the emission reduction of FCPF’s program through their village government”.

From ideas to implementation

Despite laudable progress on safeguarding in some arenas and landscapes, we also found that knowledge on their design and implementation was not uniform. This was particularly apparent when we presented our early analysis of the review and interviews in a workshop with REDD+ stakeholders in Samarinda, East Kalimantan’s capital, on June 16th 2022. During discussions, participants held different perceptions of how the safeguards’ design and implementation processes had played out: in their interventions, some referred to reports while others referred to on-the-ground implementation. Only those who had engaged directly – for instance, who had participated in the organization of FPIC processes or in the preparation of safeguards documents – were able to understand and explain the process. This suggests that a clearer strategy could support the communication process for clearer transparency and understanding of safeguards.

In general, while prior discussions had emphasized the existing systems and formal documents produced to date, it was found that reflection on the implementation of those systems and plans had not yet taken place. Ali Suhardiman, a scientist at the University of Mulawarman, reminded attendees that “[Our] focus should now shift toward how to move forward, from ideas and systems to real innovation on the ground.” Further, the national-level respondent added to the importance of capacity building for implementers to understand policy and gaps of safeguards implementation between sectors. It was also noted that mainstreaming gender in the FCPF program is also important; from here, the GCS-REDD+ project will further analyse how gender is mainstreamed in safeguards implementation.

From beneficiaries to partners

According to Juan Pablo Sarmiento, a CIFOR-ICRAF scientist, the research project as a whole “aims to understand how REDD+ safeguards can support a rights-based transformation and generate more equitable engagements with forest-based communities as rights-holders and partners – and how such an approach can be implemented.”

The experience in East Kalimantan – where unrecognized communities are included in the benefit sharing mechanism for REDD+ – reveals the potential impact that standards may have, given that rights aspects in safeguards are partially aligned with Indonesia laws and public policy. Further analysis from East Kalimantan will allow us to synthesize lessons to support a rights-based REDD+.

This research is part of CIFOR-ICRAF’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+. The funding partners that have supported this research include the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad, Grant No. QZA-21/0124), International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU, Grant No. 20_III_108), and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (CRPFTA) with financial support from the CGIAR Fund Donors.

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Topic(s) :   Climate change Community forestry