From ‘do no harm’ to ‘do better’: Early lessons from implementing REDD+ safeguards in Indonesia

Multi-stakeholder workshop on making forest initiatives work for communities - ecosystems.
Landscape, Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR-ICRAF

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Indonesia, a REDD+ ‘early mover’, is implementing two results-based payments programmes in the provinces of East Kalimantan and Jambi. The former involves an Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement of USD 110 million (IDR1.6 trillion), of which USD 20.9 million (IDR320 billion) has already been received by the Government of Indonesia.

Progress towards results-based payments has led actors at the global, national, and subnational levels to pay close attention to how such initiatives might impact Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and local communities (LCs) and the landscapes they steward.

“In many places, the land that is under the control of local communities or Indigenous Peoples has less deforestation and degradation than the land that is outside of their control. Yet at the same time, there are elements of REDD+ that could impact negatively on these communities” said Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) Chief Operating Officer Robert Nasi in his opening remarks at a multi-stakeholder workshop on the interpretation and implementation of REDD+ safeguards in Indonesia. The workshop, organised under CIFOR-ICRAF’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS REDD), was hosted on 16 May 2023.

Between concepts and practice

To address this challenge, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) advocates that REDD+ countries apply social and environmental safeguards to their implementation processes. If safeguards are geared to support the self-determination and land and resource tenure rights of IPs and LCs, they can support more effective REDD+ results, said CIFOR-ICRAF scientist Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti.

“Is the role of safeguards about mitigating impacts, about ‘doing no harm’, or about ‘doing better’?” he said. “Considering the evidence about how community environmental management practices under clear land and resource tenure regimes can support the effectiveness of REDD+, how can we best recognize and address the challenges to mainstreaming that understanding into how initiatives are designed and implemented?”

Honing in on the Indonesian context, CIFOR-ICRAF researcher Nining Liswanti introduced preliminary findings from her work examining the implementation of REDD+ social safeguards in East Kalimantan and Jambi. She praised local government and NGO actors for the multi-stakeholder coordination that has characterised the East Kalimantan process so far – and its benefits for implementation at the local level. This coordination process drove East Kalimantan’s effort towards complying with the World Bank’s safeguards.

However, Liswanti also noted that staff rotation at the provincial government level can impede the development of the necessary capacities to implement and monitor compliance with safeguards. Her interviews with key REDD+ actors also revealed that grievance mechanisms need to be improved. This could be done by integrating the province’s efforts with the national monitoring system, and providing technical assistance to ensure communities understand how to access and use it. She also cited the need to boost the recognition of community rights, and to involve gender specialists to support gender justice beyond nominal participation – such as by facilitating meaningful engagement for women and youth, and ensuring women’s equitable access to benefits.

In his presentation, Franky Zamzani, the Deputy Director for Monitoring of Mitigation Action at Indonesia’s Ministry for Environment and Forestry, noted that safeguards frameworks must be designed to be easily understood and implemented. He noted the importance of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) processes and highlighted the need for transparent and flexible information systems to track safeguard implementation. According to Zamzani, safeguard implementation in Indonesia has exceeded the stipulations of the Cancun safeguards, but current data is still limited to East Kalimantan and Jambi, and must be updated with implementation data from other provinces.

The multi-stakeholder workshop on the interpretation and implementation of REDD+ safeguards in Indonesia organised under CIFOR-ICRAF’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS REDD), hosted on 16 May 2023. Photo by Nining Liswanti/CIFOR-ICRAF

The multi-stakeholder workshop on the interpretation and implementation of REDD+ safeguards in Indonesia organised under CIFOR-ICRAF’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS REDD), hosted on 16 May 2023. Photo by Nining Liswanti/CIFOR-ICRAF

Perspectives from Indonesian stakeholders

Anggalia Putri from MADANI Berkelanjutan – an Indonesian NGO – commented on the challenges of monitoring compliance with safeguards. She said that the Safeguards Implementation Assessment Tool still needs a qualitative component to take it beyond being a “checklist”, and noted the need for improved FPIC implementation, with clear yet adaptive guidance to adapt to community needs and culture.

Providing a national-level perspective, Niken Sakuntaladewi – from Indonesia’s National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) – explained that it had taken time to understand and then implement REDD+ safeguards. She also noted the high implementation costs, including for the development of guidelines and FPIC processes. Citra Siagian – a social development analyst at the World Bank – also shared implementation challenges, such as the cost of applying safeguards in the remote areas that make up much of Kalimantan.

Documentation was also raised as a considerable challenge. Bambang Trisasongko Adi, a senior advisor at environmental consultancy Hatfield Indonesia, said that tracking information in ways that make sense to communities – while meeting the needs of donors and governments – can be difficult.

Participants also sought commitment to more ambitious safeguards. Gamma Galudra of The Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) noted that Indonesia’s social safeguards focus largely on risk mitigation rather than on ‘doing better’, which would need improved recognition of and respect for community rights.

Closing the forum, Moira Moeliono, a Senior Associate at CIFOR-ICRAF, reminded participants that safeguards should be budgeted in any implementation strategy and that monitoring should be outcome-focused, because “good intentions do not always yield good outcomes.” As projects develop and people become more aware of their rights, discussions like this will need to keep pace, she observed.

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, the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety, and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (CRP-FTA) with financial support from the CGIAR Fund Donors. This article and the linked info sheets were funded by the Gender, Equity, and Wellbeing (GEW) program at CIFOR-ICRAF.

For more information on this topic, please contact Nining Liswanti at

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