REDD+ for who?

REDD+ is an initiative borne out of the Bali Action Plan, under the mitigation section, which seeks countries to reduce emissions from forest degradation and deforestation on top of “fostering conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.” REDD+ projects are funded by the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and the UN-REDD Program.

Reducing deforestation and forest degradation is seen as one of the most effective ways to battle emission as they are the second leading cause of global warming. Hindering deforestation is a significant source of avoiding carbon emissions as it prevents large stocks of carbon from being released over a short period of time, whereas afforestation activities is such that it absorbs small stocks of carbon over longer time periods.

This initiative, along with sustainable forest management helps to preserve water resources and prevent flooding, reduces run-offs, controls soil erosion, reduces silver siltation, protects fisheries and investment in hydropower facilities, among others, on top of mitigating climate change.

The REDD+ initiative is intended to bring benefits for developing countries, yet the initiative is such that it can also incur risks to the people and environment. For instance, natural forests may be converted or community displacement may lead to the loss of livelihoods.

The Cancun Safeguards are meant to address these risks and they were agreed to at COP16 in 2010. At COP17 and COP19, in Durban and Warsaw, respectively, these safeguards were adopted along with a safeguards information system as well as a provision of summaries on how all of the Cancun requirements are being addressed and respected throughout the REDD+ implementation. The REDD+ program provides tools and guidance that will enable parties to pursue a flexible country-specific safeguards approach that takes into account national circumstances, contexts and capacities, so that the safeguards requirement are fulfilled.

Indigenous people at COP23 (photo credit –

With this initiative set in place, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through degradation may be mitigated whilst at the same time ensuring the safeguards of indigenous people (IP) inhabiting these forests are upheld, right? Wrong. In a compilation study done by scientists Juan Pablo Sarmiento and Anne Larson, from the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the findings suggest that allegations have been made by IP against REDD+ implementations on the grounds of (i) Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) and (ii) the rights to territory and self-determination.

Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)

It is imperative that IP are involved in the REDD+ process, yet there are allegations that decision-making have been done prior to consultation with the local community, and in order to manipulate the expectations of those communities, information is withheld. Furthermore, even in countries where FPIC is upheld, it has been implemented on the basis of communication purposes rather than involving IP in the actual decision making without clear and strict guidelines.

To add to that, even if FPIC were to be implemented, such a framework cannot be fulfilled if IP communities within the forest are not recognised in the first place. Hence, in order to effectively implement FPIC, actions must be taken to secure the land rights of these minority groups.

Territory and Self-determination

According to Sunderland et al (2014), it is revealed that where land tenure is unclearly defined, REDD+ implementation takes place there, which is concerning considering that half of the world’s tropical forests are those belonging to IP, yet they are struggling to defend these rights. A study by Jacob et al. (2017) suggests that claim to disputed land by private and state actors are driven by the monetary incentives facilitated by REDD+.

Written by Syaqil


  • Rights abuse allegations in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation
  • What is REDD+? – Forest Carbon Partnership Facility
  • REDD+: conservation is not the deal at all – Forest Industries
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