A village sits behind a large hill which has been cleared of timber by slash and burn methods ready for agriculture, in north-eastern Myanmar. (Photo Courtesy jidanchaomian)

A village sits behind a large hill which has been cleared of timber by slash and burn methods ready for agriculture, in north-eastern Myanmar. (Photo Courtesy jidanchaomian)

by Teng Rithiny, the NGO Forum on Cambodia

“The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular indigenous peoples and local communities” is one of UNFCCC’s Cancun Safeguards. How should a national REDD+ process be designed to include relevant stakeholders, especially indigenous peoples (IP) and civil society organizations (CSO) which have limited engagement in the policy process?

Earlier this year, the UN-REDD Programme organized a regional meeting of sixteen IP and CSO representatives from the Asia-Pacific region to share experiences of how their countries have been approaching this issue [see video].  The current IP and CSO members of the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board and UN-REDD Programme country Executive Boards were given the opportunity to discuss challenges, lesson learned and opportunities to support the full and effective participation of IP and CSO stakeholders in national REDD+ processes. During the meeting, representatives from Myanmar shared how REDD+ is improving the culture of engagement between IP/CSO stakeholders and government representatives, as well as creating new mechanisms and opportunities for participation.

Following the regional meeting and Myanmar’s presentation of its Expression of Interest at the 14th meeting of the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board, a mission to the country was undertaken in August by the IP organization Tebtebba, the NGO Forum on Cambodia, and the Asia-Pacific IP and CSO representatives to the UN-REDD Policy Board.

We had the opportunity to have a dialogue with Myanmar national CSOs and IP constituencies, as well as to learn and share how CSO and IP participation in the national REDD+ strategy process can be strengthened. We were also able to meet with the Forest Department from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Forestry and key development partners including FAO, UNDP and the Royal Norwegian Embassy. We shared with them the results of the national dialogue with CSOs and IPs in Myanmar, while advocating support for CSO and IP engagement in the national REDD+ strategy process.

The CSOs and the IPs we met with identified mining, fire wood consumption, over exploitation of forests and shifting cultivation as drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. By engaging in the REDD+ readiness process, they have an opportunity to address these key challenges through:

  • Coordinating and linking up with other like-minded CSO networks to strengthen participation in REDD+ readiness processes.
  • Strengthening the Myanmar Ethnic Minorities/Nationalities Network established during the ASEAN Forum in 2014.
  • Identifying interested and committed network members to participate in the technical working groups of the national REDD+ readiness process.
  • Deciding on an “interim representative” to the national REDD+ process and to coordinate the CSOs and EM engagement in the processes.
  • Collaborating in awareness raising activities for local community and forestry staff on REDD+, land tenure and community based forest management, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the process of free, prior and informed consent.

As part of our dialogue with national IP and CSO groups we shared useful examples of how other countries have dealt with complex issues, such as dealing with the representation of IPs in post-conflict situations, as well as providing examples of how other countries have approached challenges to full and effective engagement. During our discussions with the forest department, they expressed support for inclusive and participatory processes and welcomed the role of CSOs and IPs in developing and implementing the national REDD+ strategy successfully.

We will visit other countries in the region over the rest of our term as CSO and IP UN-REDD Programme Policy Board representatives to hold similar meetings. As with this engagement with Myanmar, such opportunities will allow us to build understanding with government counterparts and connect directly with CSO and IP stakeholders in countries so that we can better represent their perspectives at the global level.