An audit by Rainforest Alliance (RA) of Guyana’s performance in meeting REDD+ Enabling Indicators under the Guyana-Norway climate and forests partnership has concluded that three of the 10 indicators were met, three were not met and four were partially met, and Guyana has committed to further action.
“The dominant impression from this audit, based on inputs from all interested parties, is one of frustration and disappointment that more progress has not occurred on a number of the Joint Concept Note (JCN) enabling indicators,” said the verification report released Friday as Oslo announced a third payment to Guyana for its performance in meeting indicators under the partnership.
The Scandinavian country said that it will contribute US$45 million to the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) bringing the total contributions from Oslo under the Norway-Guyana climate and forest partnership to a total of US$115 million since the programme was announced in 2009. Oslo has committed to paying Guyana up to US$250 million up to 2015 based on the country’s performance in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Rainforest Alliance was contracted to audit last year’s performance as regards the enabling indicators and cited the GRIF funding mechanism for poor performance. It has, the report said, “to date, moved so slowly that the delivery of sufficient funds to Guyana has been delayed, causing delayed implementation of important activities and a serious degree of skepticism among target beneficiaries and collaborating entities of all kinds.” The report said that overall there is a high degree of frustration with progress on the JCN from multiple perspectives. “Based on evidence reviewed it appears that there is a shared responsibility amongst various parties for these delays,” the report said.
On the positive side, there have been areas of strong performance in terms of independent forest monitoring (IFM), the Forest Law Enforcement, Government and Trade process on forest legality (FLEGT), the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and inter-sectoral coordination on land use issues, including mining, forestry and land use planning through the new Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MoNRE), the report said.
It also pointed out that some projects are also starting to move forward citing the Amerindian Land Titling Project (through partner entity United Nations Development Programme, UNDP) and the Institutional Strengthening Project (through partner entity, the Inter-American Development Bank, IDB).
But it noted that in addition to the delay in funding, there has also been a noticeable reduction in the efforts by the Government of Guyana (GoG) to communicate and consult with stakeholders. “Amerindian communities are particularly concerned about the lack of information available to them in regards to their many questions about the REDD+ activities, and the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) more generally. They are also concerned about the absence of a consistent, ongoing and robust approach or framework for interactions between the GoG and Amerindian communities (whether for the purposes of information exchange, consultation on actions or decision-making),” the report said.
It added that though improving the quality and quantity of Internet-based information could be a useful tool for bettering the situation, and the JCN stipulates that the Internet should be used for reporting on the GRIF, etc., “there is an over-reliance on the part of the GoG on the use of the Internet as the principle tool for information sharing and transparency, particularly as a tool for interaction with hinterland Amerindian communities.”
The audit also identified significant concern regarding information sharing and transparency even on the part of individuals and organizations that strongly support the JCN, LCDS and REDD+ efforts, including members of the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee (MSSC).
With regards to the first verification indicator – transparent and effective multi-stakeholder consultations continue and evolve – RA concluded that at the time of the audit in July 2012, the MSSC was not an effective mechanism for regular communication and consultation between “all stakeholders” interested in the LCDS and REDD+ activities as envisioned in the JCN. It noted that the body had met only once in the last eleven months of the audit period and this was not consistent with the Terms of Reference for the MSSC or with the revised JCN. “In addition, the recent action of the MSSC led by the representatives of the government ministries and agencies on the MSSC to criticize the action by the combined opposition parties in the National Assembly to reduce the budget from GY$18 billion to GY$1 appears to have created a more partisan, political role for the MSSC that compromises its ability to be a non-partisan forum for consultation and deliberation reflecting national interests,” the report said.
“This action, which appears to have been led by political and technical government representatives on the MSSC, is not consistent with the JCN reference to a “representative multi-stakeholder steering committee” reflecting the views of all stakeholders in Guyana. The MSSC is intended to be a forum to bring together representatives of government and civil society and does bring together a wide variety of interests and provides them with a forum to interact with government and, in concept, could serve an important function. However, given the absence of meetings, it is not fulfilling that role,” the report said. The report said that the indicator was not met. MSSC meetings have since resumed.
With regards to the second verification indicator – participation of all affected and interested stakeholders at all stages of REDD+/LCDS process – the report said that the verification team concluded that the GoG, partner entities UNDP and IDB, and members of the MSSC did conduct a variety of stakeholder awareness activities during this evaluation period. However, it noted that during the audit period government officials made few visits to forest-dependent Amerindian villages, according to the government largely due to lack of funding. It noted that while some activities were done, the scale of this process was not sufficiently effective and the level of frustration is high, and good information is significantly lacking in most, if not all, of the Amerindian communities visited. The report said that participation, consultation and feedback from all affected and interested stakeholders, and specifically from Amerindian communities, as articulated in the JCN, were not effectively enabled during this evaluation period and concluded that the indicator was partially met.
In terms of the third indicator – protection of the rights of indigenous peoples – the report said that the verification team concluded that during the audit period, the GoG failed to consistently “enable the effective participation and engagement of indigenous peoples” or effectively “enable indigenous communities to…opt in.” Multiple stakeholders indicate that the GoG has failed to document and address land titling concerns of many Amerindian communities within the time frame established by the Amerindian Act, the report said adding that attention to, and negotiation over, untitled community lands and extensions appears to have stalled. Several cases make it clear that free, prior and informed consent has been lacking in the REDD+/LCDS process, particularly with respect to territorial rights and the REDD+ opt-in process that will soon be available to forest-dependent Amerindian communities, it said.
Lack of understanding
“The opt-in mechanism appears to suffer because of a lack of understanding by the very people who need to make a decision on how to proceed. Finally, many indigenous people feel that their voices are not heard, particularly with respect to land rights, and that their views are not adequately represented in the LCDS process or under the current composition and operations of the MSSC,” the report said adding that the indicator is not met.
As it relates to the fourth indicator – transparent and accountable oversight and governance of the financial support – the report noted that the GRIF is now in place and there has been some progress in improving the flow of GRIF resources. It said that some projects are finally moving forward but the flow of GRIF investment funds into Guyana continues to be slow and this is undermining support for and understanding of the REDD+ initiative. It said that an active dialogue on potential changes within the GRIF implementing agencies is ongoing but the results of reviews have not been incorporated into GRIF management to date and contemplated changes have not been shared publicly.
The report added that with regard to GRIF transparency, the GoG approach to information transparency to date has largely relied on use of the Internet with increasing amounts of information being provided there. “Continued use of the Internet is indeed part of the expectations under the JCN, and enhancements in the quality, quantity and timeliness of information are expected in the near future and would be welcomed by all interested parties. However, based on interactions with stakeholders, it appears clear that the Internet should not be the only vehicle for communication, and dependency on the Internet as the principal vehicle for GRIF transparency and accountable oversight is not likely to be successful, particularly for interactions with Amerindian communities in the hinterland,” the report said. It concluded that the indicator is partially met.
With regards to the fifth verification indicator – the initial structure for the Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) – the report said that the verification team concluded that the structure for an IFM mechanism is now in place and the indicator is met. Indicator six – continuing stakeholder consultation on the European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Government and Trade (EU-FLEGT) process – was also met.
In relation to indicator seven – continuing development of a national inter-sectoral system for coordinated land use- the report said that progress was made and the indicator was partially met. It noted that the JCN states that “Key measures to be implemented by the end of 2011 will on that basis be agreed by the partners by mid November 2011 as an addendum to this JCN.” Though no addendum to the JCN has yet been produced, the main concern is that a “plan for implementation of necessary measures” with contributions from the forest-dependent sectors has not been produced as required in the JCN, the report said.
In relation to the eighth indicator – continuing stakeholder consultation on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) – the report said that the EITI initiative is moving forward though not at a pace conforming to the schedules built into the revised JCN and the indicator is partially met.
Verification indicator nine- measures by the GoG to work with forest dependent sectors to agree on specific measures to reduce forest degradation- was not met. The government did not undertake the type of work during the audit period to agree both upon specific measures to reduce forest degradation associated with mining to meet this indicator in the revised JCN, particularly in terms of working with the forest dependent sectors to identify and then implement agreed upon actions.
The final indicator -mapping of priority areas for biodiversity in Guyana forests- was met.
Guyana has committed to further actions, short term and medium term and from December 21, 2012 to 15 June 2013, committed to, among other actions, publishing its LCDS Addendum which will highlight its updated REDD+ strategy, including lessons to date from the Guyana-Norway partnership and an outline plan for advancement on the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility programme.
It will also hold monthly meetings of the MSSC and release the minutes in a timelier manner, establish a Communications and Outreach team within the Office of Climate Change, Project Management Office or REDD+ secretariat, in anticipation of GRIF resources for its operations. The government in 2013 will also outline a programme, with a particular focus on specific efforts to manage degradation from extractive activities where this needs to be done, including, for example: an enhanced miners’ environmental knowledge programme through a mining extension service initiative and enhanced dialogue with the sectors and relevant stake holders towards ensuring sectoral best practices are applied and sustained thereafter, where necessary.
Among other actions, a strategy and development of tailored information and consultations for hinterland communities will be undertaken.