Drivers of change
Satellites and drones are revealing deforestation and biodiversity loss in real time, providing further evidence of what local communities have been saying for years. Reports by non-governmental organizations on social conflict, human rights and wildlife trafficking and loss of biodiversity are piling up. And public concerns about forests are growing. Governments around the world are facing up to the reality that they can no longer act as if all is fine in their country’s forests. They are also recognizing that forests are central to sustainable development, poverty alleviation and the fight against climate change.
At the same time, international initiatives are encouraging governments to make decisions in a more gender equitable and socially inclusive way. One way they are doing this is by requiring the participation of non-state actors, such as civil society groups and business associations. An example is REDD+, the United Nations initiative to reward countries that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the forest sector. While REDD+ has not yet resulted in payments to Mekong countries that have avoided deforestation, it has inspired some countries to increase transparency and stakeholder participation.
“For all its shortcomings, REDD+ has done a big job opening dialogue on issues such as forest monitoring and forest governance,” says David Ganz, executive director of RECOFTC. “Before REDD+, people didn’t know the real extent of forest loss and what was driving it.”
Ganz says that because carbon markets demand due diligence, the REDD+ processes in some countries have sparked dialogue about issues such as how communities can give free, prior and informed consent and how to share benefits equitably.
“One contribution to forest governance in Cambodia’s REDD+ programme is the multi-ministry REDD+ Task Force,” says Tol Sokchea, who coordinates work in Cambodia under RECOFTC’s Voices for Mekong Forests (V4MF) project, an initiative funded by the European Union (EU).
The government’s Task Force members represent Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries, both of which have direct responsibility for forests. But members also include representatives of the ministries for land management, mining, rural development, interior and women’s affairs.
“Sometimes challenges come from outside the forest sector,” says Tol. “For example, mining that affects forests. The Task Force is a mechanism for dialogue. They come together and decide on strategies for reducing different drivers of deforestation.”