Voices for Mekong Forests

Voices for Mekong Forests

Forest management should not only focus on the forest aspect itself, but also on the engagement of local people. It is important to hear the voices of the local people to improve forest governance.

Mr. Attapol Charoenchansa, Deputy Director General, Royal Forest Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Thailand

CONTEXT

The Mekong region's forests are among the most diverse on the planet, yet they are experiencing some of the highest deforestation rates in the world as incentives and systems to sustainably manage these forests are poorly developed and applied. Among the drivers of forest loss and degradation, are uncoordinated land-use planning, weak governance and policies that are counter to sustainability. While Mekong countries are taking measures to address these drivers, there remain numerous challenges.

OBJECTIVES

  • By 2019, Non-state actors (NSA) forest governance monitoring systems (FGMS) piloted and scaled-up. The Project will assess and develop an effective FGMS and introduce improved forest governance information that is cost effective to collect, present and access, building on experiences of applying forest monitoring in forest governance processes in target countries and trans-boundary landscapes.
  • By 2020, NSAs will have increased capacity to improve forest governance that is gender and socially inclusive. The Project will strengthen capacities of NSAs through a series of participatory learning interventions so that NSAs can subsequently support local communities to assess and monitor the forest landscape governance; of particular focus will be modalities in which communities are able to enhance their forest tenure rights. The models will strengthen and empower communities to participate in the sustainability of forest landscape management and thus will contribute to the aims of REDD+.
  • By 2021, effective and coordinated NSAs engage in national REDD+ processes and contribute to the development of transparent, accountable, and inclusive governance. Initiatives such as REDD+ with mechanisms and mandates for civil society participation have the potential to create new space for NSA involvement in sustainable forest management; however, obstacles remain in realizing this potential as implementation remains relatively weak. NSAs will apply lessons learned from outputs 1 and 2 to improve the national governance of REDD+.
  • By 2019, a regional NSA learning platform facilitates coaching and information exchange, including lessons learned and best practices. The Project will facilitate a regional NSA learning network and online platform to promote information exchanges, including lessons learned and best practices on local forest governance across the trans-boundary landscapes within the five countries. Relevant actors from Asia-Pacific (especially the sister EU-NSA project in insular Southeast Asia) will participate according to their interest and expertise.

RESULTS

  • An effective FGMS that can help NSAs to generate reliable information using spatial tools and mobile technologies, in particular in the trans-boundary landscapes. It will enable NSAs and local networks to more safely and effectively conduct information gathering on forest governance, including on illegal deforestation. This resource can then be mobilized to strengthen forest governance processes such as REDD+, and ultimately work towards the sustainable management of forest landscape resources.
  • Building on improved skills and knowledge of forest governance, NSAs are more aware and better understand the tenure of their rights in natural resources management, and are more effective in their potential roles to claim, protect and exercise these rights by applying their new knowledge, together with the information generated from the FGMS, to fuel national level dialogues on REDD+, and regional exchanges.
  • Governments in the Mekong countries acknowledge the importance and recognize the added value of effective multi-stakeholder processes in policy and decision making regarding forest resources in general, and forest-based climate change mitigation (REDD+) in particular. NSA views and opinions, information and research results, and forest data collection and knowledge, contribute to increase the level of trust, transparency and accountability in forest governance processes.
  • Knowledge, lessons learned, success stories and best practices in regard to the roles and contributions of NSAs in improving the governance of the target forested landscapes and beyond, of the national REDD+ processes, generated by the implementation of the previous three outputs, will be communicated and shared internally among implementing partners and externally to a wider audience (including media), through the regional learning network and online platforms.

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • Mekong region is home to an estimated 85 million forest-dependent people
  • 30% of the rural population in the Mekong region are living in poverty
  • The region lost about 5% of its forest cover between 1990 and 2015

TESTIMONY

Voices for Mekong Forests

The Center for People and Forests - RECOFTC and partners have held consultations with potential project beneficiaries, national NSAs and local networks in the target landscapes, on FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ processes. Forest communities, whose lives are often fundamentally linked to their ability to sustainably manage forests, both natural and planted, face challenges with FLEGT and REDD+, alongside the opportunities these initiatives may provide. In particular in regard to REDD+, a great deal of concern has been raised about the potential of REDD+ to infringe on forest communities’ rights through the establishment of so-called carbon enclosures.

Facing insecurity and uncertainty, many national and local NSAs and their networks working on REDD+ are keen to become leaders in forest governance monitoring and advocate rights of forest-dependent communities who are most affected by weak land tenure and rights, as well as by illegal logging, deforestation and land conversion. This project aims to be a robust action to contribute to NSAs becoming informed, credible and equal players in forest landscape governance in the region.

"This project is to accelerate the conservation work and to raise awareness of local communities on their roles in governing forests. If local communities gain proper knowledge and knowledge exchange activities can be done, it could lead to better SFM, deeming the project successful" (representative of the Myanmar Forestry Department).