Towards a just REDD+: Transforming forest conflicts in Nepal

Is REDD+ causing conflicts in Nepal? If so, which kind of conflicts? How does an environmental justice lens contribute to illuminate and resolve these conflicts? What can be done to transform the conflicts in ways that result in a more “just” REDD+?

In this Policy Brief, led by Hari Dhungana and Gyanu Maskey from the Southasia Institute of Advanced Studies, we try to provide succinct responses to these questions. The Brief draws from research conducted under the NWO-DFID funded project “Conflict and Cooperation over REDD+ in Mexico, Nepal and Vietnam“, which has investigated REDD+ preparedness and early implementation in these countries over a four-year period.

We argue that achieving just REDD+ in Nepal would require resolving or transforming persisting conflicts in the country’s forest governance and REDD+ implementation processes. This would in turn require action on 6 key domains:

  1. A reform of the forestry sector focusing on tenure issues. The government and international donors should conduct a comprehensive forestry sector policy reform that primarily focuses on forest and land tenure security, including of carbon assets, setting up clear responsibility, resources and accountability for stakeholders.
  2. Harmonization of land-use and forest policies. The government should initiate a process of reviewing discrepancies between existing policies, institutions and instruments including those recommended in the studies carried out as part of REDD+ readiness. These, for instance, concern benefit sharing, translating safeguards principles into operational procedures, and having common institutional structure for REDD+ and existing forestry institutions.
  3. Critical information and knowledge resources. For effective participation, critical information and reports should be in Nepali and/or other local languages to ensure that all stakeholders can participate effectively in discussions at different governance scales. Resources should be made available to improve people’s knowledge and ability, as well as willingness to participate.
  4. Develop workable monitoring systems for benefit distribution at the community level. The government should further refine and develop capacity to monitor community group benefit sharing.
  5. Capacity for facilitating social dialogue and conflict transformation. The government and donors should develop the capacity of government officials, NGO personnel and community leaders on social negotiations and dialogues for conflict transformation.
  6. Build upon existing analysis. REDD+ preparedness and implementation should consider a number of diagnostic studies that have already been published, includingstudies on feedback and grievance redressal mechanisms, benefit sharing, policy and measures and carbon ownership. These studies do not guide concrete action, but have significant value in identifying issues that need to be addressed.

The Policy Brief has been widely publicized across REDD+ actors in the country, and was recently presented at the stakeholder workshop “Conflict and Cooperation in the Management of Climate Change (CCMCC) Programme Journey in Nepal: Transforming conflict into cooperation for climate change interventions” (01/11/2007), which involved policy makers, practitioners and researchers involved in the design and implementation of climate change policies in Nepal.

Picture copyright: SIAS.

Climate change policies and agrarian-environmental transformations

Routledge Development Studies launched two special issues together from the Journal of Peasant Studies and Canadian Journal of Development StudiesBoth collections are on the broad themes of climate change mitigation/adaptation and agrarian-environmental transformations. Both collections are open access for a limited period of time.

I had the honour of guest editing the collection published in CJDS, with colleagues Carol Hunsberger (University of Western Ontario) and Chayan Vaddhanaphuti (University of Chiang Mai). The articles in the collection explore a range of themes in the intersection of climate change policy, land grabbing and social conflict, and include cross-scalar and case study analyses of different kinds.

In the Introductory article, we contextualise the special issue and lay out the key contributions made by each contribution. Hunsberger et al. propose a research agenda to explore the interconnections between climate change policies, land grabbing and conflict; these interconnections, they argue, can only be meaningfully understood if one transcends the territorial boundaries of land grabs themselves. Claeys and Delgado Pugley’s contribution (2017) offers a neat account of how two key transnational social movements – the agrarian movement La Via Campesina (LVC) and the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) – have developed distinctive climate justice framings to advance rights-based considerations under the UNFCCC. Franco et al. shed light onto the often problematic translation of well-intended policy into practice, by problematising an array of international regulatory instruments, including state- and corporate-led, that are available to respond to conflicts arising from agrarian transformations driven by agricultural development and climate change policies.

The second half of the special issue concentrates on specific case studies. Work and Thuon explore the intersection of change mitigation policies and economic land concessions in Prey Lang, Cambodia, demonstrating how these two processes facilitate each other physically, discursively and economically. Pye et al. focus on the interactions between different types of resource extraction endeavours along the Kapuas River, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. The authors document a number of land-use transformations based on differing appropriation and accumulation strategies according to resource (minerals, lumber, oil palm, fish), scale of operations (smallholders, transnational firms) and the relationships among the economic and political actors. Lamb and Dao explore how Chinese investment has facilitated hydropower projects in Myanmar and Vietnam, and with what consequences. They make evident that governments from both countries need to develop more effective, transparent and robust systems of hydropower governance, while scholars and activists need to understand critiques of Chinese investment from a broader historical, cultural and political economy perspective. Finally, Uson interrogates a post-disaster intervention on a small island of the Philippines, after the typhoon Haiyan devastated the country in 2013. She unveils how a humanitarian intervention, coupled with climate change adaptation policy and discourse, changed the direction of an existing land rights struggle between landowners, a private tourist operator and fisherfolk communities.

This special issue described above, together with the JPS special issue, have deserved a very kind praise by Nancy Lee Peluso, University of California, Berkeley, who has suggested that ‘the authors bring new theoretical approaches, collaborative sensibilities, and hybrid perspectives on socio-natural histories and resource politics together with long-held concerns with the fates of smallholders, commodity productions under varied and opposing regimes, and a panoply of agrarian resources and activities including and beyond agriculture’.

I hope you enjoy reading them all!

Lessons for Research Policy and Practice: The Case of Co-enquiry Research with Rural Communities

Have you ever worked in multi-partner projects aimed at working for rather than with communities? Have you experienced the challenges of doing so? How have you overcome such challenges and transform them into opportunities?

In this article, we explore the relationship between institutional funding for research and community-based or co-enquiry research practice. We describe the implementation of co-enquiry research in the COMBIOSERVE project, which was funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for research and innovation, between the years 2012 and 2015. Research partnerships between Latin American and European civil society organisations, research institutions, and Latin American rural communities are analysed. Challenges for effective collaboration in co-enquiry and lessons learned for research policy and practice are outlined.

Based on our case study we suggest that: (1) the established values and practices of academia seem largely unfavourable towards alternative forms of research, such as co-enquiry; (2) the policies and administrative practices of this European Commission funding are unsuitable for adopting participatory forms of enquiry; and (3) the approach to research funding supports short engagements with communities whereas long-term collaborations are more desirable. Based on our case study, we propose more flexible funding models that support face-to-face meetings between researchers and communities from the time of proposal drafting, adaptation of research processes to local dynamics, adaptation of administrative processes to the capacities of all participants, and potential for long-term collaborations. Large-scale funding bodies such as European Commission research programmes are leaders in the evolution of research policy and practice. They have the power and the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the value of partnerships with civil society organisations and communities, actively support co-enquiry, and foment interest in innovative forms of research.

How do biosphere reserves influence local vulnerability and adaptation?

In a new paper led by my colleague Isabel Ruiz-Mallén and published online in the journal Global Environmental Change, we interrogate how biosphere reserves can influence local vulnerability and adaptation. Based on a comparative study of four rural communities in Mexico and Bolivia we explore if resource management regulations can increase vulnerability and compromise individual and collective agency for adaptation. We use focus groups, interviews and scoring exercises to analyse the influence of reserve management practices on locally perceived changes and stresses on livelihoods, and to discuss communities’ coping and adaptation strategies. We show that both reserves are perceived as a source of stress but somewhat differently. In Mexico, communities feel vulnerable to the reserve’s regulations but less to climatic and economic stresses, whereas in Bolivia communities perceive the insufficient enforcement of the reserve’s rules as the most relevant stress to their livelihoods. Most of household-based and collective adaptations to environmental change have been adopted without the support of the biosphere reserves. We discuss how and why the biosphere reserves contribute to local vulnerability and why their role in enhancing local adaptation is limited.

Vint anys després de Rio: perspectives del canvi climàtic

Vint anys després de Rio: perspectives del canvi climàtic és un esdeveniment que he co-organitzat amb el meu col·lega i amic Joan David Tàbara (ICTA-UAB), amb el suport del Grup d’Experts de Canvi Climàtic de Catalunya (GECCC) i del Consell Assessor per al Desenvolupament Sostenible (CADS) de la Generalitat de Catalunya.

La jornada té per objectiu examinar l’evolució històrica de la ciència del canvi climàtic i les seves polítiques, i oferir reflexions contrastades pel que fa al futur de la política internacional sobre el clima després de la cimera de Durban i els probables impactes del canvi climàtic en la seguretat humana i el seu desenvolupament. Els conferenciants convidats inclouen acadèmics de reconegut prestigi internacional com ara Philippe Ciais (Universitat de Versalles), François Gemmene (Institut per al Desenvolupament Sostenible i Relacions Internacionals) i Gerd Leipold (Global Climate Forum. Ex-director executiu de Greenpeace Internacional).

On? Institut d’Estudis Catalans, c/del Carme 47, Barcelona.

Quan? 29 de febrer de 2012 // 15-20 hores

Participació limitada a 150 persones, amb inscripció obligatòria.

Tota la informació està disponible al següent enllaç.