In September 2015, SNV's REDD+ team hosted an open forum on REDD+ Benefit Sharing, in cooperation with Lao PDR Government partners, notably, the Department of Forest Resource Management, and Department of Forestry. The forum was held as part of the Capacity Building for REDD+ Readiness project, which is funded by the GMS Core Environment Program, administered by ADB. Part of this project is to assess potential methods for implementing a Benefit Distribution System and to provide policy advice to relevant government departments and stakeholders.
Opening remarks from the Government emphasised the importance of involving stakeholders, as well as enabling stakeholders to contribute to dialogue relating to all aspects of REDD+ in Laos. Talking about benefit sharing options and policy dialogue at this point is timely, as Laos is now in the frame for participating in performance-based national emission reduction programmes through potential funding from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.
Ensuring that benefits from REDD+ reach the intended beneficiaries is important in order to achieve the ultimate goal of improving people’s livelihoods. As Laos embarks on establishing a national REDD+ framework, it is important to commence dialogue among all stakeholders. In relation to a benefit sharing mechanism, such dialogue can help stakeholders understand what an effective REDD+ Benefit Distribution System could look like and also understand the challenges. It is important that we understand how, and when, both financial and non-financial benefits reach the local stakeholders who directly reduce deforestation and degradation.
SNV Country Director Julie Graham stressed that, “The issue of benefit-sharing has captured considerable attention among both policymakers and local communities. The success of REDD+ in achieving effectiveness, efficiency and equity will depend greatly on the design and implementation of its benefit-sharing mechanisms, which will operate across multiple levels of governance. By opening dialogue, all stakeholders can openly contribute to this very important topic. 2015 is an important year as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is holding COP 21 in December in Paris. There is much anticipation that countries will reach important agreements to establish concrete mechanism for reversing the impacts of climate change – among these decision is one on the flow of benefits to the poor. Through a forum of this nature, Lao PDR can be better prepared."
During the forum, there were a series of presentations. SNV shared its experience on REDD+ benefit sharing and provided examples from other countries. The presentation by Dr. Inthavy Akkharath, the national REDD+ Focal Point, provided an overview of the Lao Government’s planned REDD+ institutional framework including proposed technical working groups. This is a very important step towards developing a national framework for implementing REDD+ activities. Forum participants contributed to a stakeholder mapping exercise. The exercise provided some insights into perceptions about roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders both in government and non-governmental organisations, including the private sector. A key message and feedback from participants is that a benefit-sharing system must be inclusive, and there is need for a broader view of benefit options, not just cash payments.
The day concluded with a panel discussion featuring REDD+ experts and presenters, in which many of the overarching questions and themes were discussed. In his closing of the forum, Mr. Nelson Gapare, SNV REDD+ Sector Leader in Lao PDR, emphasised the importance of participating in such conversations with a diverse audience. “Although this may be a difficult and challenging subject, it is an important one for Laos. Benefits are not just about money, but also about human development and livelihoods, and it is important to know who will be involved, why, and who these policy decisions are impacting. Laos needs a unique system that is developed for this country and this context, which will take some time to develop.” He described the day’s forum as just the start of a continued dialogue, with a future follow up meeting currently being planned.
The all-day event was open to partners from the Government of Lao PDR as well as representatives from other development organisations, NGOs, the natural resource sector, and the private sector. The forum, attended by 47 participants, was co-chaired by national REDD+ Focal Point, Dr. Inthavy Akkharath, of the Department of Forest Resource Management in the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, and Ms. Julie Graham, Country Director for SNV in Lao PDR.