Safeguards and monitoring

How are people safeguarded from harm?

REDD+ activities can have direct impacts at the local level, e.g., land tenure conflict, access to resources and insufficient payments.

Hence, it is essential to have a legitimate and effective dispute resolution mechanism to resolve disagreements between stakeholders and improve outcomes.

Some funds have implemented rigorous safeguard strategies to avoid conflicts of interest. While important, stringent safeguards may result in restrictions in the participation of certain groups, such as Indigenous Peoples, which can negatively impact the legitimacy of decision making in the distribution of benefits.

Various social and environmental certification standards (e.g., Fairtrade, Plan Vivo, etc.) have entities embedded in communities, such as producers’ organizations or project managers. These receive, respond to, and resolve disputes informally at the initial implementation stages. Dispute resolution processes can be conducted through regular, informal meetings. The most common disagreements relate to payment, product quality issues and failure to keep agreements.

Traditional methods local stakeholders use to mediate and solve their disputes hold a lesson for REDD+: disputes can be more effectively managed through traditional or customary conflict-resolution mechanisms when courts have a limited capacity to process claims or are unable to enforce their orders.

The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) provides a formal, independent and well-structured dispute resolution mechanism that could potentially be adopted at various levels of REDD+.

Stakeholders with concerns about a certificate holder should contact the certificate holder directly. If the problem cannot be solved, the stakeholder can contact the certification body, FSC or Accreditation Services International (an independent body, which authorizes and monitors the certification body and FSC).

FSC has established a time-bound dispute resolution procedure and a web-based mechanism so stakeholders can submit and track complaints and appeals as a way of facilitating transparency.

From case studies in Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia, it seems dispute resolution procedures involving forest operators and local communities also lead to clearer land tenure rights.

Formal procedures may act as a barrier to local and indigenous groups. The role of intermediaries is important to ensure that complaints, irrespective of stakeholders’ circumstances, can be received by management. REDD+ initiatives should avoid complex legal procedures (i.e., using legal terms, cross-referred clauses, etc.) to make the process more accessible to non-experts and especially to local individuals and small organizations (Tjajadi et al. 2015[1]).

There continues to be a growing concern globally that if REDD+ is not implemented in a socially sensitive manner, it may risk reinforcing the societal and institutional structures that are already marginalizing women. Indonesia, like many other countries, is prone to these gendered risks given the historically entrenched male-dominated nature of the forestry sector, growing commercial pressures on forest land, and embedded social and cultural norms and religious interpretations that may exacerbate gender inequalities in rural communities. The growing calls for “mainstreaming gender in REDD+” in Indonesia are for activities to “do no harm” to women and to benefit both women and men in an equitable manner.

Enabling conditions for gender mainstreaming in REDD+ policies include legal recognition of human rights. financial and technical support for gender mainstreaming, active presence and participation of state and non-state actors and women’s organizations, and donor requirements on gender equality making. Challenges for mainstreaming gender in REDD+ include weak national legal frameworks on gender equality, weak coordination amongst actors, uncertain and limited funding devoted to mainstreaming gender into the REDD+ process, social and cultural norms on gender, weak law enforcement on gender, non-inclusive decision-making processes, and lack of women champions and gender expertise. Mainstreaming gender in REDD+ requires not only political commitment but also dedicated funding; a recognition of existing social and cultural norms, politics and power asymmetry; and interventions to address the power dynamics that are embedded into existing political and social structures. While external pressure and funding can help countries take their first steps in mainstreaming gender into REDD+, coalitions for change that include influential government agencies able to make binding decisions, and the active presence of civil society, are also required to translate policy into practice on the ground and maintain gender as a political priority (Pham et al. 2021[2]).

For the Asháninka REDD+ project in Peru, official channels for conflict resolution and for resource extraction are cumbersome and restrictive. A study found that official REDD+ channels for grievances are either too complicated or expensive for members to navigate, or do not lead to improved livelihoods or resolved land conflicts. In comparison, for timber extraction, informal pathways are easier as they require less paperwork and less negotiation with unknown actors; thus, the study’s informants in the Asháninka Comunidades found it easier to agree with or acquiesce to timber companies, even if their own end of the deal was disadvantageous. For example, in San Martín, Awajún people described how official channels postpone rather than transform conflict with settlers who refuse to leave. Such examples highlight the ways that the frustrations among local community members can remain unresolved and contribute to continued practices of deforestation and forest degradation (Barletti et al. 2021[3]).

During the Covid-19 pandemic, governments in the key forest countries of Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Indonesia and Peru have weakened or removed legal and policy protections for Indigenous Peoples’ rights out of “economic necessity” and exploitative opportunism. Policies and practices that violate the rights of Indigenous Peoples include legislative and regulatory change; the exclusion of Indigenous Peoples from decision-making processes; the expansion of industrial activities; increased land grabbing, illegal mining and illegal logging in or near indigenous territories; and an alarming growth in the criminalization of, and violence against indigenous human rights defenders. This process of deregulation and associated rights-violating policies and practices is likely to get worse if governments continue to favour economic recovery over human rights and the environment. Donor governments and international development institutions should encourage the governments of highly tropically forested countries to provide, protect and fund systems of indigenous participation, while organizations must enhance their due diligence and related social and environmental safeguard systems, monitor rigorously, and provide accessible and effective grievance mechanisms to ensure that social and environmental safeguards are fully implemented (Forest Peoples Programme 2021)[4].

How are performance and finance monitored?

Fiscal accountability

Accountability is the acceptance of responsibility for actions.

It is also the ability of citizens to hold their government responsible for the actions it has taken on behalf of society. An actor can be said to be accountable if they are willing to be transparent about their actions, be monitored and questioned by others, and accept criticism if warranted. However, many individuals or institutions do not wish to be accountable, possibly because of pressure from interest groups, because they are pursuing individual objectives, because they do not share basic beliefs about the role of government, or because they have insufficient resources or knowledge of how to be transparent. REDD+ demands accountability mechanisms, such as systematic audits and independent monitoring and compliance protocols so funds are channelled to where they are intended.

Fiscal accountability is a crucial factor in a policy instrument’s effectiveness. The forest and wildlife revenue redistribution mechanism in Cameroon is largely perceived as ineffective in achieving its policy objectives due to high transaction costs, complex and opaque bureaucratic processes, and a lack of transparency in the fiscal transfers from national to local levels.

The legitimacy of the wildlife revenue redistribution mechanism as a policy tool could be improved through the establishment of participative financial monitoring, reporting and verification systems with multistakeholder oversight, such as that being applied by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).


The EITI is a global standard for transparency and accountability in government revenues obtained from the extractives sector, including oil, gas, minerals and coal. Formed by a coalition of governments, companies, civil society organizations, investors and international organizations, the standard has developed a straightforward and flexible methodology for monitoring and reconciling company payments and government revenues.

Companies are required to report payments to the government in the form of taxes and royalties, as well as payments in-kind. At the same time, government is required to report revenues derived from extractive companies. The reports include subnational or social and/or community payments and non-production-related transactions. These two reports are then compared and reconciled by an independent auditor and published in a public report.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative also involves the development of a multistakeholder oversight mechanism to ensure sound and timely implementation of the process in each country, and to stimulate greater public debate about how limited and finite revenues are spent (Assembe-Mvondo et al. 2015[5]).

In many Vietnamese provinces, provincial Forest Protection and Development Funds (FPDFs) set up and lead district-, commune- and village-level Payment for Forest Ecosystem Services (PFES) programme management units to distribute PFES payments and monitor forests. However, in practice, lower levels of government are often excluded from decision-making processes, and so it is unclear to them how to adhere to regulations that have been established at a higher political level. There is not much guidance on how communities or village management boards can spend PFES revenues. Similarly, at the community level, ecosystem services providers are rarely included in spending decisions by management boards as there are no established processes to communicate concerns that arise during implementation to provincial funds. Multilevel PFES implementation is designed as a top-down process across all levels. Simultaneously, attempts to gain more information on roles and responsibilities often fail due to ineffective communication channels, which affects the general provision of information and advice, and the processes of signing contracts and distributing payments. Overall, the absence of bottom-up participation can lead to negative experiences during the process of meeting and improving PFES rules (Loft et al. 2017[6]).


In the past few decades, many high-profile initiatives have highlighted increasing unease with secretive, closed-door decision making.

The disclosure of more information brings several benefits to the implementation of REDD+ policy decisions. These include:

  • Demands for open and transparent government as a means of cracking down on corruption, especially in resource rich countries;
  • Transparency is also critical to achieving public policy efficacy and efficiency;
  • Transparent decision making is critical for informed consent – the essence of representative democracy.

Brazil’s deforestation tracking system – properly enforced – is often cited as a key reason for the dramatic reduction in Amazon deforestation over the past decade.

Brazil’s equivalent of NASA – the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) – has been using a satellite monitoring system since 2004 to record deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon in real time. Called DETER, the system identifies new forest clearing and alerts authorities to possible illegal deforestation. Although the system does not identify causes of deforestation, other studies show the vast majority are illegal, and carried out by ranchers, loggers, miners and land grabbers who seek to profit from public forest lands. The system delivers data to Brazil’s environmental law enforcement agency every two weeks, and the agency can send teams to stop illegal deforestation and fine perpetrators in a matter of days. The names of people found to be deforesting illegally are entered into a public list online, and slaughterhouses can check the list to make sure livestock are not inadvertently sourced from a banned area, and banks refuse credit to those charged with illegal deforestation. Other monitoring systems include the Brazilian Amazonian Satellite Forest Deforestation Monitoring Program (PRODES) and the Amazon Deforestation Satellite Monitoring Project, a higher resolution system also operated by INPE that produces Brazil’s official deforestation data. INPE has been involved in workshops in Africa, Asia and in other Amazonian countries, sharing software and training people on how to set up their own forest monitoring programmes.

In 2019, INPE’s monitoring efforts came under fire when President Bolsonaro attacked the PRODES programme for worrisome estimates that indicated rising levels of deforestation, and fired INPE’s director, Ricardo Galvão. But pressured by public opinion and investors concerned about sustainability, Bolsonaro has taken some steps to protect the forest, namely establishing the Amazon Council to oversee sustainable development of the region and the authorization of the deployment of the armed forces to combat environmental crimes in the Amazon (Escobar 2020[7]).

Though the political climate in Brazil has been unfriendly to the national satellite monitoring system, maintaining INPE’s environmental monitoring systems with transparency and autonomy is crucial to supporting decisions on land-use management in the country. INPE also helps ensure compliance with national forest laws, creates confidence in the country in international trade agreements, and helps respect the character and autonomy of institutions so as not to give in to the interests of special groups. This case study underscores the need for social responsibility by scientists and full transparency of public data (Araújo and Vieira 2019[8]).

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a global standard for transparency and accountability in government revenues obtained from the extractives sector, including oil, gas, minerals and coal. Formed by a coalition of governments, companies, civil society organizations, investors and international organizations, it has developed a straightforward and flexible methodology for monitoring and reconciling company payments and government revenues. Companies are required to report payments to the government in the form of taxes and royalties and payments in-kind, while the government is required to report revenues derived from extractive companies. The reports include subnational or social and community payments and non-production-related transactions, which are compared and reconciled by an independent audit before being published publicly. The EITI also involves the development of a multistakeholder oversight mechanism to ensure timely implementation of the process in each country and to stimulate greater public debate about how revenues are spent. Starting in 2019, the requirement to disclose information on the management and monitoring of social and environmental impacts from extractive industries was added.

Still, the effects on transparency for extractive industries also vary by country. In Indonesia, for example, the initiative strongly increases civil society participation and empowerment, but has more limited impacts on transparency and accountability due to a lack of timeliness of the data; a limited number of reporting companies; a lack of information disclosure on critical aspects such as contracts, licenses and ownership; and the absence of information on the environmental and social impacts of extractive industries. For Indonesia and countries facing similar issues, addressing limited political commitment, limited government capacity and vested interests, along with allowing the EITI to serve as a catalyst for broader governance transformations, will be key to improving transparency (Yanuardi et al. 2021[9])

Who monitors?

Since 2011, the European Union has been negotiating bilateral trade agreements with various timber-exporting countries. Inherent in the agreements is a legal system designed to identify, monitor and license legally produced timber, reducing European demand for illegal timber. To satisfy EU requirements, a country must pass several steps.

In Indonesia, for example, independent verification bodies, approved by the Ministry of Forestry, audit all operators within the supply chain: from forest to point of export. A legality license is only issued at the point of export if all operators in the supply chain are verifiably compliant. Civil society has been formally integrated into the system as independent observers. This process has become mandatory for all timber production in Indonesia.

The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry is not directly involved in either accreditation or auditing of legal compliance and has no authority to sign off on compliance. On the one hand, this distance can increase the credibility of the system, bypassing potential corruption or uncertainties about implementation. On the other, when companies take over an excessive amount of auditing and verification, they may not be subject to routine public-interest oversight, such as by state audits.

The verification is executed by a verification/certification body accredited by the National Accreditation Committee, with independent monitoring bodies formally instituted to oversee the timber legality system through the monitoring of practices by forest concessions/industries, and accreditation and verification processes. For example, there are administrative and technical requirements that limit the participation of wider civil society, and a ministerial decree prohibits international observers from being involved in monitoring. Consequently, independent monitoring can only be conducted by members of registered independent monitoring bodies. Overall, the existence and roles of independent monitoring bodies within the timber legality system are not yet fully understood, and are often questioned by other stakeholders. Also, there has been some degree of scepticism about their impartiality. Thus, even independent auditing may not be enough to compensate for strong political or commercial pressures on the process. It is important to develop checks and balances that work with existing systems of government and public accountability, such as sharing monitoring among NGOs, governments and industries (Hasyim et al. 2020[10]).


[1] Tjajadi, J.S., Yang, A.L., Naito, D., Arwida, A.L., 2015. Lessons from environmental and social sustainability certification standards for equitable REDD+ benefit-sharing mechanisms. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

[2] Pham, Thu Thuy, Tran, N.L.D., Nong Nguyen Khanh, N., Nguyen Dinh, T., 2021c. Mainstreaming gender in REDD+ policies and projects in 17 countries. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning 1–15.

[3] Barletti, S.J.P., Begert, B., Guerra Loza, M.A., 2021. Is the Formalization of Collective Tenure Rights Supporting Sustainable Indigenous Livelihoods? Insights from Comunidades Nativas in the Peruvian Amazon. International Journal of the Commons 15, 381–394.

[4] Rolling back social and environmental safeguards in the time of COVID-19: The dangers for indigenous peoples and for tropical forests

[5] Assembe-Mvondo, S., Wong, G., Loft, L., Tjajadi, J.S., 2015. Comparative assessment of forest revenue redistribution mechanisms in Cameroon: Lessons for REDD+ benefit sharing. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

[6] Loft, L., Pham, T.T., Wong, G.Y., Brockhaus, M., Le, D.N., Tjajadi, J.S., Luttrell, C., 2017. Risks to REDD+: potential pitfalls for policy design and implementation. Envir. Conserv. 44, 44–55.

[7] Escobar, H., 2020. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is still rising sharply. Science 369, 613–613.

[8] Araujo, R., Vieira, I.C.G., 2019. Deforestation and the ideologies of the frontier expansion: the case of criticism of the Brazilian Amazon monitoring program. SustDeb 10, 354–378.

[9] Yanuardi, Y., Vijge, M.J., Biermann, F., 2021. Improving governance quality through global standard setting? Experiences from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in Indonesia. The Extractive Industries and Society 8, 100905.

[10] Hasyim, Z., Laraswati, D., Purwanto, R.H., Pratama, A.A., Maryudi, A., 2020. Challenges facing independent monitoring networks in the Indonesian timber legality assurance system. Forest Policy and Economics 111, 102025.