Authority of governing institution

It is important to consider and coordinate the authorities of governing institutions

Clarifying roles, responsibilities and decision-making mandates across different forms of forest governance can enhance the accountability, transparency and legitimacy of a REDD+ initiative.

Central and subnational governments both play important roles, but their capacities and interests are not always matched

Subnational governments may find it difficult to successfully implement REDD+ programmes if there is a lack of synergy with the central government. Different levels of government need to coordinate, ensure that policies are aligned, and properly delegate powers and responsibilities so that drivers of deforestation can be addressed.

Subnational governments: Less power more responsibility?

Subnational governments in forested countries vary in the degree of influence they have to manage and govern land. In some cases, the granting of titles and the issuing of permits remains largely in the purview of national agencies. In others, these powers vary between levels depending on the sector.

In 1986, Vietnam started to launch a policy reform known as “Doi Moi” in Vietnamese that signified a shift to decentralized decision making. As part of the policy reform, the legal system has gradually been revised, with the power to manage land and forests transferred to different “lower” levels of government. This has led to a clearer classification of power and mandates that has given local governments more power to manage land and forests.  But while Vietnam has made great progress in the decentralization of land and forest management, the decentralization process has also been inefficient and has been associated with certain shortcomings due to a lack of financial and labour resources, despite the lower levels of government being given increased responsibilities and mandates (Pham et al. 2019[1]). This is because although decentralization in Vietnam has given more decision-making power over land-use negotiations to provincial governments, the real power still lies with the central government. While district governments and communes have discretionary power to promote local relevance, in reality, they lack the power, financial resources and competence to make key decisions (Yang et al. 2016[2]). The decentralization process needs to pay more attention to the authority of local governments to decide on appropriate resources for implementing assigned tasks and responsibilities. Decentralization should clarify the powers and resources required of leaders and individuals at lower levels of government to support effective programme implementation at the local level.

The subnational government of Acre in Brazil has FREL and safeguard information systems that are aligned and compatible with the REDD+ programme at the national level (Duchelle et al. 2019[3]). The state of Acre in Brazil developed the world’s first jurisdictional REDD+ programme through its 2010 System of Incentives for Environmental Services law with support from the German government’s REDD+ Early Movers (REM) programme from 2012. Since then, the subnational government has created space for political participation, leveraged state policies and programmes to attend to constituents’ needs, and supported indigenous peoples’ self-determination (DiGiano et al. 2018[4]). Subnational governments such as Acre’s have legal and political power in decentralized systems and are closer to the communities making land use decisions. Subnational governments that are strongly aligned with the national REDD+ programme can have a strong influence on the success of REDD+ projects on the ground and promote national REDD+ goals.

A study evaluating the progress of Indonesian subnational governments towards their goals for the Rio Branco Declaration – a pledge signed between 2014 and 2018 by jurisdictions, including some in Indonesia, committing to reduce deforestation by 80% by 2020 – failed to find strong progress  towards the Declaration’s goal. Among the Indonesian provinces, only one (West Kalimantan) out of the four studied had a measurable and time bound deforestation reduction target in its Provincial REDD+ Strategy and Action Plan. Indonesia engaged in a decentralization process in the 1990s, which transferred authority over natural resource management from the central government to subnational units that created the issue of provinces acquiring authority over forest protection and management, but not over the drivers of deforestation. However, this decentralization process was not supported by aligned laws. Contradicting laws, regulations and priorities at national, provincial and local levels create inconsistencies for REDD+ governance at the provincial level in Indonesia. Different levels of government need to coordinate so that the right levels of government have the proper authorization over forest management (Stickler et al. 2020[5]).

The Cadastro Ambiental Rural (CAR) or Rural Environmental Registry of Brazil is a public policy innovation that was an important breakthrough of the Native Vegetation Protection Law for environmental monitoring in Brazil. Under CAR, owners must provide georeferenced delimitation of their property’s boundaries and legally protected areas. The policy originated from and was tested in the state of Mato Grosso before being expanded as a federal law. The successful implementation of CAR and its incorporation into federal law and policy is the result of the country’s commitment to building a strong network of tools, programmes and policies to monitor and control deforestation over the past three decades (Roitman et al. 2018[6]). Forestry laws can be tested on a smaller scale at the subnational level and, if found successful, can be scaled up to the national level.

[1]Pham, T.T., Hoang, T.L., Nguyen, D.T., Dao, T.L.C., Ngo, H.C., Pham, V.H., 2019. The context of REDD+ in Vietnam: Drivers, agents and institutions [2nd edition]. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

[2]Yang, A.L., Nguyen, D.T., Vu, N.T., Le, Q.T., Pham, T.T., Larson, A.M.M., Ravikumar, A., 2016. Analyzing multilevel governance in Vietnam: Lessons for REDD+ from the study of land-use change and benefit sharing in Nghe An and Dien Bien provinces. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

[3]Duchelle, A., Seymour, F., Brockhaus, M., Angelsen, A., Larson, AM., Moeliono, M., Wong, G.Y., Pham, T.T., Martius, C., n.d. 2019.  Forest-based climate mitigation: lessons from REDD+ implementation.

[4]DiGiano, M., Mendoza, E., Ochoa, M., Ardila, J., Oliveira de Lima, F., Nepstad, D., 2018. The Twenty-Year-Old Partnership Between Indigenous Peoples and the Government of Acre, Brazil

[5]Stickler, C., David, O., Chan, C., Ardila, J.P., Bezerra, T., 2020. The Rio Branco Declaration: Assessing Progress Toward a Near-Term Voluntary Deforestation Reduction Target in Subnational Jurisdictions Across the Tropics. Front. For. Glob. Change 3, 50.

[6]Roitman, I., Cardoso Galli Vieira, L., Baiocchi Jacobson, T.K., da Cunha Bustamante, M.M., Silva Marcondes, N.J., Cury, K., Silva Estevam, L., da Costa Ribeiro, R.J., Ribeiro, V., Stabile, M.C.C., de Miranda Filho, R.J., Avila, M.L., 2018. Rural Environmental Registry: An innovative model for land-use and environmental policies. Land Use Policy 76, 95–102.