The participation of indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians and local communities in REDD+ in Colombia: Milestones, Challenges and Opportunities
The REDD + preparation process in Colombia began in 2011 and was consolidated with the implementation of the UN-REDD and FCPF programs from 2015 to 2019. It included an in-depth stakeholder engagement process including national and regional indigenous peoples’ organizations, Afro-Colombians and local communities, along with civil society organizations. This process yielded important results and initiated a dialogue on deforestation, forest conservation and sustainable forest management between indigenous peoples, civil society and the national government, led by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.
Among the main results of this process was the consolidation and coordination of participatory mechanisms that include the National REDD + Roundtable, the technical working group within the framework of the Permanent Bureau of National Agreement with indigenous peoples and the Environmental and Rights Roundtable for Afro-Colombians. In addition, there has been a sustained effort to stregthen the capacities of these organizations, resulting in the informed participation in the development of the Integral Strategy to Control Deforestation and Forest Management – Forests Life Territories, submitted by Colombia to the UNFCCC as its national REDD + strategy. This process also allowed the consolidation of the national approach to safeguards and the development of the first two Summaries of Information presented to the UNFCCC.
In 2018, after a change of government, the country began a transition process marked by the termination of armed conflict and an associated peace agreement, where reducing deforestation figured prominently. This was because national reports showed an increase in deforestation in regions affected by the conflict. In October 2018, the process to formulate the new National Development Plan (NDP) began, resulting in approval by Congress in May, 2019.
This new plan has as its central axis the generation of a “great national pact” to prioritize peace and social justice. To achieve this objective, the plan includes a series of “cross-cutting agreements,” one of them dedicated to environmental sustainability and reducing deforestation rates by 30% over the coming years.
Although the NDP does not specifically mention the Integral Strategy for the Control of Deforestation (developed under the REDD+ readiness phase), it retakes, prioritizes and develops some of its measures. Notably, it incorporates most of the strategy’s section on indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians and local communities. This section includes the design and implementation of a restoration program, conservation of forests and a reduction of deforestation in collective territories, protection of traditional knowledge, consolidation of policy instruments such as the National Indigenous Environmental Commission and the Indigenous Environmental Policy.
In this context, and in a time of government transition, Colombia faces some challenges and opportunities:
- The consultation platforms for indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, civil society and international cooperation play a critical role in government transition periods by supporting the continuity of these processes beyond government terms. It is important to reactivate and maintain these platforms, expanding the scope beyond information-sharing, towards full and effective participation.
- The agreements on forest conservation and sustainable management between the national government and indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians under the new National Development Plan are very important and positive. If their implementation is achieved, they will substantially advance the implementation of the Integral Strategy for Control of Deforestation and Forest Management. This includes an environmental policy for indigenous peoples, an indigenous environmental commission and implementation of territorial actions (programs and projects) on forest restoration and conservation. The REDD+ readiness process developed technical inputs that could support its implementation.
- The REDD+ readiness phase participation process helped in the transition period of the new government and strengthed capacities of indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombian communities to engage in dialogue with the national government on climate change and REDD+. These enhanced capacities allowed them to provide important recommendations for the NDP, weaving in elements from the Integral Deforestation Control Strategy.
- The implementation of agreements under the NDP to reduce deforestation will require that the Ministry of Environment and Sustinable Development conceptually align the results from the REDD + readiness proccess with the plans and priorities of the new government.
- Significant investment of resources will be required to implement these agreements. The national government will need to align various sources of international funding, including pilot programs for REDD+ result-based payments like Vision Amazonia and the Joint Declaration of Intent signed with the governments from the United Kingdom, Norway and Germany.
- Colombia’s REDD+ readiness phase built a solid and entrenched participation process, complementary to the participatory mechanisms established by the Colombian legal system, such as the Mesa Permanente de Concertación Indígena. These participation platforms, as well as the participation processes themselves, can be used positively by the new government in the implementation of new agreements in the National Development Plan regarding reducing deforestation, as well as REDD+ results-based payment pilot programs.