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Last week the UN-REDD Programme presented its support to countries' early initiatives to prevent corruption in REDD+ during two seminars in Norway. The first seminar, "Why preventing and combatting corruption is crucial for the success of REDD+" was organized on 14 June by the Norwegian Development Agency (Norad) as part of its Climate and Environment Seminar series; the second seminar, "Facing the realities of corruption and REDD+" took place on 15 June and was organized by U4/Chr Michelsen Institute in Bergen. Read highlights from these seminars. 

Over 35 people from the government of Norway, UNDP and civil society attended the Norad seminar. Estelle Fach from the UN-REDD Programme presented :      

1. Why is it important to pay attention to corruption in REDD+  ?

Tackling corruption risks in REDD+ is a matter of :

- equity : corruption is already known to undermine the achievement of development objectives. In REDD+, corruption could for example undermine equity by diverting REDD+ benefits from those who are entitled to them (for example through embezzlement or skewed design of BDS system favoring influential groups over rights holders).

- efficiency : corruption distorts markets and decreases efficiencies. For example, developers using corrupt means during the bidding process to undertake reduced impact logging would not necessarily be the most efficient one. Decreasing efficiency makes opportunity costs harder to meet.

- effectiveness : if corrupt verifiers turn a blind eye on false reporting of carbon stocks and fluxs, emission reductions are not achieved.

Taken together, a lack of equity, effectiveness and efficiency undermine the very sustainability of the REDD+ mecanism.

- international commitments  : REDD+ countries have commited through the Cancun Agreements to developing "transparent forest governance structures", and have signed or ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and other regional anti coruption agreements.

2. What are the different risks – is categorizing them important?

UNDP and Transparency International have listed about 25 corruption risks that could occur in REDD+.Those related to the readiness phase (influencing policy design) and implementation of policies and performance payment phases are different. Ultimately, what matters is which ones are more relevant in a specific national context, and therefore which ones need to be tackled first.

3. Are countries acting on these risks? 

Yes. For example : 

  • The Indonesia Participatory Governance Assessment has corruption as a cross-cutting issue, and data currently collected examines the existence and effectiveness of regulations, practices and actors that could prevent specific corruption risks in REDD+.Indicators for example include the number of advocacy initiatives to eradicate corruption in the forestry sector by environmental NGO activists or anti-corruption NGO activists, mechanisms to handle complaints, laws and policies regulating the accountability of institutions, implementation of law enforcement etc.
  • Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Peru, and Bhutan are planning to undertake Corruption in REDD+ risks assessments this year

  • Viet Nam's phase 2 proposal contains a range of anti-corruption activities, including awareness raising, developing indicators to assess corruption risks, building on the BDS and FPIC work as a basis for a mechanism to handle complaints, designing and implementing measures to ensure open and effective access to information, identify legal ambiguities and loopholes that can create a space for corruption, and developing recommendations for modification to policies and measures related to forest management so as to provide improved incentives to avoid corruption.
  • DRC's National Coordination has hired a staff to identify, in consultation with national stakeholders, entry points for anti-corruption measures for REDD+ aligned with the country's readiness process

4. What the UN-REDD Programme does to support them

  • Funding and policy & technical support

  • Disseminate knowledge through publications and workshops

  • Facilitate in-country conversations between, for example, the Anti Corruption Agencies and the national REDD+ teams

  • Linking this work to UNDP's support to the implementation of UNCAC and of national anti-corruption strategies

  • Link to relevant support provided by the UN-REDD Programme, such as engagement of stakeholders and in particular civil society and indigenous peoples, FPIC, national level recourse mechanism, legal preparedness, safeguards and safeguards information systems and of course the ongoing participatory governance assessments.

5. Early lessons learned

  • Governments in REDD+ countries increasingly recognize the pragmatic and reputational risks of not addressing corruption risks in REDD+
  • Anti-corruption measures have already started through broader governance efforts, such as participation, and need to be complemented through specific, technical inputs to promote transparency and accountability in different elements of a national REDD+ strategy       
  • Using institutional and national comparative strengths, lessons learned and networks will be key

A summary of the U4/CMI seminar will be provided in a later post. Stay tuned !

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