REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) is a worldwide initiative that aims to reduce the emissions of greenhouses gases from logging. It also promotes sustainable forest management, conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

Several REDD+ projects have been launched in Cambodia. These have provided an important start to the programme, although some negative impacts have also occurred in regard to the livelihoods of indigenous and forest-dependent people. There is a key focus now in remedying these impacts.

The REDD+ Policy Monitoring Project of NGO Forum supports NGOs and civil society organisations to influence policies and practices related to REDD+ to protect and benefit indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities.

It aims to raise awareness among network members, civil society, academics, local communities and other key stakeholders on REDD+ policies and concepts, particularly on social safeguards, such as the concept of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).  It will also conduct advocacy at the national level, reaching out to both key government officials and donors, with an emphasis on the National REDD+ Strategy. It also aims to build the capacity of network members for effectively influencing REDD+ policy and projects so that the rights indigenous peoples are being protected and forest-dependent communities are benefitting from REDD+ projects. 

Cambodia is a good candidate for REDD+ projects

In 1965 Cambodia had approximately 13.2 million hectares of forest – 73% of the country’s land area. However, Forestry Administration statistics from 2010 show the forest cover had fallen to 10.3 million hectares, or 57% of the land area. Cambodia has had a high rate of deforestation and land-use change.

The threats to forests are almost at a critical level as a result of economic development, especially large-scale forest and forestland concessions and mining concessions, the demand for timber and firewood, and illegal logging and forest land occupancy. There is a lack of effective implementation of existing laws and policies for forest land and forest resource management.

Deforestation has social impacts for communities that lose access to non-timber-forest-products, and it has major environmental impacts such as soil erosion, land degradation and reduced soil fertility.

REDD+ projects in Cambodia

The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) implemented pilot REDD+ projects in the Oddar Meanchey community forests in May 2008, the Seima Protected Forest in 2009, and many other pilot projects are under discussion. The RGC made maximizing transparency and equitable local benefit sharing to communities an explicit policy priority under Council of Ministers Decision #699 that approved the first pilot.

The rights and livelihoods of the indigenous people and forest-dependent people in REDD+ project areas have been put at risk, however, as their traditional and cultural values have been severely impacted.

The key problems:
1.    There is a limited awareness and understanding of REDD+. A study by the Centre for People and Forests (RECOFTC) revealed a number of key awareness gaps in Cambodia, including: awareness of REDD+ at the local level; not enough consideration for social safeguards, locally communities in particular having a limited understanding of the concept of FPIC in the context of REDD+; and no clear benefit sharing mechanism on carbon payments from national to local/communities levels.
2.    Civil society so far has had a limited engagement with government and donors.

Cambodian CSOs have been in touch with the Forestry Administration through meetings and consultations on the REDD Roadmap development since 2009–2010.

The REDD roadmap was completed in 2011 and submitted to UN-REDD and FCPF of the World Bank, with funding approved to develop a Cambodian National REDD+ Strategy by 2014.

During REDD roadmap development, consultations followed a relatively open process compared to previous policy consultations in Cambodia. However, the CSOs still feel that there should have been more time for the process and that they should have had greater participation in consultations.

From engagement on the REDD roadmap development, the NGO Forum was elected as the interim CSO representative in the UN-REDD Program Executive Board (PEB) and the National NGOs representative in the REDD+ Consultation Group.

The REDD+ Consultation Group will serve as a forum to provide comments to the REDD+ Taskforce on the REDD+ readiness process and to represent the views of relevant stakeholders including civil society, NGOs, private and academic sectors. NGO Forum will coordinate those members through this REDD+ Policy Monitoring Project.