In Western Africa, FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ have become main drivers for reforms in forest governance and land-use, with both processes currently ongoing in Ghana, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. Both FLEGT-VAP and REDD+ processes are designed through extensive consultations with all stakeholders involved, including Non-State actors (NSAs).
The role of NSA has been technical advisors to these policy processes, representing the interests and insights of the scientific community and local forest dwelling communities and Civil Society. Moreover, evidence based information on forest governance, safeguards and land-use gathered through independent monitoring has significantly contributed to improving transparency and providing real-time information for advocacy by NSAs thus influencing national policy processes.
On one hand, the gaps in forest governance are likely to hinder the nations’ efforts in addressing climate change and achieving sustainable development, ways to improving forest governance are therefore crucial. FLEGT-VPA offers important lessons and tools to cope with these issues. FLEGT-VPA has strong track records of addressing governance challenges in the forest sector, and its impacts will always strengthen the ability of VPA countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The REDD+ process requires looking at governance from the broad perspective of land-use governance, which includes the sectors of economic development, land-tenure and land-use planning, agriculture, mining and infrastructure development as well as forestry and biodiversity conservation.
The three selected countries; Ghana, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, are at different stages and making significant progress in paving the way towards full FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ implementation, which presents a big opportunity for mutual learning. Despite progress, considerable challenges have also characterised the evolution of REDD+ and FLEGT-VPA process in the three countries, for example, high and unrealistic stakeholder expectations; the slow pace of policy and legal reforms that is required to provide the needed impetus to drive the REDD+ and the FLEGT policies and strategies; as well as the increasing pressure on forest cover from several drivers.
Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) has played an important role in the national policy process, where evidence of what actually happens “on-the-ground” informs national policy debate and improves practice. Most of the IFM has focused on the forest sector in the context of the FLEGT-VPA, monitoring forest exploitation, social contracts and a variety of forest governance issues. With REDD+ now moving into the testing and implementation phase, monitoring land-use change, land- and tree- tenure, environmental and social safeguards of large investment projects needs to be monitored as well.
Capacity of NSAs, primarily civil society, to monitor, to do advocacy and to engage with state-actors at local and national levels in these different areas of governance and monitoring practice has developed over past years and has informed and influenced the national FGLET-VPA and REDD+ processes. However, this capacity is vested mostly with a limited number of NGOs working at national level. There is a need to continue to engage local level NSAs and CSOs, including associations of forest dwelling communities, farmers, SMFEs, local authorities, women and the youth.
In this context, together with other partners, Tropenbos International (TBI) is implementing the project “Strengthening the capacity of non-state actors to improve FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ processes in Western Africa” to tackle these challenges, better position NSAs and increase their participation in both FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ process in Ghana, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. Tropenbos Ghana and Nature - Development Foundation (NDF) will implement the activities for Ghana, Volunteers to Support International Efforts in Developing Africa (VOSIEDA) for Liberia and Groupe National de Travail pour la Gestion Durable des Fôrets et la Certification Forestière en CI (GNT-CI) for Côte d’Ivoire.
Enhanced capacity of Western Africa NSAs to monitor, advocate and engage with State Actors in FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ processes