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FTA’s new Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Agenda and Action Plan 2020-2021

At a food fair in Luwingu, Zambia, in April 2017, women display items they regularly forage and cultivate.
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A Revised Research Agenda and Action Plan 2020-2021 for FTA on Gender Equality and Social Inclusion has just been released

Since its very beginning in 2011, gender and social inclusion have been a core area of research and action for the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

Gender equality is a human right and a necessary condition for reaching sustainable development worldwide. Significant inequalities based on gender and other types of discrimination affect who has voice and can influence, and who benefits or suffers losses in rapidly transforming forest, tree and agroforestry landscapes. While being fundamentally unjust, these inequalities also have the undesirable side effect to hamper the achievement of fundamental development and environmental outcomes, such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

The first phase of FTA (2011-2015) had a robust institutional architecture in place for gender mainstreaming. The FTA Gender Strategy produced in 2013 was one of the first to be approved by the Independent Science and Partnership Council and the Consortium office. As FTA’s research agenda has evolved over time, so too has the program’s portfolio of gender and social inclusion research, to address emerging global challenges and reflect the latest thinking and innovations in the field.

The new FTA Gender Research and Action Plan 2020-2021 [pdf]
The revised version of this strategy, called Gender Equality and Social Inclusion – A Revised Agenda and Action Plan for the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry 2020-2021 draws on the program’s tradition of quality gender research and its experience strengthening gender integration across program activities and processes. Building on and complementing its original efforts and strategy, FTA continues to view gender integration in research as a fundamental part of doing good science (European Commission 2011), and approaches gender as a theme that cuts across every aspect of the FTA research portfolio.

FTA’s revised agenda and action plan lays out a transformative approach that actively addresses structural barriers and schemes that (re)produce gender inequalities. The aim is a deep, lasting and pervasive transition that moves beyond individual women’s self-improvement toward more equal power dynamics and structures that affect men’s and women’s capacities to:

  1. control assets and resources;
  2. value and distribute unremunerated labor; and
  3. meaningfully participate in decision making at the household and community levels and beyond.

From a normative perspective, FTA recognizes gender equality as an inherent human right. This means that FTA advances gender equality throughout its portfolio for its intrinsic rather than merely instrumental value: equality is not seen primarily as a mechanism to deliver greater impact, but as an essential and indivisible condition for all human beings.

In the new research agenda and action plan, there is also an explicit commitment to adopting an intersectionality lens to analyze how gender intersects with other factors of social differentiation, such as age or generation, socioeconomic status or ethnicity. This allows FTA to shine a light on and work more comprehensively on other forms of marginalization that all together shape livelihood and resource management decisions, governance and dramatically determine the inequitable distribution of benefits from tree-based systems. In this regard, the research program gives renewed attention to the aspirations and livelihoods of youth in forest, tree and agroforestry systems.

The Revised Research Agenda and Action Plan is characterized by two main, mutually supportive strands of work. The first strand focuses on knowledge generation and delivering quality gender, social inclusion and youth research, and the second on strengthening gender integration along FTA’s impact pathways, including how the program engages with a wide range of stakeholders.

Theory of change of gender integration in FTA

Broken down in main points, this Revised Research Agenda and Action Plan will enable FTA to:

  • Lay out the pathways through which FTA contributes to the CGIAR’s efforts to achieve the Intermediate Development Outcome (IDO) ‘Equity and inclusion achieved (gender and youth)’;
  • Generate an empirical evidence base on the structural barriers that (re)produce gender inequalities in forest and agroforestry landscapes and develop innovations to transform discriminatory structures and norms;
  • Strengthen capacities for delivering a high volume of quality, impactful research that will foster gender equality as well as other sought FTA outcomes;
  • Build partnerships to mainstream gender in processes (e.g. around restoration, climate change or inclusive business models) and multilateral environmental agreements and agendas (e.g. Rio Conventions) of concern to FTA.

This refocused Revised Research Agenda and Action Plan offers new opportunities for framing transformative and impactful research to enable change toward more equitable and sustainable forest, tree and agroforestry systems.

FTA hopes that it will inspire other research programs in constructing their social and gender inclusiveness strategy.

 

References

European Commission. 2011. Toolkit: Gender in EU-funded research. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

 


Written by Marène Elias and Ana Maria Paez Valencia from the FTA Gender cross-cutting theme. The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, ICRAF, INBAR and TBI.

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REDD+ politics – or why it is so difficult to tackle large-scale drivers of deforestation

Ethiopia recently established a REDD+ national strategy. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
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Ethiopia recently established a REDD+ national strategy. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
Ethiopia recently established a REDD+ national strategy. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

By Efrian Muharrom, Melaku Bekele, Cynthia Maharani, Pham Thu Thuy, Grace Wong, Maria Brockhaus, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

What challenges do REDD+ countries have in common, where do they differ? And how do a country’s politics play out in managing drivers of deforestation?

Representatives from more than a dozen countries across three continents had the rare opportunity to discuss these and other questions at a recent REDD+ knowledge-sharing event held from 8-10 June in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia.

The three-day meeting, hosted by the Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources at Hawassa University, brought Ethiopian policymakers and practitioners together with researchers from 15 REDD+ countries in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia to present and analyze their progress. Research on REDD+ forms part of the climate change theme of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Discussions showed that while countries develop their own approaches to REDD+, incorporating national circumstances in their policy design, the challenges they face in avoiding deforestation remain largely similar.

Timing is crucial, but it’s not everything

What challenges do REDD+ countries have in common? Photo: Bruno Locatelli/CIFOR
What challenges do REDD+ countries have in common? Photo: Bruno Locatelli/CIFOR

It would be easy to assume that early-mover countries have already progressed with REDD+ to a stage where ‘payments for performance’ can be made. However, it appears that some early-mover countries – such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Mozambique and Papua New Guinea – are still struggling with policy design and implementation, meaning that late-comer countries could yet catch up.

  • Laos launched a REDD+ task force in 2008, and has conceptualized REDD+ as a shared responsibility of two ministries, but there is still the classic problem of conflict between institutions, which has created confusion. Overall, REDD+ in Laos is seen as a project, and not as policy development. Things may be changing, however, since a new prime minister assumed office on 20 April and has already issued a moratorium on timber and log exports.
  • On the African continent, Ethiopia recently finalized a REDD+ national strategy, covering REDD+ goals, governance, measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) design, and financing options. REDD+ activities in Ethiopia will be implemented with both in-country and external funding, including through agricultural intensification. The jurisdictional REDD+ project in the regional state of Oromia is now entering its final stage of implementation, with a pledge by Norway of USD 50 million.
  • Papua New Guinea is still in the first phase of REDD+ readiness, despite being one of the first countries to propose REDD back in 2005. The country’s political commitment to tackling deforestation and forest degradation has been questioned — for example, it remains the largest exporter of timber in the world, and continues to back large-scale land conversion plans under a paradigm of ‘green development’.
One key condition to move forward with REDD+ seems to be the upfront investment a country needs to make. While this is a burden for most countries in the short term, in the long term it instills a sense of ownership, as seen in the cases of Brazil. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT
One key condition to move forward with REDD+ seems to be the upfront investment a country needs to make. While this is a burden for most countries in the short term, in the long term it instills a sense of ownership, as seen in the cases of Brazil. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT

Stumbling blocks on the road to ‘transformational change’

Business-as-usual is a powerful force. Conflicting interests in the agendas of different actors involved in deforestation — across and within ministries, and across levels of governance —can be a major challenge for achieving effective, efficient and equitable REDD+.

Lack of land-use planning, unclear tenure, weak law enforcement and uncertainty over long-term funding were also found to be common challenges. Another was the lack of continuity in commitment from politicians.

Political champions for change are crucial for moving the REDD+ agenda forward. But some of these champions in REDD+ countries have not been able to generate sustainable and institutionalized pathways for change away from deforestation and forest degradation in the course of their terms.


Research on climate change will be the focus of the August Forests, Trees and Agroforestry newsletter. Sign up here to receive the regular update on FTA news.


The politics of the possible

Politics do matter when moving forward with REDD+. Analysis from Indonesia, Guyana, Burkina Faso, Nepal, Brazil and many other countries show that either the political carousel is rolling too fast within election cycles to maintain momentum for change, or the attention span of politicians is too short to carry out major reform.

One example mentioned was Indonesia, which until 2014 rapidly developed a REDD+ mechanism under the leadership of a president with a strong public commitment to mitigate climate change. During this time, a REDD+ national strategy was established, as well as a REDD+ agency with the power to coordinate across ministries, a REDD+ financial mechanism, regulations related to REDD+ implementation, MRV infrastructure and more. Policies were issued, including a peatland moratorium policy, and a one-map policy.

With a change in presidential leadership in 2014, everything seemed to change overnight. The new president, with a strong focus on strengthening governance and economic development, merged the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Forestry, dismissed the REDD+ Agency, the Climate Change National Council (DNPI), and the presidential office for development monitoring (UKP4), as the institution where the REDD+ task force was hosted. He then established a Directorate General of Climate Change Mitigation under the new Minister of Environment and Forestry, handing over the tasks of the late REDD+ Agency and DNPI.

Reactions were mixed among participants at the Addis Adaba meeting – some questioned the effectiveness of the first president’s measures in halting deforestation, considering that by 2014 Indonesia had become the country with the highest rate of deforestation in the world. They argued that change under the new president presented a possibility for greater ownership over the REDD+ process within the government. Meanwhile, others argued that the changes indicated weakened political will and undermined effective REDD+ policy making. However, all participants agreed that the changes in the political configuration contribute to an unclear future for REDD+ in Indonesia.

Optimists and pessimists

REDD+ gives reason for both cautious optimism and also some skepticism.

Some countries presented successful policy responses to the problem of deforestation, with ‘command and control’ as well as ‘payments for environmental services’ (PES) being part of the more effective approaches. Others mentioned REDD+ as being adopted in education curricula, reviews of natural resource exploitation licenses causing deforestation and forest degradation, capacity-building and technology transfer on conducting forest inventories and MRV as positive policy innovations for REDD+.

One topic that stirred controversy in discussion among country representatives was the strategy of integrating REDD+ into green economy pathways, as adopted by countries such as Guyana, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Participants said that this kind of strategy can ensure that the roadmap for transformational change is more comprehensive in targeting the underlying causes of deforestation, and can help to remove perverse incentives such as subsidies for land-use change driving deforestation and forest degradation.

However, some participants shared pessimistic concerns that with the introduction of ‘green economy’ or ‘green growth’ language, attention moves away from tangible measurable carbon and non-carbon outcome performance to rather fuzzy concepts with very little REDD+ objectives within.

One key condition to move forward with REDD+ seems to be the upfront investment a country needs to make. While this is a burden for most countries in the short term, in the long term it instills a sense of ownership, as seen in the cases of Brazil and Guyana, and carries a commitment to move past the pressures of election cycles and business as usual.

In the end, political willingness to break with old habits and powerful interests was highlighted as the most crucial factor for success across all country cases. It takes optimism and commitment for a state to break away from the entrenched interests driving deforestation, and to regain autonomy by enforcing decisions that regulate large-scale international and domestic investor behavior. And it takes an empowered civil society to hold state and business accountable to their commitments and promises.


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