This week we are in Guyana, talking about people, forests and carbon finance. The 6th meeting of the Participants Committee of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility  (FCPF) is taking place in Georgetown, Guyana, bringing government representatives, international organizations, indigenous peoples representatives and private sector to the northern coast of South America. The Facility is a partnership of countries with tropical and sub-tropical forests with the World Bank as a trustee for the Readiness Fund and the Carbon Fund. The meeting is discussing innovative ways to prepare countries for programs that will provide them with payments for emission reductions through, for example, avoided deforestation.
On June 26th, World Cup chants and vuvuzelas resounded on the radio as we made our way to the University of Guyana where the FCPF and the Guyana Forestry Commission hosted a meeting to share information about REDD+ and the FCPF. REDD+ expands the scope of REDD beyond avoided deforestation and degradation activities to include forest restoration, rehabilitation, sustainable management and af/reforestation. Over 60 participants from Guyanese civil society attended presentations from Guyana's Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud, Commissioner James Singh, Chairperson of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) Yvonne Pearson and Joshua Lichtenstein from the Bank Information Center, as well as World Bank specialists Benoit Bosquet, Ken Andrasko and Haddy Sey.
The presentations provided a framework for REDD+ and the FCPF, and gave specific country examples of the FCPF worldwide, the importance of consultations with affected stakeholders for the development of a comprehensive REDD+ strategy, and early lessons on how countries are working to improve the design of REDD+ readiness activities at a national level.
Following the presentations, University of Guyana Vice-Chancellor Lawrence Carrington facilitated a dynamic exchange of ideas among participants, in particular indigenous peoples groups and NGOs. Key points raised included the importance of transparent, timely and culturally appropriate information dissemination about REDD+ before consultations with stakeholders begin; the challenge of defining land rights; and the timeline for the Guyanese Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) process. People traveled from many regions in Guyana to present their own personal stories, including overlapping land claims, the difficulties in accessing information in remote areas where phone and internet are not available, and the need to understand the complex concepts of REDD+ before they can really provide feedback on a specific REDD+ program that is emerging in their country.
We also heard from other groups, such the NTC, which speaks on behalf of various communities with 97 toshaos making up the council, on how the involvement of local communities is crucial if consultations are to be successful. Commissioner Singh had suggested that $70,000 of the $200,000 FCPF grant to Guyana to prepare the readiness proposal should be channeled directly to the NTC to develop a consultation plan, and Yvonne Pearson expanded on this, promising that consultations will be held in each region of Guyana.The Iwokrama International Center provided an example of good consultations, like in their case, where Amerindian communities moved from being stakeholders to shareholders, by participating in the management of the forest in the form of a sustainable forestry enterprise.
This feedback is important in the development of the REDD+ strategy design process and in better understanding the challenges in developing the readiness proposal. In particular, understanding how to ensure access to information before consultations begin and giving voice to vulnerable people that could be impacted by REDD+ strategies.
The meeting concluded with closing remarks from Agriculture Minister Persaud. He offered his thoughts on the process to date, reviewing the concept of REDD+ and how it is linked to the country's low carbon development strategy, explaining how Guyana was an early leader in this area and, despite challenges, is committed to the REDD+ process and the work of the FCPF.
All in all, a positive and constructive beginning to the visit by the FCPF in Guyana with voices expressing a diversity of ideas while, like the buzz of the vuvuzelas, all joining in support for a future with a greater value for standing forests, interrupted only by shouts of joy when the Ghana soccer team advanced to quarter finals.
For more information: www.forestcarbonpartnership.org