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SZ: What is involved in creating a National REDD+ Strategy, and what can other countries learn from Indonesia?

HP: The first steps are obvious: take stock of your institutional understanding, and really be self-critical about it. Then you do the same with your regulations, because most of the time, the capacity to act was very much influenced by what regulations you had. You mentioned how, in the United States, they have different regulations on water, forest, etc. Well, those regulations need to be reviewed, and you need to figure out how to make those regulations work across sectors. But then you find that if you apply one regulation, it will impact situations in ways you hadn't anticipated.

SZ: What complexities on the ground surprised you the most?

HP: We knew that we’d have a lot of issues with tenure. That’s a problem we inherited from the Dutch, and then we made worse ourselves. So, we knew that, but the biggest surprise was that our institutions were not prepared for doing what needs to be done to make REDD+ work. But then we also found this benefit: that the reforms we needed to make for REDD+ were reforms that would have knock-on benefits across the agriculture sector. So, we’re using REDD+ to align our institutions and straighten out all of our tenure issues.

The next complexity was there are a lot of things locally that don’t fit the UN paradigm – or, rather, things that the UN seems to assume are there, but that aren't.

SZ: Can you provide some examples?

HP: There was nothing about maps, and nothing about regulation – which is understandable, because the UN and other organizations don’t want to be seen as interfering with a country’s sovereignty. I've been looking at other countries, and one of the realizations when you go into the budgeting system of any country is that you don’t have an account called “REDD”. Some countries don’t even have climate change in their charge of account, so how can you, as a bureaucrat using the terms you have as a country, apply REDD+ when nothing is recognized as that in your budget?

I understand why international organizations don’t want to dictate this stuff, but the reality on the ground is that you need these things. Otherwise, a country can say, “I’m ready,” but I’d argue that they’re not ready, because the most important questions weren't asked. So we need to tailor that, based on what is needed on the ground and how it’s connected to the global, higher-level issues.

SZ: Is there one take-home that you can offer other countries? One lesson you've learned that you think will save them a lot of time?

HP: Yes, and it’s the one question everyone is asking when they decide to create a REDD Strategy: Do you employ government introspection or multi-stakeholder consultation? Consultation is messy, but I’d argue that you go the consultation route, and you look honestly at who can provide that capacity – not only the government but also NGOs, who have been frozen out of the UNFCCC process, except as observers.

This alone changes everything, because it makes you question your premises. It makes you ask: “Can we do the institution-building in the current paradigm?” The governing paradigm that everyone approaches agriculture on is basically exploitative; it’s basically looking at natural assets as either natural resources or protected areas. It makes you think along the lines of, “This is the one that I can cut in order to get development. This is something I can sell instead of nurture.” So, the question of who you involve becomes: “What kind of paradigm do you want to meet the needs of your people, and does REDD+ offer a new component that makes that paradigm doable?” You won’t get an answer to that if you leave this up to just one of your administrative silos.

SZ: Everyone is talking about your One Map Initiative, which is designed to take all of these different land-use and concession maps that different ministries have and combine them into one. Is this part of the paradigm shift?

HP: It’s more an example of how you can’t really draw sharp lines between these activities. The One Map Initiative is certainly related to how people relate to the land, but it’s really something we consider more strategy than paradigm-shifting. Without the One Map, we can’t really do anything, because we need a common database to proceed.

SZ: Will this map be used to develop your reference levels?

HP: Yes, but that’s also one of the issues that is proving difficult. We can easily come up with a national reference level based on historic rates of deforestation, but that won’t work locally, because of the different competing forces converging on that land. But what are those forces?

Right now, the Ministry of Industry has one classification for our land, and the Ministry of Agriculture has another, while the Ministry of Forestry has another. Then you have different conflicting concessions and licenses on the land, some overlapping, and each with a different expiration date. Sometimes, the rights to a piece of property aren't even recorded by government, but by a mortgage company or a bank. We have to review all of these, and we also have to determine which of those concessions were given through corrupt practices – which opens up a whole other set of questions that we haven’t dealt with yet.

Then you have the data, which is what the REDD+ finance usually wants to see, but first you have to determine what you want to measure. Do you want to measure deforestation or emissions? The questions are endless: “Do you want to identify what is primary forest and what is secondary forest? How do you measure that?” Those are the metrics side, and metrics, together with the data and the map, are all part of the strategy initiative.

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