Talking Tenure: a report from RRI’s 12th Dialogue on the Forest, Governance and Climate Change

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By Selene Castillo
In Ecosystem Marketplace’s latest edition of the State of the Forest Carbon Markets report, a growing trend that was seen globally across developing countries was the need for clear land tenure rights, as it stands as one of the more prominent determinants of project viability. 
 
A number of current forest carbon projects have hit a wall when it comes to tenure. Project developers point out that if progress seems slow, it’s because REDD projects are intertwined with some of the world’s knottiest issues – from community development to land tenure systems. 
 
Even with a growing awareness of the situation, the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) reports that while there has been an increase in tropical forest community land rights, enforcement remains low. RRI’s Director of Global Programs, Jeffrey Hatcher, comments, “Despite tremendous progress in establishing legal tenure regimes, a lack of political will and bureaucratic obstacles make it a struggle to implement any real action in most forest-rich developing nations. The exorbitant technical and financial costs of addressing these hurdles are often beyond the means of rural communities.” 
 
In an attempt to help get the ball rolling on financing land tenure reform in a number of countries, RRI is pursuing the design of an International Forest Tenure Facility, an international public-private partnership aimed at incentivizing private sector actors to provide financial and political support for governance reform. 
 
During RRI’s 12th Dialogue on the Forest, Governance and Climate Change: Scaling-Up Strategies to Reduce Emissions and Advance Development in Forest Areas, a portion of the day was spent discussing tenure and governance reform and financing and how the Facility may assist in the tenure process. While RRI clarified they would not own the Facility, they are taking the lead on the design process. Thus far, they have established key characteristics and benchmarks that must be reached before the establishment of the Facility. 
 
RRI reports the Facility will be demand-driven, serving as a response to the petitions of developing countries’ governments, civil society organizations, indigenous peoples, other community organizations and private sector investors. With collaboration in mind, the Facility is expected to be also co-governed by the same groups of people. Consultations with stakeholders are currently under way, and initial support has already been expressed by two bilateral donors. 
 
While the Facility’s exact institutional arrangement is yet to be determined, its final design should be decided by late 2013. In the meantime, RRI and its team of collaborators will be thinking about mechanisms to attract private investment, the feasibility of linking with the UNFCCC process, and meeting the needs of a high profile fund, and we will be sure to report progress soon!