Independent Monitoring of Nationally Determined Contributions
Many nationally determined contributions (NDCs) include targets for reducing deforestation, and there is potentially much to be gained by framing IM activities as contributing to the transparency and implementation of NDCs. Without significant improvements to governance, including more effective monitoring, initiatives to mitigate carbon emissions from the forest sectors contained in the NDCs risk failing, not to mention potentially threaten the land rights and livelihoods of vulnerable communities.
While increased participation in, and accountability of, NDCs is desirable, the capacities and mechanisms for civil society to monitor and track the emission reductions from forest sector mitigation activities are currently limited due to its technical complexities and lack of access to government data.29 In the short to medium term at least, the greatest potential added value of IM in relation to NDCs is to focus on the governance aspect of forest, and potentially land-use mitigation actions. NDCs are prepared and implemented in several stages, including the design of the mitigation measures, the elaboration of implementation and investment plans, the improvement of capacities and institutions, and finally, implementation.30 Each stage could potentially be subjected to IM. However, at least in the short-term, the most pragmatic application of IM in the context of NDCs could be to focus on monitoring the implementation of individual activities contained in government action plans. This could include monitoring of their adherence to legal requirements and sustainability requirements (enshrined in law, in safeguards linked to the delivery of funds, or in specific contractual agreements between implementers and local governments and/or populations). The high-profile and multi-stakeholder nature of national NDC dialogues can also provide a new forum for highlighting some of the weaknesses of land-use governance and for driving forest and land-use governance reforms.
IM is not a specific tool, a single system or a one-serves-all approach. It is rather a diversity of approaches and initiatives with the purpose of increasing transparency and improving governance through constructive, evidence-based engagement and rigorous application of professional methods. Independent monitors have increasingly built on the legitimacy acquired in the fields of FLEGT and applied their skills to other fields within the natural resource sector, such as REDD+, with further expansion potentially including commodity production and possibly even NDCs.
It is important to emphasise that, for IM to truly have an impact on natural resource governance, after the investigations and production of analytical reports, these findings need to reach the appropriate audience. These are, for instance, national governments of both producing and consuming countries, the EU in the VPA context, the World Bank and the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). In the REDD+ context, this audience is the Green Climate Fund (GCF). For tracking progress on NDCs, the audience is also the UNFCCC. And in the context of commodity production, the audience are international NGOs, private sector actors and the general public. Also, the role of IM is not primarily to engage in advocacy. Rather, it is to generate trust by producing reliable, rigorously documented evidence, linked to the performance of legal or contractual obligations. The establishment of networks between mandated and non-mandated independent monitors, as well as more advocacy-minded organisations engaged in the scrutiny of natural resource governance, can be an effective way of leveraging the respective strengths of the different network members. This will in turn influence natural resource governance and reform processes more effectively (subject to the availability of resources).
Ten years ago, the forest sector in most countries was centralised, opaque and non- participatory. Despite the major improvements made through FLEGT and REDD+, the situation remains critical. In these policy contexts, IM has earned its stripes as a legitimate activity through which non-state actors can influence natural resource governance. Its application to corporate and public sector commitments to decoupling commodities from deforestation or even NDCs can potentially help open up the agricultural, and more broadly the land-use sector to similar improvements.