Producer countries of agricultural commodities face a significant challenge – how to strike a balance between the economic benefits of these industries and the preservation of the environment. But what are these producer countries doing to ensure a harmonious coexistence between local livelihoods and the protection of natural ecosystems? How can jurisdictions showcase their progress towards legal and deforestation-free production? And what is the role of increased transparency in holding local governments accountable and creating incentives for them to transition towards sustainable land use?
To address these questions, the European Forest Institute (EFI) organised a webinar on jurisdictional sustainability monitoring in October 2023. The event was moderated by Michaela Foster, Data and Policy Analyst at EFI. She invited participants to explore critical insights from tropical countries regarding legal, deforestation-free and sustainable land use. She also invited them to share their experiences in developing participatory jurisdictional monitoring approaches in South-East Asia and West and Central Africa. The webinar was part of the EU REDD Facility learning series.
You can now watch the webinar on jurisdictional sustainability monitoring.
Producer countries of commodities face a significant challenge – how to strike a balance between the economic benefits of these industries and the preservation of the environment. This webinar addresses essential questions such as:
Comprehensive information on these issues is often hard to come by, but it is crucial for promoting local efforts and recognizing progress towards Sustainable Development Goals, adherence to legal frameworks, and meeting emerging market requirements for legal and deforestation-free products.
Moderator: Michaela Foster, Facilitator in land-use planning trainings, EFI
Thomas Sembres, Supply Chain Transparency Expert, EFI, explained that jurisdictional approaches and initiatives are government-led efforts within a specific territory, such as districts, provinces, or municipalities, to address issues like deforestation, social concerns, or sustainable forest management. He stressed the importance of jurisdictional approaches in addressing deforestation drivers. He underscored how these approaches can complement other strategies, especially supply chain initiatives, without replacing them. The three key reasons for focusing on jurisdictional approaches are: reducing the risk of leakage, leveraging government authority, and including vulnerable actors like small-scale producers.
Panellists then delved into the challenges and enabling conditions for successful jurisdictional sustainability monitoring in West Africa and South-East Asia. They highlighted the need for multistakeholder collaboration, data transparency, establishing a national framework that encourages jurisdictional approaches at the decentralised level, and government support to address deforestation and promote sustainability in the production of forest-related commodities. Leadership and incentives were also identified as critical factors to trigger positive change.
Stakeholder engagement as the foundation for jurisdictional sustainability
offered insights into the Terpercaya initiative in Indonesia. This approach is focused on tracking and assessing district-level sustainability in the production of forest-related commodities, such as palm oil. It featured strong engagement with an array of stakeholders, including government, private sector, local NGOs and indigenous peoples’ organisations, to collaboratively define indicators for sustainability. He stressed that the Indonesian Government’s endorsement and facilitation of the process were crucial. The role of champions within the advisory committees was also highlighted as vital in building consensus and developing the sustainability indicators.
Huong Le, Sustainable Supply Chain and Engagement Expert, MDRI, described work on jurisdictional approaches in the Central Highlands in Vietnam. She mentioned the importance of participatory approaches to bring together diverse opinions, facilitate collaboration and address obstacles for inclusive considerations. She discussed various strategies to engage stakeholders and navigate multilevel governance challenges, focusing on gender-inclusive approaches. Le emphasised that collaboration with project partners, local authorities and non-state actors was key to ensuring that the jurisdictional monitoring indicators are useful for local people.
Data and transparency to demonstrate progress and incentivise change
Romuald Vaudry, EFI, Land-use Governance Expert explained that in Côte d’Ivoire jurisdictional approaches are helping to adapt and implement regional and local development plans within the framework of decentralisation. The importance of jurisdictions’ leadership and resources to take responsibility for jurisdictional approaches is thereby of crucial importance. EFI’s collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and Development led to the creation of a dashboard on jurisdictional sustainability, based on available and reliable data. The dashboard allows to understand the performance of various regions in Côte d’Ivoire towards sustainability indicators and is expected to create positive competition among regions, offering a way to reward regions that achieve higher sustainability scores. The tool assesses the level of sustainability in regions and calculates an aggregated sustainability score based on four pillars: economic, social, environmental and governance. Underscoring the importance of transparency, he said access to the dashboard will vary based on the institution or organisation that users represent. Full access will be provided to national institutions, and more restricted access will be granted to external users, although the exact access arrangements are not yet defined.
In Indonesia, Wicaksono highlighted that one of the values of the Terpercaya approach is making information available to supply chain actors. The dashboard in Indonesia is a tool to showcase progress and can generate incentives for districts’ transition towards sustainability goals.
Understanding the jurisdictional policy and legal contexts
Wicaksono explained how legality served as a foundation for developing the sustainability indicators in Indonesia. He stressed the importance of clarifying the Indonesian legal framework related to deforestation and tracking compliance with the law. Wicaksono also mentioned that initial data collected prompted discussions about the need for field verification and emphasised the importance of ground-truthing legality assessments.
Similarly, Le explained that the process for developing the sustainability indicators in the Central Highlands in Vietnam included policy and legal reviews and multi-step consultations to identify gaps within Vietnam’s policy and legal context. Le added that the sustainability indicators were developed through a collaborative process, involving lessons from other cases and adapting them to the Vietnamese context. They are based on existing data and governance systems and are aligned with local objectives.
Challenges in developing jurisdictional approaches
Wicaksono underlined that building trust among these diverse stakeholders was a challenge. He also pointed to the need to consider data availability to track progress on the indicators.
Le acknowledged the challenge of implementing the framework due to the top-down governance system in Vietnam. She also underscored the importance of building a common understanding of sustainability before developing a monitoring and evaluation framework with indicators to track progress. She noted that communication is essential to bridging language and understanding barriers, making sustainability concepts accessible to diverse stakeholders.
Concluding the discussion, Sembres highlighted key takeaways from the diverse range of experiences within jurisdictional initiatives. These lessons underscored the significance of clear incentives, the transformative power of data and transparency, the need to showcase progress towards sustainability and celebrating these achievements, and the value of framing indicators in positive terms to maintain the momentum towards sustainability.