Norway's Climate and Forest Initiative: Lessons learned and recommendations

Norway's Climate and Forest Initiative: Lessons learned and recommendations

This report presents a synthesis of the main findings identified from the external assessments and evaluations carried out since 2009 to date by Norad on Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI). To support the synthesis process and identification of lessons learned, the team responsible for the present study also assessed a selection of evaluation reports on the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), the Forest Investment Programme (FIP) and the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD), together with annual reports from Norad (2007-2016), NICFI (2015 and 2016) and the government of Norway’s annual budget reports relating to NICFI. The aim of the synthesis is to facilitate learning and dialogue on how NICFI can become more effective and efficient in meeting its key objectives. This is also important to build public confidence in the initiative both in Norway and in its partner countries as they move towards full implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The team responsible for this report wish to point out that the scope of analysis has been confined to the thematic focus that was applied in each of the above-mentioned reports. The team also points out that in the interests of quality, the analysis of all reports took into account the evidence used to reach their main findings (in particular whether triangulation of evidence had taken place). The document analysis involved reading through all of the reports to identify major findings and capture lessons learned, which were summarised in a pre-set format reflecting the questions established in the terms of reference. To aid and help justify the synthesis of key findings and lessons learned the team selected those that appeared in at least two or more reports. The following main conclusions arise out of this synthesis:

Conclusion 1: There is wide consensus that NICFI has fulfilled its first objective by being highly instrumental in pushing the REDD+ agenda forward and playing a considerable role in building momentum towards agreement on a REDD+ framework under the UNFCCC, including the anchoring of that agreement in the Paris Agreement.

Conclusion 2: NICFI’s attempt to gain significant support for REDD+ to help reduce the risks associated with being the main donor of REDD+ has only partially materialized. To date NICFI continues to be the main donor to REDD+.

Conclusion 3: NICFI’s hands-off approach based largely on a one-size-fits-all approach coupled with the fragmentation of its funding through a wide array of multilateral and bilateral channels reduces the opportunity to develop a specific approach adapted to the needs and capacity of each REDD+ country. This situation signifies there is further work required in most partner countries before NICFI can fully meet its second objective (measurable emission reductions from deforestation and forest degradation).

Conclusion 4: NICFI and its implementing partners have generally forged strong relations and political support from government institutions responsible for the environment to advance the REDD+ process. In partner countries with low deforestation rates this has helped increase forest conservation in line with NICFI’s third objective (conservation of primary forests as carbon stores and biological diversity). However, in partner countries where deforestation and forest degradation are major challenges, forging closer relations with other key government institutions that have a mandate in forested areas (such as ministries responsible for finance, planning and development, the extraction industries, etc.) have generally not materialised. Likewise, there is significant evidence to indicate the private sector has not been not adequately engaged in REDD+ to promote green-growth developments.

Conclusion 5: NICFI has contributed significantly in engaging civil society in the REDD+ process, which includes indigenous peoples and other forest dependent community organisations. However, this engagement remains entrenched in consultative and advocacy processes, rather than in final decision-making which can legally bypass such processes on the grounds they are in the national interest. Thus the application of REDD+ safeguards are only being partially met in most countries so far.

Conclusion 6: NICFI’s introduction of results-based indicators do not adequately track progress on implementation of the REDD+ process at the country level because there is no nationally defined agreement as to what constitutes completion of REDD+ Readiness. This situation limits learning and opportunities to align indicators and targets to national priorities and policies relating to the REDD+ agenda, as well as international commitments such as the monitoring of safeguards.

Conclusion 7: NICFI has improved its communication strategy in recent years which includes information about its funding in all its partner countries. However, due to the lack of reporting on tangible results and achievements at the country level its communication lacks the weight needed to widen its support base.

In the interests of stimulating debate and dialogue on improving the policy relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of NICFI, the following recommendations are made:

Recommendation 1: The Ministry of Environment and Norad should reassess how NICFI’s approach can be better tailored to support country-specific needs, based on a needs assessment and a revised theory of change in which the central aim of REDD+ should be its integration into existing national policies that focus on the reduction of rural poverty and insecurity and supporting sustainable economic development of the forest economy (through green growth initiatives).

Recommendation 2: NICFI should establish its own internal risk management strategy to guide future programming, planning, implementation and monitoring of its funds and results associated with the completion of the Readiness phase and the future application and continuity of results-based payments (RBPs).

Recommendation 3: To develop a more country-specific approach NICFI should identify with the partner country the coordination mechanism to be established to integrate REDD+ into relevant policies, strategies and plans in the interests of achieving greater effectiveness and efficiency at the country level.

Recommendation 4: Representatives from civil society (including women) and the private sector should be included in the national coordination mechanism proposed in the preceding recommendation.

Recommendation 5: NICFI should support the proposed national coordination mechanism reach a formal agreement as to what remains to be achieved in the REDD+ Readiness phase before moving to RBPs. The agreement should include the indicators and targets to be applied to track progress and achievements ensuring explicit inclusion of horizontal objectives to be fulfilled (rights, gender, governance, etc.).

Recommendation 6: Through the development of country-based indicators and targets proposed in Recommendation 5, NICFI should aggregate key information from each partner country to produce standardised reports on overall progress, achievements and gaps relating to REDD+ Readiness at the regional and global levels to tailor communication of its programming, planning and implementation, to different audiences using different mediums.

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