Lessons Learned: Viet Nam UN-REDD Programme, Phase 1

Executive Summary

When Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) became a headline issue at international climate change talks in 2007, few negotiators or observers had Viet Nam in mind. However, shortly after the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in December 2007, Viet Nam, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) was among the first countries to express interest in the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), which aims to support the development of national REDD programmes. MARD’s argument was that a recent record of expansion in national forest area, due to a successful afforestation programme, masked a steady decline in the area and quality of natural forest, which existing policies had been unable to address. These circumstances drew the attention of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), when they launched their joint UN-REDD Programme in September 2008, making Viet Nam one of the original nine partner countries.

Viet Nam has since progressed further with its national UN-REDD Programme than any other partner country. Phase 1 began in August 2009 and is due to conclude in June 2012. Over this period, the Programme has made a significant impact on the domestic forestry sector, in terms of policy and practice, and has been the most significant initiative for REDD+ readiness in Viet Nam. It has achieved some notable successes, when measured against its own objectives. For example, its work on Benefit Distribution Systems (BDS) began early and has generated important discussions among forestry policy makers. In the pilot province of Lam Dong, the pilot exercises on applying the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in the context of REDD+ were internationally recognised as ground-breaking. The Programme also made a significant contribution to the success of new multi-stakeholder bodies, such as the REDD Network and six Sub-Technical Working Groups (STWGs) that contribute to research, development and decision- making processes in REDD+ Readiness.

However, not all of the Programme’s objectives could be successfully accomplished during Phase 1. For example, although it is essential for the Government of Viet Nam to develop and approve a National REDD+ Programme (NRP) in order to provide effective governance and oversight for the UN-REDD Programme and all other REDD-related initiatives, this work was delayed. The Programme’s anticipated impacts beyond Viet Nam’s national borders, through ‘regional approaches’ to REDD+, are not highly visible.

The wealth of experience generated during Phase 1 of the Programme offers important lessons, both for the design of Phase 2 of the Programme in Viet Nam, and for other UN-REDD and REDD+ country programmes around the world. They may also have relevance beyond the scope of REDD+, for the wider field of forestry and land-use policy and practice.

This report outlines the lessons that have been learned by a range of different stakeholders in Viet Nam, as a result of their involvement in different activities and discussions during Phase 1 of the Programme. They demonstrate a widespread appreciation of the inclusive nature of REDD+ discussions but also some persistent misunderstandings about the nature of REDD+, its likely benefits, and its limitations.

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