In March 2009, the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board approved US$4.4 million for Viet Nam’s National UN-REDD Programme. UN-REDD chose two districts in Lam Dong, – Di Linh and Lam Ha – to pilot REDD+ in Vietnam. From January to June 2010, the programme carried out a process of Free, Prior and Informed Consent in the two districts. There are at least two versions of what actually took place.
The first version is the official version, as documented in a video produced by the UN-REDD Vietnam programme. According to this version, the villagers were delighted to learn about climate change and REDD and happily gave their consent. Here’s an extract from the voice over, towards the end of the video:
“A new day begins with the echoes of gongs which sounded over high mountains and jungles. This wonderful sound seemed to be magnified in the atmosphere of green forest with vitality. This enjoyment is shared with the villagers’ radiant smiles as they have belief in REDD implementation and look forward to the day that REDD payment mechanisms will be officially implemented in Vietnam.”
UPDATE – 18 March 2017: The video has been removed from YouTube.
The Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) was hired to produce an evaluation and verification of the FPIC process in Lam Dong (pdf file 673.2 KB). The Executive Summary of RECOFTC’s report concludes that
Most FPIC principles were adhered to and guidelines on how to undertake E&V were followed with some modifications. Three major issues were highlighted by the mission:
- Some information could not be provided to local people: Although the UN-REDD Viet Nam Programme attempted to communicate with local people, some information could not be provided, particularly the risks and costs associated with the program.
- Lack of time for internal discussion in the village: The timeframe of the village meetings was too short (two hours) to fully inform the villagers about the issues introduced by the facilitation team.
- Lack of a grievance and review mechanism: There was no mechanism, independent of the FPIC team, to review any complaint made by local people.
In fact, RECOFTC’s report is critical of the FPIC process that was carried out in Lam Dong province. It includes, for example, a time-line for the “FPIC Process” in Thon 1 Village, one of the villages in Lam Ha District. The meeting started at 3:10pm. Climate change was explained until 3:45 pm. There then followed 45 minutes explaining REDD. At 4:30 pm came an “Introduction about the need to vote for UN-REDD.” Twelve minutes later villagers voted by secret ballot. That took three minutes. Villagers received UN-REDD caps and raincoats, voting results were announced and at 4:52 pm UN-REDD took a group photo and the “FPIC process” was finished.
Another description of the FPIC process in Lam Dong comes from a report published by Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact in December 2010. The report, titled, “REDD+ Implementation in Asia and the Concerns of Indigenous Peoples,” (pdf file 43.0 MB) provides an interesting overview of REDD and indigenous peoples in Asia. The section on REDD in Vietnam was written by the Center for Sustainable Development in the Mountainous Areas (CSDM). (Luong Thi Truong, of the Center for Sustainable Development in the Mountainous Areas, was part of the team that wrote the RECOFTC FPIC evaluation and verification report.)
On FPIC, CSDM wrote the following:
While it is very commendable on the part of the government of Vietnam and UN-REDD to have taken the initiative to pilot the implementation of FPIC among ethnic minorities, it is also important to draw the lessons from this experience as a guide to further FPIC processes not only in Vietnam but also to other REDD+ countries. It should be noted that the FPIC process was conducted in a very short period of time, and the key question asked was very general as “do you want your forest to be conserved?” without further explanation on the implications of REDD+ to their livelihoods, land tenure as well as on their views on benefit sharing, resource management, culture and identity among others. Inspite of the limitations in the piloting of FPIC, it nevertheless demonstrates the goodwill of both the government of Vietnam and UN-REDD to engage with ethnic minorities at least in the pilot areas of REDD+. Most of those who participated in this process said it was the first time for them to be involved in any consultation process.
In other words, villagers were asked whether they wanted their forest to be conserved, to which they answered “yes.” CSDM continues:
In general, most of the ethnic minorities know very little about climate change and almost nothing about REDD+. Even in the two districts of Lam Ha and Di Linh, REDD+ still unclear to them, although UN-REDD teams have explained these concepts during FPIC processes.