Transparency and access to information
A lack of information on the management of natural resources and commodity flows is one of the factors driving corruption, illegal activities and conflicts between communities and companies that produce timber and agricultural commodities. A crucial aspect of FLEGT and REDD+ initiatives is increased transparency of commodity production and trade, and easy access to information on topics such as land tenure and use, applicable legal frameworks, land allocation, implementation of safeguards and benefit distribution.
Transparency matters because stakeholders need to be able to access information about laws, policies, decisions and business activities that affect them, so they can take part in national debates about land use and natural resource management. Moreover, transparency underpins the accountability of public and private actors, limits opportunities for corruption and helps markets to understand supply chains and their impacts.
FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) include detailed requirements about transparency, and information that must be publicly available. The measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification requirements of REDD+ will also generate significant amounts of information about land use and land-use changes and about carbon and non-carbon benefits (social, environmental and governance benefits). This will contribute to increased transparency.
When such information is publicly available and easily accessible to stakeholders, it facilitates their involvement and effective participation in the development and implementation of FLEGT and REDD+ at the country level. It also strengthens the accountability of public and private actors in the forest and land-use sectors.
Building a joint FLEGT and REDD+ document library in the Republic of the Congo
In the Republic of the Congo, the REDD National Coordination and the Forest Legality and Traceability Unit of the Ministry of Forest Economy developed a digital REDD+ and FLEGT document library, which they disseminated to stakeholder groups on CDs.
The library allows stakeholders to have access to material such as legal documents, studies, communication material and briefing notes relating to the FLEGT and REDD+ processes.
Developing one library relevant to the two processes achieved significant economies of scale in both development and dissemination. By providing stakeholders with better access to information, the library promotes effective participation in both processes. The library also contributes to fulfilling the transparency and information requirement of the Congolese VPA with the EU.
Increased transparency underpins accountability in Liberia
Liberia’s VPA defines the information to be published, or made available on request under the Liberian Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. The open and participatory manner in which the VPA was developed, and the availability of the VPA institutions to provide the information that the government agreed to publish, have encouraged civil society organisations and local communities to push for accountability.
Implementation of the VPA has contributed to the public availability of the laws and regulations and strengthened public and private accountability, for instance in relation to benefit sharing arrangements with forest-dependent communities. Although it is too early to assess the VPA’s impact fully, civil society groups are satisfied that access to information from government and the private sector has improved. This increased transparency also prompts the government and private sector, which are committed to reducing emissions from deforestation and to zero-deforestation commodity production, to act more quickly and ensure their forest-risk exposure decreases over time.