Entries with tag sustainability .

The lessons of COVID-19: facilitation for meeting sustainability goals

By Frédéric Baron

When the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic, I was in Bogota on a work mission, living the last moments of what some could now consider a “normal” professional life. I returned home to Barcelona early and impassively observed how the world was dramatically changing, with a feeling of being useless in the crisis and disrupted in my personal work. Since then, the pandemic has harshly impacted all populations around the globe, in terms of health, of course, but also economically and socially. 

We cannot overlook the impact of the pandemic on the environment too, and the management of natural resources. In Colombia, of the 62 protected areas that fall under the National System of Protected Areas, 25 were engaged in ecotourism, as were 33 of the 59 protected natural areas in Ecuador. Their financial sustainability has been affected as national and international public investments were diverted towards managing the pandemic. There’s now a rising risk of criminal activity such as illegal logging, as resources for forest management decrease and ranger patrols are suspended. At the same time, a lot of cooperation projects aimed at reducing deforestation or improving biodiversity conservation have suffered delays and breaks in their activities. 

Most actors and experts involved in these programmes or working on environmental solutions – including the EU REDD Facility – need to work at a distance, and mostly from home. For everyone in this field, this situation has required creativity, not just to maintain workflows but also to generate tangible results for those who were vulnerable even before the pandemic. As an expert working in international cooperation, this panorama has forced me to reconsider and rethink the modalities and methodologies of our day-to-day work.

New technologies as threat and opportunity

One of the biggest personal lessons of these challenging last 18 months has been the urgency of reconnecting actors and stakeholders that are more isolated than ever. Facilitators and/or facilitation skills are greatly necessary if we want to make 2021 and years ahead not “lost years”, but “opportunistic or transition years” in achieving sustainable development goals and Nationally Determined Contributions targets. With or without a pandemic, environmental and social challenges cannot wait until “normality” returns. 

Another lesson has been the potential for information technology and virtual connections. The pandemic accelerated a major modern phenomenon: the rise of the virtual. We have all experienced the massive improvement and democratisation of social media and internet technologies, allowing us to connect and exchange information faster, from long distance, and at any time. But this is just one edge of the sword. All technologies can also serve bad intentions. We can be quantitatively more informed, but qualitatively less so. We may be connected to more people, but maybe less well connected. With the pandemic having generated global fear and insecurity, the misuse of virtual technologies contributed, in some cases, to compromising trust amongst people, organisations, and governments. What we call “common sense” or consensus may now seem harder to achieve. Now more than ever we see the need for well-informed and open dialogue, and processes for facilitation. If used correctly, social and information technologies can afford great opportunities.

Central African rainforest by Travel Stock

Dialogue and consensus through facilitation

Within the EU REDD Facility team, I’m focusing on our Latin America partner countries, Colombia and Ecuador, along with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). When looking at the complex nature and diverse drivers of deforestation in these countries, there is general agreement that there are no “silver bullet” solutions for national REDD+ objectives. Rather, what’s needed is mechanisms that provide flexibility and the capacity to adapt to different sectors, local contexts and actors. 

Through my work in Colombia, I’ve supported the development of local intercultural land-use governance mechanisms in the Amazonian area of Caquetá, where significant deforestation occurs. This project took place over several local administrative areas known as “veredas” of the Solano municipality, just at the deforestation frontier. The main challenge has been dialogue between indigenous Inga people and local cattle ranchers, to develop consensus on land-use management and reducing deforestation while ensuring a decent living income for farmers. What struck me from the beginning is that the real bottleneck preventing dialogue – and thus consensus on action and co-management of the territory – wasn’t discrepancies in visions and culture between communities. Rather, it was ignorance and lack of knowledge and understanding of each other. Once the first steps of the facilitation process allowed both communities to come to know and better understand each other’s perspectives and governance mechanisms, a dialogue became possible. 

The lesson here has been that negotiations, dialogue, and consensus can be achieved if a facilitating third party can ensure this first layer of knowledge and understanding. It does not mean that the way towards a final agreement will be easy, but certainly easier and possible. 

Thus, for our 2021 support to these three countries, we decided to increase the facilitation component of our work to generate technical dialogue – first to share information and generate common knowledge, and then to identify potential solutions or mechanisms to improve governance and sustainability of land use. Of course, our plan is to do this virtually, given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Towards a common understanding and feasibility of traceability and transparency

In both Colombia and Ecuador, the cocoa sector involves several actors with varied interests. Colombia’s cocoa market is characterised by strong internal demand for chocolate (80% of cocoa produced is consumed locally) while Ecuador has a significant cocoa export market (85% of national production is exported). Both countries registered great production increases in the last years: between 2000 and 2017, Colombia’s total cocoa production has doubled while Ecuador registered almost a six-fold increase in cocoa. Ecuador is now the third-largest cocoa producer country worldwide, with 7% of global production. While cocoa is not considered a driver of deforestation in these countries, the expansion of land for cocoa cultivation has been increasing since 2007 and poses a potential risk for deforestation in the future, along with associated social and environmental risks. 

In this context, traceability and transparency systems are crucial for identifying, monitoring and tackling environmental and social issues in supply chains. 

Traceability refers to methods of tracing a commodity through the supply chain, while transparency is the disclosure of sourcing information to increase the accountability of relevant stakeholders. However, the exact definition of these concepts is not always the same amongst supply-chain actors, and the use of such systems is not always associated with the same objectives. It has led to the current situation where actors with enough financial capacity have developed their own private traceability systems, sharing only a small part of their database publically, and withholding data from existing national monitoring systems. 

COVID-19 and its related restrictions has reduced access to information and deeply modified our economies, putting many sectors in a fragile position. Ignorance and poverty are the enemy of good governance, and persistent asymmetry of information will never allow for social and environmental sustainability and justice. There is need for a common understanding and definition of concepts of traceability and transparency and what they serve. Adequate systems also need to be designed through participatory processes. If not, traceability will only empower the upstream side of supply chains where the bulk of information and data will circulate, not always for or with full transparency. For unscrupulous business operators, maintaining the ignorance of clients, competitors and even partners can be used for competitive advantage. Reducing the asymmetry of information by promoting more transparent traceability systems would lead to improved governance of supply chains.

The EU REDD Facility facilitated technical and multi-stakeholder dialogues in Ecuador and Colombia, virtually, to evaluate the feasibility and options for national traceability and transparency systems (in line with the Transparency Pathway tool developed by the EU REDD Facility). We are now finalising proposals to be used as the basis for further political dialogue and decisions.

Dried cocoa seeds by Joel Bubble Ben

Civil society preparations for DRC’s national forest policy development

In DRC’s climate change and deforestation policy process, national civil society organisations (CSOs) are officially represented under the umbrella of the national Groupe de Travail-Rénové REDD network, or GTCR-R. Created in 2013, the network has proven its capacity to improve coordination amongst its members and to some extent to influence DRC decision and policy-making processes.

However, as in many countries in the region, civil society is sometimes involved only after the design phase of a project, a programme or a policy document, during the “consultation” phase for their validation. To change this paradigm, with GTCR-R and its members, the EU REDD Facility chose to organise an “ex-ante consultation”, or what we decided to call a “concertation”. In this new process, two aims were achieved:

  • Capturing the diverse visions of CSOs, along with their propositions for the future forest sector regulatory and policy framework. 
  • Demonstrating the capacity of national CSOs to generate information and data, and to be considered as a starting partner rather than just a “validation” partner.

As in Latin America, COVID-19 increased isolation of remote actors in many African countries and it has been quite challenging to support such dialogue from a distance, with technology as our only option. However, this experience showed a better capacity to adapt than expected, and this should be reinforced in the future.

The final civil society position paper will be considered as a relevant basis for the Sustainable Management Programme soon to be launched. This programme has the objective (amongst others) of elaborating a national Forest Policy.

This concertation process amongst CSOs did not bring full consensus on the orientations and recommendations for the future policy, but it did help to nuance and somewhat soften initial and purely ideological positions, and even sometimes build bridges between positions. More importantly, by sharing the same level of information in a transparent way, conflicts over facts were eventually set aside to concentrate on needed solutions. In my view, that is already half the problem solved.

Of course, the reality of decision-making processes is complex, and does not succeed only through facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogue with technical information. Even more when this facilitation is done virtually. However, having those two elements will always catalyse and prepare a solid and recognised basis, as well as generate information that is valuable and additional to what an ad hoc expert analysis could provide.

This pandemic made facilitation activities complicated, but at the same time more needed than before. We should take available technologies and virtual options as opportunities to do our best. I’m convinced that facilitation is more crucial now than ever. We cannot let global health crises like this pandemic separate us more than we already were.


Frédéric Baron

Forest and land-use governance expert

EU REDD Facility


Supporting sustainable palm oil: a crucial role for Indonesian districts

By Istu Septania

As consumers globally become more selective about choosing products based on sustainable production processes, suppliers must increasingly provide evidence that their goods are made without damaging the environment or ignoring the rights of local people.

Demand for sustainable palm oil is driven by concerns associated with social and environmental impacts of palm oil production. Consuming countries have frequently been held responsible for driving these impacts and for importing deforestation through commodity supply chains. In response, efforts are being made to reduce oil palm related deforestation, resolve land conflicts, improve smallholders’ livelihoods and agricultural practices, and revamp the sector’s image. Multinational companies sourcing palm oil and palm oil products have improved supply chain accountability and transparency. Indonesia as the world’s leading palm oil producer is also making efforts to address concerns and meet expectations.

An EU-supported webinar hosted by The Jakarta Post on 30 March 2021 explored how The Terpercaya Initiative can support Indonesian sustainable palm oil production and trade. The Initiative, established in 2018 through a multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee, has developed a district sustainability monitoring system that will provide credible information to buyers assessing where to source products in Indonesia. It is part of the Indonesian Government’s efforts to promote sustainability in commodity supply chains and improve the welfare of communities, especially smallholders, by providing accurate information to markets. 

The virtual event confirmed that districts in Indonesia can provide a crucial role in achieving sustainable palm oil; one which must be communicated with buyers and consuming countries as their concerns for sustainability have increased significantly. 

The webinar featured a panel of experts: Jarot Indarto (Policy Analyst at the Ministry of National Development Planning (PPN)/Bappenas); Henriette Faergemann (First Counsellor European Union Delegation to Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam); Asep Asmara, (Director of Export of Agricultural and Forestry Products, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Trade); Jeremy Broadhead (KAMI Project Manager, European Forest Institute); Nur Maliki Arifiandi, (Policy Engagement Manager, Forests at the Carbon Disclosure Project); and Josi Khatarina (Senior Advisor at Yayasan Inobu).

Indonesia has enjoyed enormous benefits from the high-yielding oil palm and the industry has substantially contributed to socioeconomic development in the country. The palm oil industry has absorbed around 5.3 million workers directly and is an income source for more than 21 million people, including farmers and their families. According to the Trade Ministry, Indonesia supplies 56% of the world’s crude palm oil and in 2020, the export value of the commodity reached US$ 21 billion (Rp 307 trillion), contributing 13.5% of the total value of non-oil and gas exports. 

During the webinar, Jarot Indarto highlighted that the Indonesian government has set its policy direction on sustainable food and agriculture in its 2020-2024 National Medium-Term Development Plan, particularly on integrating supply chains to ensure sustainability and improve the agricultural-based processing industry.

The Terpercaya Initiative aims to provide credible and accurate information about district sustainability performance in producing palm oil and has been developed to support similar outcomes. The initiative has been led by Bappenas with financial support from the European Union, and implemented by Yayasan Inobu and the European Forest Institute. 

The initiative seeks to bring lasting impact at scale by tracking and creating incentives for sustainability performance of districts across the country. The initiative is also expected to support district governments in transitioning to sustainability and its development has been informed by experience in four pilot districts: Seruyan and West Kotawaringin in Central Kalimantan, Rokan Hulu in Riau, and North Morowali in Central Sulawesi.

Terpercaya indicators share sustainability principles and criteria with existing commodity certification schemes, such as the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and align with the Indonesian legal framework. The indicators also align with and support local governments in progressing towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

During the webinar, Jeremy Broadhead, Manager of the EU funded KAMI Project which is implemented by the European Forest Institute (EFI), explained the development of the Terpercaya Initiative. He said a data platform for collating and disseminating information has been established and is now hosted by Bappenas. In addition, supply chain traceability to connect consumers and buyers to information on district progress towards sustainability has been undertaken. He hopes that these efforts can help reinforce supply chains for sustainable palm oil.

The Terpercaya Initiative has developed a set of 22 sustainability indicators to evaluate district level economic, environmental, social, and governance performance.

Details of the 22 indicators are as follows: 

A. Environmental Pillar

  • Permanent forest protection
  • Forest and critical areas protection
  • Fire prevention
  • Peatland protection
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Production forest managed sustainably
  • Water and air pollution control

B. Social Pillar

  • Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC)
  • Customary rights recognition
  • Conflict resolution
  • Smallholders share
  • Smallholder registration

C. Economic Pillar

  • Smallholder productivity
  • Smallholder organizations
  • Smallholder supports
  • Responsible industry (including ISPO)
  • Poverty rate

D. Governance Pillar

  • Public information access
  • Multi-stakeholder participation in district planning
  • Complaint mechanism
  • Sustainable land-use planning
  • Proportion of budget for sustainability

The Terpercaya Initiative adopts the jurisdictional approach, which has several advantages in overcoming the challenges of sustainable agriculture. Compared to the conventional approach where the focus is on individual plantations and supply chains, the jurisdictional approach is more cost effective and covers all forests and producers, including smallholders for whom certification is often either too expensive or unattainable due to land tenure issues. The approach should help district governments to achieve sustainable agricultural production, support smallholders and thus bring holistic impacts.

Among the main goals of the initiative is sharing objective information on district sustainability performance with stakeholders and supply chain actors and providing information on palm oil governance and trade.

Meanwhile, the Terpercaya data platform is expected to be a key tool to inform discussions on the sustainability of palm oil production in the context of Indonesia’s national and international commitments and Indonesia’s trade including with the EU. It is hoped that it will help smallholders to access supply chains for sustainable palm oil and accelerate district level transitions to sustainability.

During the webinar, Josi Khatarina of the Terpercaya Initiative’s secretariat and Senior Advisor at Inobu, explained that the jurisdictional approach is an inclusive one. The Terpercaya Initiative aims to be implemented at the national level, with four districts for detailed piloting. The initiative is set to collaborate with other regions as well in its effort to achieve sustainable palm oil production on a national scale.

Henriette Faergemann, First Counsellor European Union Delegation to Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam, explained that the Terpercaya Initiative builds on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Indonesian legal frameworks. It also serves as complementing to the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil standard by covering entire jurisdictions and all producers and forests so that nothing is left aside and no one is left behind.

To explore these issues further, see the webinar recording and watch the video on Terpercaya


Istu Septania

Public Communications Coordinator



This blog post was originally published by Inobu on 20 May 2021. Read the original English blog post and the Bahasa Indonesia blog post


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the EU REDD Facility, or other contributors to this site.