Complying with the safeguards in REDD+ projects enables comprehensive protection of territories and prevents negative impacts on local communities.
To address the importance of safeguards and their compliance, we must recognize that, from ancestral worldviews, it is a way to ensure that the project safeguards and preserves what is essential, that is, it conserves the forest by integrating ethnic principles and the origin of life. The safeguards, therefore, enable these additional elements beyond forest conservation to be carried out in a positive manner, maximizing the benefits of REDD+ projects.
From an institutional perspective, safeguards are the rules of the game for the development of those REDD+ projects, Thinking about safeguarding indigenous peoples, the territories they inhabit, and their culture allows us to safeguard the communities and the territory. At the same time, it enables the implementation of various policies related to environmental, legal, administrative, political, and cultural terms proposed by REDD+ projects' proponents, who play a fundamental role.
Thus, we could say that safeguards are two-way because they not only serve for developers to comply with them but also communities have to take actions to ensure the implementation of those rules of the game.
Operationally, it could be added, first, that the safeguards in REDD+ projects are protection measures designed to prevent, minimize, and compensate for any negative impact that the project may have on the rights of the stakeholders involved. The safeguards apply to all phases of the REDD+ project, from planning to implementation and monitoring, and encompass a range of key aspects.
At the beginning of a project, it is crucial to consider the principles of safeguards, which involve ensuring that in initial engagements and informational phases, full and effective participation of the parties is guaranteed, and the community's traditional knowledge in the project area, as well as their forms of organization and decision-making, are respected.
Likewise, during its implementation, constant monitoring of these safeguards is necessary, establishing indicators to measure their compliance and taking corrective measures if necessary.
Now, the project developers should strive for compliance with the safeguards, but it could be argued that ¿Colombia aún no tiene una política a nivel gubernamental frente a las salvaguardas?
It is evident that more than a policy, what is needed to have a comprehensive system regarding safeguards in Colombia is clarity on how they will be measured and through which mechanisms. The country already has various systems and information on climate issues, hydrological bioindicators, complaint and claim reports, so there is no need to reinvent what has already been created. The ideal approach is to know how to utilize existing resources to measure how safeguards function and how they are being implemented and applied. However, it is important to note that there is a national interpretation of the Cancun Safeguards, and for that purpose, Colombia has defined 15 REDD+ safeguards according to the national context and local realities.
The Colombian government has established a series of guidelines and requirements that projects must meet to ensure that they demonstrate technical robustness and environmental integrity. Respect for the rights of local communities, indigenous peoples, and other vulnerable groups, as well as biodiversity conservation, are among the guidelines established. Some of these guidelines are included in the National Forest Development Plan and the national REDD+ strategy.
Furthermore, Colombia has ratified various international treaties that include the obligation to protect human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples, such as ILO Convention 169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
However, it is true that there are still challenges in the effective implementation of safeguards in the country, and in some cases, the application of these measures has been insufficient. Therefore, it is important to continue working towards promoting policies and practices that ensure the protection of the rights of local communities and environmental conservation in development projects in the country.
Now, it is important to highlight that in REDD+ projects, monitoring compliance with safeguards is carried out through a process of monitoring and verification involving various stakeholders, including the government entity responsible for REDD+ implementation in the country. The technical team of the REDD+ project responsible for implementation and monitoring, which should include social and environmental aspects, local communities, and indigenous peoples, play an important role in monitoring compliance with safeguards in REDD+ projects. They can report any non-compliance or negative impacts of the project to the relevant authorities. Additionally, validation and verification bodies conduct monitoring and follow-up on the implementation of safeguards in REDD+ projects.
In summary, compliance with safeguards in REDD+ projects is a shared responsibility among the actors involved in project implementation, local communities, indigenous peoples, and oversight bodies. All of them must work together to ensure that the rights of communities are respected and environmental values are preserved during the implementation of REDD+ projects.
It is important to remember that the formulation of any REDD+ project must comply with safeguards, not only to respect the rights of communities in the territories but also to adhere to a political and programmatic order outlined in existing laws and international agreements that countries have subscribed to regarding climate change.
(Read also: REDD+ projects and the identity of the territories)
BIOFIX is one of those developers carrying out 11 REDD+ projects in the Colombian Amazon, Orinoquia, and Pacific regions. Within the initiation of these projects, the applicability of safeguards is established in accordance with institutional, social, cultural, and environmental aspects, as applicable, throughout the various phases. Within this applicability, actions aimed at access to information, transparency, and effective participation by the communities with whom initial contact is made can be highlighted. This is achieved through a joint process between the company and the community, which begins with an expression of interest letter from the ethnic community interested in developing a REDD+ project.
Finally, the processes of full and effective participation carried out in conjunction with the communities are based on respect for their traditional and ancestral knowledge within their autonomy and self-governance. This allows for the approval of the project and the prior informed free consent. which the communities autonomously provide to achieve the development of a REDD+ project in their territories.