The WWF reports that the upcoming meeting of the REDD+ Partnership issued invitations to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) only a week before the meeting.  The WWF’s Paul Chatterton argues:

“By waiting until the last minute to invite civil society participants to this meeting, the organizers have virtually guaranteed that these invitees will not be able to participate.”

I agree completely – most NGOs operate with very small budgets, and the soaring cost of last-minute international plane tickets will price many NGOs out of the meetings entirely, and greatly curtail the size of the teams other NGOs might otherwise send.  Further, this is not accidental – these meetings are well-orchestrated events, and while it is possible that a single organization, or even a handful, might be accidentally omitted, there is simply no way that the program organizers “forgot” the entire NGO community.  Clearly, someone is trying to minimize the involvement of NGOs, who are the principal voice for the communities who live in and around many of the forest resources likely to be covered under REDD+.

Aside from the underhanded nature of this move, why does this matter?  As I argue in my upcoming book, we are lumbering (no pun intended) slowly toward a global agreement on how to use the protection of threatened forest resources and the reforestation of degraded forest areas as means of offsetting carbon emissions as part of a much larger global carbon market.  This is not a problem, in and of itself.  Cap and trade is not inherently flawed – but its success is completely contingent on its implementation.  And what I am seeing from the private markets (via informal proposals that get passed my way) is a lot of project planning that completely ignores local communities.

Now, think what you will about the rights of communities to the natural resources in and around them – I know that some argue that these rights have to be curtailed for the greater good of humanity.  I happen to disagree, as I feel that this stance makes a small group of people who play little role in the global climate issues that REDD+ is trying to address responsible for bearing the negative impacts of our efforts to deal with these problems – in short, we are outsourcing the pain of mitigation to these communities.  However, whatever your stance might be on this, there is no refuting the fact that people, when forced off of a resource they once could use, have a very high incentive to monkey wrench these projects in an effort to regain access to the resource (there is a large literature on this with regard to how people displaced by protected areas like game reserves respond).  Thus, these proposals, and this odd effort on the part of the REDD+ Partnership, are more or less guaranteeing a high rate of project failure until someone figures out that they will have to take the needs of these local populations quite seriously.