Africa: Scanning REDD+ with a lens of a forest worker?
As countries are working towards formulation UN REDD national programs, questions are being asked as to whether the REDD+ based projects are able to increase participation of variety of stakeholders including trade Unions? And also whether forest workers and communities are effectively participating in the design, monitoring and evaluation of national REDD+ programs?
Trade Unions need to join the broad range of stakeholders in strengthening linkages within the existing UNREDD national programs in the areas of governance, poverty reduction, food security and sustainable forest management. Under the UNREDD Program, countries already receiving support to national Programs in Africa include Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, while partner countries targeted include Central African Republic, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, Republic of Congo and Sudan.
Noting that deforestation and forest degradation continues in a massive scale in Africa, especially in Congo basin, the region faces weak governance, where real and meaningful reform in the forest sector must consider the workers and communities who are responsible for daily operations in the forest. Both workers and communities have a stake on the premise that if the forest is degraded and deforested, there will be no decent employment and communities will loss part of livelihood support systems like water, medicinal plants, shade and biodiversity. Other important aspects will be how REDD+ engagements address issues of empowerment, inequality and sharing of wealth.
To address deforestation and degradation, there will be need to built incentives for sustainable forest management enshrined on decent work agenda that include generating more and quality jobs for women and men, respecting and realizing ILO Core standards, extending social security coverage to forest workers and promoting social dialogue at various forums on policy frameworks. Not forgetting that for forests to sequester more carbon, workers will require additional skills in the context of climate change and carbon credits.
Unions need to envision potential challenge of twisted incentives where companies are likely to be rewarded with carbon credits even in cases when they exploit child labour, apply forced labour, discriminate, violate Trade Union rights, engage in unsafe work and displace thousands of indigenous communities to inhumane dwellings. Challenges of subcontracting and informalisation of forest work, are increasingly undercutting importance of social security schemes. For REDD+ programs to make difference, workers will be weighing if the REDD+ incentive caters for the long term v/s short terms needs. It is becoming increasingly clearer that when forests are managed for short term then narrow, quick profits, undercut the need for social sustainability therefore impacting negatively on living and working conditions for forest workers and forest dependent communities.
Time is ripe for national REDD+ programs to envision management of forest resources for long term benefits as similar to investing in social security for the mother earth. There is no doubt that REDD+ Process will require informed and meaningful participation of workers representatives, are trade union representatives ready?