A recent article on the BBC website decried the treatment of local populations in the development of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) projects.
Although the author gets some facts incorrect - claiming, for example the "+" in REDD+ represents what are more widely known as co-benefits rather than enhanced forest carbon stocks as noted in the LCA text (i.e. sequestering carbon, or afforestation) - he does do a service in pointing out potential problems with REDD.
The gist of the author's argument is that REDD will centralize decision-making over forest resources within government and prevent community managment. Panama is a good example of the decentralization process because it has been slowly recognizing indigenous peoples' rights over their land.
There is still much to be done and it is unclear how the Panamanian government will proceed with REDD. Nonetheless, we would argue that now there are actually more indigenous leaders in Panama with an understanding of REDD than counterparts at the ministry of environment (ANAM). Panama actually had its UN-REDD proposal delayed because it lacked a required signature from the IP (Indigenous Peoples) representative and concerns expressed to United Nations REDD staff.
At the international level (FIP, FCPF, UNREDD) there is an understanding that indigenous peoples and communities will need to "own" REDD if it is to work. Without their buy in and receipt of the majority of the benefits, there won't be a reduction in deforestation and payments will not flow to anyone - government included. Policy makers at the national level should use community forestry management programs in Nepal and Mexico as examples when designing their REDD programs.
Planting Empowerment advocates more community management of forests. The successful examples of community management in Mexico were supported for 10+ years by outside technical assistance and capital. This enabled skills development at the local level and development of institutions and businesses. We are training local stakeholders to effectively manage their resources in order to profit sustainably and achieve conservation and carbon goals.