Empowered voices – how a tool allows participation in forest governance in Viet Nam
Forest governance processes in Lam Dong Province of Viet Nam have got new impetus since the introduction of the Participatory Governance Assessment (PGA), an innovative tool introduced by the UN-REDD Viet Nam Phase II Programme and enthusiastically adopted by the Provincial Authority. PGA opens a platform for local women, men, ethnic minorities and other stakeholders to significantly influence the processes that have an impact on their livelihood.
Less inclusion in the past
Lam Dong Province of Viet Nam is famous for its forest resources and cultural diversity where people of various ethnicity are living together harmoniously. Tireless efforts and many initiatives have been made to conserve the forest resources and to make local people a real master of their forests.
These changes of more local empowerment can happen, in smaller or bigger steps. Ms. Hoang Cong Hoai Nam, Head of the Sub-Department of Forest Protection & Management and Nature Conservation, Provincial Forest Protection Department of Lam Dong Province remembered the time before introducing the Participatory Governance Assessment (PGA) tool: “We collected relevant data and did the whole processes by ourselves.”
She is also member of the provincial PGA Core Group, considering female participation as well: “Some women already took part in forest governance, but many women were not aware of this involvement.”
Open Participatory Governance Assessment (PGA) tool
PGA is an inclusive process, involving different stakeholders from Government, civil society, the private sector and academia. A PGA produces robust and credible information on specific governance issues and aims to inform policy- and decision-making to improve REDD+ and forest governance.
The main objective of PGA is to produce governance data through an inclusive process in which platforms have been created for a broad range of stakeholders from commune to national level.
Ms. Nam explained that since the implementation of the Programme Phase I, the UN-REDD Programme had introduced the pilot of PGA in Lam Dong Province with broad participation of different stakeholders. With a thorough process of learning by doing, stakeholders agreed to look into two main governance issues: level and quality of participation of local stakeholders in the decision-making and implementation processes as related to forest contracts; and level of clarity and respect related to the rights of stakeholders to access forest resources and benefit sharing. Her Department has been one of the stakeholders within the PGA, together with representatives from civil society, ethnic minority group, and forest owners. The Phase II of the Programme has continued this inclusive process based on experiences from the pilot phase. “The UN-REDD Programme has provided us with lots of information resources like workshops and documents so we could learn about the tool.”
More involvement of local women, men and ethnic minorities
The PGA creates a platform for different stakeholders and local people to influence the assessment process. It empowers them to shape decisions that influence their livelihood. Multiple local organizations, men and women including ethnic minorities select relevant indicators for measuring how forest is governed, and the Provincial Forest Protection Department of Lam Dong, among others, uses the results.
“Through PGA, many women realized their important role and participated much more.” More women in the field started protecting the forest, involving their families, and some women are now working in the Sub-Department or taking on leadership positions. When given the opportunity, women from the ethnic minorities tend to speak up. A woman from the Khor ethnic minority group from Lac Duong district is one example when she confidently gave voice to her people in a PGA meeting. Change, also among women from ethnic minorities, comes slowly but awareness rises gradually with each meeting.
After the PGA pilot phase in Lam Dong, the tool was ready to use, though it needed to be adapted to the situations and updated. It is the responsibility of the Department of Forest Protection to collect and process this data. Transparency is achieved through multi-stakeholder participation during the whole process. Everybody can access data and information on the UN-REDD Programme website.
Ms. Nam wished there could be future support from the Programme, not only technically and financially, but also for raising awareness among a wider range of stakeholders relevant for forest governances. However, even if the Programme would not continue, her Sub-Department has already reached many people, young and old, women and men, and different organizations. She frequently visits local communities and households herself to better understand local people’s situation. Overall, she concluded: “The Programme brings a clear and significant difference for the community.”
1 Extracted from Nguyen Quang Tan (2014): “Report: 2014 Participatory Governance Assessment: Taking Stock of REDD+ Governance in Lam Dong Province, Viet Nam”, within the framework of the UN-REDD Programme, p. 1
2 Extracted from Đỗ Thảo (2016): “Participatory assessment for forest governance enhancement”, UN-REDD Viet Nam Phase II Newsletter November 2016
 Extracted from Nguyen Quang Tan (2014): “Report: 2014 Participatory Governance Assessment: Taking Stock of REDD+ Governance in Lam Dong Province, Viet Nam”, within the framework of the UN-REDD Programme, p. 1
 Extracted from Đỗ Thảo (2016): “Participatory assessment for forest governance enhancement”, UN-REDD Viet Nam Phase II Newsletter November 2016