The REDD+ Readiness Stage in Myanmar: Stakeholder Perspectives in Bago Region and Shan State
REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is a UN initiative, originally introduced in 2005. The initiative seeks to decrease losses to remaining global forests and other carbon stocks by providing financial incentives to various stakeholder groups in developing countries. The initiative has been controversial, with a wide range of different perspectives on the programme and its implications for forest governance and climate change mitigation. Nonetheless, international and local actors are optimistic about REDD+ as a means to reduce carbon emissions. The Government of Myanmar introduced the initiative to the country in 2011. Myanmar is currently in the readiness phase of REDD+ and, because there are issues surrounding its implication for forest governance, this thesis explores how this phase is playing out in the country. The overarching research objective of this thesis is to explore how Myanmar is approaching the readiness phase of REDD+, and how different stakeholders engage with the readiness activities. This study adopts a post-structuralist political ecology approach for two reasons. Firstly, it enabled a broad and nuanced exploration of political, social, economic and cultural factors that shape readiness activities, and forest management in Myanmar. As Myanmar is democratising and liberalising its economy, the country’s unique political and economic situation provides context on how these factors shape the initial stage of the REDD+ implementation process. Secondly, post-structuralist political ecology examines meaning making and thus sheds light on how individuals perceive the REDD+ initiative in Myanmar. The findings from 11 semi-structured interviews and participant-observations show that people are optimistic and enthusiastic about REDD+ implementation but perceive and understand the initiative differently. There are many challenges to introducing REDD+ in Myanmar. This study highlights some issues including stakeholders’ awareness, poor coordination among stakeholders – especially between government agencies – and general issues of transparency. One of the central findings that has pervaded all themes discussed is a lack of transparency in relation to governance arrangements, land tenure, and relationships between stakeholders. If REDD+ is to progress successfully beyond the readiness phase in Myanmar, significant changes need to be made by the central government to ensure clear lines of communication and transparency of information.