Countries participating in REDD+ need to prepare to report on their forest carbon stocks changes. Remote sensing and forest inventories are key tools and data sources for monitoring but the capacities within non-Annex I countries needed for reporting to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) vary considerably. The purpose of this study was to assess the status and development of national monitoring capacities between 2005 and 2010 in tropical non-Annex I countries. Different global data sources were integrated for the comparative analysis of 99 countries. Indicators were derived for four main categories: national engagement in the REDD+ process, existing monitoring capacities, challenges with respect to REDD+ monitoring under particular national circumstances and technical challenges for the use of remote sensing. Very large capacity gaps were observed in forty nine countries, mostly in Africa, while only four countries had a very small capacity gap. These four countries show a net increase in forest area with 2513 ha _ 1000 ha, while all other countries together have a forest loss of 8299 ha _ 1000 ha in total. Modest improvements were observed over the last five years, especially with regard to carbon pool reporting. Based on the different circumstances and current capacities of each country, general recommendations are made for the design and planning of a national REDD+ forest monitoring system and for capacity development investments. The four countries with good capacities for both monitoring of forest area change and for performing regular forest inventories could have an important role in South-South capacity development.