We provide a synthesis of recent scholarship on social safeguards and co-benefits in REDD+ with a focus on debates on: first, tenure security, and second, effective participation of local communities. Scholars have explored both proximate and long-term co-benefits of REDD+ interventions, with an emerging trend that links safeguards to improved social co-benefits. Proximate co-benefits include improved rural livelihoods and lower costs of implementation. Long-term co-benefits include greater adaptive capacity of local communities and increasing transparency and accountability in forest governance. Our review suggests that greater tenure security and effective participation of local communities in management will not only prevent adverse social outcomes, but will also enable better forest outcomes and improved capacity for forest governance.