Between localism and internationalism: Multi-level governance, land use decision-making, and REDD+ in Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia

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While there has been considerable progress in developing global environmental policies and goals, implementing these at a local level has proven extremely challenging. This study explores how internationally formulated objectives for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) are implemented in frontier landscapes undergoing rapid transition. I focus on subnational implementation of REDD+ in relation to land use decision-making in Indonesia. International donors and agencies have actively promoted REDD+ to reduce carbon emissions, improve forest management and broaden livelihood options in developing countries. Indonesia has been a priority country for REDD+ due to high rates of deforestation and continuing land use change. In this thesis, I use multi-level governance (MLG) concepts to investigate how internationally formulated objectives for REDD+ interact with existing systems of land use governance at multiple levels. I incorporate actor-network theory (ANT) within an overall practice orientation to address the following questions: (i) how are land use decisions made, (ii) how is REDD+ being implemented within interacting multi-level governance arrangements, and (iii) how do decision-making processes in these arrangements relate to multiple outcomes? These questions are underscored by a concern with social and environmental justice, and related to this, a concern with ethics in global environmental governance and novel mechanisms such as REDD+. In 2010, Central Kalimantan was selected as the official REDD+ priority province of Indonesia. The province has had a long and complicated history of governance interventions and is currently undergoing rapid land use changes, such as the establishment of large industrial oil palm plantations. I used a case study approach, centring on the southern tropical peatlands of Central Kalimantan, where a variety of REDD+ projects have been implemented. Data was collected during 10 months of field research conducted between 2013 and 2015 and combined ethnographic techniques with document analysis, interviews and field observations. Data collection spread across government levels, actors, and locations. A total of 194 interviews and other field observations and documents were used to explore concepts of negotiation, translation, and learning. The findings show how successive interventions and negotiations over land have transformed the remote forested peat ecosystems into a complex, and contested, mix of land uses. Competing interests and interactions among land use changes are diminishing access to land for villagers and other local people. Processes to translate internationally formulated objectives through multiple layers of governance were difficult to control and lacked flexibility. REDD+ objectives were reinterpreted at each level, and discrepancies and disconnects emerged between higher level objectives and local realities. While learning was mentioned in REDD+ project documents, a reliance on experts, and an emphasis on training and livelihoods to villagers, allowed limited local input into project design. Due to competition for land, REDD+ becomes another powerful force for villagers to contend with. Rather than achieving any desired new status quo, attempts to implement pre-determined plans become entangled in these fluid and messy frontier processes. Overall, this thesis contributes to understanding how interventions for implementing global environmental goals relate to pre-existing, dynamic and emerging land use systems that I conceptualise as "frontiers'. It adds new insights into how negotiation, translation, and learning are linked in interactive networked processes and identifies implications for pursuing environmental reforms. I develop a new concept, the entry point, to describe political opportunities and limitations for how those implementing, and being subjected to, global environmental policies can navigate local land allocation systems. The thesis demonstrates the need for social learning in international environmental governance and suggests strategies to move beyond policy design and technical coordination to encourage long-term collaboration and integration of learning at all levels. A focus of REDD+ is carbon rich regions in developing countries that are undergoing rapid changes. Findings from this thesis have implications beyond Indonesia to frontier landscapes in other developing countries where there is competition between large-scale forest conservation and land conversion for local or national economic development.

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