2014 Global Gathering
The Fifth Global Gathering of the Access Initiative: Using Information, Data and Technology to Protect Forests and Strengthen the Rights of Forest-Dependent Communities Location: COLOMBIA Date: October 29-31 2014
The Access Initiative (TAI) is the world’s largest network of Civil Society Organization’s (CSOs) working to ensure that citizens have the right and ability to influence decisions about the environment. Members from around the world carry out evidence-based research and advocacy to advance transparency, accountability and inclusiveness in decision-making at all levels.
WRI is the Global Secretariat of the TAI network and has specific Forest and Land Governance projects including the Governance of Forests Initiative, Land and Resource Rights, Global Forest Watch, and the Forest Legality Alliance.
TAI’s Global Gatherings occur on a bi-yearly basis and provide space for new innovations, capacity-building and awareness around key themes in environmental governance. Through convening people and organizations dedicated to promoting transparency, rights, and accountability, Global Gatherings provide the opportunity to build platforms for change.
The Fifth Global Gathering of TAI, hosted by TAI member organization Ambiente y Sociedad, will bring together network partners, CSOs, and community and indigenous leaders to address how to use information, data and technology to improve forest governance and strengthen community rights. Spaces will also be created within the agenda to discuss partner priority issues and share new initiatives developed by network partners. The Gathering will be facilitated by Allen Gunn, Executive Director of Aspiration Technology. Aspiration Technology has a long history of working with civil society and has hosted almost 300 interactive and collaborative events in more than 40 countries across the globe.
At least 1 billion rural poor depend on forests for their livelihoods, and countless others benefit from a forest’s vital ecosystem services (PROFOR 2011). Yet forest-dependent communities rarely hold secure rights to these lands and natural resources thereon and often lack a platform to assert their claims. In many countries, overlapping statutory and customary systems, lack of clarity regarding ownership, archaic forest laws, and limited information and dialogue between the state and its citizens prevent transparent and sustainable resource management (PROFOR 2011). Without clear rights and effective governance, both communities and forests suffer.
Efforts of governments, civil society, and forest-dependent communities to clarify resource rights and improve natural resource management have met with varied success. While new multilateral initiatives (e.g., REDD+, FLEGT) and international pressure have created some additional momentum for improving forest governance, limited capacity within a country to collect, manage, and disclose information remains a significant barrier to reform. Poor quality and inaccessible data (e.g., on forest management, land tenure, concessions) often contribute to low public participation (e.g., to share ideas, alert governments), lack of transparency in natural resource decision-making, and limited ability of civil society and forest-dependent communities to hold governments accountable for their decisions.
In order for civil society and forest-dependent communities to more effectively advocate for recognition of rights and forest protection, they require tools and approaches that increase access to high-quality, comprehensive information on forest resources. Major barriers include: 1. Poor data access and quality. Data about forest cover, forest ownership, and resource use are often unavailable or inaccessible to CSOs; sometimes the data simply doesn’t exist. It can also be inaccurate or unreliable or scattered across many different sources and in different formats. This affects CSOs ability to conduct research and advocacy. 2. Lack of research tools and training. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) often lack access to and/or training on high-tech tools and approaches to improving forest governance. 3. Resource constraints. Capacity and resource barriers hinder efforts to scale up community-level use of technology.
Recent innovations in information and communication technologies (ICTs), networking, and social media present new opportunities to overcome challenges of accessing and using high-quality information to strengthen land rights and advance governance reforms. For example, the power of social media to connect online and offline communities and shape political debates has now been verified (Howard University of Washington - 2011). Complimented by campaigns for access to information laws and open data, these new technologies offer an unprecedented opportunity for citizens, civil society, and forest-dependent communities to track what their governments are doing and hold them accountable for their decisions and actions.
Major emerging opportunities for using technology to support improved natural resource decision-making and management include:
New Data. Free access to satellite imagery and other relevant data (e.g., concession boundaries, protected areas, etc.) creates new possibilities for monitoring the condition and trends of the world’s resources in near-real time (see Global Forest Watch). Improved data accessibility, coupled with dramatic improvements in computing power (including cloud-based computing) provides the platform for new frontiers of resource transparency and accountability.
Technology. In recent years, governments, NGOs, and companies have deployed new information and communication technologies (ICTs) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to overcome governance challenges and strengthen transparency in the natural resources sector. Although the impact of ICTs and digital mapping is still being tested, some early successes are evident (See Table 1).
Affordability. ICTs are now more affordable and accessible for civil society, leading to new means of collecting, analyzing, crowdsourcing, and communicating information in ways previously unimaginable. As technology advances, ICTs will continue to become more affordable, accessible and abundant. Campaigns. Social movements – as a scaling mechanism — are ramping up efforts to increase governance, transparency, and social equity at an increasing rate. Built upon reliable information and driven by social unrest, social movements are capable of promoting large scale change from the bottom up. The Global Gathering proposes to capitalize on these opportunities by exploring ways that civil society and community leaders can apply gather and use new information, data and technologies to improve forest governance and strengthen community rights. The Global Gathering will promote broader uptake and more effective application of these tools in civil society research and advocacy. By supporting, the public provision of independent, timely, and user-friendly information about the world’s forests, we hope to drive more accountable, evidence-based decisions that result in more sustainable and equitable outcomes.
THEMES AND OBJECTIVES
The Fifth Global Gathering is organized around the theme: Using Information, Data and Technology to Protect Forests and Strengthen the Rights of Forest-Dependent Communities. The three-day Gathering will be an opportunity for partners to share experiences, build skills, and evaluate new approaches to their work while developing communities of practice and joint programming. The gathering will include skill-building workshops and plenary sessions that explore the use of high and low technology approaches to: a) Improve the quality and availability of information on forest sector activities b) Empower civil society and communities to generate independent information to hold governments accountable for forest sector activities c) Promote advocacy and campaigns for forest protection.
The gathering will also provide opportunity for participants to engage in discussions about joint seed projects that may be eligible for funding under the Global Forest Watch civil society fund using the Global Forest Watch platform.
Objectives: Improve transparency, participation, and accountability in the forest sector
To convene representatives from technology groups, civil society and forest-dependent communities to share experience and build expertise on how to make more impactful use of information technology to protect forests and natural resources and strengthen the rights of forest dependent communities .
To develop or strengthen partner networks to promote proactive transparency of accurate forest information in the priority forest regions of the world including forest, land use, and concession data (logging, extractive, palm oil etc.).
To launch the Global Forest Watch Small Grants Fund to a larger group of stakeholders and to share ideas for new innovative projects using this tool.
To share experiences and best practices in terms of projects that aim to map community lands and their link to the protection of forests.
To generate new commitments at the national and regional level to openness and participation in the forest sector (e.g., Open Government Partnership).
Through three days of strategic meetings, breakout sessions, presentations, and networking, we hope to achieve the following outputs:
• Increased organizational/community awareness and capacity to use information, data and technology as an approach to protect forest and strengthen community rights • Development of new approaches to promote proactive release of forest data in TAI/GFW priority countries • Development of joint partnerships or programs of work to use new technological approaches to forest and rights protection. • Development of a Forest Commission and agenda for action within the TAI network to engage more directly on these issues in the national and international arena • Expanded network of civil society sharing information and best practices on forest governance and community rights. • Generation of new proposals for funding around the GFW small grants and Challenge Funds • New ideas and excitement around GFW’s Small Grants and Action funds
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