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Title: Navigating the complexities of community monitoring reporting and verification (CMRV)
Author: Palmer Fry, Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 0571
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2015
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Under REDD+, the UNFCCC's financial tool for the preservation of the world's tropical forests, the necessity to monitor performance as well as involve local people is made clear in the policy documentation. Community Monitoring Reporting and Verification (CMRV) combines these two policy needs to create a concept that delegates the responsibility of ground-level monitoring to local communities. This is a deeply complicated model to implement, balancing local, national, and international needs, incorporating divergent stakeholder opinions, as well as livelihood issues, political dynamics, natural resource management and systemic change. Within this field, I identified three research areas, namely how CMRV fits into the REDD+ MRV policy context, how local people might engage with social, or 'wellbeing' monitoring, and the sustainability of CMRV as a local and national institution. There are only a handful of CMRV projects occurring throughout the world, building on the foundations created by locally-based monitoring, and I have been involved in facilitating CMRV in the North Rupununi region of Guyana with traditional Makushi Amerindian communities. This provides the study site for a number of the research chapters. The thesis starts by reviewing how CMRV might synergise with REDD+, particularly looking at the pros and cons of using local people instead of professional scientists for monitoring tasks. The majority opinions lean towards local people being well positioned and capable to fulfil this role, while the additional financial, cultural and empowerment benefits make this approach attractive rather than simply viable. It then moves on to looking more deeply at the previously unexplored area of locally-based social monitoring, or 'wellbeing' monitoring. In Guyana, I explored the similarities between external and local formulations of the wellbeing concept and its measurement, finding them to be not too dissimilar. However, when investigating how to implement wellbeing monitoring, practitioners face some complex trade-offs, such as subjective vs. objective measures, or internal vs. external validity, and need to be wary of simple quantification. The final analyses look more generally at CMRV, starting from the observation that after two years of operation, the project in Guyana can neither be said to be particularly empowering or sustainable. The barriers to local participation and associated power dynamics were explored, identifying why the devolution of responsibilities has been lower than expected. Lastly a Systems Thinking approach was taken to reveal counter-intuitive patterns and architectural flaws in the CMRV institutional framework that are leading to inherent unsustainability. The thesis concludes by looking at three cross-cutting themes: paternalism; hastiness in project work; and balancing different opinions. Drawing from my own journey, bringing personal values (such as of humility, patience and empathy) to bear in these institutional difficulties is a strong approach to navigating CMRV towards betterment. I finish by highlighting the most significant practical output from this work: a decision-making framework that proportions a project's impact on stakeholder wellbeing with their decision-making power.
Supervisor: Milner-Gulland, E. J.; Makuch, Karen Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral