Mid-term Review shows Forests for a Just Future programme is well on track

The Forests for a Just Future (FfJF) programme of the Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) aims to ensure that tropical forest landscapes are sustainably and inclusively governed to mitigate and adapt to climate change, fulfil human rights and safeguard local livelihoods in 11 countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. In 2023, the programme underwent an external midterm review (MTR). This review was conducted in compliance with the grant agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. Overall, the MTR shows that the programme is right on track and it includes a set of useful recommendations, the majority of which are being taken up in the final two years of the programme.

Header photo: GLA partners and Alliance members visited the Dumagat-Remontado Indigenous community around Mt. Daraitan in the Sierra Madre mountain range

The two main objectives of the MTR were: (1) Assess to what extent and how the GLA programme is making progress, how this is influenced by external contextual factors impacting the programme, what this means for its Theory of Change and how the programme can improve/adjust for the remainder of the programme period; and (2) reflect and gain insights on partnership collaboration towards larger programme impact.

Highlights from the MTR findings

The GLA is happy and proud that many of the findings and conclusions in the MTR report show significant achievements and progress made so far:

The programme Theory of Change (ToC) continues to be relevant and coherent

The MTR emphasises how well the FfJF responds to national and international priorities on forest, climate, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IP&LCs), biodiversity, water and human rights and to the priorities and mandates of GLA Alliance members, technical partners & implementing partners.

The approaches used by the Alliance partners are coherent with the global challenges that the programme seeks to address and broad enough to encompass their complexity at the different levels.

The programme is on track, with good progress being made in all pathways of the ToC

Pathway A: Forest governance and management by IP&LCs

Significant progress has been made in strengthening IP&LC governance of their territories and on sustainable green livelihoods. Through the support and guidance of GLA partners, IP&LCs have acquired formal land rights, established community governance structures, and implemented sustainable forest management practices. Furthermore, the GLA has facilitated an active partnership between IP&LCs and CSOs in monitoring and documentation of deforestation and infringements on IP&LC rights.

Pathway B: Drivers of deforestation

GLA has also made important progress on addressing drivers of deforestation both in the landscapes and internationally. For example, GLA actions led to suspensions, withdrawals of illegal permits and projects on mining and oil palm concessions and the application of strategic litigation, community mobilisation and private sector engagement proved to be highly successful. GLA also contributed to the passage of the landmark EU Deforestation Regulation. As a core challenge to working on the drivers of deforestation, the report highlighted the risks for CSOs and IP&LCs linked to working in a context where economic interests and powers often underpin environmental challenges. 

Pathway C: Civic space

In terms of engaging and mobilising CSOs networks to respond to (Women) Environmental Human Rights (W)EHRD emergencies and use of courts and dispute resolution authorities, GLA partners took action related to their various and unique contexts. These strategies primarily focus on judicial defence efforts, capacity building, communications with international human rights organisations, media coverage, the provisioning of emergency funds and the establishment of teams of lawyers to support (W)EHRDs. At national, regional and international level, GLA partners also advocated for policies and mechanisms that protect environmental human rights. At the same time, the MTR pointed to the increasingly restricted civic spaces in GLA countries and globally as challenging, re-emphasising the relevance of the programme.

Inclusion, gender equality and youth

The FfJF programme explicitly aims for a gender-just or gender transformative approach which ensures that gendered actions and policies are embedded in overall planning, structures and organisational culture of the consortium and local partners. The MTR finds that this aspect of the programme is well on track. However, power structures and gender and age-related roles and behaviour are deeply ingrained in societies, families and people’s thinking and within the programme structures and partner organisations themselves. Changing this aspect at organisational levels takes reflection, learning and time.

Visit to GLA landscape in The Philippines

As part of the MTR, a workshop with participants from GLA countries and Alliance members was held in the Philippines to discuss and consolidate the initial MTR findings. Prior to the workshop, the group visited the Dumagat-Remontado Indigenous community around Mt. Daraitan in the Sierra Madre mountain range in Rizal province, one of the country’s largest remaining rainforest areas and a GLA landscape. The area is under threat from the proposed construction of the Kaliwa Dam project.

The Indigenous leaders as well as women and youth representatives discussed their struggle to uphold their rights and their legal battles with the Philippine government in order to preserve their Indigenous territory, the forest and their way of life. The Indigenous leaders also highlighted how vital the financial and technical support provided by GLA and its country partners has been to support their advocacy, including a legal case, while the workshop participants expressed their solidarity and affirmed continuing support to the Indigenous community.

The group of GLA partners and Alliance members visiting the Dumagat-Remontado Indigenous community around Mt. Daraitan in the Sierra Madre mountain range

Local ownership is central in the partnership and collaboration

The report emphasises how the Alliance implements and amplifies different bottom-up approaches to lobby and advocacy, works in different landscapes and scales, with a diversity of strategic actors, with different allies, networks and social movements, through their own specific methodologies. By sharing not only joint objectives under the FfJF programme, but also joint commitments as civil society, the different approaches used by the GLA partners are articulated, thereby complementing each other, leveraging the impact of each partner.

The MTR also concludes that local ownership is inherent to the programme and how this is a leading principle for all partners and stakeholders involved. The balance of partners based both in tropical forest regions and in Europe has enhanced the diversity of approaches, networks, skill sets, knowledge, and capabilities, enriching the collective competence and resourcefulness for collaboration. Asides, GLA’s ability to create and sustain alliances with like-minded organisations, networks and social movements nationally, regionally and internationally, enabled the Alliance to achieve more than the sum of its individual partner contributions.

Maartje Hilterman
Project Leader – Forests for a Just Future