Developing countries that implement the Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are required to ensure the effective participation of all stakeholders including indigenous peoples and local communities. Community-based monitoring (CBM) of REDD+ projects could contribute to meeting REDD+ monitoring, reporting, and verification requirements and to ensuring effective community participation. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the most advanced country in REDD+ implementation in the Congo Basin region, but the role of forest communities in REDD+ monitoring has not been adequately defined. Based on a Delphi survey, this study aimed to explore the factors that are crucial in achieving effective community participation in the monitoring of REDD+ projects. Out of 65 experts with in-depth knowledge of REDD+ and CBM in the DRC and elsewhere, 35 agreed to participate in the study. In three rounds, 19 feedbacks were received from the first round, 17 from the second and 14 from the third. Data were analyzed in a qualitative (MAXQDA) and quantitative (Microsoft Excel) manner. There was consensus among experts that, per definition, effective participation of communities in the monitoring of REDD+ projects must be a process characterized by a free and prior informed consent (FPIC), recognition of traditional knowledge and community rights, and involvement of communities in all steps of the monitoring process. In practice, the latter point poses several challenges as it requires capacity building, careful selection of indicators, adequate local institutional arrangements and a benefit-sharing system. Ideally, local CBM systems should be nested within the national forest monitoring system, but this will require more strategic efforts at the national level in the DRC, including a framework concept for the role of communities and CBM in REDD+ that can be further adapted to particular circumstances on the ground.
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