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Frances Seymour was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development based in Washington, DC, where she lead policy research on tropical forests and climate change. In December 2016, CGD published her book, Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics, and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change (co-authored by Jonah Busch), to promote the importance of forests to climate and development objectives, and the potential of results-based finance. Ms. Seymour also served as Senior Adviser to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, with a focus on halting deforestation and peatland conversion due to expansion of oil palm cultivation in Indonesia.
From 2006 to 2012, Ms. Seymour served as Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), an international organization headquartered in Indonesia, and was awarded France’s Order of Agricultural Merit for her service there. Previously, she was the founding director of the Institutions and Governance Program at World Resources Institute, and served as Director of Development Assistance Policy at World Wildlife Fund. Early in her career, she spent five years as a Program Officer with the Ford Foundation in Indonesia.
She holds an MPA in Development Studies from Princeton University, and a BS in Zoology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
On July 9th some 140 million Indonesians went to the polls to vote for a new President. It was only the country’s third direct presidential election, and certainly the closest, with two very different candidates. Each declared victory based on competing exit polls but at the urging of the outgoing president agreed to await the official results, to be announced on July 22nd.
Indonesia is a prominent test case in global efforts to reduce tropical deforestation—a necessary component in the global effort to avert runaway climate change. As part of the global climate negotiations, rich countries have agreed in principle to provide financial incentives for forest countries to slow deforestation under a program known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). Indonesia, meanwhile, has made better forest and land management a keystone of its development planning, and is putting in place the institutional arrangements to implement its ambitious deforestation goals.
What institutional hurdles has Indonesia overcome in the effort to prepare for REDD+? What remains to be done? Will the US and other rich countries step forward as expected to support Indonesia’s efforts to reduce deforestation? Most importantly: can REDD+ save Indonesia’s forests? This partnership event from the Center for Global Development and Climate Advisers is an opportunity to explore these important questions by hearing directly from the top Indonesian officials leading efforts to prepare for REDD+.
His Excellency Mr. Heru Prasetyo, head of the Indonesian National REDD+ Agency, will describe Indonesia’s vision for curbing deforestation rates and transitioning to a more sustainable economic development model. Panel discussants will include Mina Setra, a senior official with the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), who will describe the complex interaction between international efforts and indigenous peoples’ traditional property rights; and CGD senior fellow Frances Seymour, former director general of the Center for International Forestry Research, an international organization headquartered in Indonesia.
This year, a common theme of those discussions was financing for infrastructure investment in developing countries. I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that these conversations tend to focus exclusively on the need for new bricks-and-mortar infrastructure to meet needs for energy, water, or transport services, and seldom acknowledge the need to maintain the ecological infrastructure that already provides a large portion of those services for many of the world’s poor.
Washington, D.C. (April 16, 2014) – Frances Seymour, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, has been awarded the title of Officer by the French Republic’s Order of Agricultural Merit (Officier de l'Ordre du Mérite Agricole) for her work as Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) from 2006 to 2012.
The Order of Agricultural Merit is bestowed by the French Republic to individuals for outstanding services to agriculture in public duties or in the practice of agriculture. It also rewards people who distinguish themselves in scientific research or in related publications. The rank of “Officier” is one step higher than the rank of “Chevalier”, or “Knight”. It is rare that the Republic of France bestows one of their most distinguished awards on an American woman.
Seymour received her Officer decoration and a certificate signed by Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Le Foll in February at a ceremony hosted by the French Ambassador to Indonesia, Her Excellency Corinne Breuze. The ambassador praised Seymour for her leadership in encouraging dialogue between the worlds of science and policy, developing a culture of impact assessment at CIFOR, establishing the annual Forest Day, and insisting on the highest quality of scientific research. Headquartered in Bogor, Indonesia, CIFOR conducts policy research on the use and management of forests in less-developed countries.
“Your exceptional dynamism, your visionary thinking never prevented you from listening to partners and from remaining open to their concerns. This is a very rare quality among leaders,” Ambassador Breuze said at the ceremony. Importantly, Ambassador Breuze also acknowledged Seymour’s success at CIFOR “would not have been possible without the experience gained previously within the World Resources Institute, World Wildlife Fund, the Ford Foundation or the USAID.”
On May 1, Seymour will be honored at a reception hosted by the French Embassy in Washington, DC. Remarks will be given by Embassy General Consul Oliver Serot Almeras, CGD President Nancy Birdsall, and World Bank vice president and special envoy for climate change Rachel Kyte.
Birdsall said: “The French Republic chose well when it selected Frances Seymour for this honor. She has been a great asset to us here at CGD, where her work is helping to broaden policymakers’ appreciation of the close linkages between forest protection, successful development and reduced climate change threat. Frances epitomizes the combination of research rigor and practical policy experience that is a hallmark of our work at CGD.”
French Ambassador to the United States François Delattre offered his commendation to Seymour on this high accolade. “It is a great honor for me to welcome Frances Seymour, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, to the French Embassy. I am particularly delighted that she has been promoted to the rank of Officer of the Order of Agricultural Merit in recognition of her eminent contribution to the protection of our ecosystems—a topic dear to both France and the United States, and important to the cooperation between our countries,” he said.
Kyte said: “In a world where we struggle sometimes to find ways to bring science, evidence and data smoothly into policy, and to go from the lab to the field or the forest, through both public and private sectors, quickly, Frances’ career is testament that it can be done.”
As a CGD senior fellow, Seymour leads the Tropical Forests for Climate and Development initiative. Her work has focused on creating a global consensus about the importance of forest conservation and promoting results-based financing for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).
She is also the lead author of a forthcoming CGD report, Why Forests, Why Now?, which will present evidence of the urgency, affordability, and feasibility of rich country support for reducing deforestation to improve rural livelihoods and avert catastrophic climate change. In addition she is a member of a CGD working group that is identifying means for rapidly scaling up pay-for-performance finance for forest conservation.
The Center for Global Development: CGD works to reduce global poverty and inequality through rigorous research and active engagement with the policy community to make the world a more prosperous, just, and safe place for all people. As a nimble, independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit think tank, focused on improving the policies and practices of the rich and powerful, the Center combines world-class scholarly research with policy analysis and innovative outreach and communications to turn ideas into action.
Last week marked the transition from commitments to compliance for a number of companies that have pledged to get deforestation out of their supply chains. Wilmar International, the world’s largest trader of palm oil, set a December 31, 2015 deadline for suppliers to adhere to its path-breaking “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” policy. December 31st was also Jim Bob Moffett’s last day at work as the chairman of Freeport-McMoRan, the company that developed one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines in eastern Indonesia. The coincidence of these milestones leads me to reflect on the changing norms of corporate leadership, and my brief interaction with Mr. Moffett 20 years ago.
On June 15 in Oslo, US Secretary of State John Kerry signed a Joint Statement on Deeper Collaboration on Forests and Climate Change with Norway. While we might wish that bolder action from the US government were possible sooner, this moment in the spotlight to move forests higher up on the US government’s agenda is a good first step.
Back in January, #1 on the list of 2015 New Year’s Conservation Resolutions brought to you by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo was to “Purchase products made with sustainable palm oil.” Apparently the President’s Global Development Council (GDC) has taken this advice to heart.
After two weeks in Indonesia I returned to Washington to discover that fall had turned to winter in my absence. A new CGD Working Paper explains how the prospects of jurisdictional forest offsets have experienced a similar chill in California since first proposed in the late 2000s.
Over the last few years, an increasing number of companies that produce, trade, or buy “forest risk” commodities have pledged to get deforestation out of their supply chains. But voluntary efforts by progressive companies will not on their own be sufficient to end tropical deforestation. A “jurisdictional approach” that marries public and private efforts at the scale of political units offers a promising way forward.