Good Governance

To ensure fair benefits to local people, decisions about forests must be participatory, transparent, accountable, and enforceable.

What Is Forest Governance?

Overall, governance is a system of rules and institutions that provides the basis for societies to make decisions and take action. Forest governance, put simply, describes who makes decisions about forest resources and land, how the decisions are made and carried out, and who is accountable.

In the forests of Asia and the Pacific, governance plays a crucial role in determining the benefits that people receive from forests and the protection of natural resources. With good governance, communities benefit from the forests they have managed for decades or centuries, and governments can use the funds to benefit society more broadly. Meanwhile, forests can continue to provide valuable ecosystem services for society.

However, in the history of forest management, good governance has been the exception, not the rule. The timber trade is one of the least transparent and most conflict-ridden markets in the world. The World Bank estimates that the illegal timber market costs governments around the world US$10 billion annually.

While official government regulations are an important aspect of forest governance, decisions over forest resources and land take place at many levels and in many contexts. For example, customary laws and traditions strongly influence how people use and manage resources. Similarly, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), private investors, influential local families, community groups, and business associations all play a role in decisions about forests.

Many conditions contribute to effective forest governance. Some key examples and results are as follows:

Participation: All people — including marginalized groups, ethnic minorities, indigenous people, women, and the poor — deserve a say in decisions that affect their lives. When more people contribute to forest governance, benefits can be distributed more equitably.

Transparency: When people have access to clear and complete information, it is more difficult for powerful players to use bribery and other forms of corruption to gain access to resources.

Accountability: Many people associate governance with power, but responsibilities are an equally important component of forest governance. Ensuring that decision makers and implementers must answer for their actions can reduce abuses of power.

Equitable rule of law: Fair treatment in both protection and punishment can help resolve and prevent forest conflict. Laws must be enforced with check and balance mechanisms.

Our Work on Governance

Because strong and secure rights, good governance, and fair benefits are the basis of sustainable forest management, these three underlying principles crosscut all of our work. Our work on governance takes place at several different levels:

Local: RECOFTC strengthens local voices using training courses to increase communities' awareness of and ability to pursue their rights and sharing forest communities' perspectives at global events. Within communities, we also work to ensure marginalized groups have influence and agency.

National: At the national level, we advocate for stronger participatory policies, such as those relating to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, and better implementation of policies in practice. In addition, we promote institutional developments that respond to the needs of forest dwellers.

International: We work with the social forestry groups that monitor decisions made by governments, supporting a system of checks and balances designed to increase transparency. Moreover, we advocate for international policies and processes that bring about national-level changes to benefit local people.

RELATED PUBLICATIONS

Resources on Governance

HIGHLIGHTED Brief

REDD+, Governance, and Community Forestry

Date: 01 August 2011

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