Explore is a research network and community of practice dedicated to expanding and applying knowledge on forest landscape governance in Southeast Asia. It is the only research network in the world focused on forest landscape governance.
Explore takes a multi-disciplinary, participatory, inclusive multi-stakeholder approach to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change and other international and national commitments. It emphasizes gender equality and social inclusion. More than 50 percent of its advisory board members are women, and it seeks equal representation by female researchers. Explore also emphasizes transboundary collaboration and problem solving.
Launched in October 2020, Explore is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida. The network is hosted by RECOFTC, in partnership with the CIFOR-ICRAF, in collaboration with universities, research institutes, governments, civil society organizations, local communities, and the private sector in Southeast Asia.
What is a forest landscape?
A forest landscape is a mosaic of forest, agricultural and other land uses that influence biodiversity, water, soil and other factors upon which life depends within and beyond the landscape. Forest landscapes extend beyond administrative and political boundaries.
What is forest landscape governance?
Southeast Asia harbours five percent of the world’s remaining forest estate, but the region’s forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. More than half a million hectares are destroyed every year through illegal logging, conversion for agriculture and infrastructure development. The region is also the world’s most vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis.
More than 12 percent of Southeast Asians live in poverty. Many of them depend on the region’s forests for survival. About 133 million people from indigenous and local communities live in or within one kilometre of these forests. Their land and forest tenure and use rights are threatened by many forces, including poor implementation of safeguards and regulatory frameworks to recognize, protect and support them. In particular, the participation and representation of women and ethnic groups is limited.
Good forest landscape governance lays the foundation for addressing all these challenges. It delivers multiple benefits for people who live in a landscape as well as for national economies, urban populations and the global environment and climate. Good forest landscape governance is essential to ensuring land and forest tenure and use rights are respected. It is also important for stopping forest crime, deforestation and forest degradation, mitigating and adapting to climate change, preventing climate disasters and conserving biodiversity.
Forest landscape governance is the way people and organizations rule and regulate forest landscapes. It encompasses the rules and decision-making processes that engage citizens, governments, civil society, investors and companies in shaping the health and resilience of a landscape and all those who depend on it. Forest landscape governance determines how people allocate land, secure land tenure and user rights, and plan, monitor, manage, conserve and benefit from landscapes.
Forest landscape governance relies on transboundary, multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches, participatory decision-making and inclusive processes. Good forest landscape governance safeguards respect for human rights and democratic principles, fostering sustainable landscapes and thriving communities. It is based on accountability, transparency, effectiveness, fairness, gender equality, social inclusion, access to information and respect for the rule of law.
Transboundary and regional research are essential to improving forest landscape governance
Landscapes do not respect geopolitical boundaries. Rather, their boundaries are determined by the size and shape of ecosystems. In Southeast Asia, for example, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Myanmar and Viet Nam share borders, and many important landscapes extend across two or three countries. Transboundary and regional approaches to research enable policymakers and other stakeholders to participate in transnational dialogue, promote transboundary solutions, and share data, information, knowledge and tools. This is especially important to the sustainable management of water, wildlife, forests and other vital ecosystem services.
Regional advocacy, cooperation and safeguards are required to address and resolve climate change, gender inequity, insecure land tenure and use rights, wildfire haze and related issues. A regional approach can also help policy makers within ASEAN and other socio-economic blocks fulfil their mandates and achieve their goals.
Filling gaps in knowledge and know-how
Countries are aware of the importance of forest landscape governance. But they are held back by gaps in knowledge and know-how. In Southeast Asia, few universities offer programs on forest landscape governance and few researchers focus on governance issues. Collaboration among researchers is limited, as is their interaction with policymakers. Progress is also constrained by a lack of accessible data and information, and by limited understanding of the rights and interests of local communities.
Explore will fill these gaps by helping universities and researchers work with policymakers, civil society, private sector and communities to co-create transboundary, regional or multi-country, transformative and multidisciplinary research, and share and apply emerging landscape knowledge widely.
The research network will mobilize landscape-based research on forest landscape governance. It will initially emphasize gender, climate change, environment, human rights, poverty alleviation and COVID-19 recovery. It will also strengthen regional capacity in participatory action research, rights-based approaches, research proposal development, conflict mitigation, stakeholder engagement, social inclusion mechanisms, and ways to achieve gender equality.
Explore welcomes universities and researchers, policymakers, practitioners, companies, donors, development institutions and representatives of forest communities to join and participate. Click below to sign up as an Explore member through the Explore Secretariat at RECOFTC. Or consider joining our community of practice hosted by the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF).
- Universities and researchers: Build your capacity to design, conduct and communicate research, to access funding and guidance, and to engage with like-minded researchers, professors, forest communities, policymakers, institutions and companies.
- Policymakers: Help guide research questions and have access to the results of applied research that could help you improve policies and institutional frameworks for inclusive and sustainable development.
- Practitioners of sustainable development, poverty alleviation, gender and social inclusion: Increase your knowledge, technical expertise and access to policymakers, enhancing your ability to serve local communities and marginalized groups.
- Investors and companies: Partner with local communities, reduce risks, secure supply chains, shape research questions in real time, co-fund research, and contribute to achieving international economic, environmental and social goals and agreements.
- Representatives of local communities: Connect with people and organizations that can help you secure land and forest rights, participate in decision-making processes, achieve sustainable development and gender equality, and protect forest landscapes.
- Donors: Identify research and development gaps, improve targeting, influence sustainable development policies and identify impactful investment opportunities.
- Development institutions: Discover opportunities for applied research, partnerships and investments and engage with researchers who can address research for development (R4D) needs.
Explore welcomes applications for research on the following themes and related topics:
- Role of policies and institutions in the development of sustainable forest landscapes
- Impact of climate change on local communities and response mechanisms
- Gender and social drivers and impacts of forest governance focusing on rights and roles of women, youth and other marginalized groups in natural resource management
- Changes in forests and effects on local livelihoods and poverty
- Trade-offs among economic development, environmental conservation, and human rights in land-use planning
- Scaling up effective forest governance platforms
- Decentralizing natural resource management
- Links among forests, food and water
- Ways to mitigate risk in land and forest investments
- Forest governance and the Sustainable Development Goals
- Forest governance and COVID-19 response and resiliency
- Interdependence and intersectionality between local communities and natural resources in forest landscapes
Support for researchers dedicated to forest landscape governance
In 2021 and 2022 Explore recruited and supported researchers to develop research proposals through a Preparatory Grant Mechanism. In 2021, Explore issued its first competitive call for concept notes and research proposals. Nineteen concepts were funded by Explore to develop into full research proposals. If resources are secured for 2023, Explore will fund selected proposals.
The full proposals prepared through the Mechanism are assessed through double-blind peer review, and receive feedback from a panel of expert mentors.
Explore is providing training through the Preparatory Grant Mechanism in these areas:
- Developing competitive research proposals
- Participatory Action Research (PAR)
- Stakeholder engagement
- Communication and advocacy
- Gender-inclusive research
- Rights-based approaches
- Ethics and scientific integrity
Community of practice
Explore members participate in a community of practice dedicated to forest landscape governance hosted by the Global Landscape Forum (GLF) and convened and moderated by RECOFTC. GLF is the world’s largest knowledge-led platform on sustainable landscapes. It offers Explore members opportunities to connect, learn, identify funding sources and further their careers.
Explore is governed and guided by an Advisory Committee whose members bring outstanding and diverse research and policy experience in Southeast Asia.