Participation is essential to good forest governance
In Myanmar, the government is increasingly coordinating and cooperating with civil society organizations on policy and legal reforms.
Aung Thant Zin
In Myanmar the government is increasingly coordinating and cooperating with civil society organizations on policy and legal reforms, says Aung Thant Zin, chief executive officer of the Myanmar Environment Rehabilitation-conservation Network. He lists recent participation by such organizations in the development of the National Land-use Policy and the National Climate Change Policy, the revision of Forest Rules and Community Forestry Instructions, and in the development of the Protection of Biodiversity and Protected Area Law.
Hoang Xuan Thuy, vice-director of the Vietnamese nongovernmental organization PanNature, says Vietnam has also become more open in recent years. Now, when government agencies develop a new policy or law, they seek the views of relevant stakeholders and the wider public, he says.
“When they have a draft, they put it online and anyone can download it, organize a consultation and provide comments to the government agency,” says Hoang. “When the government agency submits the draft law to the National Assembly for approval, they need to provide what feedback they have received and explain what they have taken into account and what they have not. They publish that on their website as well. These requirements provide room for engagement.”
To influence policy processes, PanNature will often organize consultation workshops to gather the views of forest stakeholders, or will join technical working groups set up by government agencies to help them develop policies.
“For revisions of the law, government agencies will invite different organizations to discuss what they should revise, what gaps to fill and what research they need to do to develop policy,” says Hoang. “When Vietnam developed its new Forest Law of 2017, we successfully advocated for the law to recognize sacred forests managed by communities.”
Robin aus der Beek says that by engaging with civil society groups and learning what they know, governments are starting to shift. Before, they focused on engaging communities in forest conservation and allowing them to use forest resources for subsistence. But now they are promoting livelihood development and income generation from the forest sector.
“This overall trend and the resulting increase in community rights is due to participation by civil society groups,” he says.
The next sections of this special report focus on how civil society organizations are participating in policy processes and the challenges they face.