Some countries are beginning to crack these challenges. In recent years, all five countries in the Mekong region have made progress in devolving legal rights over forest resources to local people. By the end of 2018, the total area transferred into community hands surpassed 6.7 million hectares. And that’s just the start. These countries have ambitious targets for increasing the area in community control.
RECOFTC’s Executive Director David Ganz says it is essential that governments listen to the voices of communities and civil society, and incorporate their views in policy. That means listening to a diversity of marginalized groups, especially Indigenous Peoples, youth, the elderly and women. This matters because, while good forest governance is about moving forward in a positive direction, it is also about trying to ensure that no one is left behind.
As the impacts of climate change become clearer, the case for protecting forests and managing them sustainably grows stronger.
“We must do this in ways that are fair and beneficial to local people, while also protecting biodiversity,” says Ganz.
As the EU and other markets increasingly demand legal timber and commodities whose production has not entailed deforestation, the economic incentives for better forest governance should continue to grow. In 2019, for example, the EU launched an initiative to protect and restore the world’s forests (link). It also launched the European Green Deal (link), which provides a basis for more action on forests.