International Year of Forests
The United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.
If the International Year of Forests is to succeed in promoting better forest management and conservation that reduces both emissions and poverty, it must focus on locally controlled forestry. It must recognise the key role that forest owner families and communities play in maintaining forests and strengthen their capacity to play that role. This means giving them commercial rights over timber, non-timber forest products, carbon and other ecosystem services, based on secure tenure, with freedom of association and access to markets, technology and finance.
More than seven million hectares of forest are lost each year — deforestation that contributes 17 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change and directly affects the livelihoods of more than 1.4 billion forest-dependent people. The loss is being driven by rising global demand for food, energy, fibre and water.
How can forests be kept intact in the face of spiralling demands for food, energy and construction materials that come with growing populations and economies? One approach is to recognise the key role local people play in maintaining forests and strengthen their rights and capacity to play that role by investing in locally controlled forestry.
External forces offer both threats and opportunities.
For example, international climate change concerns over the 17% of greenhouse gas emissions that come from forest loss have led to an emphasis on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). This offers opportunities for strengthening local peoples’ role in maintaining forests while also meeting demands for agriculture, energy and traditional forest products such as timber — but only if payment mechanisms are tailored towards them.
Similarly, global concerns about energy security provide an opportunity for improving forest management— but only if they allow local forest people to develop renewable biomass energy.
Likewise, global concerns over poverty and injustice could lead to more sustainable forest management — but only if new investment bears the transaction costs associated with organising and involving multiple small-scale forest enterprises.
In many cases, the balance of opportunity or threat is worked out in contexts of weak forest governance. Tackling this will be decisive in determining the outcome for forests and people who depend on them. The success of the International Year of Forests will largely depend on how effectively it can shift the balance of power in favour of locally controlled forestry.
IIED’s partners understand the main threats to livelihoods, justice and sustainability in forest-linked communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Working with these partners, our Forest Team helps design, secure funding for, and facilitate multi-country programmes of action learning that seek to secure livelihoods, justice and sustainability.
The Forest Team shapes its initiatives around timely issues that resonate strongly with decision-makers, such as climate change,, pro-poor enterprise and energy security. In this way, we can more easily open up opportunities to improve forest governance.
The team, and its partners, use research to build up evidence of what works and why. We try to involve decision-makers directly in ‘learning groups’ and other related approaches to share research and experience — to embed knowledge about ‘how’ to achieve progress among those people with the mandate to deliver it. We also use a range of influence and advocacy tactics to then create pressure and direct opportunities for change.
The IIED approach to the year of the forests is to press for 'Locally Controlled Forestry' because we believe this to be the solution to avoiding deforestation, reducing poverty and contributing to sustainable development. We have identified four areas which we believe to be critical to making progress in forestry - and these constitute our four themes:
· Forest-linked enterprise
Seeking policy reforms, institutional arrangements, business development and financial services and markets that favour secure forest rights and successful small forest enterprise.