Sanjay Upadhyay: Forest Governance Learning Group
Sanjay Upadhyay is an environmental lawyer in India, with a wealth of experience in forest governance. In 1999, after completing four years with the World Wide Fund for Nature India, he established the country’s first environmental law firm, the Enviro-Legal Defence Firm, in New Delhi, where he remains a managing partner. Sanjay is also an advocate of the Supreme Court of India, fighting court cases and negotiating with the government on a range of forest issues.
I have a long history of collaborating with IIED — before joining the Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG) in 2006 I worked on a range of projects with the institute. But the FGLG is different.
There are ten countries involved in the group, across Africa and Asia. I don’t often get the chance to work on a comparative basis with African countries in particular and the group has given me a unique learning opportunity to experience, and learn from, other country contexts.
Our challenges are not country-specific: the struggles on forest tenure or pro-poor strategies for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) are global concerns — and it is always good to know how different countries are tackling them. Sometimes, what has worked in one country helps you understand your country context better. But this type of global learning also allows you to learn from other people’s mistakes.
FGLG is not just another network ... we are making a real impact on millions of people’s livelihoods and wellbeing in India.
Being part of FGLG has made me a better advocate — not many Supreme Court lawyers can draw on first-hand experience in Malawi or Bali to build a case in court or negotiate for action with our government.
And it has helped me exert an influence where it really matters. FGLG is not just another network — it is a group of serious people who truly matter when it comes to making decisions about forests. From drafting the country’s first Forest Rights Act to writing a letter that has become the guiding note for enabling tribal communities to use bamboo, we are making a real impact on millions of people’s livelihoods and wellbeing in India.
I hope that we as a group can find the resources and people to allow FGLG to continue beyond existing funding commitments. It has great value in terms of ideas, strategies and experience, which can actually resolve issues of forest governance on the ground.