Plans to protect forests could do more harm than good unless power is in local hands

Tropical countries that seek a share of billions of dollars of climate finance in return for protecting their forests risk creating strategies that fail to bring social and environmental benefits, according to a report released today by IIED.

News, 24 August 2011

The report draws on the work of Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG) teams in ten nations in Africa and Asia to promote decision making about forests that is fair and sustainable.

It highlights success stories at the national level, in which FGLG teams have influenced policy processes to promote outcomes that benefit forest-dependent communities who have been marginalised.

On the international stage, the FGLG teams have focused on how their countries are preparing for REDD+, a system being developed to reward countries that maintain or increase their forest to limit emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation.

FGLG teams in Ghana, Indonesia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Vietnam report that national plans for REDD+ could do more harm than good.

In many countries top-down, government-led plans for REDD+ been have been rushed through and focus more on how to count carbon stored in trees than on how to actually implement a system that brings real benefits for communities, biodiversity and the climate.

"REDD remains forestry’s best hope yet but it must be built from the bottom up," says James Mayers, head of IIED’s Natural Resources Group and co-author of the FGLG report.

"Strategies are difficult to turn around once they head off in the wrong direction — and the costs of bad strategy for forests are extremely high. To realise justice in the forests, policymakers must turn REDD on its head and put control of the forests into local hands."

The FGLG teams bring together representatives of communities, governments, civil society organisations, businesses and the media, to explore the drivers of poor forest governance and to influence policymaking.

FGLG teams operate in Cameroon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam. For each country the report describes successes from the past year and plans for activities between now and 2013.

The project has been steered by IIED since it began, in 2003, and has been funded by the UK and Dutch governments and the European Commission.

Download the report Just forest governance - for REDD, for sanity

Watch the Justice in the Forests films made by FGLG teams

Read an independent evaluation of the FGLG project (published in 2009)