Policy Briefs


International Forest Governance: Trends, drawbacks, and new approaches. A critical review

The Policy Brief summarizes the key messages of the report "International Forest Governance: A critical review of trends, drawbacks, and new approaches", and includes examples of forest governance alternatives for the future. The following key findings are highlighted:

  • The former dominant concept of a centralized International Forest Governance (IFG) in the form of legally binding, or non-legally binding intergovernmental agreements has continued to shift towards a more pluralistic understanding to IFG.
  • A major critique of IFG is its 'limited effectiveness', particularly in reference to its failure to adequately address deforestation, forest emissions, and biodiversity loss. Yet, IFG is still presented as the dominant solution to this problem, resulting in an 'Olympics' of pledges and targets.
  • Forest-related finance for IFG has increased in complexity, with constantly emerging new policy instruments, incentives, standards, and targets in a wide variety of forms. This growing complexity is supported by actors and institutions with interests in short-term economic gain, rather than sustainability and a transition towards just forest governance. Alternative finance remains rare.
  • In the past decade, a 'climatization' of the forest governance discourses has taken place, which becomes evident in the growing public and private forest carbon markets.
  • Formerly, the critiques to IFG were focused on technical aspects, but a 'critical critique' point of view is gaining traction following approaches such as political ecology and critical policy analysis. This form of critique addresses social problems such as power asymmetries, justice, post-colonialism, or exclusion. Often, this critique focuses on uncovering underlying power relations rather than offering specific suggestions for political solutions.

One major conclusion from this assessment is that the complexity of international forest governance is steadily increasing, and further efforts to coordinate actors and arrangements at all levels are urgently needed.

Editors: Nelson Grima, Daniela Kleinschmit and Christoph Wildburger

Published by International Union of Forest Research Organizations (2024)

ISBN 978-3-903345-29-4

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