Who will govern the forests of tomorrow, and how?

Gunung Lumut, Kalimantan Timur, Indonesia, November 2005.

The demands of a growing global population expected to exceed nine billion people by 2050 are putting increasing pressure on forest land. Climate change will only complicate matters. Whether current arrangements on how land is governed can meet these challenges is to be seen. Often called “governance” – a generic term used to describe the way in which people and organizations rule and regulate forests – this is set to be a defining feature of global discussions and negotiations on issues like food and energy security, climate change and water management in the years to come.

Experience suggests that forests will need to be governed with an eye on other sectors like agriculture, given that it is the main driver of deforestation. The agriculture-forestry nexus will likely determine the fate of our forests. Experience also tells us that the people who live in or around forests or have an interest in them will need to have a say in how they are managed, and rights to forest resources. Experts say that this is by far the most effective way to counter forest degradation and deforestation, and preserve and enhance the benefits of forests for present and future generations.

Yet transitioning to more sustainable governance arrangements will require specific skills and capacities. Understanding how national, regional and global processes  ̶  including national forest programmes and mechanisms such as FLEGT, REDD+ and the “Forest Instrument”  ̶  can better support this transition is just a part of the equation. Knowing how and where to build capacities to connect these global processes with local initiatives will be equally important if change is to have a real and sustained impact on forests and people dependent or interested in them.

Within this changing landscape, public forestry institutions are also changing. All actors involved in forests and decisions about their use need enhanced capacities to deal with these changes, and an awareness that societal needs for forests are also evolving. What have we learned about forest governance since the concept emerged some 30 years ago? How can we better involve the different actors who have an interest in forests in decisions about their future? What new and innovative ways of communicating can help us in this transition? Find out during the World Forestry Congress sessions on forest governance this September in Durban.

Photo: Trucks carrying logs in Gunung Lumut, East Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Photo courtesy: Jan van der Ploeg (Center for International Forestry Research/CIFOR)

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