"People’s Forestry”: Forging a new global forest partnership driven by local and national needs

30 July 2008 | News story

An emerging initiative could prove to be an ambitious break from traditional international forestry efforts, fundamentally changing the way forests are managed and boosting efforts to fight both poverty and climate change.

In 2007, acknowledging that existing efforts to make forestry work for the poor have not generated desired results, the World Bank proposed creating a global forest partnership that links local and global processes and promotes decision-making on the international stage to reflect the views and needs of local stakeholders such as forest dwellers.

The World Bank then asked the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) to conduct an independent assessment of its proposal with a broad range of stakeholders. The result was that more than 600 forest experts responded to IIED’s assessment, or participated in focus groups in Brazil, China, Ghana, Guyana, India, Russia and Mozambique, as well as at international meetings. IIED also reviewed more than 50 existing initiatives to identify the proposed partnership’s potential partners and the gaps it could fill. In July, 2008 IIED published the findings of its assessment.

“The prospect of a new generation of forest-based partnerships that are locally owned and responsive to nationally defined needs is compelling,” says Stewart Maginnis, Head of IUCN’s Forest Conservation Programme and chair of the exploratory committee that was created by IIED to ensure the quality and credibility of the assessment. “The assessment concludes that there is local, national and international support from the forestry community to develop a new and radically different approach to partnerships aimed at fostering “people’s forestry”. Recommendations produced by the assessment will also help guide the World Bank on the types of changes really needed to nurture bottom up, multi-stakeholder collaboration.”

Key recommendations that would make this global forest partnership truly unique include:

  • Empowering primary ‘stakeholders’ such as forest dwellers so that they can make their rights, knowledge and needs centre-stage
  • Improving financial flows to activities that support local needs as well as global public goods such as carbon storage
  • Interacting effectively with other sectors such as water and agriculture, where the underlying causes of forest problems, and their solutions, are often lodged

"The World Bank should be praised for breaking with normal practice and supporting the independent scrutiny of its plans through engagement with a broad range of stakeholders," says co-author James Mayers, head of IIED’s Natural Resources Group. "What the bank must now avoid is trying to drive the partnership from the top-down. Instead it must act as the facilitator, providing financial and other support in a hands-off way to enable an independent alliance to be built from the bottom up, bringing together local and regional partners with global organisations."

Daniela Gomes Pinto and Mario Monzoni of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, who helped to coordinate the extensive consultation process in Brazil say: "The Brazilians we consulted said a global forest partnership is needed to raise the overall profile of forests, to curb the drivers of deforestation, and to support those who wish to practice sustainable forest management. It must be globally-designed, but country-driven – a partnership for the world, not the World Bank."

Welcoming the report, the World Bank's Forest Advisor, Gerhard Dieterle says: "The World Bank is happy to hear there is consensus on a new approach from a broad variety of forest stakeholders from around the world. We have listened to the advice of the hundreds of people consulted and will be following IIED’s recommendation that the World Bank support an independent process of a global partnership growing from the ‘bottom up’," he says. "We are convinced that this is a lasting way to have forests contribute to economic growth, to the livelihoods of forest-dependent people and poverty reduction as a whole, as well as preserving the global services forests deliver."

As a next step, the assessment calls for the formation of a ‘development group’ of forest, environment and development leaders, mainly from the South and credible to government, civil society and the private sector, who can come together and contribute to the development of the initiative. They would be supported by a small group of progressive international institutions, including IUCN, in their efforts to forge a new kind of global forest partnership.

The full IIED report and summary can be found at: www.iied.org

For more information, please contact: Stewart.Maginnis@iucn.org or liz.carlile@iied.org