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Securing forest tenure rights for rural development

Forest-dwelling communities and people who live in forests and depend on them for their livelihoods are often among the poorest and politically most marginalized population in their countries. About 22% of the income for the rural poor living near forests comes from timber and non-timber forest resources. This economic contribution of forest resources is larger than wage labour, livestock or self-owned businesses. The tenure systems of such forest-dependent communities, especially indigenous peoples are often based on customary, collective rights that are often not legally recognized, or superseded by formal state ownership. As a result, their access, use, and exclusion rights are frequently unclear, leaving the forest-dependent poor even more vulnerable and insecure, thereby undermining the sustainable management of forest resources.

A substantial proportion of area in forest landscapes is held collectively. An RRI study found that indigenous peoples and local communities have rights to and/or de facto manage over 31% of the world’s land surface in developing countries. Clarifying and securing forest tenure rights and the associated management practices of indigenous peoples and local communities in forest areas, is critical to achieving the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the World Bank Group twin-goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. While recognition of the importance of tenure security for rural development is increasing, there is insufficient knowledge on how best to secure community-based tenure in forest areas.

The World Bank and Program on Forests (PROFOR) initiative on Securing Forest Tenure Rights for Rural Development has produced an analytical framework  - and related tools and methodologies - to address this knowledge gap. It seeks to build capacity and effectiveness for dealing with forest land rights issues among development practitioners, indigenous peoples and local communities, client country governments, donors, and World Bank staff by facilitating the identification and sharing of best practices to strengthen community-based forest tenure for rural development. The framework consolidates a range of experience and evidence on both the relevance of community-based tenure security to rural development goals and the key elements that need to be in place for community tenure to be secure.

Speaking at the launch of the analytical framework held at the 2019 Land and Poverty Conference, Wael Zakout, Senior Technical Advisor and Global Lead, Land Policy and Geospatial at the World Bank said,  “It’s a great thing that we now finally have a tool that can help our discussions with governments on land tenure in forest areas. The analytical framework is great, but we have to put it to work. I would like to see it used at the country level - for countries who have moved forward with recognition of land rights in forest areas and need our support to implement this, and for countries who haven’t done so, this is really the time to engage with them.”

The framework and its nine elements provide a foundation for the development of practical tools to assess strengths and gaps of community forest tenure security in specific national or subnational context. In addition to forming a basis for identifying needs and actions for support, the framework also holds a promise to establish a shared set of concepts and common language on community-based tenure security.

We anticipate using this framework in several ways: we are disseminating it as a knowledge resource for policy makers, development practitioners and we also hope to use it for our engagements with country level initiatives.” Benoît Bosquet, Director for Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice at the World Bank speaking at the launch of the framework concluded.,

To move in this direction, a draft Forest Tenure Assessment Tool (FTAT), based on the analytical framework, has since been developed for piloting in three countries: Zambia, Myanmar, and Democratic Republic of Congo. This tool is intended to be useful to indigenous and community organizations, NGOs, and other government and non-government actors interested in using a participatory process to assess opportunities and risks associated with forest tenure security and assessment of presence or absence of key elements of community tenure security in forest areas (the how dimension) in a given country.

The tool informs and promotes practical actions to strengthen tenure-related policies and their effective implementation and enforcement. It also addresses specific needs identified by World Bank Group staff to enhance responses to tenure-related challenges in Bank-supported projects and initiatives. It will help support efforts to identify and manage social and environmental risks of rural investment policies and programs and contribute to the implementation of the Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework.

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Last Updated : 08-02-2019

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