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Justice in the Forest: Rural Livelihoods and Forest Law Enforcement

Managing Wildfires in a Changing Climate


A CIFOR publication supported by PROFOR

Justice in the Forests - Rural Livelihoods and Forest Law Enforcement


Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) has been justified as a way of benefiting the poor by improving state revenues from forests, but the direct social impacts have not been given much attention.


To help develop a better understanding of these impact, PROFOR supported a CIFOR review of community experiences in Bolivia, Cameroon, Canada, Honduras, Indonesia and Nicaragua. The final product of this work is the publication Justice in the Forest: Rural Livelihoods and Forest Law Enforcement.


The results of the review show how the extent of forest-based livelihoods is often under-appreciated. The laws that affect the way people use forests are often contradictory and restrict livelihoods. Moreover, laws tend to be selectively developed and applied in favour of large-scale forestry, while laws which secure community rights in forests are commonly absent, ignored or too onerous to be widely used.

Lack of adequate legal protection of community rights makes much small-scale forest use 'illegal'. Illegal forest use, including by communities, tends to be enmeshed in wider political economies, so major players tend to be politically protected while local communities are vulnerable. Enforcement has sometimes focused narrowly on forestry laws to the neglect of laws that secure rural livelihoods.

Crude enforcement measures have reinforced social exclusion and tended to target poor people while avoiding those who are well connected. Trade-based FLEG measures may also ignore the social implications.

The study recommends future FLEG initiatives be developed in transparent ways, with broad civil society engagement. They should give special attention to the rural poor by addressing the full range of laws relating to forests, adopting rights-based approaches and promoting legal reform, rule of law and access to justice.

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Author : A CIFOR publication supported by PROFOR
Last Updated : 05-20-2020