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Securing Forest Tenure Rights for Rural Development


The objective of this activity is to provide information and guidance to World Bank operational staff, policy makers in client countries, and other donors on how to strengthen forest tenure security in practice, and as a foundation for achieving the goals of poverty reduction, sustainable forest management, social equity, conservation, and climate change mitigation/adaptation.   


Secure tenure is widely recognized as an essential foundation for achieving a range of rural economic development goals. However, forest areas in low and middle-income countries face particular challenges in strengthening the security of land and forest resource tenure. Forest peoples are often among the poorest and most politically marginalized communities in their national contexts, and their tenure systems are often based on customary, collective rights that lack formal legal protection. In addition, there is limited government presence and capacity in forest areas to support and defend local rights, as well as competing incentives from pressures for other land uses.

Despite growing recognition and attention to the importance of forest tenure security, significant gaps remain in terms of methodologies, tools and knowledge resources that would enable policy makers and World Bank operational staff to avoid negative impacts and build measures to strengthen forest tenure within relevant projects and initiatives. These gaps include (i) comprehensive analytical frameworks to help identify the key factors that need to be in place for the recognition and protection of forest tenure rights, particularly customary and collective rights, (ii) methodologies for assessing the presence or absence of these factors in particular national contexts, and (iii) knowledge resources that bring together experiences and solutions for addressing and resolving these gaps.

These are gaps that internal World Bank clients had identified as challenges they confronted primarily in the project design stages. Task teams often run into problems identifying tenure issues or the right types of tenure issues within a given context, which impacts implementation and achieving the best results possible because these issues and measures to address them were not identified at the outset. This project aims to change this scenario.


The project will address these gaps by conducting the following activities:  

  1. Develop an Analytical Framework for understanding and assessing forest tenure frameworks and their implementation/effective realization, with a focus on securing tenure of indigenous peoples and local communities. Recognizing the range of knowledge resources that currently exist, both within and outside the World Bank, the approach will not seek to “reinvent the wheel” but rather consolidate existing resources, adapt and tailor them to the specific contexts and issues affecting forest tenure rights, and build consensus for their widespread use.
  2. Conduct assessments (gap analysis) and dialogues on the forest tenure situation in approximately three high-priority countries.
  3. Develop a Sourcebook (or “solutions bank”) of best practices and related tools on ways to address obstacles and improving the development and implementation of forest tenure reforms. The Sourcebook will be designed as a living document – to be updated to accommodate new innovations, case studies and further applications of the Analytical Framework. 

These activities will ensure that World Bank staff and external clients can accurately identify the right issues in forest tenure security and reflect these in the design of future products and interventions.


The program's Analytical Framework has been published. The Framework addresses the first gap in identifying key factors for recognizing and protecting forest tenure rights. The Framework is also providing a basis to develop practical tools for national assessments and to increase the sharing of experiences and solutions for improved forest tenure security. In 2019, the framework will be applied in three countries.

The work has garnered considerable support and interest from within and outside the Bank. Several practice managers and technical teams have shown interest to conduct the pilot country assessments in the countries where they have ongoing lending operations. Interest in this work has also been identified outside the Bank, including institutions that have participated in informal consultations and been members of an external advisory group, including CIFOR, the Ford Foundation, WRI, RRI, IUCN, and others. 

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Last Updated : 09-24-2019