The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog

Many Questions, Difficult Answers on Forest Governance

Two weeks ago, the Business 4 Environment Global Summit was held in Jakarta, Indonesia. During this Summit, government and business actors were urged to collaborate in achieving the goal of zero net deforestation and forest degradation (ZNDD) by 2020. ‘Zero net’ does not mean that there will be no deforestation and forest degradation at all. Rather, the approach allows “changes in the configuration of the land-use mosaic, provided the net quantity, quality and carbon density of forests is maintained”. ZNDD also aims to preserve the remaining forest and reduce forest-based greenhouse gas emissions

The Summit was also taken as an opportunity for WWF to publish the Living Forests Report. The Report does not provide answers or impose solutions on forest managers. Rather it attempts to create rooms for conversations to seek a recipe for achieving forest preservation while maintaining socio-economic development. Moreover, it identifies five crosscutting issues that are important to achieve ZNDD and one of them is governance. Good governance in this case refers to secure land tenure, effective law enforcement and empowered local communities, and implementing these measures requires first understanding of the basic concept of governance.

According to UNESCAP, governance means “the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)”. It also suggests that good governance requires eight characteristics namely participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law.

Thus, in an attempt to start a conversation on good governance, several questions can be posed on how a conversation should happen:

  • Who is involved in the conversation?
  • How the conversation is conducted?
  • What is the method or approach taken to create genuine and fair conversations?
  • Who moderates the deliberations to manage genuine and fair conversations?

These questions do not necessarily challenge the accuracy of technical matters, but they are crucial for dealing with conflicts of interests and understanding power relations among stakeholders in the forestry sector. These questions may also lead to specific questions on forest governance; including whether key issues identified as important to ZNDD include real issues encountered by local communities, and whether national forest policy is translated into local policy that takes into account complex local realities.

A good example to demonstrate the significance of governance is the criticism on Indonesia’s commitment to stopping forest loss by implementing a forest moratorium to stop issuing logging permits for two years. The moratorium allows Indonesia to improve its land use planning and permitting process, and build their institutional capacity. The moratorium is scheduled to be imposed in early 2011, yet four months have passed and there is still no indication as to when it will be set in motion. Corruption and the hegemony of some actors linger and seem to hamper Indonesia’s effort to halt deforestation and forest degradation. Moreover, environmental activists took the momentum of ASEAN Summit in Jakarta last week to call upon Indonesia to act on the moratorium plan. The delay in implementing the moratorium is seen as poor quality of government’s performance. Thus, the above concerns clearly shed a light on how a country like Indonesia is still struggling to develop good governance particularly in forestry sector. Although rather slow, the moratorium is certainly a significant step to achieve sound forest management.


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