Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Research Report

Justice in the forest: Rural livelihoods and forest law enforcement

Marcus Colchester
Marco Boscolo
Arnoldo Contreras-Hermosilla
Filippo Del Gatto
Jessica Dempsey
Guillaume Lescuyer
Krystof Obidzinski
Denis Pommier
Michael Richards
Sulaiman N. Sembiring
Luca Tacconi
Maria Teresa Vargas Rios
Adrian Wells
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2006
Pages: 116
  • Cite this Item

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-4)

    Concern about the extent to which illegal logging has been contributing to forest loss has grown sharply since the 1980s. As new data has become available, it has become clear that a very large proportion of the timber entering both national and international markets has been accessed, harvested, transported and traded in contravention of national law (see Box 1).

    Given this situation, previous efforts to improve forest management—for example, through developing coherent national forest programmes, reforming forestry laws, fiscal regimes and policies, agreeing criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management and promoting third-party certification—have begun to seem unrealistic....

  2. (pp. 5-8)

    The main concerns behind the FLEG processes have been to curb forest loss, capture revenues for government exchequers and bolster the authority of state agencies. These are significant goals. The World Bank (2002) estimates that illegal logging results in an annual loss of around US$ 10–15 billion in developing countries worldwide. Although it is anticipated that better governance, increased rent capture by the state and improved forest management can all benefit the poor indirectly, the direct impacts of illegal logging and forest law enforcement on rural livelihoods have not been a priority consideration to date.

    For example, a recent regional...

  3. (pp. 9-15)

    According to the World Bank (2002), ‘more than 1.6 billion people depend to varying degrees on forests for their livelihoods. About 60 million indigenous people are almost wholly dependent on forests. Some 350 million people who live in or adjacent to dense forests depend on them to a high degree for subsistence and income. In developing countries about 1.2 billion people rely on agroforestry farming systems that help to sustain agricultural productivity and generate income.’ These figures are only very rough estimates and efforts to come up with more precise statistics about the numbers of forest-dependent people have been frustrated,...

  4. (pp. 16-22)

    Given the centrality of forests for millions of forest-dependent people, it is important, in the context of a proposed law enforcement approach, to ascertain the extent to which current legal frameworks actually accommodate these ways of life. Are forest-dependent peoples’ rights to property, to livelihoods, to a healthy environment and to development adequately recognised in current laws?

    Human activities in forests are organised around a plethora of norms and laws. Many indigenous peoples and other long-term forest residents continue to regulate their rights of ownership, use of and access to forests according to customary laws and institutions. Although international human...

  5. (pp. 23-32)

    Forest-related laws tend to provide little security to forest-dependent peoples. The question is: how is it that these people’s interests have been marginalized in lawmaking? This section briefly summarises the origins of the contradictory laws outlined in the previous sections.

    Legal frameworks are the result of a complex interplay of interests and processes. At least in democratic situations, laws are meant to reflect the will of the governed as expressed through their representatives in national and local legislatures. Laws are usually first crafted by technical experts and government officials before being submitted to legislatures for debate and approval. They are...

  6. (pp. 33-37)

    A key finding of this review is that, where illegal forestry operations are prevalent, this is not so much an accidental outcome of poor governance and ill-regulated international trade in forest products, as an integral element in the political economy of these countries (cf. Smith et al. 2003). This implies that tackling forest-related crimes and other offences does not so much require a ‘crackdown’ on illegal activities as a comprehensive overhaul of the institutional and legal frameworks which regulate access to and use of forest resources.

    In Indonesia, small-scale logging operations have been structured around power networks based on patronage...

  7. (pp. 38-46)

    As noted in section 4, the rights of most forest-dependent communities are either denied or only weakly recognised in the law. On the other hand, laws often favour the activities of large-scale forestry corporations, which are granted concessions to extract forest produce from the same forests on which the communities depend. This places communities in an awkward situation—at odds with both the laws of the state and with the private sector. To maintain their livelihoods, they are often obliged to operate in ways that are either technically illegal or, at least, legally ambiguous. Inevitably, this not only has an...

  8. (pp. 47-61)

    The drafting, passing and application of law needs to be distinguished from its actual enforcement. As noted above, laws relating to forests are very varied and are very unevenly applied. Framework laws are often not followed up with enabling regulations. Agencies that are meant to apply laws—to survey and register land titles, facilitate permits for community forests, or provide technical advice to local forest managers, for example—are often weak or poorly motivated. Similarly, there are many possible gaps and deficiencies in the processes of law enforcement. In many parts of the world, communities have existed in a legal...

  9. (pp. 62-70)

    The case studies, literature review and interviews all concur that, in many countries, forest-related laws offer relatively little security to poor rural communities and indigenous peoples. Despite international laws and constitutional provisions protecting customary rights, the rights of indigenous peoples and the property rights of the poor, and even despite constitutional rulings in the courts, land tenure laws often offer such peoples little security, are often not applied or are contradicted by other forest-related laws.72 Forestry laws, in particular, tend to favour state control of forests or even hand outright ‘ownership’ of forests to state institutions (cf. Kaimowitz 2003). Wildlife...