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Research Report

Forest Governance in Countries with Federal Systems of Government: Lessons and Implications for Decentralization

Arnoldo Contreras-Hermosilla
Hans M. Gregersen
Andy White
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2008
Pages: 56
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-1)

    There has been great interest in the global development community, over the last decade at least, in decentralization as an architecture of government. Indeed, according to the World Bank, more than 80 percent of developing countries are experimenting with some form of decentralization (Manor 1999). Proponents of decentralization generally contend that, given the right conditions, decentralized governance is superior to centralized governance in improving the quality of public management and responsiveness to variations in citizen wants and needs, thereby leading to enhanced and more equitable development.

    Decentralization has also been a popular theme in the forest sector. A large amount...

  2. (pp. 2-10)

    What makes federal systems of government different? And how do federations deal with decentralized governance as compared with other systems of government?

    The main differences are related to the way in which autonomy of power and governance responsibilities are distributed between national, central, government and the subnational branches of government. Other systems of government normally disperse some power and responsibilities by creating sub-national levels of government - state, provincial, county, municipal government entities - but these levels are not constitutionally empowered to make decisions on key government services and functions. Rather, sub-national levels of government are subordinate units of the...

  3. (pp. 11-19)

    As shown in the last section, federal governments have a wide variety of legal and administrative structures with different degrees of decentralization. However, while the architecture of administrative structures are important, the quality of forest governance in all cases also depends on how well government officers and agencies operate within their institutional structures and rules. Thus, for example, and independently from the degree and nature of decentralization, the quality of forest governance would be poor if the legislative framework guiding the direction of sector management is faulty, or agencies of government are ineffective, or the forest administration is plagued by...

  4. (pp. 20-24)

    Federal countries share forest related responsibilities and authority between levels of government and within levels of government in different manners and these variations raise several issues that relate to the quality of governance. A first one has to do with the extent of decentralized governance at lower levels, that is to say how much and what functions, responsibilities and authority should be taken on by sub-national governments; and what are the results in terms of the overall quality of forest governance? With a large number of functions undertaken at the lower levels of government, there is a greater possibility of...

  5. (pp. 25-31)

    The heart and soul of effective forest governance is institutional effectiveness and that depends centrally on the responsible authorities having adequate resources, both financial and technical, and operating in a rational framework of laws and regulations specifically related to forests (in addition, of course, to the more general regulatory and legal framework that must exist in the country, as discussed in section 3).

    Beyond deciding on an overall vertical distribution of power and responsibilities between tiers of government, i.e. the intensity of decentralization, quality decentralized forest governance also requires an adequate balance of resources with the responsibilities taken on at...

  6. (pp. 32-39)

    As in the case of healthy tensions between tiers of government, effective interaction between government and citizens and the private sector can result in a strengthening of mechanisms of checks and balances; and it can produce significant governance benefits by increasing transparency, accountability and integration of local concerns and values into the structure of forest governance.

    Despite the high probability of increasing frictions, progressive governments in the case study countries have tried to foster greater local citizen group participation in forest governance. They have given citizens the possibility of taking part in informing government decisions and being involved in appeals...

  7. (pp. 40-43)

    Our assessment reveals that decentralized forest governance in federal countries can exist in many different forms and with varying degrees of decentralization, depending mainly on how the central and sub-national governments are structured and organized, and on how strong they are. In all cases processes are extremely complex, involving various levels of government, many agencies with different functions and multiple stakeholders. Governance systems are in constant flux in most of the countries studied, as different political power groups gain control of governments through legitimate elections or otherwise.

    A key point to note is that in many of the countries studied,...