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FLEGT and REDD+ synergies and impacts in the Congo Basin: lessons for global forest governance

16.12.2016

In the past four decades, a range of policies and governance mechanisms have been created to deal with complex problems associated with the use of the world’s forests. Two of the most recent international policies are the European Union s Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) and its bilaterally negotiated Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs), and the United Nations mitigation policy on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). The emergence of these policies with some overlaps brings into question the success of these policies: do they build effective and enduring forest governance in isolation or in coordination?

In his doctoral thesis, EFI researcher Yitagesu Tegegne focuses on the Congo Basin countries of Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo to explore the synergies between and the impacts of FLEGT VPA and REDD+ processes. His dissertation discusses the key lessons for the global forest governance mechanisms, combining theories and methods from the fields of forestry, social sciences and political sciences.

Mr Tegegne used comparative analysis to study the interactions between FLEGT VPA and REDD+ under varying socio-political conditions. Various methods were used during data collection, including in-depth expert interviews, content analysis of policy documents, and focus group discussions with local communities and indigenous peoples. The study results suggest that institutional and policy factors, especially political culture (e.g. corruption and vested interests), are the most important and difficult to address causes of deforestation and forest degradation. Subsistence and commercial agriculture and legal and illegal logging remain important drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. To successfully address deforestation and forest degradation, policymakers must recognize the conflicting interests (conservation vs conversion) that the governments of the countries are facing.

The research found 13 cases of interactions and potential synergies between FLEGT VPA and REDD+. Both processes can support each other in areas such as safeguard mechanisms, information transparency, ensuring multi-stakeholder participation, monitoring and reporting and addressing drivers of forest loss. The possibilities for the synergies between and potential impacts of FLEGT VPA and REDD+ will eventually be limited by domestic political processes, institutional silos and the vested interests of powerful actors.

Thus, transformational change is required to achieve multilevel coordination across all sectors that affect land use (from global to local); national state and non-state actors as well as global proponents (e.g. EU, World Bank, UNREDD) and donors of the processes should adopt a holistic rather than a silos approach; and the processes should look beyond timber legality and reducing CO2 emission to recognize the significant role of tropical forests in providing non-carbon benefits. The results point to the conclusion that fundamental governance reform and a change in incentive structures and enforcement will be needed for FLEGT and REDD+ to effectively contribute to the global efforts of reducing tropical deforestation. FLEGT and REDD+ and other global policies to reduce deforestation should be mainstreamed into national economic strategies to help tropical countries shift away from extractive scenarios, otherwise the processes will have only a marginal overall impact on protecting and conserving tropical forests.

Yitagesu Tegegne will defend the doctoral dissertation entitled "FLEGT and REDD+ synergies and impacts in the Congo Basin: lessons for global forest governance" in the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki, on 16 December 2016 at 12:00. Associate Professor Christian Hansen, University of Copenhagen, will serve as the opponent, and Professor Markku Kanninen as the custos.

The dissertation can be found here.