A Global Forest Partnership

Inclusive Economy28 Jul 2008Sasha Fomina

In response to rapidly evolving opportunities in the forestry sector, the World Bank proposed the creation of a Global Forest Partnership (GFP) and asked the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) to survey experts’ opinions on the initiative. A research team surveyed more than 600 experts, and the results have been published on the IIED website in a report titled Towards a global forest partnership: Consultation, assessment and recommendations by the International Institute for Environment and Development.

In the first years following the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, there was plenty of international attention on tropical forest conservation. As 2000 approached, however, forest conservation seemed to have disappeared from the mainstream international development agenda, partly due to the disappointing results of projects aimed at integrating forest conservation and rural development.

Now, thanks to widespread preoccupation with climate change, forests are back on the agenda. Financial incentives for avoided deforestation within the framework of a carbon market are seen as an important opportunity for combining climate change mitigation with biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation in developing countries. At the same time, converting forests to agricultural land has become increasingly attractive as a result of the rising prices and consumption of agricultural products. Indeed, both the opportunities for and the threats to forest conservation may be at an all-time high. Because of this, the World Bank proposed the idea of a GFP that could reinforce collaboration between different stakeholders in the forestry sector.

According to the report, the majority of the experts consulted support the creation of a global partnership, but they warn that it should not become a top-down initiative. A common feeling is that the current forest initiatives are too isolated and therefore not able to effectively tackle the enormous challenges. One of the main conclusions of the IIED report is that a global partnership would have to focus on empowering local stakeholders, acknowledging their rights, knowledge and needs. The partnership would have to link local communities with international sources of support and a wide range of knowledge and advocacy networks, donors and investors.

Most would agree that the rapid developments in the forestry sector call for the coordination of efforts. It remains to be seen what the creation of a GFP could eventually contribute to effective forest conservation, while ensuring that local people benefit from the emerging opportunities – the carbon market in particular. But the majority of experts consulted by IIED believe it is worthwhile to pursue as long as the needs and rights of local actors are at the centre of the design of the new partnership.

The report Towards a global forest partnership: Consultation, assessment and recommendations by the International Institute for Environment and Development can be downloaded here.