Forests are ecosystems that provide assets and resources (for timber and non-timber products), shelter flora and fauna, or sustain livelihoods and create wealth for human beings. As their richness leads to competing interests, forest ecosystems are under high pressure.

The IUCN Environmental Law Programme (ELP), through its World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) as well as the Environmental Law Centre (ELC), aims to contribute to the further development and implementation of forest policies (at the national, regional and international level) by recommending appropriate legal concepts and instruments. 

National Forest Governance

For many years, the Environmental Law Centre has assisted different countries at the national and community level with training on forest legislation as well as its implementation.

The ELC worked continuously on a project with the global legislators’ organization GLOBE International to prepare the “GLOBE Climate and Forest Legislation Study”, with detailed studies on REDD+ legal frameworks in four key forested developing countries – Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Mexico, as well as a comparative overview paper. The aim of these studies was to inform legislators from each country as part of the GLOBE Legislators’ Forest Initiative (GLFI). National reports on guidelines for legal framework development were finalized in July. The ELC and GLOBE agreed to refocus the final global comparative report on progress at the sub-national levels in the four case study countries.

The final deliverables were presented at the all-day conservation campus event on “Law and governance for REDD+” at IUCN World Conservation Congress 2012. Co-organizers and partners included ClientEarth, the World Resources Institute, the International Development Law Organization, Conservation International-Peru, the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law, the IUCN Mesoamerica Office (ORMA), and the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law. Experts from around the world shared knowledge and experience related to legal and institutional approaches to REDD+, with a focus on benefit sharing and participation.

Regional Forest Governance

At the regional level, the ELC has implemented a project through which it fostered the development of a Forestry Protocol for the Southern African Development Community (SADC). This Draft Protocol was completed in a final expert workshop and later adopted by the SADC Council.

Jointly produced by IUCN's Forest Programme, the ELC, and the Ecosystems and Livelihoods Group, a report was published on forest governance structures, systems and stakeholders in six key tropical forest countries: Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Vietnam. This report synthesises the findings of six participatory national assessments carried out under IUCN's Strengthening Voices for Better Choices (SVBC) global forest governance project. The purpose of these assessments was to provide an understanding of the policy, regulatory and institutional obstacles to using forests sustainably. Each produced many valuable findings, insights and recommendations for improving forest governance, all of which were validated through broad stakeholder consultation. A number of these recommendations have been taken up and implemented by the states concerned, leading to concrete improvements in governance systems.

International Forest Governance

Furthermore, the ELP has contributed to the assessment of the international forest regime, which was requested by many forestry actors. Beyond the legal instruments, institutions and mandates at the global level, the ELP also explored their actual performance, meaning the effectiveness, impact and synergies of individual legal instruments and global institutions. 

The ELP has also been instrumental in assessing the legal aspects in the implementation of forest-related Clean Development Mechanism projects under the Kyoto Protocol. Lessons learned from case studies in Argentina, Chile, Ghana and the Philippines raise unique and complex legal issues, and guide countries intending to host CDM project activities in designing an operational framework that promotes the implementation of environmentally and socially sound project activities in the afforestation and reforestation sectors. This has enabled the ELC and selected CEL members to deliver legal expertise on small-scale afforestation and reforestation projects under the CDM, and to draft different discussion papers on the issue (e.g., on the integrated management of carbon sequestration, the environment and sustainable livelihoods; or on institutions, policies and regulatory frameworks for defining economically viable, environmentally sound and socially equitable afforestation and reforestation projects under the CDM).

IUCN's work on forests