Graduate Affiliate Kim Marion Suiseeya is completing her dissertation project “Institutions, Cross-Scale Linkages and Justice in Global Forest Governance” in conjunction with the Lab.
An estimated 1.6 billion people are dependent on forest resources to some extent. Thus, the ways in which forests are governed have a direct impact on the livelihoods and human security on these forest-dependent peoples. These communities are both affected by and contribute to the outcomes of forest institutions. Over the last 30 years, scholars, practitioners and policy makers have experimented with institutional design in an attempt to create institutions that are effective in both advancing forest conservation and alleviating poverty with varying results. Much of the emphasis has been on building capacity or changing the incentive structures to improve project implementation and change people’s behavior, respectively. Despite these efforts, however, forest loss and degradation continues worldwide at an alarming pace. These continued shortcomings of forest interventions suggest that addressing capacity constraints and altering incentives alone are insufficient to promote more effective forest governance. Moreover, despite the prevalence of participatory and rights-based approaches to conservation, claims of injustice and marginalization in forest governance projects continue to be voiced with increasing fervor at global events (e.g. CBD and UNFCCC), indicating continued dissatisfaction with forest governance initiatives particularly among indigenous and local communities (ILCs). These claims of injustice continue to escalate: assertions of colonization, marginalization and disenfranchisement of forest-dependent peoples, and privatization of common resources are some of the most severe allegations of injustice resulting from global forest governance initiatives. This project aims to examine possible explanations for why claims of injustice in global forest governance approaches persist despite the prevalence of rights-based and participatory approaches to forest governance: What are the barriers to delivering the justice demanded by representatives of indigenous and local communities (ILCs) in the global arena down to the local level?