|Balancing Acts: Community-Based Forest Management and National Law in Asia and the Pacific (WRI, 1995, 204 pages)|
In January 1990, the Center for International Development and Environment of the World Resources Institute inaugurated its Tenurial Policies and Natural Resources Management Project. The project's primary goal is to promote equity and help curb deforestation in developing countries by identifying national laws that establish or bolster viable short - and long-term community-based management incentives, particularly on so-called "public" or "state" lands. To accomplish this objective, the project has sought to identify and develop legal and policy strategies that will gain recognition for, and secure the tenurial rights and claims of, forest-dependent communities, preferably without resorting to the enactment of time-consuming, cumbersome, and politically contentious new legislation. Of particular concern are communities that manage their resources responsibly and sustainably.
The first phase of the project was to conduct national-level legal and policy analyses of community-based forest management in several South and Southeast Asian countries - India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand - among the most important countries in Asia in terms of forest assets. They also reflect the various legal, historical, and cultural settings under which community-based forest management initiatives are being forged and, more important, revised as environmental conditions deteriorate. An additional study was undertaken in Papua New Guinea, where, in spite of constitutional recognition of community-based management rights, forests are also falling under the axes of unsustainable and inequitable practices.
Except for the case study conducted in Thailand, a Western legal scholar collaborated with host-country counterparts to identify the historical foundations for current national laws and to analyze how such laws are being used (or abused) in managing national forest resources. Although no two nations face the same resource management constraints and opportunities, the project's working assumption - that helpful and important lessons can result from comparative analysis - proved valid.
To build understanding of common problems and approaches, representatives from 14 Asian and Pacific nations convened at a workshop in Baguio City, the Philippines, in May 1994. With other advocates and practitioners of community-based forest management, they shared their experiences and insights and this report tries to reflect both.
The workshop participants identified three principles emerging from the case studies:
1. The prevailing paradigm of nation-state ownership and management of forest resources in South and Southeast Asia is not sustaining declining stocks of forest.
2. An alternative policy and legal framework that recognizes and secures local populations' private, community-based tenurial rights provides the best prospects for improving forest management.
3. Local authority and management structures need further development and refinement if the respective rights and correlative duties of nation-states and local communities are to be securely balanced.
Generally speaking, across Asia and much of the developing world, this balance tips, and state-sanctioned incentives for local sustainable management are inadequate. In many areas, only a legitimate, mutually enforceable, and secure balance between governments and local communities can arrest - and ultimately reverse current deforestation trends.
The practical connections between security of tenure and improved local forest-management practices clearly need additional research. But as long as nearly all officially sanctioned management systems in Asia are state centered, most traditional community-based systems will function without state sanction or any countervailing state authority.
Although perceived security of tenure is often enough to sustain community-based management systems, true tenurial security that includes state sanction is virtually unknown in the Asian region. As a result, no scientifically valid conclusions based upon comprehensive empirical studies of the connection between state sanction and local management incentives can yet be offered. Nevertheless, demonstrable connections between community-based tenurial rights and effective resource management are increasingly being recognized and studied. Anecdotal and historical evidence suggests that in many instances national resources are best managed locally. More important, numerous studies from Asia and the Pacific, as well as other regions, are beginning to document the causal linkages. One result is that local and national forestry projects are increasingly addressing tenurial issues.
To enhance understanding of how state-dominated forest-management systems actually work, this synthesis report surveys the historical antecedents and contemporary status of current national laws and policies. It includes a review of the theoretical framework of community-based property rights and a discussion of emerging programs in the case-study countries. The last two chapters contain substantive and procedural recommendations (including model legal instruments) for promoting sustainable community-based forest management.
Balancing Acts responds to the pressing need for improved country-by-country policy analyses of the political, social, and economic relationships between countries and local peoples living in "public" forest zones. Through this document, WRI's Center for International Development and Environment hopes to enhance national policy-makers' understanding of the problems and potential of forest-dependent communities. Its findings apply not only to the seven countries studied here, but to any country striving to promote sustainable development by balancing the rights and duties of national governments with those of forest-dependent communities.