Strategies to reduce forest conflict

Strategies to reduce forest conflict

Based on RECOFTC's capacity-building and analytical work, these actions help to reduce the scope and impact of forest conflict in the region.

Establish clear and fair tenure and resource management arrangements. Disputes over who owns and can use land and resources are at the root of most forest conflicts in the region. Tenure reforms that drive more participatory forest management can stop conflict before it starts. Governments must give communities more official recognition of historical land tenure.


Consult with local people before, during, and after land-use decisions. A lack of consultation leads to ongoing mistrust and a lack of cooperation. Open communication is essential in order to meet the needs and interests of local people, preventing further disagreements.


Deliver benefits to local people. Forestry initiatives that add value to local livelihoods are less likely to generate conflict than those that pose threats to local people. While financial incentives are important, communities also value other benefits such as recognition of their rights, good jobs, a healthy environment, infrastructure improvements, and community development programs.


Ensure local people play a key role in forest management. In case after case, local people around the world have refused to cooperate with forest management plans because they felt threatened or excluded by outsiders. When people are invested in forest decision making and management, they play a more active role in forest protection. In many countries, community-based forest management has successfully reversed resource destruction and improved livelihoods.


Maintain government neutrality. When local people feel threatened by powerful outsiders like timber concession operators, they should be able to call on government officials or police for help.


Improve coordination between government agencies. The mandates of forestry departments often overlap with related government agencies, such as departments of mining, agriculture, conservation, and environment. Effective communication between agencies and ministries can present a unified government voice and reduce conflicting policies, deeds, and laws.


Integrate local livelihoods into conservation policy. The sheer number of forest people in the Asia-Pacific region makes their well-being vital to the future of forests in the region. Conservation that fails to address their livelihood needs has proven unsustainable and a frequent trigger of conflict.


Strengthen mediation skills. Despite best efforts, conflict will always exist. When it does emerge, strategies and the capacity to resolve conflict are essential. Direct negotiations often do not work when local people are embroiled in conflicts with more powerful outside interests. Mediation is a more effective option, but the capacity for this is often lacking and needs to be strengthened across the region.