Interlaken workshop on decentralisation, federal systems in forestry and national forest programmes

27 - 30 Apr 2004,

Interlaken, Switzerland, 27-30 April 2004

The ‘Interlaken Workshop on Decentralisation, Federal Systems in Forestry and National Forest Programmes,’ hosted by Switzerland and Indonesia as a country-led initiative in support of the UN Forum on Forests, brought together key stakeholders to facilitate exchange of information and experience on the role of decentralisation and federal systems of forestry on the effectiveness of forest governance. The workshop gave special attention to the role of National Forest Programs in supporting and harnessing the efforts of the many stakeholders that have assumed a greater role in forest governance with the growing trend towards decentralised decision-making and community participation. It also sought to foster experience sharing among countries which have decentralised a long time ago and those that are just embarking on decentralisation experiments, and to explore problems that occur and lessons learnt during transitional phases of decentralisation processes.

Workshop themes

Workshop papers at Interlaken were organised in a slightly different way from the subsequent workshops, and included both thematic contributions and case studies to illustrate national and community level experiences with decentralisation.  Thematic papers and working groups helped to distill experiences and lessons around the following themes:

  1. Allocation of roles and responsibilities and coordination at different levels and across sectors

    The first group explored how responsibilities, resources and returns to forest management should be allocated or shared among national and lower levels of government, and the specific functions that ought to be centralised and decentralised.  The group also discussed challenges associated with the transition towards more decentralised management of forests (legal insecurity, lack of transparency, favoritism, etc.) and how these can be minimised and managed. The group also explored how decentralisation shapes interactions with other sectors in planning and priority-setting, and how coordination between different levels and between forestry and other sectors can be strengthened.

  2. Maintaining ecosystem functions, sustaining forest productivity, and appropriate application of knowledge and technology

    The second working group explored the changes that tend to occur in the way forests are used, allocated and managed as a result of decentralisation, the indicators of these changes at the forest ecosystem and landscape levels, and the tensions this creates within and between different levels of government. It explored how negative impacts might be mitigated, and means to build upon and appropriately reward the contribution of traditional forest-related knowledge for its contribution to sustainable forest management.  Finally, the group explored how the institutional arrangements and technologies shown to be most effective in maintaining protected areas and in rehabilitating degraded lands might be fostered in decentralised systems.

  3. Policy, regulatory frameworks and equitable benefit sharing

    Discussions in this group focused on approaches and mechanisms that have been effective in achieving greater clarity and consistency in policies, laws and regulatory frameworks at different levels.  Specifically, the group explored how customary and traditional rights, particularly land tenure, might be appropriately recognised and secured. It also explored how major challenges to good governance in decentralised systems – such as illegal activities and unsustainable practices – might be prevented and mitigated.

  4. Financial incentives, investment and private sector partnership

    Working group four explored the financial and budgetary outcomes from decentralisation for national governments, and mechanisms that might be adopted to promote favourable financial and budgetary outcomes. The group also identified incentives to promote increased investment and reinvestment in the forestry sector and in local development more generally, and how to enhance employment and livelihood benefits for the poorest and most forest-dependent sections of the population. Finally, the group explored incentives to promote responsible behavior and sustainable forest use by forestry industries, logging companies and the financial institutions supporting them.

  5. Participation, conflict and multistakeholder processes

    This group explored the appropriate balance of roles, power and influence between government, communities, civil society and other stakeholder groups and how these conditions could be fostered.  It explored the creation of spaces for meaningful participation of different stakeholders, especially forest dependent marginalised groups (including women), within decentralised forest governance systems.  Finally, it explored common causes of conflict and inequitable power relations and mechanisms for conflict resolution and mitigation of elite capture by more powerful actors.

  6. Capacity building, and technical and information support

    The last working groups explored the capacities, skills, institutional mechanisms and resources critical to successful decentralisation. It also explored the need for information sharing among key agencies, decision-makers and stakeholders, and how this might be promoted and facilitated. Finally, the group explored mechanisms for responding to citizen demands for greater participation, information and accountability.


Workshop organisers are the governments of Switzerland and Indonesia, CIFOR, Intercooperation and the United Nations Forum on Forests.


  • Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
  • Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape (BUWAL)
  • International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO)
  • World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF)
  • Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO)
  • World Resources Institute (WRI)
  • Program on Forests (PROFOR)
  • Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Further information

  • Workshop programme  (PDF, 614KB)
  • Workshop report and policy recommendations (PDF, 200KB)
  • List of participants

Indonesia Switzerland