Workshop on forest governance and decentralisation in Africa, a country-led initiative in support of UNFF

08 - 11 Apr 2008,

Durban, South Africa, 8-11 April 2008

The ‘Workshop on Forest Governance and Decentralisation in Africa’ brought together diverse stakeholders, policy makers and international experts to share experiences and explore opportunities for generating concrete gains from governance reforms and decentralised forest management. This initiative in support of the United Nations Forum and Forests provided a platform for bringing lessons from other international and national processes to bear on Africa’s own experiences with decentralisation. The workshop enabled the sharing of experiences and facilitated the expression of voices of stakeholders at different levels, particularly of local people in their struggle to manage locally important resources that are, at the same time, of global interest. As local perspectives also enrich international discussions, the workshop also aimed to strengthen local involvement in the regional and global dialogue on forests.

Participants included 200 people representing UNFF member countries, subnational government units, civil society organisations, universities and research organisations, regional bodies, the private sector and international agencies.

Introductory session

The introductory session included speeches by distinguished guests and hosts, and provided an overview of the scope of the workshop and key workshop themes.

Workshop themes

The Durban workshop was organised around three key themes. For more information and access to papers, select the theme.

1. Decentralised forest management and livelihoods

The first theme looked at the forms that decentralisation is taking across the continent, including the (often limited) extent to which these reforms have been put into practice. It also looked the institutional design that characterises decentralised forest management in different contexts, including the extent of forest tenure reforms and who is receiving decentralised powers and responsibilities – whether local branches of the central state, local elected governments, NGOs, customary authorities or private actors. Theme sessions also looked at which powers and responsibilities are decentralised, including the extent to which powers over economically important resources are being shared, and the impact of all of these factors on local livelihoods.

2. Conservation, sustainable forest management and forest governance

The second theme took a more detailed look at the effect of these governance reforms on forests. This included a look at how to reconcile biodiversity conservation and environmental service protection with decentralised decision making, given the broader societal interests in forest ecosystem services. Theme sessions also explored means of implementing sustainable forest management, and the conditions under which livelihoods benefits and sustainable forest management can both be achieved.

3. International trade, finance and forest sector governance reform

The final theme explored the impact of globalisation and forest sector governance reforms on key outcomes. It looked at how the changing patterns of trade, industrial organisation and foreign investment have shaped opportunities and challenges in the sector, and the stakes for both government and local people. The theme also explored the economic opportunities and governance challenges around payments for ecosystem services and reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Summary book chapters

Some papers were prepared exclusively for the book published after the event, and provide an overview of workshop themes and deliberations. These papers can be found here.


Organisers included: the Department Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), South Africa; Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Switzerland;  CIFOR, Indonesia; Intercooperation; DFID and UNFF.


Further information

  • Workshop programme (PDF, 815 KB)
  • Workshop report and policy recommendations (PDF, 300 KB)
  • List of participants