By Yi Ying Teh, moderator of the governance discussion at the youth session. Share your thoughts by commenting at the end of this blogpost!
What is good governance? Because the words ‘government’ and ‘governance’ sound similar, I used to think that forest governance was the task of the government only, and that good governance was the government doing its job well.
[For Indonesians, I don’t suppose you come across the same problem. ‘Pemerintah’ (government) and ‘tata kelola’ (governance) are quite different!]
After all, many of the laws passed by Southeast Asian governments have impacted the protection of forests.
However, such reforms have not always translated into good governance, or sustainable management of forest landscapes.
For example, the decentralization reforms of the Habibie Administration in Indonesia transferred power away from the central government to more local governments. As fiscal laws allowed local governments to retain 80% of forestry revenues, there was less incentive to protect the forests.
Similarly, the Royal Government of Cambodia passed some authority of the forests over to communities in Community Forestry sub-decree of 2003. However many communities claim that they were only given rights to low-value forests, and for only 15 years. As the communities have to wait 5 years before they can harvest anything other than non-timber forest products (NTFP), there is a likelihood that they maychoose to exploit the forests in the short 10 years that they have rights to them.
Transboundary issues – where the effects are felt beyond the borders of a particular country – pose a particular challenge for both governance and governments.
In 1997-98, forest fires in Indonesia reached intense proportions, covering 9.7 million hectares and resulting in the spread of haze across Southeast Asia. Blame was laid at the feet of many different actors, all the way from companies responsible for clearing forest land for plantations, down to local ‘slash and burn’ farmers.
The crisis prompted Southeast Asian countries to negotiate a transboundary agreement- The ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution of 2002. As haze is a transboundary issue, it is important for governments to come together at meetings like the annual ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment and to take collective action.
Yet, as I’ve realized, governance does not just include governments. When I am at the supermarket, the paper and palm oil products that I choose to buy impact a different form of governance- market-based forest certification schemes.
Certification systems tap into the market (including us, as consumers) to provide incentives for companies to protect forests. However, certification schemes such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) have faced difficulties in helping companies to fetch a higher price for sustainable palm oil that fulfills RSPO requirements.
Maybe like me, you used to think that governance only involves governments? Or maybe you firmly believe in certification schemes, and the power and role of us, as youth and consumers, in encouraging good governance of our forest resources? Whatever it is, let us hear your thoughts!
- What do you think are the major forest governance issues in your country or within ASEAN?
- What do you think are some of the challenges and opportunities of managing these issues?
- What can we, as young people, do to encourage good governance of our forests in Southeast Asia?
- Are there any models of governance (certification, transboundary government agreements) that you think we should focus on?