A framework for evaluating the impacts of expanded trade and investment on forests: Customary rights and societal stakes

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The forest sector is more embedded in the global economy than ever. With globally significant supplies of land and raw materials and favorable terms for foreign investors, developing countries - particularly in Africa - have become increasingly attractive trade partners and destinations for investors. Economic growth is anticipated to increase demand for energy, water, food and forest products (Toyne et al, 2002; White et al, 2007), trends which are already evident in the recent food and fuel crises. Increasing competition over land is placing new pressures over vast tracts of forest and woodland, areas often considered "under-utilized" by national governments despite their critical role in supporting local livelihoods. While increased demand for forest products and agricultural commodities in the context of forest tenure reforms and decentralized decision-making (Sunderlin et al, 2008; White and Martin, 2002) could create unprecedented economic opportunities for forest-dependent communities, increased "stakes" over forest resources and land will heighten governance challenges. This paper provides a conceptual framework for analyzing shifting patterns of tenure and rights in the forestry sector for a host of sectoral and extra-sectoral commodities shaping forests. It aims to provide a framing for case studies to be presented at a panel entitled, "Large-Scale Investments in the Forest Frontier: Customary Rights and Societal Stakes" (Panel ID No. 461). By presenting case studies from diverse contexts (Africa, Asia, Latin America) and sectors (agriculture, energy, forestry, mining), the utility of the framework will be explored while distilling key commonalities and differences in shifting patterns of customary rights and societal stakes associated with large-scale land and resource acquisitions in the global South.

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