A major challenge for many researchers and practitioners relates to how to recognize and address cross-scale dynamics in space and over time in order to design and implement effective governance arrangements. This editorial provides an overview of the concept of multi-level governance (MLG). In particular we highlight definitional issues, why the concept matters as well as more practical concerns related to the processes and structure of multi-level governance. It is increasingly clear that multi-level governance of forest resources involves complex interactions of state, private and civil society actors at various levels, and institutions linking higher levels of social and political organization. Local communities are increasingly connected to global networks and influences. This creates new opportunities to learn and address problems but may also introduce new pressures and risks. We conclude by stressing the need for a much complex approach to the varieties of MLG to better understand how policies work as instruments of governance and to organize communities within systems of power and authority.