The politics of forestland use in a cunning government: lessons for contemporary forest governance reforms

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The stakes are high for tropical forestlands in multi-actor power relations because of their interdependence (climate change mitigation), their above- and below-ground resources (wood, mines) and their arable lands. In tropical countries, where the State owns most of the forestlands, many governments feel that any external initiative to change their forestland use policies infringes on their sovereignty. The governments' reactions to pressure for forestland governance reforms advocated by the international community may reflect the level of their national strength, international credibility and the attractiveness of offsets for forestland use conversion. Governments either use a tactic based on strength or on cunning, in the Machiavellian sense of the term, to impose their domestic agenda. Referring to the two last decades of forestland use policy reforms in Cameroon, this article seeks to understand why and how some governments of developing countries like Cameroon use cunning strategies to circumvent the implementation of undesired forest policy reforms while avoiding blame from the international community.

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