Community rights to forests in the tropics: Progress and retreat on tenure reforms

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Rights to forests have been contested for hundreds of years, and the vast majority of the world's forests (approximately 73%) are, by statutory law, public property (RRI, 2014). Who should own or manage forests is repeatedly debated, while deforestation and degradation still characterize the vast majority of tropical forest regions (FAO, 2010). These questions may have increasing importance in the 21st century: forests are central to climate change issues, as both source and sink for carbon emissions, they are susceptible to extreme events and to gradual change, and they are essential for ecosystem services and the resilience of human populations, including some of the poorest on the planet. Though urbanization has led to decreasing pressures on forests in some areas, pressure is likely to rise due to investments in forest lands (see Alforte et al., 2014) and a growing global population.

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