In the past decade, the international development community has increasingly focused its attention on illegal logging and other forest crimes, and on the underlying weaknesses in law enforcement that allow them to flourish. At the same time, it has come to acknowledge that illegality often stems from broader failures of governance, and that strengthening law enforcement alone will not work unless the laws themselves, and the processes and institutions that influence forest use, are also improved (World Bank 2006).
Illegal logging is a serious obstacle to the efforts of timber producing and consuming countries to alleviate poverty, to develop their forests sustainably, and to protect forest ecosystem services. The international response to this problem began with the G8 Action Programme on Forests, agreed by G8 foreign ministers in 1998 and featuring illegal logging as one focus of action. This led to a series of regional ministerial conferences and processes on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG), coordinated by the World Bank. The European Union also made a strong commitment to combating illegal logging and the associated trade in timber through its Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, adopted in 2003.
One contribution to this process has been the IUCN project Strengthening Voices for Better Choices (SVBC). Formulated in response to a call from the European Commission for proposals to support implementation of the FLEGT Action Plan, SVBC sought to promote more effective forest governance in six key tropical forest countries: Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Viet Nam.
Three regional FLEG processes have been established to date: in Southeast Asia (ministerial conference held in Bali in 2001), in Africa (Cameroon, 2003), and in Europe and North Asia (Russian Federation, 2005). Another process is planned for Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Action Plan focuses on seven broad areas: 1) support to timber-producing countries; 2) promoting trade in legal timber; 3) public procurement policies; 4) support for private sector initiatives; 5) safeguards for financing and investment; 6) the use of existing legislative instruments or adoption of new legislation; and 7) conflict timber. This synthesis, then, provides background to the concept of governance and how it has evolved in the fields of development and conservation. Drawing on a review of different definitions of governance, it identifies several key elements of governance and uses these to organise the synthesis of the findings of the SVBC national assessments.