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Forest problems and law enforcement in Southeast Asia

The role of local communities

Examines the role of local communities specifically in forest law enforcement. Highlights the role of communities in law enforcement.

Executive Summary

In 1995, the World Resources Institute published a comparative study of national laws and policies affecting forests and forest-dwellers in India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and PNG (Lynch and Talbott, 1995). The study arrived at two main conclusions. First, the national system of forest ownership and management that prevails throughout South and Southeast Asia is not sustaining forest stocks. Second, legally securing the community-based tenurial rights of local populations can improve forest management, enhance local livelihoods, and potentially reduce the scope of illegal logging, timber theft, agricultural encroachment, trade in rare and endangered species, arson, and other forest problems.

This paper takes the 1995 study one step further by examining the role of local communities specifically in forest law enforcement. Law enforcement is essential to ensure that the benefits of forest exploitation are sustained and distributed fairly. But stronger law enforcement has often been practiced at the expense of the poor, who are easier targets for suppression than the rich and powerful. Care must therefore be taken before advocating for stronger law enforcement. This paper highlights the role of local communities in law enforcement because there is strong evidence that, in partnership with official agencies, they can prevent and detect forest problems more reliably, and at lower cost, than the state alone.

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