What can Global Governance do for Forests? Cooperation and Sovereignty in the Amazon

What is the relevance, effectiveness of global governance instruments in preventing activities defined under national laws as illegal deforestation?

Date Published
27 Apr 2022
Project Type
Project Status

Global governance mechanisms and frameworks for forest governance – the set of policy, legal and institutional frameworks for international decision-making on forests – have multiplied and diversified over the past two decades. However, perhaps more than any other area of climate and environmental issues, reaching a binding global commitment for forests has remained elusive. As a result, the role of global (and regional) governance in promoting sustainable forest management and conservation remains piecemeal: scattered across a broad gamut of frameworks, mechanisms, principles, and recommendations, none of them legally binding. What does this fragmented landscape mean for the world’s tropical forests?

This paper hones in on the case of the Amazon Basin, with a specific focus on the Brazilian Amazon, to analyse the relevance and effectiveness of global governance instruments (including regional mechanisms) in preventing activities defined under national laws as illegal deforestation and other environmental crimes and in promoting more sustainable approaches to forest areas. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rates of deforestation in these areas have worsened, fuelled by a combination of rising commodity prices, lax government oversight, and increasing repression and violence against environmental defenders in many parts of the world.

In the absence of a binding global forest convention that holds governments accountable to the international community, this report argues that individual countries remain free to pick and choose which instruments to abide by, or (as in the case of Brazil) whether to do so at all. In face of the deepening ecological crisis, the inability to stop governments from adopting predatory approaches to the exploitation of forest resources undermines global efforts to protect our planet.

In the absence of strong binding commitments, hope of reversing the ongoing forest destruction and degradation in the Amazon rests with the ability of international actors to harness and engage with three promising spaces – new regional efforts, emerging protagonism by subnational governments, and cross-sectoral coalitions. It outlines key recommendations to further promote these efforts.

Research outputs:

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