Respecting Rights, Delivering Development: Forest Tenure Reform since Rio 1992
Rights and Resources Initiative, May 2012

Over the twenty years since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro set sustainable development as a key global objective, Indigenous Peoples and local community management of forests has proven to be one major area of progress among the many unmet goals and aspirations. This report takes stock of that progress and presents new finding as well as examples from China, Brazil, India, Nepal, Cameroon and Mexico. The amount of forest recognized as owned or controlled by Indigenous Peoples and forest communities has increased from 10 to 15% globally and from 21 to 31% of developing country forests. The amount of legislation recognizing or strengthening local peoples’ forest and land rights have also increased dramatically – with over 50 new laws since 1992 recognizing tenure rights of forest communities and Indigenous Peoples. And a new slate of rigorous research makes clear that the recognition of rights results in strong, positive impacts in social, economic and environmental terms – delivering on the global goals of sustainable development. Where Indigenous Peoples’ and local community rights are recognized territories and community-managed forests have outperformed public protected areas in preventing deforestation and ensuring conservation. They have also proven more effective than state controlled forests in sequestering carbon and increasing household incomes. And clear property rights for local people have played a central role in enabling countries to achieve national-level forest restoration. The recognition of rights has also clearly played a key role in saving and strengthening many Indigenous Peoples and forest communities – helping prevent the further loss of the unique human and cultural expressions that is not only worthy of celebration on their own, but central to achieving any definition of development. Read the paper …