Experts gather in Uganda to promote social justice in forest management

A pioneering international alliance that aims to ensure that poor people in Africa and Asia get a greater share of the benefits from local forests will hold its first full meeting in Uganda next week.

PLEASE NOTE: This article is embargoed until 1 December 2006 at 1 am GMT

A pioneering international alliance that aims to ensure that poor people in Africa and Asia get a greater share of the benefits from local forests will hold its first full meeting in Uganda next week.

The Forest Governance Learning Group is a network of national groups in ten African and Asian countries, and international partners led by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

Delegates at the 28-30 November meeting will include forestry specialists from government ministries, research institutions and nongovernmental organisations. They will share their experiences and explore ways of making the law work better to promote social justice in forest management.

Social problems linked to forest management in Africa and Asia include illegal and corrupt practices that degrade livelihoods, weak ownership and access rights for forest-dependent people, and limited stakeholder inclusion in forest policy and management.

“Forestry can contribute to sustainable development and the eradication of poverty, but only with good forest governance,” says James Mayers, head of IIED’s Natural Resources Group. “This requires the right leadership, institutions, policy decisions and practical systems.”

The meeting will bring together representatives of country groups in Cameroon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, South Africa, Uganda and Vietnam. These groups are at various stages of development and have much information to share.

The Ugandan group has been working on improving the handling of forestry issues in the courts, integrating forestry with the penal code and developing more accountable forest decision making. It has played a key part in the campaign against degazettment of Mabira Forest Reserve.

"The mobilisation and the coalition we have built have been incredible,” says Godber Tumushabe, executive director of the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, which convenes the Uganda Forest Governance Learning Group. “ By convening policy dialogues on forestry governance issues such as Mabira forest reserve, we have created the platform for accountability, including the chair of the parliamentary committee making unequivocal commitment that he can never support the degazettment.”

The activities of other groups in Africa have included reconciling different approaches in development policies for land and for forests, promoting debate on corruption in the forest sector, and establishing new rules recognising the rights of local communities to control forest resources.

These experiences will feed into the future activities of the newer Asian groups in India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“As a country newly started with this project, we are interested in hearing the experiences from other countries,” says resource economist Nguyen Quang Tan, an independent researcher based in Ha Tay, Vietnam. “This workshop will give us a special occasion to discuss with colleagues, particularly those from African countries, the lessons they learnt and the practical approaches in helping local people with more pro-poor forest governance.”

“We also hope to hear real life experiences from Africa about improved forest governance that benefits local people.”

IIED set up the Forest Governance Learning Group to bring together those marginalised from forest governance and those controlling it.

“Forests can contribute to human well-being if they are managed in a sustainable way,” says Mayers. “This is dependent on good governance, which in turn requires practical tools and tactics. The challenge is not what to do, but how to do it.”

The meeting will take place on 28-30 November at the Ankrah Foundation Conference Complex in Mukomo Town, 25 kilometres from Kampala on the highway to Jinja and Kenya (

There will be a press briefing at the end of the final day (30 November). Journalists wishing to attend are requested to contact Mike Shanahan at [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> as spaces are limited.

For more information please contact:
Mike Shanahan
Press Officer
International Institute for Environment and Development
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44 (0)20 7872 7308
Fax: +44 (0)20 7388 2826


The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development (see:

For more information on the Forest Governance Learning Group, see:

The partners involved in the FGLG are: International Institute for Environment and Development (UK; steering the group); Savcor Indufor Oy (Finland); Regional Community Forestry Training Centre for Asia and the Pacific (Thailand); SOS Sahel (convenes the group in Niger); Civic Response (convenes group in Ghana); Forestry South Africa (convenes group in South Africa); Terra Firma (convenes group in Mozambique); Forestry Department (convenes group in Malawi); Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (convenes group in Uganda); Centre for People’s Forestry (convenes group in India); Inspirit and the Multi-stakeholder Forestry Programme (convene group in Indonesia). The convenors for Cameroon and Vietnam are to be decided.

Initial funding for the initiative came from the UK Department for International Development, and the European Commission and Dutch government are now supporting the work.