Devolution of forest rights and sustainable forest management: a review of policies and programs in 16 Developing Countries

About 80 percent of the forested area of the developing world is held under public ownership. Many critics of state ownership argue that public stewardship of forests has been poor, pointing to high rates deforestation on land owned and administered by governments. These criticisms have given rise to a movement by governments, international development organizations, forest policy researchers, environmental groups, and among forest communities themselves in support of the devolution of forests rights from governments to communities, families, and individuals. Advocates of forest rights devolution argue that forests will more likely be managed sustainably and the livelihoods of forest communities will be more secure where a greater share of use, management, and other rights to forests are in the hands of people who live and work in and near forests. This paper examines 16 countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia that either have undertaken policy reforms to devolve a substantial number of forest rights to communities or that appear to have the potential to do so in the near future. Recognizing that one party rarely holds all tenure rights to a given resource, this paper uses a ―bundle of rights framework to examine the mix of rights governments have typically devolved to communities and individuals, as well as what rights are retained by governments