Transforming forest landscape conflicts: the promises and perils of global forest management initiatives such as REDD+

Seth Kane, Ahmad Dhiaulhaq, Lok Mani Sapkota, David Gritten


Implementation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is designed to relieve pressure on tropical forests, however, many are concerned that it is a threat to the rights of forest communities. These potential risks need serious attention as earlier studies have shown that the Asia-Pacific region is a forest conflict hotspot, with many economic, environmental and social implications at global (e.g. climate change) to local levels (e.g. poverty). Drawing on an analysis of nine case studies from four countries (Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam) this paper examines why and how REDD+ can be a driver for forest conflict and how it also has the potential to simultaneously transform these conflicts. The analytical framework, “sources of impairment”, applied in the study was developed to increase understanding and facilitate the resolution of forest landscape conflicts in a sustainable manner (i.e. transformation). The main findings are that REDD+ can be a source of conflict in the study sites, but also had transformative potential when good practices were followed. For example, in some sites, the REDD+ projects were sources of impairment for forest communities by restricting access to forest resources. However, the research also identified REDD+ projects that enabled the participation of traditionally marginalized groups and built local forest management capacities, leading to strengthened tenure for some forest communities. Similarly, in some countries REDD+ has served as a mechanism to pilot Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), which will likely have significant impacts in mitigating conflicts by addressing the sources at local to national levels. Based on these findings, there are many reasons to be optimistic that REDD+ can address the underlying causes of forest landscape conflicts, especially when linked with other governance initiatives such as Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade – Voluntary Participation Agreements (FLEGT-VPA). 


forest landscape; conflict transformation; forest governance; REDD+; FLEGT VPA; FPIC

Full Text:



Anderson, P. (2011). Free, prior, and informed consent in REDD+: principles and approaches for policy and project development. RECOFTC and GIZ, Bangkok.

ANSAB. (2010). Report on Forest Carbon Stock of Community Forests in three watershed- Ludhikhola, Kayerkhola and Charnawati. REDD+ pilot Project: Norad, ICIMOD, ANSAB, FECOFUN, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) & International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA). (2012). Briefing paper on REDD+, Rights and Indigenous Peoples: Lessons from REDD+ Initiatives in Asia. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Bampton, J. & Cammaert, B. (2007). Can timber rents better contribute to poverty alleviation through community forestry in the Terai region of Nepal? In Oberndorf, R., Durst, P., Mahanty, S., Burslem, K. & Suzuki, R. (Eds). A Cut for the Poor. Proceedings of the international conference on managing forests for poverty reduction: Capturing opportunities in forest harvesting and wood processing for the benefit of the poor. pp. 85-99 FAO and RECOFTC Report No. 19. FAO and RECOFTC– The Center for People and Forests. Bangkok, Thailand.

Barr, C. M., & Sayer, J. A. (2012). The political economy of reforestation and forest restoration in Asia–Pacific: Critical issues for REDD+. Biological Conservation, 154, 9-19.

Brown, D., Seymour, F. & Peskett, L. (2008). How do we achieve REDD co-benefits and avoid doing harm in A. Angelsen (ed.) Moving ahead with REDD: issues, options and implications. Bogor, Indonesia, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), pp.107-118.

Bush, R., & Folger, J. (2005). The Promise of Mediation: The Transformative Approach to Conflict. John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco.

Delux, C. (2015). Drivers of Deforestation in the Greater Mekong Subregion Cambodia Country Report. Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests (USAID LEAF).

Dhiaulhaq, A., Gritten, D., De Bruyn, T., Yasmi, Y., Zazali, A., & Silalahi, M. (2014). Transforming conflict in plantations through mediation: Lessons and experiences from Sumatera, Indonesia. Forest Policy and Economics, 41:22-30.

Dhiaulhaq, A., De Bruyn, T., & Gritten, D. (2015). The use and effectiveness of mediation in forest and land conflict transformation in Southeast Asia: Case studies from Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand. Environmental Science & Policy, 45, 132-145.

Dhiaulhaq, A., McCarthy, J.F. & Yasmi, Y. (2017). Resolving industrial plantation conflicts in Indonesia: Can mediation deliver?. Forest Policy and Economics.

Doherty, E. & Schroeder, H. (2011). Forest tenure and multi-level governance in avoiding deforestation under REDD+. Global Environmental Politics, 11(4):66-88.

Engel A. & Korf B. (2005). Negotiation and mediation techniques for natural resource management. Training manual. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.

Evans T., O’Kelly, H., Soriyun, M., Meng Hor, N., Phaktra, P., Pheakdey, S. & Pollard, E. (2013). Seima Protection Forest. In T.C. Sunderland, J. Sayer, & M.H. Hoang eds. Evidence-based conservation: lessons from the Lower Mekong. Oxon, Routledge.

Glasl, F. (1999). Confronting Conflict: A First-aid Kit for Handling Conflict. Hawthorn Press, Stroud, UK.

Gritten, D., Saastamoinen, O. & Sajama, S. (2009). Ethical analysis: A structured approach to facilitate the resolution of forest conflicts. Forest Policy and Economics 11(8): 555–560.

Gritten, D., Mola-Yudego, B., & Delgado-Matas, C. (2012). Media coverage of forest conflicts: A reflection of the conflicts’ intensity and impact?. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 27(2), 143-153.

Gritten, D., Mola-Yudego, B., Delgado-Matas, C., & Kortelainen, J. (2013). A quantitative review of the representation of forest conflicts across the world: resource periphery and emerging patterns. Forest Policy and Economics, 33, 11-20.

Gritten, D., Greijmans, M., Lewis, S.R., Sokchea, T., Atkinson, J., Quang, T.N., & Paudel, N.S. (2015). An uneven playing field: regulatory barriers to communities making a living from the timber from their forests–examples from Cambodia, Nepal and Vietnam. Forests, 6(10):3433-3451.

Huynh, T.B. & Keenan, R.J. (2017). Revitalizing REDD+ Policy Processes in Vietnam: The Roles of State and Non-State Actors. Forests, 8(3):53.

Kane, S., Gritten, D., Sapkota, L.M., Bui, L.T., & Dhiaulhaq, A. (2016). Getting the positives out of forest landscape conflicts. Unasylva, 67(247/248),45.

Khadka, M., Karki, S., Karky, B.S., Kotru, R. & Darjee, K.B. (2014). Gender equality challenges to the REDD+ initiative in Nepal. Mountain Research and Development, 34(3):197-207.

Larson, A., Solis, D., Duchelle, A., Atmadja, S., Resosudarmo, I., Dokken, T & Komalasari, M. (2018). Gender lessons for climate initiatives: A comparative study of REDD+ impacts on subjective wellbeing. World Development 108:86-102.

Lester, L., & Hutchins, B. (2012). The power of the unseen: environmental conflict, the media and invisibility. Media, Culture & Society, 34(7):847-863.

Mahanty, S., & McDermott, C.L. (2013). How does ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’(FPIC) impact social equity? Lessons from mining and forestry and their implications for REDD+. Land Use Policy, 35, 406-416.

Marion Suiseeya, K.R. (2015). A retreat from justice in global forest governance: REDD+ and the “do no harm” principle. Presented at the 3rd Annual UCSB Environmental Politics Conference, Santa Barbara, California, June 4, 2015.

Marion Suiseeya, K.R. (2016). Transforming Justice in REDD+ through a Politics of Difference Approach. Forests, 7(12):300.

McDermott, C.L., Coad, L., Helfgott, A., & Schroeder, H. (2012). Operationalizing social safeguards in REDD+: actors, interests and ideas. Environmental Science & Policy, 21, 63-72.

Mola-Yudego, B., & Gritten, D. (2010). Determining forest conflict hotspots according to academic and environmental groups. Forest Policy and Economics, 12(8):575-580.

Munden Project. (2012). The financial risks of insecure land tenure: An investment view. Prepared for the Rights and Resources Initiative by The Munden Project.

Patel, T., Dhiaulhaq, A., Gritten, D., Yasmi, Y., De Bruyn, T., Paudel, N.S., & Suzuki, R. (2013). Predicting future conflict under REDD+ implementation. Forests, 4(2):343-363.

Peskett, L. & Todd, K. (2013). Putting REDD+ safeguards and safeguard information systems into practice. UN-REDD Policy Brief No.3. The UN-REDD Programme.

Pham, T.T., Mai, Y.H., Moeliono, M., & Brockhaus, M. (2016). Women's participation in REDD+ national decision-making in Vietnam. International Forestry Review, 18(3):334-344.

Poudyal, M., Ramamonjisoa, B. S., Hockley, N., Rakotonarivo, O. S., Gibbons, J. M., Mandimbiniaina, R., ... & Jones, J. P. (2016). Can REDD+ social safeguards reach the ‘right’ people? Lessons from Madagascar. Global Environmental Change, 37:31-42.

RECOFTC. (2015). Mainstreaming gender into forest policies in Asia and the Pacific. RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests, Bangkok, Thailand.

RECOFTC. (2017). Social forestry and climate change in the ASEAN region: Situational analysis 2016. RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests, Bangkok, Thailand.

Redpath, S.M., Young, J., Evely, A., Adams, W.M., Sutherland, W.J., Whitehouse, A., & Gutierrez, R. (2013). Understanding and managing conservation conflicts. Trends in ecology & evolution, 28(2):100-109.

Reimann, C. (2004). Assessing the state-of the-art in conflict transformation: reflecting from a theoretical perspective. In A. Austin, M. Fischer & N. Redpers, eds. Transforming ethno-political conflict: the Berghof handbook. Berlin, Germany, Verlag fur Sozialwissenschaften.

Ribot, J., & Larson, A.M. (2012). Reducing REDD risks: affirmative policy on an uneven playing field. International Journal of the Commons, 6(2):233-254.

Sikor et, T., Gritten, D., Atkinson, J., Huy, B., Dahal, G.R., Duangsathaporn, K., Hurahura, F., Phanvilay, K., Maryudi, A., Pulhin, J., Ramirez, M.A., Win, S., Toh, S., Vaz, J., Sokecha, T., Marona., S., & Yaqiao, Z. (2013). Community forestry in Asia and the Pacific: Pathway to inclusive development. RECOFTC-The Center for People and Forests, Bangkok, Thailand.

Tegegne, Y.T., Ramcilovic-Suominen, S., Fobissie, K., Visseren-Hamakers, I.J., Lindner, M., & Kanninen, M. (2017). Synergies among social safeguards in FLEGT and REDD+ in Cameroon. Forest Policy and Economics, 75:1-11.

Trung L.Q., Phuong V.T., Yang A.L. & Hai V.D. (2015). The distribution of powers and responsibilities affecting forests, land use, and REDD+ across levels and sectors in Vietnam: A legal study. Occasional Paper 137. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia.

UNFCCC. (2011). The Cancun Agreements: Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention. Report of the Conference of the Parties on its sixteenth session held in Cancun 2010. FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1.

WCS. (2013). Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Seima Protection Forest, Cambodia. Wildlife Conservation Society (available at:

WRM. (2015). REDD: A collection of conflict, contradictions and lies. World Rainforest Movement, Montevideo, Uruguay.

Yasmi, Y., Schanz, H. & Salim, A. (2006). Manifestation of conflict escalation in natural resource management. Environmental Science & Policy, 9(6):538-546.

Yasmi, Y., Kelley, L., Murdiyarso, D., & Patel, T. (2012). The struggle over Asia's forests: An overview of forest conflict and potential implications for REDD+. International Forestry Review, 14(1):99-109.

Yeang, D., Sherchan, K., Heffernan, J., Chapman, S.M., Dooley, B. & Engbring, G. (2014). Carbon rights and benefit sharing in Cambodia. Policy Brief. REDD+ Asia-Pacific Community Carbon Pools Programme, Cambodia.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Forest and Society is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

View My Stats

Forest and Society has been indexed/registered/mentioned in : 


View full indexing services