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Governance Concepts and their Application in Forest Policy Initiatives from Global to Local Levels


In recent decades the concept of ‘governance’ as interdependent coordination of actors as well as the normative concept of ‘good governance’ have increasingly influenced international forest policy, to varying degrees. Using the three dimensions of multi-actor, multi-sector and multi-level governance to analyse key aspects of governance in the follow-up of global policy after the UNCED conference in 1992, this paper shows that ‘multi-actor governance’ has received considerable attention in international forest policy, mainly through promoting national forest programs. Global forest policy initiatives were less able to develop concepts to address and improve ‘multi-sector governance’ and ‘multi-level governance’, although these two dimensions of governance are particularly relevant for local levels. A number of major international forest policy initiatives, both public and private, have also focused on improving various dimensions of ‘good governance’. A review of the degree to which these international governmental initiatives have been transposed and applied at the local or regional level reveals a major gap between concepts and forest policy initiatives developed and promoted at international and national levels and their application at the regional and local levels. This calls for better concepts addressing in particular the ‘multi-level’ dimension of governance in order to improve connectivity between these levels. A range of governance change approaches can be applied, including adjusting modes of interaction, instruments and institutions.

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  1. 1.

    The ‘local’ level is understood here to refer to the smallest administrative unit in a country. This usually is a village or municipality. The term ‘regional’ is used to denote sub-national regions.

  2. 2.

    Institutions are defined by North (1990) as consist[ing] of formal rules, informal constraints—norms of behaviour, conventions, and self-imposed codes of conduct—and their enforcement characteristics. Institutions are often defined as the ‘rules of the game’.

  3. 3.

    The focus of the article with regard to “international forest policy” is on global forest policy as well as on European forest policy.


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Correspondence to Ewald Rametsteiner.

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Rametsteiner, E. Governance Concepts and their Application in Forest Policy Initiatives from Global to Local Levels. Small-scale Forestry 8, 143–158 (2009).

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  • International forest policy
  • Local forest governance
  • Multi-level governance
  • Good governance
  • Policy evaluation