Decentralization and devolution of forest governance have arguably been two of the most important policy trends affecting developing countries’ forests over the past three decades. Driven by fiscal and administrative constraints, local community demands for participation, and external pressure from donors, dozens of countries have decentralized and/or devolved forest governance. By one estimate, almost a third of all developing countries’ forests are now managed by local communities, well over twice the share currently found in protected areas.
Although a considerable literature examines decentralization and devolution of forest governance, most of the studies in this literature use qualitative case study approaches; far fewer use rigorous impact evaluation and other quantitative methods, which aim to control for the influence of confounding factors, enhance external validity, and facilitate reliable policy prescriptions.
During the Forest Collaborative’s initial meetings in 2017, it became clear that many of its members were actively conducting research on forest decentralization and devolution. The Collaborative decided to partner with the journal World Development to develop a special section on this topic. Submissions were pre-screened by Forest Collaborative facilitators Allen Blackman and Randy Bluffstone, who also serve as the special section editors. A number of special section papers have already been published by World Development, and the formal paper version of the special section is expected to appear in 2020 or 2021.
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