This Responsive Forest Governance Initiative Handbook defines basic democratic concepts and explains how democratic governance works. It then lays out responsive forest governance principles to be used when working with local government, parallel organizations, and citizens. Finally, the handbook provides two assessment tools, the Preliminary Institutional Landscape Assessment (PILA) and the Local Environmental Governance Assessment (LEGA). This handbook is aimed at a general audience of practitioners, policy makers, activists, and students. It is designed to be used as a basic text in policy maker workshops and practitioner training courses and to guide policy and project assessments in the field. Policymakers and practitioners with more experience will be able to use this as a policy and project design tool and to guide implementation in project sites.
Improving governance is a learning process for intervening agencies such as local administrations, communities, and project implementers. Intervening agencies can change the power dynamics and influence local governance when they choose the organisations with which to work. These dynamics can be improved by supporting local institutions that represent local people’s needs and aspirations. However, making changes to work more closely with representative local authorities is not easy, as there are many other issues at play. This handbook shows how Action Learning (AL) can be used to improve natural resource governance at project sites, and is designed to be used by practitioners, government staff and NGOs.
The findings from the RFGI research demonstrated what happens when there is poor accountability, low representation, no citizenry, and poor participation by local people. When grouped together, some trends or ‘symptoms’ emerge, and include:
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- local people disengaging from, resisting or sabotaging projects;
- elites capturing benefits;
- benefits derived from natural resources being unequally and inequitably shared;
- project interventions, even when attending to gender inequality, often compromising gender representation;
- project interventions often weakening the community voice by failing to help communities obtain sufficient information, resources and skills to demand representation and accountability from those who govern; and
- project design resulting in local implementing agents and beneficiaries being upwardly accountable to the project organizers and institutions rather than downwardly accountable to the people.