On 1 October 2020, RECOFTC launched an initiative to build the research capacity of universities in Southeast Asia to foster good forest governance.
Funded by Sweden, the project will develop a strong network of researchers dedicated to strengthening rights, reducing poverty and inequity, and realizing sustainable development. The two-year initiative will benefit more than 190 million people living in and around forest landscapes in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.
David Ganz, executive director of RECOFTC said “Forests are vital to life on Earth. Yet, they are under increasing pressure in Southeast Asia from unsustainable economic development, climate change, demographic shifts and conflicts over tenure and land use. The Forest Landscape Governance Research Network will multiply the power of research to support governments and the people of Southeast Asia to overcome these challenges.”
“By strengthening forest governance and management, the Forest Governance Research Network will help to counter forest loss and degradation.” – Eren Zink, Senior Research Advisor, Embassy of Sweden, Thailand
Southeast Asia is one of the most forested regions in the world. Here, nearly 50 percent of the land is covered by forests. These forests contain many of the world’s remaining biodiversity hotspots. Their good governance is crucial to conserving biodiversity, overcoming climate change and ensuring the health and well-being of people in Southeast Asia.
Forests even have an important role to play in safeguarding against pandemic outbreaks and infectious diseases such as COVID-19. Yet, between 1990 and 2015, Southeast Asia lost more than 11 percent of its forests to infrastructure development and agricultural expansion.
Eren Zink, Senior Research Advisor at the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok said “By strengthening forest governance and management, the Forest Governance Research Network will help to counter forest loss and degradation. Likewise, the network will work to ensure that the rights of indigenous and local communities living in and around forests are recognized and respected. Sida is excited to partner with Southeast Asia’s researchers in this effort to create new knowledge that addresses the climate crisis and improves the wellbeing of all people across the region, especially persons living in poverty, women, and other marginalized groups.”
Local universities are best placed to lead the co-creation of knowledge to improve policies and practices in forest governance. But most universities in the region have limited capacity to do so.
Robert Nasi, the director general of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), located in Bogor, Indonesia said “This project will improve the ability of universities to conduct high-quality and transformative research. We will leverage that research to support policy development and behavioural change leading to more equitable, community-oriented forest governance.”
CIFOR will provide technical support to the project. It is a non-profit, scientific institution that conducts research on the most pressing challenges of forest and landscape management around the world. It leads the Global Landscape Forum, the world’s largest knowledge-led platform on sustainable landscapes. The Global Landscape Forum is dedicated to scaling up efforts to achieve the sustainable and low-emission development aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement.
The next step in the development of the network is a virtual inception workshop involving the project partners and representatives of universities throughout Southeast Asia.
RECOFTC’s work is made possible with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).