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Conflict-sensitive forest governance in Myanmar

This project strengthened relationships between civil society, government and the private sector to help ensure Myanmar’s forests are managed and governed in a way that promotes peaceful and sustainable development in the country.

There is a complex relationship between violent conflict and deforestation in Myanmar. Any sustainable, long-term effort to tackle the illegal timber trade and to reduce poverty must be done in a way that doesn’t exacerbate existing tensions. This includes putting in place essential safeguards to make sure national processes are inclusive, participative and informed about local conflict dynamics.

In particular, greater effort is needed to understand the potential conflict implications of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) voluntary partnership agreement (VPA), which aims to reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, and improve governance.

To this end, our research analysed how different types of conflict are related to forest governance, and how the positive and negative impacts of forest governance reforms in the country might be considered to help inform a ‘conflict-sensitive’ approach to the FLEGT VPA process in Myanmar. The report proposed the development of a tool to help those involved in the VPA process identify, monitor, and mitigate potential risks and opportunities of the process on key conflict and peace issues related to the VPA.

The report was shared with the Interim Task Force (now the Multi-Stakeholder Group), set up to prepare for the VPA negotiations and consisting of representatives from the government, civil society and private sector. It was also shared with the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, which has distributed it to state and regional forest departments to consider the risk factors involved in forest management in their areas and to promote conflict-sensitive forest governance.

In addition, we held 30 trainings with nearly 1,000 community members on how to engage with the government – from forest officials to ministers – on improving forest governance and reducing illegal logging in their areas. This has meant that local people can have a greater say over how the land and forests on which they so depend are managed.

Since the training, some of the communities involved have created Forest Management Committees to discuss and resolve issues around forest management locally, others have worked with their local forest departments to create check points for monitoring illegal logging, while others have applied for a ‘community forestry certificate’, a government scheme to encourage the protection and joint management of local forests by local people and authorities. Seven of the participants have also now been selected as the representatives for the Multi-Stakeholder Group, formed to conduct national discussions regarding the VPA negotiations between the government and the European Union.

We also facilitated a study visit to the Philippines for 11 members of the Interim Task Force and one FLEGT Facilitator, to exchange knowledge and experiences, as well as best practices and lessons learned, on forest governance and natural resource management in conflict-affected areas. Following the visit, participants reported increased knowledge and awareness around key aspects of natural resource management, including devolution of power and budgets, the rights of indigenous people, and corporate social responsibility.

This project was focused on the areas of Yangon, southern Shan state and Kayah state. It ran from October 2015 to December 2018.

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A woman cooking on a firewood-fuelled stove in Kayah state. © U Aung Naing Oo/International Alert

Managing fragile resources in Myanmar

In Myanmar, forests contribute to the livelihoods of around 80% of the population. We are advising communities and officials on how to manage forests in a way that supports long-term peace and stability.