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Forest Policy, Institutions, and REDD+
in India, Tanzania, and Mexico
This article investigates forest policies and institutions surrounding REDD+ in three
heavily forested countries: India, Tanzania, and Mexico. The comparative analysis leads
to three key insights. First, each of the case study countries has multiple land tenure stat-
utes that result in different distributions of the costs and beneﬁts of forest protection for
key stakeholders. Second, land tenure regimes that offer local communities the most se-
cure forest rights are not necessarily those associated with beneﬁt-sharing mechanisms
outlined in national REDD+ policy proposals. Third, a credible commitment by govern-
ment to share REDD+ beneﬁts with forest-dependent people is contingent on the inter-
ests of key actors involved in the policy process. Political and administrative structures
that limit the power and authority of forest government bodies lead to more responsive
and accountable policy outcomes.
Lord John Prescott, former UK deputy prime minister and vice-president of the
recently launched Global Legislators Organization, has argued for a “new way”
to address international climate change policy. Prescott argues for an approach
that “creates domestic political support for action across political divides, re-
duces the risk of commitments being overturned after elections, and increases
prospects for implementation.”
Lord Prescott’s arguments are relevant for on-
going debates about developing an institutional architecture for Reducing Emis-
sions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). This article
examines the political drivers of domestic policy outcomes related to REDD+,
which aims to create incentives for developing countries to protect, better man-
age, and wisely use their forest resources. The “plus”in REDD+ refers to the in-
clusion of the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and
Global Environmental Politics 15:3, August 2015, doi:10.1162/GLEP_a_00313
© 2015 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
* This article has beneﬁted signiﬁcantly from comments on earlier drafts from Catherine Boone
and Tim Forsyth. An early draft was presented at the Workshop on the Comparative Turn in
Climate Change Politics at the London School of Economics on March 21, 2014. Part of the
work on this article was facilitated by a teaching reduction offered by the Department of Polit-
ical Science, University of Connecticut. The author gratefully acknowledges the constructive
comments from three anonymous referees, and multiple rounds of inputs by special issue ed-
itor Mark Purdon.
1. John Prescott, The Guardian, June 6, 2014.
enhancement of forest carbon stocks in reducing emissions. Political scientists
have ﬂagged clarity and security of forest tenure as one of the most important
prerequisites for successful implementation of REDD+ and other similar market-
based arrangements in the land-use sector.
Recent research into REDD+ pilot projects suggests that countries in which
forest-dependent people enjoy relatively secure rights to land and forest re-
sources also institute REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing arrangements more favorable to
forest-dependent people. This is especially true of countries in Latin America
such as Brazil, Mexico, and Costa Rica.
However, countries enacted these pro-
gressive forest tenure arrangements, along with relatively successful community
forestry interventions, well before REDD+ arose on the international scene.
enactment and the continuity of signiﬁcantly more progressive policy reforms in
one particular region begs an important question: Do deeply entrenched polit-
ical and policy factors speciﬁc to Latin America explain much of its recently re-
ported success with tenure arrangements related to REDD+? If this is the case,
what are the implications for interventions intended to bolster REDD+ in Asia
and sub-Saharan Africa?
This article compares REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing mechanisms under develop-
ment in India, Tanzania, and Mexico to answer two key questions. First, under
conditions of multiple and contested forest tenure regimes, which of the mul-
tiple forms of tenure constitute the basis of beneﬁt-sharing in REDD+ policy
proposals? Second, what explains variation in the nature of beneﬁt-sharing
mechanisms outlined in national REDD+ policy proposals? To answer these
questions, I contrast the Weberian institutional design view of the REDD+ pol-
icy process, which is dominant in the literature, against a more power-centric
view of REDD+ institutions.
My comparative analysis demonstrates that existing land tenure regimes
have shaped REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing mechanisms to a certain extent, but land
tenure regimes are not the key determining factor. Rather, the link between for-
est tenure regime and REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing mechanisms is contingent on the
extent to which inter-bureau checks and balances within the central government
have constrained national forest administrations. Government forest adminis-
trations that enjoy wide-ranging powers with limited institutional checks
and balances are likely to share fewer beneﬁts with forest-dependent people,
in contrast to forest administrations that function under more stringent political
This article draws on a larger comparative project, which combines the
methods of institutional analysis with process tracing. Publicly available policy
documents are the primarily sources for the data and information used in this
article, combined with expert interviews with researchers and scholars famil-
iar with the politics of REDD+ policy-making in the case study countries. An
2. Corbera et al. 2011; Larson et al. 2013.
3. Klooster and Masera 2000.
96 •Forest Policy, Institutions, and REDD+ in India, Tanzania, and Mexico
analysis of the emergence of forest regimes over time provides the foundation
necessary for drawing comparative inferences from the case studies. The three
case study countries are among the largest forested countries in their respective
regions, each with large forest-dependent populations, and among the countries
to which the largest amount of REDD+ ﬁnances have been committed thus far
(Table 1). Community-based forest management programs are well established
in these countries, which makes it more likely that respective national govern-
ments will propose pro-community REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing arrangements. Each
of these countries has also been inﬂuential in international climate change ne-
gotiations regarding REDD+. Most importantly, the case study countries provide
analytically salient variation vis-à-vis the two key factors related to REDD+
debates introduced above: national land tenure regimes and the national polit-
ical and policy context as reﬂected in the power and authority of national forest
The article proceeds as follows: I ﬁrst outline a power-centric view of in-
stitutions and institutional outcomes, followed by discussion of the evolution
and key elements of forest regimes in the case study countries. I then juxtapose
Forests and Forest-Dependent People in Case Study Countries
(millions of tons)
India 23.7 23.7
Tanzania 46.0 36.0
Mexico 36.5 5.65
13 $773.5 m
1. This includes the forests under India’s Joint Forest Management, which does not devolve discre-
tionary management rights to local communities. Sundar 2000.
2. “There are more than 300 million forest dependent people…deriving their livelihood and sub-
stantial part of their income from forests.”MoEF 2013, 28.
3. Ylhäisi 2003.
4. Projections based on Dyngeland 2013.
5. Voluntary REDD+ Database; data submitted by members of the REDD+ partnership. Available at
http://reddplusdatabase.org, accessed December 12, 2014.
6. REDDX –Tracking Forest Finance database. Available at http://reddx.forest-trends.org, accessed
December 10, 2014.
7. Stevens et al. 2014.
8. USAID 2010.
Prakash Kashwan •97
key forest tenures regimes to the REDD+ beneﬁts-sharing systems proposed in
each country, followed by an analysis of the REDD+ policy process to explain
the variation in proposed REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing mechanisms. In conclusion, I
offer a summary of the key arguments and policy recommendations.
Policy Design amidst Competing Institutional Theories
REDD+ is a results-based program in which “developed countries pay develop-
ing countries for reductions in forest loss rates below an established baseline
and/or increases in forest carbon stocks.”
Since 2005, when a coalition of nine
rainforest nations headed by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica mooted the
idea of ﬁnancing forest protection and conservation in the developing countries,
beneﬁt-sharing has been a major point of contention. The key question is how
the economic beneﬁts from REDD+ will be shared between, on one hand, na-
tional governments and forest administrations who claim statutory ownership
of more than 85 percent of the world’s forests and, on the other hand, forest-
dependent people who claim traditional use and access rights to many of the
very same forests.
To address concerns about the distribution of REDD+ beneﬁts, scholars
and policymakers have urged national governments to establish clearly deﬁned
and secure tenure rights. They argue that such forest and land tenure regimes
will create incentives for forest-dependent people to invest in forest conserva-
tion efforts, which REDD+ should reward.
Presuming that in the process of es-
tablishing clearly deﬁned tenure arrangement, governments will recognize the
customary rights of forest peoples, policymakers have argued that tenure re-
forms will ensure that a signiﬁcant proportion of economic gains that develop-
ing countries receive through REDD+ will be passed on to forest-dependent
people. REDD+ scholars also emphasize the need for multi-level institutional
arrangements that facilitate cross-scale forest governance.
about institutional design are at the center of much of the current scholarship
about national and international forest governance initiatives such as REDD+.
In this context, it is useful to examine different strands of institutional theory.
Institutionalism is premised on the assumption that self-interested actors
bargain their way under mutually agreed “rules of the game”towards an opti-
mum solution which offers collective societal beneﬁts. Effective institutions thus
evolve through one of the following mechanisms: spontaneous emergence, ex-
change coordinated via the market, or social cohesion.
such as resource scarcity, technological changes, and changes in government
4. Lawlor et al. 2010, 1.
5. Agrawal et al. 2011.
6. Larson et al. 2013; Lawlor et al. 2010.
7. Doherty and Schroeder 2011; Kashwan and Holahan 2014.
8. Knight 1992, 5; North 1990.
98 •Forest Policy, Institutions, and REDD+ in India, Tanzania, and Mexico
policies—create incentives (or disincentives) that shape individual behavior in
political and economic spheres.
Some scholars argue that institutions are a by-
product of conﬂict between actors competing for limited political and economic
In this power-centric perspective, powerful actors inﬂuence institu-
tional design to produce outcomes that they prefer. Similarly, many scholars of
public policy and administration theorize the role of public agencies and ofﬁ-
cials in light of Weberian ideals of meritocratic selection, rational/legal rules,
and professional autonomy—characteristics meant to insulate bureaucrats from
perverse political pressures.
Other scholars, instead of presupposing a rational legal bureaucracy, argue
for greater attention to the strategic deployment of public authority by powerful
actors, both within and outside the state. Scholars who consider institutions and
state agencies from a power-centric perspective argue that the choice of political
institutions, such as decentralization of governance and distribution of property
rights, is contingent on political and economic interests of relatively powerful
political actors in national and regional political arenas.
Despite these recent
developments, the policy literature on REDD+ remains focused overwhelmingly
on questions of institutional design and statutory reforms of national forest and
land tenure regimes.
This article employs a power-centric analysis to challenge the rational/legal
institutional design view of the REDD+ policy process and beneﬁt-sharing. First, I
compare the land tenure regime of each country to its prospective beneﬁt-sharing
provisions found in REDD+ policy documents. Second, I examine national
REDD+ policy documents to determine if forest and land tenure statutes that
confer more clearly deﬁned and secure rights on forest-dependent people form
the basis for REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing mechanisms. These analyses highlight the
importance of a system of checks and balances within different branches of
the national government.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, indigenous and other forest-
dependent people in the study countries faced similarly exploitative and repres-
sive colonial or dictatorial regimes. Even so, these countries now demonstrate a
wide divergence in forest tenure regimes. The following section offers an essential
introduction to the histories and political-economic contexts that shaped these
Forest Policy and Politics in India, Tanzania, and Mexico
So-called “scientiﬁc forestry,”ﬁrst developed in Europe to maximize timber
yields, was ill-suited to societies in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in which
forest-dependent people used forests for subsistence purposes.
9. North 1990.
10. Knight 1992; Moe 2005.
11. Boone 2013.
12. Barton 2000.
Prakash Kashwan •99
colonial governments in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa imposed scientiﬁc forestry
regimes through a territorially based and legally enforced system of state forests.
Such a system conﬂicted with the de facto status of land use and occupation in
forested regions where indigenous and other forest-dependent groups lived. Ex-
tensive forest history literature shows that colonial reservations impeded forest
peoples’access to resource use. However, colonial forestry had equally signiﬁ-
cant impact on people’s land rights related to homesteads and subsistence farm-
In most countries of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, post-independence
governments not only failed to resolve these conﬂicts but further expanded
the colonial-era boundaries of state forests, and enforced them through police
and semi-judicial powers vested in government forest administrations.
The land rights conﬂicts institutionalized through ﬁrst colonial and then post-
independence interventions remain alive and relevant for REDD+.
Emergence of Forestry Regimes in Independent India and Tanzania
Upon independence from Britain, India (1947) and Tanzania (1961) inherited
forest regimes comprised of government forest administration that exercised ter-
ritorial control over large state forest estates.
In 1948 the Indian government further strengthened the provisions of the
colonial-era Forest Act of 1927 to make it easier for the government to declare any
community or open-access land as state forestland. Before 1975, the central gov-
ernment and state governments shared equal jurisdiction on the subject of forests,
which enabled forest-dependent people to mobilize at the state level to secure
land rights denied them during the colonial era. However, as pressure increased
for the expansion of smallholder agriculture and recognition of land rights of
forest-dependent people, the Indian central government in 1975 wrested control
of key aspects of forest administration, and prohibited state governments from
addressing forest-related conﬂicts. The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 and the
creation of the national Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in 1985
further strengthened the regulatory powers of the federal government. Moreover,
these changes created a direct link between the MoEF and state forestry depart-
ments, led by members of the elite Indian Forest Service (IFS).
though India’s forestry administration is formally divided into several state forest
departments and the central MoEF, they often behave as a uniﬁed actor. This is
particularly true of the forestry administration’s positions on questions of forest-
land conﬂict, which the ministry determines.
The institutional historical developments and regulatory powers of post-
independence forestry administration led to a signiﬁcant increase in the area
classiﬁed by law as state forest. Such area of legally designated forests expanded
13. Vandergeest and Peluso 1995.
14. Hirsch 1990; Kashwan 2013; Kumar and Kerr 2012; Peluso and Watts 2001.
15. Larson et al. 2013.
16. Fleischman 2012.
100 •Forest Policy, Institutions, and REDD+ in India, Tanzania, and Mexico
from 54 million hectares in 1961 to 69 million hectares in 2011. This nearly
30-percent net increase in forest under state ownership is remarkable considering
the 168-percent increase in population and rapid expansion of agriculture,
urbanization, and industrialization. Even though the MoEF recognized the his-
torical mistakes that led to the creation of India’s state forests, it has strong
incentives to maintain the status quo.
Forest ofﬁcials often demand control
over a greater share of the federal budget and a greater say in policy-making
on the basis of their control of 23 percent of India’s territory.
The MoEF is
the only point of contact for India’s engagement with all regional and interna-
tional agreements related to the environment, including land and forests. Be-
cause of its exclusive territorial and jurisdictional control in the important
arenas of environmental and forest conservation, the MoEF functions with a
high degree of autonomy.
At the time of its independence from British colonial rule in 1961, Tanganyika,
as mainland Tanzania was known prior to its 1964 union with Zanzibar, in-
herited a network of forest and wildlife reserves. Post-independence leader-
ship, especially that of Julius Nyerere, the country’s most prominent leader
and long-serving president, valued forest and wildlife reserves for the potential
foreign exchange earnings related to timber exports and wildlife tourism.
ployment of forests as a source of foreign exchange led, over time, to the de-
velopment of lucrative wildlife tourism and trophy hunting. The Tanzanian
state’s tight control over hunting permits and distribution of revenues from
wildlife safaris led to the development of myriad rent-seeking opportunities,
which feed into patronage networks.
Such perverse incentives are one of
the reasons why government and parastatals claim jurisdiction over more than
40 percent of Tanzania’s national territory. More importantly, national parks
and wildlife reserves cover nearly 30 percent of the country’s geographical
area. The legal claims of the forest administration to a very large portion of
the land rely on one speciﬁc interpretation of Tanzania’s two key land laws,
which are discussed in the next subsection.
Unlike India and Tanzania, which inherited forestry regimes from their
common British colonial heritage, the Spanish colonial administration in Mexico
did not establish a forestry service or set aside large territories as state forests or
reserves. Moreover, Mexico’s agrarian reforms and the political context created by
the revolution of 1910 played an important part in limiting the territorial scope
and statutory powers of its incipient national forestry administration.
The balance of power between Mexico’s forest service and peasants demand-
ing land rights saw a decisive shift during the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas
(1934–1940). Cárdenas, the strongest proponent of agrarian reforms, invited into
17. MoEF 2004.
18. MoEF 2006.
19. Neumann 1995, 365.
20. Nelson and Agrawal 2008.
Prakash Kashwan •101
his administration Miguel de Quevedo, often referred to as the father of forestry
The European philosophy of scientiﬁc forestry, which was also the
basis for exclusionary colonial regimes in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, inspired
De Quevedo’s approach to forestry.
The confrontation between the ideas of sci-
entiﬁc forestry associated with centralized technocratic management of forests
and the ideals of the revolution eventually prompted Cárdenas to dismiss
de Quevedo, dissolve the independent forestry department, and move its func-
tions to the agriculture department.
This, coupled with national agrarian re-
forms, resulted in more than 60 percent of the country’s forests being vested in
agrarian communities, a term that I use to refer to rural collectives called ejidos and
These events set Mexico’s forest administration and professionals on a
path of “institutional fragility.”
Relative stability returned after Mexican gov-
ernment divested the Ministry of Agriculture of its jurisdiction over forests in
1995 and constituted the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources
(SEMARNAT) in 2000. Even so, as opposed to the territorial control that forestry
agencies in India and Tanzania exercise, SEMARNAT does not hold property
rights over large areas of land set aside as state forests but instead has the limited
role of overseeing and regulating actions that impinge on forest conservation.
Overall, differences in the historical legacy and contemporary form of for-
est regimes of India, Tanzania, and Mexico are important determinants of their
national forest policies. In the next section, I examine forest reforms over past
two decades in the case-study countries, which are relevant to debates about the
institutional architecture of REDD+.
Forest “Reforms”and Conﬂicts in India, Tanzania, and Mexico
In what became a much-discussed policy, India’s Joint Forest Management
(JFM), introduced in 1990, promised a share of timber revenues in return for
local communities’contribution to forest protection. However, because the stat-
ute did not protect JFM provisions, the program lacked accountability and led to
few beneﬁts for community members despite many successful cases of forest
State forest departments also used JFM and conservation-related
international aid to coerce community members to give up their land claims,
thereby reinforcing and even expanding the area of de jure state forest.
activity on the part of the state forest departments reached its peak in 2002,
21. Klooster 2003.
22. Barton 2000.
23. Klooster 2003, 99–101.
24. Corbera et al. 2011; Bray 2013.
25. Mathews 2011, 46–47.
26. For recent reviews, see Lélé and Menon 2014.
27. Kashwan 2013.
102 •Forest Policy, Institutions, and REDD+ in India, Tanzania, and Mexico
when they dispossessed over 150,000 families of farmland within terri-
tory legally reclassiﬁed as state forest.
Amnesty International noted that the
evictions led to many human rights violations.
A large-scale mobilization
against the evictions, coupled with fortuitous political circumstances, led to
the enactment of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006.
The FRA provides for the statutory protection of land rights for forest-
dependent people who live on and farm land classiﬁed by law as state forests. The
FRA also grants forest-dependent groups collective rights to manage and beneﬁt
from community forest resources. Prominent international conservation groups
recognized the FRA as a fairer and potentially more effective approach for the con-
servation of India’sforests.
Such endorsement notwithstanding, the MoEF and
state forest departments resisted and actively subverted the implementation of the
FRA. As India’s MoEF continues to operate based on exclusionary forest laws ﬁrst
enacted during the colonial era, forest land rights conﬂicts continue unabated.
Tanzania also implemented forest decentralization policies, largely
through the adoption of two laws in 1999: the Land Act (LA) and Village Land
Act (VLA). The VLA deﬁnes “village land”as one of the Tanzania’s three land ten-
ure categories and grants village councils secure jurisdiction over all land within
village boundaries. The central government retains ownership. According to the
VLA, the jurisdiction of village councils also extends to nearly 19 million hect-
ares of unreserved forestland, which might be considered “unoccupied and un-
However, the Forestry and Beekeeping Division (FBD)
interprets such forest as being located instead on “general land”—another land
tenure category in Tanzania directly under the control of the central govern-
ment. In contrast to the VLA, the LA deﬁnition of “general land”includes “un-
occupied or unused village land.”
Signiﬁcantly, the provisions of the LA
prevail if there is a conﬂict between the two pieces of legislation.
These legal ambiguities, coupled with the expansion of Tanzania’snational
parks and wildlife reserves since the 1970s, have led to a variety of land conﬂicts
and displacement of many people because of the expanding or newly consti-
tuted nature reserves.
The Tanzania Investment Centre also sought to use
the centralizing provisions of the 1999 Land Law to lease to private corporations
large areas of forest or woodlands, which indigenous, pastoralist, and peasant
groups claim as their customary lands.
Table 2 summarizes the key statutes related to forest tenure regimes and
categorizes each as either “strong”or “weak”depending on the strength of local
28. Frontline October 12–25, 2002.
29. Amnesty International, 2007.
30. The Hindu, December 27, 2007.
31. Jayal 2001; Kumar and Kerr 2012.
32. Blomley 2006.
33. Purdon 2013, 1145.
34. Purdon 2013.
35. Brockington 2002.
36. Nelson et al. 2012.
Prakash Kashwan •103
Key Forest Tenure Laws in Case Study Countries
What Types of Community
Rights Are Recognized?
India Indian Forest Act 1927;
Act 1980; Joint Forest
Management circular 1990
State forestry departments/
Ministry of Environment
and Forests (MoEF)
Limited to harvesting of
ﬁrewood and collection
of fodder in limited
Forest Rights Act 2006 Village general assemblies
(Over forests & land brought
within the purview of the FRA).
Rights to manage community
forests, and to harvest and
market non-timber forest
produce; timber rights unclear.
Tanzania Land Act 1999;
The Forest Act 2002;
Wildlife Policy 2007
The state—“Unoccupied and
unused village land”considered
“general land,”which is under
the authority of the central
government represented by
FBD; the 2002 act provides
for creation of village land
Very few rights unless village
boundaries are registered
and delineated, which is
uncommon; no rights
within the boundaries
of national parks and reserves.
Village Land Act 1999 Village councils—“Unoccupied
and unused”village lands
vested in village councils.
Signiﬁcantly strong rights under
Practically difﬁcult because
of the red tape.
Mexico Agrarian Law of 1992 Members of agrarian communities Rights of timber harvesting with
appropriate management plans
General Law on
Members of agrarian communities All of the above plus forest rights
of the tenants
tenure rights. Governments in India and Tanzania rely on a selective application
of forest and land laws to secure centralized control over these resources. As a
result, despite participatory forestry policies, forest land conﬂicts largely remain
However, Mexico’s 1992 reforms, which brought to a close the
country’s longstanding agrarian reforms, allowed rural communities to retain
collective tenure rights over forests and pastures situated within ejido bound-
aries. The 1992 reforms signiﬁcantly reduced the extent to which the Mexican
state could meddle in the exercise of community rights.
However, these re-
forms did not recognize the rights of women and non-land-owning community
members ( posesionarios legales). The General Law on Sustainable Forest Develop-
ment of 2002 addressed these gaps, granting previously excluded groups legit-
imate rights over common forests and pastures.
All study countries have more than one land tenure law, each of which
entails a different distribution of rights. The next section examines how conﬂict-
ridden forest tenure systems in these countries shape REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing
Beneﬁt-Sharing Mechanisms in REDD+: Is Tenure the Limiting Factor?
Ofﬁcially, REDD+ has yet to be implemented under the UNFCCC framework.
While previous scholarship has analyzed REDD+ pilot projects, most of which
have been funded by donors, in this article I examine the REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing
mechanisms outlined in the government policy documents. First, I examine if
policy documents related to REDD+ offer a clear and unambiguous division of
beneﬁts (carbon rights) between forest-dependent people and other stake-
holders. Second, I investigate if the beneﬁt-sharing proposals are linked to leg-
islation that grant secure forest land rights to forest-dependent people. Finally, I
explore the distinction between formal beneﬁt-sharing mechanisms and “social
The term “safeguards”deﬂects attention from the fact that it is typically
used to describe non-binding commitments. “Unlike rules, which have sanc-
tions associated with failure to comply, REDD+ safeguards provide a set of guid-
As some experts have argued, REDD+ safeguards “lack
speciﬁcity and authority.”
Deﬁning some goals as safeguards relegates them
to the sidelines of multi-lateral negotiations, pushes the related provisions to
the appendices, and leaves their implementation to the discretion of govern-
ment. Accordingly, when a REDD+ policy document describes certain beneﬁts
only as “safeguards,”they constitute a much weaker commitment than if they
were discussed in terms of REDD+ “beneﬁt-sharing.”
37. Neumann 2001; Sundar 2000; Vira 2005.
38. Bray 2013.
39. Balderas Torres and Skutsch 2014.
40. Jagger et al. 2012.
41. Visseren-Hamakers et al. 2012.
Prakash Kashwan •105
Ofﬁcials from India’s MoEF declared, “100 percent of the funding from
REDD+ will ﬂow to local communities.”
However, no mechanisms exist to
facilitate transparent and timely ﬂow of funds to local communities. India’s
REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing proposals are linked to the JFM program which, as we
have seen, grants the government forest administration considerable discretion-
A history of unfulﬁlled promises related to JFM beneﬁts makes it
difﬁcult for local actors to believe in the promises being made under REDD+. To
make things worse, India’s top ofﬁcials argue, “India does not want to have any
more safeguards imposed on it by the UNFCCC. India is conﬁdent that it has
enough safeguards set in place.”
Notwithstanding these pronouncements, the
MoEF and state forest department ofﬁcials have been involved in frequent
violations of the very same laws which they cite as homegrown safeguards, such
as the FRA.
In Tanzania, the REDD+ strategy document describes community-based
forest management (CBFM) as the “most appropriate way to achieve forest
landscape restoration”because it entails the allocation of “clear forest land
However, CBFM has beneﬁtted few communities because of the
long-winded bureaucratic approval process needed before a village can partici-
pate. Instead of utilizing REDD+ as an opportunity to promote CBFM, REDD+
policy documents undermine its credibility. These policy documents character-
ize all village lands as “open access”land, which the commons literature often
associates with the tragedy of the commons. Such portrayal of village lands re-
inforces stereotyped views of local communities being incapable of managing
REDD+ policy proposals thus do not delegate responsibility
for forest management to “the lowest possible level of local management”as
called for under the 2002 Forest Act.
Tanzania’s REDD+ strategy posits that
social and ecological safeguards will “give special consideration to livelihoods,
resource use rights…conservation of biodiversity…and good governance as re-
ﬂected in the Action Plan.”
As discussed earlier, including a plethora of goals
under the category of “safeguards”pushes such goals to the margins of the pro-
gram, and leaves implementation to the discretion of government.
Interestingly, policy proposals from both India and Tanzania used organo-
grams to make substantive claims about some of the most contested policy
questions. For instance, consider “encroachment,”which is how the MoEF refers
to land claims contested by forest-dependent people. Even though the 2006
FRA legally recognize these land claims, India’s REDD+ organogram—the
42. Vijge and Gupta 2014, 24.
43. MoEF 2013, 64.
44. Vijge and Gupta 2014, 21 quoting the Director General of the Ministry of Environment and
45. Kashwan 2013; Kumar and Kerr 2012.
46. URT 2013, 13.
47. Ylhäisi 2003.
48. Blomley 2006, 9.
49. URT 2013.
106 •Forest Policy, Institutions, and REDD+ in India, Tanzania, and Mexico
diagram showing organizational arrangements related to policy implementation—
prominently displays the following declaration: “no regularization of existing
The REDD+ reference document thus reasserts the Ministry’s
claims, which contravene the provisions of the FRA. In an interesting coinci-
dence, the organogram depicted in Tanzania’s REDD+ strategy document, “Insti-
tutional Structure for REDD+ Implementation and Reporting,”also shows
“general lands”exclusively under “Forest Agency/Department”without any links
to “Local Government Authorities”such as villages.
Had the government been
keen on promoting CBFM, the REDD+ policy documents could have made use of
the provisions of Village Land Act of 1999, according to which a large percentage
of “unoccupied and unused”lands are adjudicated by locally elected village
councils and not the central government.
India and Tanzania both describe the REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing mechanisms
in a fragmented and ambiguous manner. Neither country provides a rationale
for beneﬁt-sharing, a question that has been debated under the guise of “carbon
rights”in the literature.
Second, the policy documents discuss beneﬁt-sharing
mechanisms from the vantage point of tenure arrangements and administrative
structures that favor forest administrations. India’s policy documents link REDD+
implementation and beneﬁt-sharing arrangements to JFM, which lacks statuto-
ry support, grants discretionary powers to forestry agencies, and has a weak
track record of fulﬁlling commitments. The “Institutional Arrangement for
REDD+”shown in India’s REDD+ reference document constitutes a reproduc-
tion of the hierarchical structure of the ministry and state forest depart-
This also holds true for the Tanzanian REDD+ policy documents.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mexico’s REDD+ strategy document not
only reasserts the strong community rights contained in the Agrarian Law of
1992, but also explicitly attaches “carbon rights”to members of agrarian com-
munities (Table 3). Moreover, following the 2002 General Law of Sustainable
Forest Management, the safeguards outlined in the strategy document even pro-
tect the rights of “claimants”who did not have rights according to the Agrarian Law.
Mexico’s approach employs REDD+ as an opportunity to further strengthen and
secure the rights of indigenous and forest-dependent people.
Faced with ambiguities and multiple tenure laws, REDD+ policymakers in
India, Tanzania, and Mexico selectively deploy aspects of land tenure legislation,
but with very different outcomes. This demonstrates that a lack of strong tenure
regimes does not explain why India and Tanzania have failed to commit a sig-
niﬁcant proportion of REDD+ beneﬁts to forest-dependent people. Instead,
REDD+ policy positions reﬂect a carefully curated mix of legal provisions that
serve the interests of those who wield power in the policy-making process.
50. MoEF 2013, 61.
51. URT 2013, 22.
52. Corbera et al. 2011.
53. MoEF 2013, 61.
54. URT 2013, 22.
55. Larson et al. 2013.
Prakash Kashwan •107
National Beneﬁt-Sharing Arrangements
Land Tenure Regime
“To encourage and
their role in
accrued on account
of REDD+ …based
on their performance”
traditional rights of
Fair and transparent
(MoEF 2014, 6)
“Provision of sufﬁcient
to motivate stakeholders”
on the environment
as well as livelihoods
and rights of
(URT 2013, p.53).
The Land Act of 1999;
land as state
Mexico Law “…the property rights
lie with the legal
owners of land
2014, p.7 citing
the National REDD+
Safeguards to respect
and guaranteeing the
certainty over property
rights and economic
(Balderas Torres and
Skutsch 2014, p.7
citing the National
of 1992 and
Law on Sustainable
1. Based on the assessment presented in Table 2.
2. Some level of ambiguity is inherent to the nature of international REDD+ regime (see Balderas Torres and Skutsch 2014).
the following section, I analyze the history of the national REDD+ policy
process in each country to explain this variation in the REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing
Accountability and REDD+ Policy
Forest policy and REDD+ literature describe Mexico as an exceptional case in
which the country’s progressive laws drive progressive forest policy outcomes.
Those attentive to the inﬂuence of political context suggest that the history of
the Mexican revolution explains why land reforms retain a powerful inﬂuence
over the country’s forest-related policies.
However, considering that the
Mexican government ofﬁcially brought land reforms to a close in 1992, it is puz-
zling that the rights of agrarian communities continue to resonate strongly with
regard to REDD+. I argue that this outcome is attributable to two important
drivers inherent to the contemporary Mexican forest policy process: a system
of checks and balances built into Mexico’s forest regime and the political lever-
age that forest-dependent people continue to exercise.
Unlike India and Tanzania, Mexico does not have a forest administration
vested with property rights and territorial control over large areas of the hinter-
lands. More importantly, Mexico’s forest administrative bodies are also sub-
jected to intra-government checks and balances. Within the Secretariat of the
Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), executive and monitoring
functions are vested in two different administrative units. The National Forestry
Commission (CONAFOR) is the key government body in charge of designing
and implementing forestry policies and programs, including REDD+. The Fed-
eral Environmental Protection Ofﬁce (PROFEPA) handles law enforcement, li-
censing of forestry concessions, and the monitoring of forestry projects
implemented by CONAFOR and other government agencies. Mexico’s forestry
regime is thus structured to create mechanisms of inter-bureau checks and bal-
ances, which manifest in a variety of ways in the ongoing REDD+ process.
Even though CONAFOR is responsible for implementing REDD+, PROFEPA
has been working with agrarian communities to set up local Environmental
Watchdog Committees (CVAP), which function under the general assembly
of the agrarian communities that own 60 percent of Mexico’s forests. Similar
structures to facilitate policy deliberations and accountability also exist at the
municipal and regional levels.
Signiﬁcantly, Mexico constituted a multi-party
special commission to write a climate change law, one of the ﬁrst countries to
do so. The commission organized more than seventy brainstorming sessions
and meetings with scientists, scholars, government representatives, NGOs, and
These wide-ranging consultations also continued
56. Bray 2013; Corbera et al. 2011.
57. Bray 2013; Mathews 2011.
58. IDLO 2011.
59. USAID 2010.
110 •Forest Policy, Institutions, and REDD+ in India, Tanzania, and Mexico
during the formulation of the REDD+ policy framework, which brought forth
some contentious issues.
An initial Emissions Reduction Program document that the National For-
estry Commission (CONAFOR) submitted to the World Bank’s Forest Carbon
Partnership Facility proposed to divert the communities’share of REDD+ pro-
ceeds to “activities that diminish deforestation and degradation.”
groups forced the commission to drop this proviso in favor of resource transfers
directly to agrarian communities, and pressured CONAFOR to formally ac-
knowledge and integrate it into the recommendations of the National REDD+
Strategy (ENAREDD+) Working Group. Thisworkinggroupisamulti-stakeholder
participatory body comprising representatives from seven sectors, including
The speciﬁc contours of Mexico’s REDD+ policy proposals reﬂect a system
of checks and balances as much as they do a progressive land tenure regime in-
herited from the past. Moreover, linkages between agrarian communities and
the country’s political leadership put important constraints on the power and
authority of various forest administrative bodies and actors.
above, these aspects of Mexico’s institutional structures shaped the outcomes
of REDD+ policies. Studies of Mexico’s Payment for Environmental Services
(PES) program also show that the need to attract the support of peasants,
who have traditionally supported the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI),
prompted President Felipe Calderón, a conservative, to use PES as a poverty al-
This suggests that Mexico’s increasingly competitive poli-
tics offers better protection to the interests of agrarian communities than do the
left-of-center governments in India and Tanzania.
In both India and Tanzania, elected leaders and legislators have been rather
inactive in the realm of REDD+ policy.
The executive-heavy policy-making
process dominates in India because a majority of its forest-dependent people
are not mobilized into a salient electoral constituency.
Such lack of political
salience has important implications, as evident in the outcomes of the Minister
of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh’s proposals to reform the colonial-era
Indian Forest Act (IFA) of 1927. Senior forest ofﬁcials openly opposed and suc-
cessfully stalled the proposal and the IFA continues to be the backbone of con-
temporary forest management in India.
Ramesh’s party isolated him even
though his senior party colleagues had argued strongly in the past for similar re-
forms, especially because these antiquated forestry laws were directly linked to the
Naxalite unrest in India’s forested regions.
Similarly, Tanzanian leadership has
60. Anon 2014, 3–6.
61. Mathews 2011.
62. Shapiro-Garza 2013, 7.
63. Bray 2013; Klooster and Masera 2000.
64. Harris et al. 2011.
65. Chhatre and Saberwal 2005.
66. Tehelka, March 16, 2011.
67. Economic Times, Aug 13, 2014.
Prakash Kashwan •111
been ambivalent, to say the least, toward the interests of pastoralists, agro-pastoralists,
and other forest-dependent groups. The indifference of political leaders in both
countries facilitates the continued dominance of government administrative bod-
ies responsible for forests.
The above analysis shows that even though history has shaped the forest
regimes in these countries, the effects of formal forest institutions on REDD+
policy outcomes are mediated through contemporary political processes. Most
importantly, an understanding of institutional mechanisms that foster account-
ability of ministries and government agencies can inform national and interna-
tional policy interventions.
Institutional Interventions for Improved REDD+ Accountability
Scholars recommend institutional arrangements, in particular monitoring, re-
porting, and veriﬁcation (MRV) systems, to improve accountability in REDD+.
Recent analyses show, however, that donors and investors focus mainly on car-
bon and risk mitigation, while NGOs tend to emphasize social rights and bene-
Such a division can still lead to improvements in REDD+ accountability in
the presence of mechanisms of inter-agency accountability. These mechanisms of
horizontal accountability ensure that government bodies are able to exercise
countervailing power against others and that competing concerns are articulated
within the policy process. The Mexican case, for instance, suits this model of
However, institutional reform does not always address
more formidable barriers.
The FRA of India illustrates perfectly the types of tenure reforms that
REDD+ advocates often demand. However, because the REDD+ policy process
is disconnected from the mainstream political process, the FRA has been
marginalized within the REDD+ policy. The outcomes would be different if
the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), which oversees the implementation of
the FRA, was able to veto REDD+ policy provisions that failed to meet the gov-
ernment’s statutory obligations to forest-dependent people. The interventions of
MoTA have helped prevent violation of the rights of forest-dependent people in
the context of siting foreign-backed industrial projects.
Similarly, a more ro-
bust policy framework would be likely if Parliament had enacted a climate
In contrast to India, where the donor community has little leverage, the
international community has been much more inﬂuential in Tanzania.
cently, donors helped the country establish the Tanzania Forest Service (TFS),
68. Harris et al. 2011.
69. Visseren-Hamakers et al. 2012.
70. Corbera et al. 2011.
71. Kumar and Kerr 2012.
72. For comparative analyses of climate change–related legislative initiatives, see, Nachmany et al.
73. Harris et al. 2011; Vira 2005.
112 •Forest Policy, Institutions, and REDD+ in India, Tanzania, and Mexico
a semi-autonomous government executive agency by carving it out of the For-
estry and Beekeeping Division (FBD). What remains of the FBD will take on
functions similar to Mexico’s PROFEPA: policy and planning, research, train-
ing, licensing and quality control in the forestry sector. Tanzania National Parks
(TANAPA), a parastatal body, manages the country’s national parks and wildlife
reserves. Such separation of regulatory and executive powers between the FBD,
the TFS, and TANAPA, combined with heightened political competition in re-
cent years, increases the potential for improved accountability.
goals will be realized remains to be seen; thus far, the transition has been poorly
managed. Researchers argue that the process has led to “blurred lines of respon-
sibility,”“competing incentives,”and “creation of parallel structures,”thereby
weakening the accountability and effectiveness of personnel on the ground.
International policymakers invested in the success of REDD+ and other
similar environmental conservation interventions must broaden the purview
tion. Active engagement of political actors and a divided executive are important
prerequisites for successful domestic deliberations. As Lord Prescott has argued,
such reforms are crucial for cultivating domestic support of international envi-
ronmental policies and programs. Recent reforms of Tanzania’s forestry sector
and the increased demands for reform of India’s forestry sector suggest that do-
nors may have an important role to play. Indeed, in countries such as India,
international donors will need to join hands with grassroots movements.
Policymakers and scholars often emphasize the importance of tenure security as
a prerequisite for the success of REDD+. While REDD+ policy has developed
apace, calls for tenure reforms have gone unheeded in most participating coun-
This article examined national REDD+ policies of India, Tanzania, and
Mexico to determine if REDD+ beneﬁt-sharing arrangements align with
the more progressive forest tenure statutes that the study countries have already
The evidence shows that the forest administrations of both India and
Tanzania deploy REDD+ as a venue for consolidating their gains in a rapidly
changing political and economic context. Both India and Tanzania use the lan-
guage of REDD+ safeguards as a shield for policy equivocation, while Mexico
uses these instruments to outline measures to protect the rights of groups that
are excluded in national forest and land tenure regimes. Such divergent out-
comes are possible because political representatives in India and Tanzania wield
authority over forest policy-making differently than their Mexican counterparts.
Differences in the nature of political decision-making also affect the extent to
74. Nelson et al. 2012.
75. Harris et al. 2011, 12–13; Personal Interview, Tanzania Forest Policy Expert, June 20, 2014.
76. Larson et al. 2013.
Prakash Kashwan •113
which REDD+ policy-making is open to input from civil society actors who seek
to represent the interests of forest-dependent groups. In sum, REDD+ beneﬁt-
sharing mechanisms mirror the power and authority that national forestry agen-
cies wield in the domestic policy process.
The effectiveness of institutional design of policies such as REDD+ depends
on political checks and balances that constrain forest administrations and force
them to implement pro-poor policy reforms. Only in conjunction with such re-
forms can forest tenure reforms channel a signiﬁcant share of REDD+ beneﬁts to
forest-dependent people. This suggests that international policymakers should
make REDD+ payments conditional on participant countries’commitment to un-
equivocal, enforceable beneﬁt-sharing mechanisms.
Without such active inter-
vention, policymakers in developing countries are likely to deploy social and
ecological safeguards as the primary means of signaling their commitment to re-
Good policy outcomes are more likely to result when smart institutions
are coupled with political-administrative mechanisms that ensure the account-
ability and responsiveness of forest administrations.
I have used the power-centric framework to analyze drivers of institutional
change in three developing countries. Future research may beneﬁt from apply-
ing a more fully developed framework to a larger number of countries. Ongoing
debates and academic inquiry into REDD+ and related outcomes offer a suitable
venue for research of this kind. I expect that such research will contribute to a
new framework for understanding institutional change under conditions of
entrenched power asymmetries.
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