Our research agenda aims at: analyzing opportunities and obstacles for processes of transformational change, actors’ discourses and power relations within the wider institutional environment, and implications for the forestry sector (international and national, EU and Pan-EU); understanding new modes of forest governance and emerging actor coalitions across multiple levels of governance, including private sector activities and commitments (and the role of the State within these); and evaluating effectiveness, efficiency and equity outcomes of international forest policy instruments (public, private and hybrid instruments). Policy network analysis, comparative policy analysis constitute major methodological strengths of our research group.

Forests and forestlands in the tropics are supposed to serve a multitude of global and domestic interests, including development, climate change mitigation and biodiversity conserv ation. All these interests have explicit assumptions in common over their positive contribution to the economic wellbeing and social equality of society. However, who – and whose society – benefits from ongoing deforestation and forest concessions in the tropics? Our 4-year project with partners from University of Yaounde II, University of Kinshasa, University of Goettingen and the Chinese Academy of Forest Sciences aims to answer this question by analyzing global and historic data to gain an understanding of the inequalities embedded in trade and investment patterns in relation to forests and forestland in the Global South. We will investigate the mechanisms in national and global forest and land governance that produce and risk to reproduce these inequalities. Our research focus is the Congo Basin, specifically Cameroon and DRC, and the former colonial empires in Europe and China, as a new ‘external partner’.

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REDD+ projects are being implemented in forested areas across Southeast Asia and many of these projects are located in areas where shifting cultivation or ‘swiddening’ is widely practiced and where ‘shifting cultivators,’ often minority groups, have traditional rights to land and resources. Swidden landscapes often include areas of forests and fallows that are managed for their contribution to livelihoods, basic food needs and as safety nets, and which generate multiple ecosystem services. These along with many other forms of formal and informal social forestry systems have long existed throughout Southeast Asia and they are often managed under diverse local governance structures. The project focuses on consolidating and sharing knowledge to address policy questions at all levels, including the ASEAN policy community, while maintaining strong relationships to national and subnational actors and AWG-SF focal points. 

More information in the University of Helsinki research portal

The Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS REDD+) project including its policy component is ongoing since 2009 and led by CIFOR in cooperation with partners. It builds on more than three decades of research efforts to understand and respond to the causes of deforestation and forest degradation, and the analysis of effectiveness, efficiency and equity of policies related to forests and climate change. The first phase of REDD+ research focused on overall design issues and aimed to build a strong research-based knowledge. The second phase focused on generating new knowledge to inform and facilitate process of transformational change within the REDD+ policy arena, and understanding performance of REDD+ policy processes, measures and practices. The project is now in it's third phase, which supports REDD+ decision makers by assessing REDD+ impact and providing critical analysis of REDD+ in terms of effectiveness, efficiency (3Es).

More information about REDD+ (GCS REDD+) in the University of Helsinki research portal

Whose voices are heard and why? Ex­plor­ing LU­LUCF ne­go­ti­ations in the European Union (EU)

The Paris Agreement set a new milestone in the global climate governance, encouraging all countries to adhere to new ambitious mitigation and adaptation commitments. The EU is looked upon as a future leader in implementing post-Paris climate commitments. However, not all EU member states seem to agree on how and when to cut their emissions. The debate on integrating the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) into the EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework that resulted in adoption of LULUCF Regulation present a particularly interesting example of multiple efforts of various actors to influence decision-making to realize their interests. What are the implications of these negotiations for the overall goals of the Paris agreement? Whose voices are heard, and how and with which means actors and actor coalitions influence decision-making at the EU level?

To understand this, we look at who are the actors involved; what positions do they advocate within the LULUCF policy arena; and how powerful are these positions? Whose interests, shaped by numerous factors such as access, power, and resources, are reflected in the outcomes (and outputs) of the LULUCF negotiations? The research is undertaken through applying policy network analysis and advocacy coalition framework.

In many parts of the tropics, forest-agriculture frontiers dominated by diverse swidden landscapes are rapidly being converted to increasingly homogenous landscapes of commodified agriculture. Often labeled as “development”, these transformations have not generated desired social-ecological outcomes and often do not fairly benefit smallholders in these landscapes. Our research thus aims to examine the power relations, politics of forest and land use, and local agency underlying transformations in forest-agriculture frontiers, and assess options for more sustainable and equitable development.

The SEQUAL research project addresses the call topic 3.1 Gender Dimension In Climate Behaviour and Decision-Making. Focusing on the sector of natural resource management we investigate gender differences in participation and leadership in climate related processes – everyday practices, decision-making and adaptation strategies – at all levels in society. We extend the frontiers of research in this field to a focus on why gender differences occur, how they are produced and reproduced and their social location (where). We conduct top-down discourse analysis of policy on climate change and gender equality in natural resource management across three countries, Norway, Sweden and Spain. We ground truth our policy analysis through qualitative case studies of reindeer husbandry in a Nordic border region across Norway-Sweden and shepherding communities in the Pyrenees mountains bordering Spain and France, and examine a case of how global discourses on climate change and gender are translated to national policy and governance of local community forests in Burkina Faso. We then focus on interactions between levels through comparative analysis across case studies and policy. The overall vision of the SEQUAL research project is to generate an understanding of the connections and flows of power in processes of climate change and gender relations, and address these issues as social, ecological and political processes across borders and across scales. Our research is framed conceptually as investigations of discourse (politics and power), and processes (the dynamics and effects of flows of power) between and across scales, operating in social-ecological systems.

Cross-bor­der In­nov­a­tion Sys­tems in Sus­tain­able Use of Nat­ural Re­sources: a com­par­at­ive case study

The aim of the project is to understand if an innovation is contingent to the competitive or collaborative context influencing the power-balance among actors in biobased sectors. The project seeks to understand to which degree the social norms drive an innovation and decision-making processes in different institutional contexts beyond state borders. This is important as sustainable policy and business outcomes increasingly lay in multi-level interactions between international governmental and non-governmental actors. The systematic literature review analyses scientific literature addressing border-region innovation systems in the context of the biobased sectors. More information in the University of Helsinki research portal

Local demo­cracy and forest con­ser­va­tion polit­ics in Burk­ina Faso
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Build­ing Biocar­bon and Rural De­vel­op­ment in West Africa (BIODEV)
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