NYDF 2018 Progress Assessment: Goal 10 Report

With the endorsement of the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) in 2014, over 190 national and subnational governments, multinational companies, groups representing indigenous communities, and non-governmental organizations pledged to work toward ending forest loss by 2030.

Climate Focus annually leads an independent network of civil society groups and research institutions – the NYDF Assessment Partners– in undertaking a general and goal-specific progress assessment towards the 10 goals formulated by the NYDF. In November 2018, we launched the NYDF Progress Assessment Report on Goal 10.

Our assessment finds that:

Improvements in forest governance remain too slow to adequately support efforts to reduce deforestation
Clear and well-designed legal and policy frameworks, strong institutions, and legitimate decisions are essential to end deforestation and use forests more sustainably. In many countries forest-related governance is weak and has negative impacts on poor people, ethnic minorities, and women.

Weaknesses in the rule of law limit the implementation of even relatively strong legal frameworks
Strengthening institutions and enforcing laws remains slow and limited. Enforcement is particularly challenging in developing countries, many of which have relatively strong legal frameworks (sometimes stronger than those of developed countries), but often struggle to fully implement their laws, regulations, and commitments.  Common impediments include a lack of coordination, limited resources, and insufficient capacities.

Where commercial agriculture is driving significant forest loss, the risk that forest laws are violated remains alarmingly high
Much tropical deforestation is illegal. In two thirds of major timber-producing countries and all of the countries that are the largest tropical producers of palm oil, soy, and beef, there is a significant risk of one or – in most cases – multiple forest-related laws being broken in commodity production.

Progress in access to information laws is encouraging, but restrictions such as language and high costs persist
An increasing number of countries are adopting laws that give citizens the right to access information, including forest-related information. However, few countries release data proactively, and systems that make information available to the broader public remain the exception. In many countries, information may not be available in formats or languages that are widely accessible and governments are allowed broad latitude to refuse access.

Access to justice is guaranteed in the law but remains out of reach for many
Most countries provide for consultations and have laws guaranteeing the right to access judicial and administrative remedies in relation to forest-related policies and projects. However, consultation and laws tend to be, costly, slow or overly technical and not linked to concrete decision-making.

Demand-side measures to address illegality linked to other commodities are emerging but still lag far behind those for timber
While several major consumer countries, including emerging economies, have adopted regulations on timber legality that place obligations on timber importers, the majority of measures in other commodities remain voluntary or limited in scope. Promising developments include EU restrictions on biofuel and a French due diligence law.

Innovations for community empowerment are coming from local organizations themselves
For example, local organizations are installing financial vigilance mechanisms and focusing on women’s entrepreneurial training in ways that could be replicated by others. Forest-linked development finance is getting through to some of these innovations but there is a long way to go before they become the norm.

Indigenous peoples and local communities manage land with high carbon stock, but continue to lack legal recognition for much of the land they customarily own
The share of forest area across 41 countries to which indigenous people and local communities have legally recognized rights has increased from close to 11 percent in 2002 to more than 15 percent in 2017. This represents important progress but leaves much to be done. Failure to legally recognize communities’ rights to these lands leaves forests and the carbon they contain at risk and threatens the people whose livelihoods, religions, and cultures depend on the forests.

Land conflicts and dangers for communities defending their land rights are increasing
The number of murders of land defenders has increased every year since 2014, and communities increasingly face criminalization for protecting their rights. Weak recognition of tenure rights, failure to respect the principle of free, prior and informed consent, and growing demand for land has led to increased violence.