International Forest Policy


Forests are vital ...

... as habitats for animals, plants and people, as water reservoirs, climate regulators and in their capacity as primary producers, among many others. About 1.6 billion people – mainly in the developing countries – depend on forests for their livelihood. More than 70 per cent of terrestrial plant and animal species live in forests. Since forests act as carbon reservoirs, they are of global importance for the climate as well as for adaptation to climate change.


... and yet they are being destroyed.

Every year humans destroy 13 million hectares of forest all over the world – an area almost the size of Greece. This large-scale forest loss causes almost a fifth of worldwide CO2 emissions – more than the world’s entire transport sector. Only around ten per cent of Earth’s forests are located in protected areas. In addition, especially in the tropics, forests are rarely managed sustainably.


What are the causes?

The overuse of forest resources can be attributed to failings in a number of areas; the issues involved may be political, institutional, or market-related. Forests are usually in competition with agriculture, which – at least in the short term – is more profitable; deforestation therefore tends to take place along the boundaries of agricultural areas. Due to market failures, forests are usually undervalued. Their beneficial functions, such as ecosystem services and biodiversity, cannot easily be converted into economic benefits for their owners or holders. Other factors include:

  • Growing pressures on forests as a result of population growth and poverty
  • Growing worldwide demand for minerals, bioenergy, timber, food and animal feeds, and hence higher returns from competing forms of land use poor law enforcement, illegal activities
  • Centralised decision-making processes that lack consultation with local communities, in addition to uncertain land tenure
  • Armed conflicts that leave forests ravaged

Working towards forest conservation worldwide

International forest policy has constituted a priority in Germany’s development cooperation for many years. The GIZ has a long history of working with its partners on issues of forest conservation and sustainable forest management, the monitoring and prevention of illegal logging, good governance, capacity development, fire prevention, biodiversity conservation, land-use planning and allocation of usage rights, as well as the payment for environmental services and community-based forest management. We focus particularly on countries and regions of importance to the conservation of tropical forests, such as Brazil’s Amazon region, Indonesia and the Congo Basin.

All these fields of work are of relevance in the context of a broadly-oriented development strategy, which includes issues such as poverty reduction, sustainable economic development, biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and good governance, among others.

On behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ helps its partners to conserve forests and to use them sustainably. It promotes reciprocal knowledge transfers and staff exchanges and advises ministries, village communities and small and medium sized enterprises on policies and technical issues. It further supports South-South cooperation schemes and helps partner countries to engage in international negotiations.

Taking political factors as a starting point, the sector program International Forest Policy (IWP) combines advisory work in partner countries with policy-shaping activities at international level.


Herbert Christ
Phone: +49 6196 79-1282
Fax: +49 6196 79-7333

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