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Assessing Forest Governance

The Governance of Forests Initiative Indicator Framework

This publication presents a revised version of the Governance of Forests Initiative (GFI) Indicator Framework, a comprehensive menu of indicators that can be used to diagnose strengths and weaknesses in forest governance. It updates the original GFI Indicator Framework based on several years of field-testing of by GFI partners in Brazil, Cameroon, and Indonesia.

As a companion to this document, the GFI Guidance Manual provides supplementary materials to help users navigate decisions about how to design and implement a forest governance assessment using the GFI indicators. The manual includes detailed explanations of each indicator and worksheets to support the data collection process.

Executive Summary

Weak governance is often blamed for poor development outcomes, such as poverty and unsustainable levels of natural resource depletion. In the context of forests, a lack of transparency and accountability is often associated with problems such as illegal logging and corruption. Similarly, a lack of open and inclusive decision-making often contributes to the marginalization and impoverishment of forest-dependent communities and indigenous peoples.

Challenges in defining and measuring forest governance impede efforts to strengthen it. Governance is inherently difficult to assess in a quantitative fashion, and qualitative assessments are often seen as too subjective. Furthermore, the difficulty in clearly defining forest governance raises questions about what exactly should be assessed. The GFI Indicator Framework contributes to addressing both of these challenges. It provides a clear model for identifying what to assess, and it proposes a qualitative assessment approach that is systematic and replicable. In doing so, GFI aims to support ongoing efforts to strengthen forest governance around the world.

The GFI Indicators have been used to support civil society assessments and outreach in Brazil, Cameroon, and Indonesia, but are designed to support many different types of users and applications. These may include but are not limited to:

  • Government agencies wishing to assess the effectiveness of policy implementations
  • Legislators seeking to identify priorities for legal reforms
  • Multi-stakeholder bodies aiming to build consensus about governance challenges
  • NGO watchdogs or oversight bodies seeking to monitor government performance
  • International organizations or donor agencies seeking to verify compliance with safeguards

Since decisions about what to assess and how to assess it are intrinsically linked to the goals and location of the assessment, we have developed supplementary materials to facilitate use of the GFI Indicators. The GFI Guidance Manual supports a customized assessment by helping users identify their priorities and tailor an assessment process to meet their objectives. The GFI Manual provides insights on issues such as setting assessment objectives, data collection, and communicating findings. It also provides detailed guidance on research methods and potential data sources for each indicator.

To learn more about the work of the Governance of Forests Initiative, including how the GFI Indicator Framework has been used to strengthen forest governance, visit The Governance of Forests Initiative website.

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