The performance of global forest governance: Three contrasting perspectives

Bas Arts*, Maria Brockhaus, Lukas Giessen, Constance L. McDermott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The scope and complexity of international forest-related governance have expanded tremendously over the last decades. As many as 41 ‘institutional elements’ were counted by scholars (from UNFF to UNFCCC to SDGs). The questions of how these governance arrangements ‘perform’, for what purpose and for whom are widely contested between scholars and practitioners. This paper compares three different analytical frames, which have been employed by some of the authors. These are 1) the consequences of a fragmented regime complex, 2) the global-local nexus and 3) the critical global political economy. The frames map out their contributions and key differences in analytical perspective and help focus and advance debates. Each perspective is based on different theories, epistemologies and methodological approaches and hence yields different key results. The first frame emphasises institutional and policy fragmentation, the symbolic nature of the agreements and the ineffectiveness of the policy measures; the second shows progress in discourses, institutional design, and on-the-ground performance, while the third finds global governance has reinforced inequalities in power and access to land and natural resources. All authors agree, however, that a shift in the balance of power and novel actor coalitions are necessary to change the current global forest governance trajectory significantly. They also acknowledge the need for much greater diversity in voice and representation in both the research and practice of global forest governance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103165
JournalForest Policy and Economics
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • Critical global political economy
  • Global forest governance
  • Global-local nexus
  • Performance
  • Regime complex


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