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Why Law Matters: Design Principles for Strengthening the Role of Forestry Legislation in Reducing Illegal Activities and Corrupt Practices

by Jon Lindsay, Ali Mekouar and Lawrence Christy

[ FAO Legal Paper Online #27, April 2002 ]

How important is legislation in the fight against destructive and corrupt forestry practices? There are good grounds for giving a sceptical answer to this question. In country after country, the contrast between what forestry law prescribes and what actually happens on the ground is both stark and obvious, lending credence to the frequent assertion that "the problem is not with the legislation; the problem is with its implementation."

It is certainly true that improved implementation of law requires attention to economic, social and institutional factors that are external to the law itself. But this should not obscure the importance of getting the law right in the first place. This short paper explores ways in which the drafting of forestry legislation - both in terms of the substantive content of law and the process by which it is written - can facilitate or obstruct efforts to reduce destructive and corrupt activities.

The paper emphasises that drafting more effective legislation requires a broader approach than strengthening standard law enforcement provisions. If legislation is to create a realistic foundation for its own implementation, then it needs to provide scope for meaningful participation in forest decision-making; to increase the stake that people have in sustainable management; to improve the transparency and accountability of forest institutions; and to set forth rules that are coherent, realistic and comprehensible.

[ view paper ]          [ FAO Legal Office Home ]
The FAO legal papers are available in PDF format at, following the links to "Legal Papers Online".

FAO Legal Papers Online is devoted to the exploration of important contemporary legal issues in the areas of food policy, agriculture, rural development, environment, biodiversity and natural resource management. Papers in this series are offered in hopes of provoking dialogue and debate on complex and often controversial issues. Readers are therefore encouraged to send any comments or reactions they may have regarding a Legal Paper Online to the above address. The positions and opinions presented in Legal Papers Online are those of the authors, and do not necessarily, nor are they intended to, represent the views of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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