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ClientEarth Communications

24th June 2024

Empowering Communities Through Social Forestry: ASEAN's Guiding Principles

Forests are the heartbeat of the ASEAN region, covering over 193 million hectares and deeply connected to the lives of millions. At ClientEarth in Asia, we truly believe in the critical role that local communities, Indigenous Peoples, and ethnic minorities play in taking care of these forests. That's why the ASEAN Guiding Principles for Effective Social Forestry Legal Frameworks were created—to enhance sustainable forest management and uplift the livelihoods of those who depend on these vital ecosystems.

Why This Matters

ASEAN’s forests are more than just trees—they are home to diverse ecosystems and provide essential resources for local communities. Sadly, past forest management practices often left out these crucial local voices, leading to less effective conservation efforts. But there's a shift happening! More and more, governments, civil society, and businesses are realising that local communities are the best guardians of forests, especially when they have clear and strong rights to the land.

What is Social Forestry?

Social forestry is all about community-driven forest management. This can take various forms like community forestry, community-based forest management, and village forestry. The main goals? Conserving forests, fostering local development, and improving livelihoods.

The Need for Strong Legal Frameworks

For social forestry to really work, we need solid legal frameworks that recognise and support community rights to manage forests. These laws need to be accessible, clear, and tailored to fit local contexts, ensuring long-term economic, social, and environmental benefits. It’s all about making sure the voices of those who live in and depend on forests are heard and respected.

What the Guiding Principles Aim to Do

The ASEAN Guiding Principles aim to:

  • Develop a regional approach for effective social forestry laws and policies.
  • Provide a benchmark for assessing and guiding national social forestry strategies.
  • Strengthen existing legal frameworks to promote sustainable forest governance and fair community livelihoods.
  • Enhance access for local communities, Indigenous Peoples, and ethnic minorities to social forestry opportunities.

By adopting and implementing these principles, ASEAN member states can ensure sustainable forest management and empower local communities to protect and benefit from their forests. At ClientEarth Asia, we're here to support these efforts and advocate for the rights and wellbeing of those who are the true stewards of our forests.

Let’s work together to create a more sustainable and equitable world.

Read the full guiding principles here