Forests and forestlands in the tropics are supposed to serve a multitude of global and national interests, including development, climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation. All these interests have explicit assumptions in common over their positive contribution to the economic wellbeing and social equality of society. However, who – and whose society – benefits from ongoing deforestation and forest concessions in the tropics?
Our proposal aims to answer this question by analyzing global and historic data to gain an understanding of the inequalities embedded in trade and investment patterns in relation to forests and forested land in the Global South, and the mechanisms that produce and reproduce these inequalities. We will focus on the Congo Basin, specifically Cameroon and DRC, and the former colonial empires in Europe and China, as a new ‘external partner’. We will analyse comparatively the institutions and incentives structures, power relations, and discursive practices in and beyond the forest sector, and investigate if international initiatives and agreements (incl. VPA, REDD+) risk reproducing social inequalities.
Engagement with actors across multiple levels and sectors and knowledge sharing beyond academic publications with the wider society will constitute our main impact pathway to inform the design of policy instruments aiming to halt deforestation and to contribute to discursive shifts in the understanding of ‘who should benefit from forests’.