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Developmental impacts of verification systems in the forest sector

VERIFOR Briefing Paper

Kate Schreckenberg and Neil Bird

Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

November 2006

SARPN acknowledges VERIFOR as the source of this document:
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In recent years there has been a dramatic growth in international concern over illegality within the forest sector. Much of this concern has focused on ‘illegal logging’, where timber is produced at variance with the laws and regulations of the producer country. It is generally recognised that the context of much tropical timber production is problematic, with well developed political networks holding strong economic interest in diluting technical reforms and masking criminal acts in the forest sector (Colchester et al., 2006).

However, much less heard in this debate is a discussion on the likely impact that proposed reforms may have on the lives of the rural poor. In fact, there has been very little experience of formal impact assessment of forest sector verification systems to–date. Developmental impacts – the way that verification systems influence the economic outcomes for small–scale operators and forest–dependent people – appear to be particularly poorly understood. This is because:

  • Many of the verifi cation systems are fairly recent and their developmental impact is, as yet, undetermined;
  • Impact assessment is complex and requires resources;
  • Attribution of impacts to the verification system is not always clear;
  • In cases of low ownership (i.e. where verification systems have been externally imposed), there may be little interest in assessing impact.
The paper begins by looking at the drivers for, and objectives of, verification systems1. This is followed by a description of the main types of impacts and how negative impacts might be minimised. The paper concludes by discussing issues surrounding the monitoring and evaluation of verification systems.

  1. For the purposes of this paper, a verification system is defined very broadly as the system responsible for verifying that the law is implemented on the ground.

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