How important is stakeholder engagement for forest projects?

Given the immense value that forests provide to communities and individuals, it is critical to consider the power of stakeholder engagement in forest projects to protect both people and the environment. In our analysis, we recommend ways in which the World Bank can improve stakeholder engagement to generate better outcomes in forest projects.

Discussions of stakeholder engagement and project consultation often center around infrastructure projects, such as dams or roads, or social sector projects, such as health and education. For these projects, issues such as displacement and access to basic services offered are readily apparent in their direct impact on people.  

Impacts on people may be less obvious when it comes to forest-related projects. Conserving a forest that has “always” been around might seem to concern only the plants and animals living there. Yet the reality is that people depend on forests, even remote ones, from Borneo to Brazil — forests rightly referred to as “lungs of the planet” for the oxygen they provide and the carbon they sequester.

Moreover, forests provide many local benefits, along with global ones. Forests meet material needs for food, fiber, and fuel, as well as recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual needs. In fact, the range of goods and services that forests provide — they also provide clean water and harbor most biodiversity — means they often have a much broader range of stakeholders.  

Thus, stakeholder engagement for forest projects is as important as for projects in any sector. This recognition is especially critical for Indigenous Peoples, whose identity may be tied to a particular forest, or forest ecosystem. For this reason, good practice for consultation with Indigenous Peoples on projects affecting them, their territories, or resources requires their free, prior, and informed consent.

The World Bank should take steps to strengthen stakeholder engagement in forest projects to improve outcomes and enhance forest management. Applying effective and innovative stakeholder engagement practices is especially important as the Bank approves a myriad of projects to aid in the COVID-19 response. Forests must remain an important priority in a sustainable, inclusive recovery. 

Read our analysis and recommendations here.