Conflicts are common in forest management. They exist in practically all countries. However, forest related conflicts can be observed at different levels and with varying dimensions and intensities.
The reasons behind forest conflicts is inherent in forest management being multi-objective and therefore with many stakeholders (local forest users, different government agencies in-and outside the forest administration, civil society, and the private sector) often having competing interests.
In addition, forest management is usually fragmented and often subject to unclear, overlapping, competing or contradictory legal frameworks. Economic liberalization, decentralization and privatization affects forest users in diverse and unexpected ways. Whereas they offer new possibilities for benefit sharing, not all people necessarily gain from them, hence, these conditions sometimes generate new tensions, or serve to revive long-standing or latent conflicts.
Conflicts of lower intensity do not lead directly to violent death, but may play a role in fuelling structural violence such as impeded development, disease, famine, forced migration etc. The detrimental impact of such 'low intensity' conflicts that involve only minimal or sporadic violence should therefore, not be underestimated. Forest resources are so close to livelihoods, identities and security in many parts of the world, that conflicts over their control, management and use, merit our support. Rising tensions and disputes can undermine institutions- and rules that govern resource use. Escalated conflicts increase the vulnerability of poor forest users and often result in human suffering, economic decline and environmental degradation.
Resolving conflict in a collaborative way will also help to develop trust and build new channels between the various parties, and ensure inclusive solutions that incorporates everybody's views. This process can therefore, clarify the policies, institutions and processes that regulate access to - or control over - forest resources; and achieve enhanced ownership and wider support for the forest sector.
FAO has for many years, been actively involved in supporting and strengthening the capacity of forest communities, government officials, civil society and the forest industry on conflict management and dispute resolution. This has been done through generating working papers, conducting electronic conferences, publishing and disseminating information resources, developing training materials, and conducting international, regional and national training programs on the topic.
Specific and tailor made training programs have been developed in support of participatory processes like community based forest management and national forest programs. These training programs are available on request for those who are engaged with - and entrusted to lead - these processes (for further information see web page Training Programs).