The Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have directed increased political attention to forests and their sustainable management globally. Forest concessions are a predominant instrument for the sustainable management of public production natural forests in the tropics, but the relationship between the SDGs and forest concessions is poorly explored. Knowledge of this relationship could facilitate aligning tropical forest concession regimes with the SDGs. This research was conducted by means of an online survey, expert interviews and four regional stakeholder workshops to examine (i) how forest concessions can support the implementation of the SDGs; and (ii) what are the key barriers hindering the potential contributions of forest concessions to the SDG. The findings revealed three broad pathways through which forest concessions can support the implementation of the SDGs: (i) sustainable use and management of ecosystem goods and services as the core business; (ii) provision of public goods for socioeconomic development; and (iii) contribution to (sub) national economies through income, employment and fiscal obligations. The paper identifies region-specific (Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia) technical, legal, governance and institutional barriers limiting the potential contributions. Among these, the key barriers are unclear and conflicting tenure, and the lack of available technical and qualified personnel. The paper concludes that the contributions of forest concessions to the SDGs depend on governance context and the clear use of the instrument to deliver such objectives as better planned and implemented concessions and binding concession contracts. The paper also provides recommendations for aligning forest concessions with the SDGs.
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