Certifying Integrity? Forest Certification and Anti-Corruption
Forest certification schemes regulate forest exploitation and trade across many countries. In the absence of a multilateral agreement on limiting deforestation, they provide a framework of rules to balance the social, economic and ecological values of forest resources, bringing together stakeholders such as environmental NGOs, local forest managers, and major buyers of forest products. Expansion of these schemes into tropical forested countries that display poor governance and high levels of perceived corruption has raised questions about these schemes' performance in such contexts. This U4 Issue Paper asks whether forest certification is capable of addressing issues of corruption in poor governance settings, referring throughout to the case of the Forest Stewardship Council. We find that forest certification is not primarily geared towards detecting and preventing corruption in the forest sector. In country settings where corruption is sporadic but not systemic, certification may have some anti-corruption effects due to its role in documenting forest management practices and applying third- party monitoring. Its piecemeal implementation coupled with limited engagement with national forest policy-makers and -frameworks means certification efforts in settings where corruption is systemic is likely to make few, if any, anti-corruption contributions. In such settings, donors can help build a more explicit anti-corruption focus by ensuring certification is complemented by other policy initiatives aimed at improving national forest governance.