Press release

Countries Seeking to Protect Forests Should Take Their Lead From Five Developing Countries

February 21, 2024

February 22, 2024 – As governments face increasing pressure to protect their forests, new research highlights the importance of sharing the wins and setbacks of tried and tested action in the Global South.

A new report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) analyzes successes and challenges encountered by five developing countries in their attempts to reduce deforestation and improve forest conservation. From these experiences, it distils seven common findings to help guide governments seeking similar goals in a fast-evolving regulatory context.

“Forests sustain and protect us in a myriad of ways, but they are disappearing—fast. The world has lost 420 million hectares of forest in the past 3 decades. That’s an area bigger than India,” says Cristina Larrea, IISD’s lead on sustainability standards. “But there is hope. We must not lose sight of the efforts many countries in the Global South have been undertaking to curb this trend for many decades, nor the value of sharing the lessons they have learned to inspire policy action based on best practices.”

The report outlines and compares various policy measures that Costa Rica, Gabon, Indonesia, Peru, and Rwanda have put in place to address deforestation and explores the role of voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) in complementing them.

It further finds that governments tend to have more success preserving and restoring forests if they use a combination of measures tailored to the local context and targeted at high-risk areas. They also stand to gain from supporting producers with maintaining compliance, mobilizing funds from both the public and private sectors, leveraging VSSs to support policies, and using physical and digital monitoring to measure results and flag issues early.

“Environmental issues are getting harder to ignore in the international trade arena,” says Florencia Sarmiento, Policy Analyst, IISD. “Governments must comply with an emerging suite of international regulations and frameworks, including several unilateral trade-related measures, such as due diligence requirements, aimed at tackling deforestation driven by the production and trade of commodities. Many have also started looking into cooperative approaches, such as including forest conservation provisions in free trade agreements.”

As policy-makers gather for the World Trade Organization’s Thirteenth Ministerial Conference next week, IISD is bringing together thought leaders at the Trade + Sustainability Hub to discuss how trade policy can deliver on critical sustainability challenges such as deforestation. IISD experts will share findings from the new report in a session on how we can achieve fair and inclusive value chains that are deforestation-free.


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About the State of Sustainability Initiatives

IISD’s State of Sustainability Initiatives advances sustainable and inclusive value chains by providing credible and solutions-oriented research, dialogue, and strategic advice for decision-makers about voluntary sustainability standards and other supportive initiatives.

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.