Forests of peace

Countries at war over the last half century are home to more than 40% of the world’s tropical forest. Forests hold a complicated position in contemporary civil wars. They are places of warfare, where insurgents find refuge and which states constantly struggle to control; but they are also places of conservation, which have been defined by the international community as especially threatened, both by the unfolding of armed strife and by the consequences of peace agreements. As a response to this twofold challenge, forest conservation has been increasingly included in post-conflict transition policies over the last two decades. Post-conflict forest conservation often comes down to a standardized policy package, including support for forest governance, the reinforcement of forestry administrations, the restoration of damaged landscapes, and support for biodiversity protection initiatives. These policies are generally funded by foreign donors (both bilateral and multilateral) and involve a large variety of civil society parties (NGOs, charity foundations, local associations), acting as advocates, partners, and contractors. They participate in longer term transformations of the relationship between recipient states and territories, as they support the extension of state control to areas previously outside its reach, and contribute to shaping the relationship between states and populations living in and around forested areas.

Deforestation in the Goin Débé forest: rivalries for forest land in Western Côte d’Ivoire have been widespread in the aftermath of the Ivorian conflict. Maps produced within the FORPEACE project.

Through a combination of policy analysis at the national and transnational levels, ethnographic research, and GIS data, and in collaboration with an international team of researchers, I analyse how post-conflict transitions shape, steer and constrain environmental policy-making. This research is undertaken within a consortium with collaborators in France, Liberia, Colombia, and Côte d’Ivoire.

A presentation of a paper co-authored with Oscar Toukpo (University Felix Houphoët-Boigny, Abidjan), can be watched below: