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Balancing forests and development: 2020 NYDF Assessment report

Published: November 18, 2020

Large-scale, top down development projects threaten tropical forests and bring few benefits for local communities. The 2020 NYDF Assessment report examine progress toward Goals 3 & 4.

The 2020 NYDF Progress Assessment report on Goals 3 & 4 assesses progress on global efforts to end forest loss from infrastructure, mining, and other extractive industries (Goal 3) while supporting sustainable and prosperous livelihoods for forest-dependent communities, smallholders, small-scale miners (Goal 4). The report offers a stark picture of the threat that planned infrastructure corridors pose to remaining intact tropical forests, even as they are unlikely to deliver benefits to forest communities. 

Current levels of government, corporate, and financial transparency are not enough to stem the tide of harmful development. A fundamental realignment of economic development - away from consumption and exploitation, and toward alternative models - is needed to meet the world's ambitious forest and climate goals.

2020 is a crucial year for review of and reflection on forest goals for the NYDF and the global community. NYDF Goal 1 calls for halving the rate of natural forest loss by 2020. But instead, since the NYDF was launched in 2014, the rate of natural forest loss has increased. Ending natural forest loss by 2030 will require a rapid paradigm shift by the global community towards valuing forests for their essential benefits and prioritizing their protection. The 2020 NYDF Progress Assessment focuses on two complementary goals for achieving sustainable development: Goals 3 & 4.

Key Messages

Expanding footprints and rising demand threaten intact forests
  • The pace of large-scale infrastructure development and natural resource extraction is increasing across many tropical forest regions, posing a rising threat to intact forest landscapes. Demand for mined metals and minerals and fossil fuels is still growing, putting increased pressure on highly biodiverse forests that play host to significant levels of deposits of these valuable commodities.
Few benefits accrue to local communities
  • The largely top-down development plans driving this growth in infrastructure and extractive industries often fail to provide commensurate investments in sustainable local economies.
Government plans to reach forest goals lag on implementation
  • Forest country governments have taken steps to align macroeconomic planning processes and national policies with forest goals. However, implementation of these programs and and enforcement of these policies is progressing slowly, while some environmental protections are being rolled back.
Corporate transparency and smallholder support efforts must expand
  • Companies within the extractive sector are increasingly recognizing their forest impacts and corresponding responsibilities; however, corporate transparency related to forests remains limited. Company support for small-scale supply chain actors and affected local communities is not able to address underlying structural vulnerabilities.
Indigenous peoples and local communities have mobilized for their rights and livelihoods
  • Indigenous peoples, local communities, smallholders, and civil society actors have mobilized to gain access to and influence planning to protect forest lands from harmful development. Local communities have also made progress in demonstrating the viability of community-based natural resource management and other bottom-up approaches to development and forest protection.
Finance still flows to destructive activities, despite principles and safeguards
  • Many financial institutions, multilateral development banks, and bilateral donors have adopted policies, signed on to principles, and developed safeguards meant to address social and environmental risks across all sectors; however, major shortcomings remain in the implementation of these protections. Funding flows toward interventions to alleviate poverty while reducing deforestation are miniscule compared to non-forest-aligned investments.
Systemic economic and governance barriers hinder progress

  • Progress toward NYDF Goals 3&4 is impeded by a number of barriers. A widespread lack of transparency continues to impair accountability of governments, companies, international donors, and other financial actors, while power imbalances lock many stakeholders out of decisionmaking. Especially in the Global North, economies continue to rely on commodities produced in developing and emerging economies, enabled by production practices linked with deforestation.

This report is the result of a collaborative effort of the NYDF Assessment Partners, other key research partners, and countless individuals who contributed data, time, and feedback. CDP served as a Data Partner for this report. Other important and original research was conducted by Imaflora, The Alliance of Biodiversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (Bioversity-CIAT Alliance), Climate Focus, and the team at [email protected] led by Anthony Bebbington and Denise Humphreys Bebbington. The report also drew from the 2019 Forest-Smart Mining reports commissioned by the World Bank and delivered by a consortium including Fauna & Flora InternationalLevin Sources, Fairfields Consulting, and Swedish Geological AB.

This project is supported by the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA), the Good Energies Foundation, and the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag via the NYDF Global Platform.



Further Resources

Balancing forests and development: 2020 NYDF Assessment report
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