PROSPER Policy Brief #8: Addressing the Shortfalls of the Community Rights Law – To Amend or Adapt?

Following passage of the Community Rights Law of 2009 with Respect to Forest Lands (CRL), and the subsequent promulgation of the implementing regulations (“the Regulations”), stakeholders identified numerous inconsistencies between the two legal instruments.1 In response, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) effectively halted the expansion of the community forestry program until the law and regulations could be harmonized. With support from the Voluntary Partnership Agreement’s (VPA) Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) a Regulations Harmonization Committee (RHC) and a USAID-supported consultant identified inconsistencies between the two instruments, and made recommendations as to how the Regulations should be altered.

The analysis revealed that some of the provisions within the Regulations directly contradict what is written in the CRL, and are therefore unenforceable. Moreover, some of these regulatory provisions were likely intended to protect communities from being unduly influenced and exploited by those with commercial interests in the forestry sector. In response, some stakeholders have called for the CRL to be amended, so the intended protections can be enshrined.

However, the passage of the CRL was tortuous, and the rights of communities hard won, so reopening the process would likely be difficult and there would be no guarantee that the amended legislation would accomplish this objective. This policy brief explores whether it would be more constructive, and effective, to focus upon implementation within the existing legal framework, rather than seek amendment of the CRL.