Exclusive versus inclusive devolution in forest management: Insights from forest land allocation in Vietnam's Central Highlands

Thomas Sikor, Tran Ngoc Thanh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


The devolution of forest management is high on the agenda in international forest policy. Devolution is generally conceived as a policy that aims to include a more diverse set of actors in forest management. One of the most problematic outcomes of devolution policies, therefore, is their tendency to exclude the claims of some local actors. This paper examines the exclusionary effects of devolutions in settings characterized by overlapping state and customary regulations and links these effects to exclusive notions of property and governance contained in particular devolution policies. The paper draws on insights gained in a pilot initiative of forest devolution in Vietnam's Central Highlands. Forest land allocation, as the initiative is called in Vietnam, took an exclusive approach to devolution by assigning ownership-type rights on forest to local actors, obliging those to protect the forest against encroachment by other actors, and centering governance in the state. In this particular case, exclusive devolution failed to diminish the gap between state and customary regulations, created conflicts among local actors, and contributed to forest loss. The unintended outcomes of exclusive devolution suggest the need for an inclusive approach to devolution that accommodates diverse kinds of overlapping claims made by multiple actors. The key elements of inclusive devolution are proprietary but not ownership rights granted to individual users and nested governance relations involving state and customary actors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)644-653
Number of pages10
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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