Indicators of Social and Governance Issues

Forestland-Related Conflict

This indicator aims to monitor the amount of social conflict and violence stemming from decisions about the management and use of forestland and resources. Limited spatial data is available on the locations of land-related conflict, so the indicator also draws on a database of killings of land and environmental defenders as a proxy for understanding where levels of conflict may be high.  

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Where is forestland-related conflict occurring?

The Environmental Justice Atlas has mapped over 3,000 conflicts by crowdsourcing reports from reputable organizations. The atlas provides useful insight but cannot be considered comprehensive of all land-related conflict. Forest-related categories include biomass and land and biodiversity conservation conflict. An analysis of the data found that though environmental conflicts occur in high-, middle-, and low-income countries, those most directly associated with forest loss (conservation, biomass, land) account for over 50 percent of conflicts in low-income countries but less than 20 percent in high-income countries.Scheidel et al. 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2020.102104 .

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Where are land and environmental defenders under the greatest threat?

Land and environmental defenders face many threats, including violence and death as well as harassment and criminalization (making legitimate activities illegal). These threats are meant to punish them, tarnish their reputations, and tie them up in costly court battles. The Business & Human Rights Centre found that since 2015, there were over 1,150 recorded cases worldwide of death threats, judicial harassment, beatings, and harassment of defenders related to mining, oil and gas extraction, renewable energy projects, logging, ranching, and plantation agriculture.See the Human Rights Defenders & Civic Freedoms Programme, <a href="https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/from-us/human-rights-defenders-database/">https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/from-us/human-rights-defenders-database</a> . Although not spatially explicit, this database is updated regularly.  

Global Witness is a nonprofit organization tracking the number of land and environmental defenders that have been killed. Most of these defenders came from Latin America, and the conflicts were related to activities such as mining, oil and gas extraction, logging, ranching, plantation agriculture, and renewable energy projects—the same industries that are the major drivers of forest loss. Global Witness Database of Killings of Land and Environmental Defenders, 2012–18. To see more about Global Witness’s methodology, visit https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/enemies-state/ . Between 2012 and 2018, the country with the highest number of killings of environmental and land defenders was Brazil, followed by the Philippines, Colombia, Honduras, and India (See Top 10 countries with the highest number of victims, 2012–18).Global Witness Database of Killings of Land and Environmental Defenders, 2012–18. To see more about Global Witness’s methodology, visit https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/enemies-state/ . Global Witness has recorded the locations of these killings and other relevant information, including the name of the defender, his or her gender, and the related industry. Global Witness has made the database available to organizations and the media to provide insights on when, where, and why these events are taking place (see Land and environmental defenders: Killings by industry driver, 2012–18). 

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The top 10 countries with the highest number of victims, 2012–18<fn>Global Witness Database of Killings of Land and Environmental Defenders, 2012–18. To see more about Global Witness’s methodology, visit <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/enemies-state/">https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/enemies-state/</a>.</fn>

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Land and environmental defenders: Killings by industry driver, 2012–18<fn>Global Witness Database of Killings of Land and Environmental Defenders, 2012–18. See more about Global Witness’s methodology in its 2019 report, <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/enemies-state/">https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/enemies-state/</a>.</fn>

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Limitations and Future Prospects

Land conflicts are often mapped at local scales, but there is no global compilation of these conflicts or means of tracking their status. The best available global data set on forestland-related conflict is that of Global Witness, which documents the killings of environmental defenders; yet many deaths still go unreported, and injuries that do not result in death are also not systematically reported.  

Governments often do not distinguish data on violence towards environmental defenders from violence more broadly, nor do they make this information available to the public. Geographic coverage is uneven, with data collection in Africa not as robust as in Latin America. However, we do know there are efforts under way to consolidate data on criminalization globally, and national environmental conflict observatories also are being developed in a number of countries to relate conflicts to killings.See, for example, the Defending Land and Environmental Defenders Coalition, https://www.elaw.org/defenderscoalition; the Tierra de Resistentes, a collaborative investigative journalist database, https://tierraderesistentes.com/es/; and the Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental, the national data collection in Mexico, https://www.cemda.org.mx/en-2019-se-registraron-39-ataques-contra-personas-defensoras-del-medio-ambiente-15-de-ellas-fueron-asesinadas/.

Another clear limitation is the direct relationship between deforestation and conflict because there are so many factors at play. Future editions of the Global Forest Review will aim to take advantage of emerging research on forestland-related conflict, and hopefully provide insights on the relationship between deforestation trends and conflict.  

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{"Glossary":{"51":{"name":"agricultural tree crops","description":"Trees cultivated for their food, cultural, or economic values. These include oil palm, rubber, cocoa, cashew, mango, oranges (citrus), plantain, banana, and coconut.\r\n"},"94":{"name":"biodiversity intactness","description":"The proportion and abundance of a location\u0027s original forest community (number of species and individuals) that remain.\u0026nbsp;\r\n"},"95":{"name":"biodiversity significance","description":"The importance of an area for the persistence of forest-dependent species based on range rarity.\r\n"},"98":{"name":"carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)","description":"Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is a measure used to aggregate emissions from various greenhouse gases (GHGs) on the basis of their 100-year global warming potentials by equating non-CO2 GHGs to the equivalent amount of CO2.\r\n"},"99":{"name":"CO2e","description":"Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is a measure used to aggregate emissions from various greenhouse gases (GHGs) on the basis of their 100-year global warming potentials by equating non-CO2 GHGs to the equivalent amount of CO2.\r\n"},"1":{"name":"deforestation","description":"The change from forest to another land cover or land use, such as forest to plantation or forest to urban area.\r\n"},"77":{"name":"deforested","description":"The change from forest to another land cover or land use, such as forest to plantation or forest to urban area.\r\n"},"76":{"name":"degradation","description":"The reduction in a forest\u2019s ability to perform ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and water regulation, due to natural and anthropogenic changes.\r\n"},"75":{"name":"degraded","description":"The reduction in a forest\u2019s ability to perform ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and water regulation, due to natural and anthropogenic changes.\r\n"},"79":{"name":"disturbances","description":"A discrete event that changes the structure of a forest ecosystem.\r\n"},"68":{"name":"disturbed","description":"A discrete event that changes the structure of a forest ecosystem.\r\n"},"65":{"name":"driver of tree cover loss","description":"The direct cause of forest disturbance.\r\n"},"70":{"name":"drivers of loss","description":"The direct cause of forest disturbance.\r\n"},"81":{"name":"drivers of tree cover loss","description":"The direct cause of forest disturbance.\r\n"},"2":{"name":"forest","description":"Forests include tree cover greater than 30 percent tree canopy density and greater than 5 meters in height as mapped at a 30-meter Landsat pixel scale.\r\n"},"3":{"name":"forest concession","description":"A legal agreement allowing an entity the right to manage a public forest for production purposes.\r\n"},"90":{"name":"forest concessions","description":"A legal agreement allowing an entity the right to manage a public forest for production purposes.\r\n"},"53":{"name":"forest degradation","description":"The reduction in a forest\u2019s ability to perform ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and water regulation, due to natural and anthropogenic changes.\r\n"},"54":{"name":"forest disturbance","description":"A discrete event that changes the structure of a forest ecosystem.\r\n"},"100":{"name":"forest disturbances","description":"A discrete event that changes the structure of a forest ecosystem.\r\n"},"5":{"name":"forest fragmentation","description":"The breaking of large, contiguous forests into smaller pieces, with other land cover types interspersed.\r\n"},"6":{"name":"forest management plan","description":"A plan that documents the stewardship and use of forests and other wooded land to meet environmental, economic, social, and cultural objectives. Such plans are typically implemented by companies in forest concessions.\r\n"},"62":{"name":"forests","description":"Forests include tree cover greater than 30 percent tree canopy density and greater than 5 meters in height as mapped at a 30-meter Landsat pixel scale.\r\n"},"69":{"name":"fragmentation","description":"The breaking of large, contiguous forests into smaller pieces, with other land cover types interspersed.\r\n"},"80":{"name":"fragmented","description":"The breaking of large, contiguous forests into smaller pieces, with other land cover types interspersed.\r\n"},"74":{"name":"gain","description":"The establishment of tree canopy in an area that previously had no tree cover. Tree cover gain may indicate a number of potential activities, including natural forest growth or the crop rotation cycle of tree plantations.\r\n"},"7":{"name":"hectare","description":"One hectare equals 100 square meters, 2.47 acres, or 0.01 square kilometers and is about the size of a rugby field. A football pitch is slightly smaller than a hectare (pitches are between 0.62 and 0.82 hectares).\r\n"},"66":{"name":"hectares","description":"One hectare equals 100 square meters, 2.47 acres, or 0.01 square kilometers and is about the size of a rugby field. A football pitch is slightly smaller than a hectare (pitches are between 0.62 and 0.82 hectares).\r\n"},"67":{"name":"intact","description":"A forest that contains no signs of human activity or habitat fragmentation as determined by remote sensing images and is large enough to maintain all native biological biodiversity.\r\n"},"78":{"name":"intact forest","description":"A forest that contains no signs of human activity or habitat fragmentation as determined by remote sensing images and is large enough to maintain all native biological biodiversity.\r\n"},"8":{"name":"intact forests","description":"A forest that contains no signs of human activity or habitat fragmentation as determined by remote sensing images and is large enough to maintain all native biological biodiversity.\r\n"},"55":{"name":"land and environmental defenders","description":"People who peacefully promote and protect rights related to land and\/or the environment.\r\n"},"9":{"name":"loss driver","description":"The direct cause of forest disturbance.\r\n"},"10":{"name":"low tree canopy density","description":"Less than 30 percent tree canopy density.\r\n"},"84":{"name":"managed forest concession","description":"Areas where governments have given rights to private companies to harvest timber and other wood products from natural forests on public lands.\r\n"},"83":{"name":"managed forest concession maps for nine countries","description":"Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Indonesia, Liberia, and the Republic of the Congo\r\n"},"91":{"name":"megacities","description":"A city with more than 10 million people.\r\n"},"57":{"name":"megacity","description":"A city with more than 10 million people."},"56":{"name":"mosaic restoration","description":"Restoration that integrates trees into mixed-use landscapes, such as agricultural lands and settlements, where trees can support people through improved water quality, increased soil fertility, and other ecosystem services. This type of restoration is more likely in deforested or degraded forest landscapes with moderate population density (10\u2013100 people per square kilometer). "},"86":{"name":"natural","description":"A forest that is grown without human intervention.\r\n"},"12":{"name":"natural forest","description":"A forest that is grown without human intervention.\r\n"},"63":{"name":"natural forests","description":"A forest that is grown without human intervention.\r\n"},"82":{"name":"persistent gain","description":"Forests that have experienced one gain event from 2001 to 2016.\r\n"},"13":{"name":"persistent loss and gain","description":"Forests that have experienced one loss or one gain event from 2001 to 2016."},"97":{"name":"plantation","description":"An area in which trees have been planted, generally for commercial purposes.\u0026nbsp;\r\n"},"93":{"name":"plantations","description":"An area in which trees have been planted, generally for commercial purposes.\u0026nbsp;\r\n"},"88":{"name":"planted","description":"A forest composed of trees that have been deliberately planted and\/or seeded by humans.\r\n"},"14":{"name":"planted forest","description":"A forest composed of trees that have been deliberately planted and\/or seeded by humans.\r\n"},"73":{"name":"planted forests","description":"A forest composed of trees that have been deliberately planted and\/or seeded by humans.\r\n"},"15":{"name":"primary forest","description":"Old-growth forests that are typically high in carbon stock and rich in biodiversity. The GFR uses a humid tropical primary rainforest data set, representing forests in the humid tropics that have not been cleared in recent years.\r\n"},"64":{"name":"primary forests","description":"Old-growth forests that are typically high in carbon stock and rich in biodiversity. The GFR uses a humid tropical primary rainforest data set, representing forests in the humid tropics that have not been cleared in recent years.\r\n"},"58":{"name":"production forest","description":"A forest where the primary management objective is to produce timber, pulp, fuelwood, and\/or nonwood forest products."},"89":{"name":"production forests","description":"A forest where the primary management objective is to produce timber, pulp, fuelwood, and\/or nonwood forest products.\r\n"},"87":{"name":"seminatural","description":"A managed forest modified by humans, which can have a different species composition from surrounding natural forests.\r\n"},"59":{"name":"seminatural forests","description":"A managed forest modified by humans, which can have a different species composition from surrounding natural forests. "},"96":{"name":"shifting agriculture","description":"Temporary loss or permanent deforestation due to small- and medium-scale agriculture.\r\n"},"17":{"name":"tree cover","description":"All vegetation greater than five meters in height and may take the form of natural forests or plantations across a range of canopy densities. Unless otherwise specified, the GFR uses greater than 30 percent tree canopy density for calculations.\r\n"},"71":{"name":"tree cover canopy density is low","description":"Less than 30 percent tree canopy density.\r\n"},"60":{"name":"tree cover gain","description":"The establishment of tree canopy in an area that previously had no tree cover. Tree cover gain may indicate a number of potential activities, including natural forest growth or the crop rotation cycle of tree plantations."},"18":{"name":"tree cover loss","description":"The removal or mortality of tree cover, which can be due to a variety of factors, including mechanical harvesting, fire, disease, or storm damage. As such, loss does not equate to deforestation. "},"19":{"name":"tree plantation","description":"An agricultural plantation of fast-growing tree species on short rotations for the production of timber, pulp, or fruit.\r\n"},"72":{"name":"tree plantations","description":"An agricultural plantation of fast-growing tree species on short rotations for the production of timber, pulp, or fruit.\r\n"},"85":{"name":"trees outside forests","description":"Trees found in urban areas, alongside roads, or within agricultural land\u0026nbsp;are often referred to as Trees Outside Forests (TOF).\u202f\r\n"}}}