Law enforcement needs to be strong for laws that protect forests from illegal deforestation and forest degradation to be effective. Weak law enforcement often stems from a lack of capacity among law enforcers, poor coordination among stakeholders, land tenure issues and confusion or competing claims, and the inability of governments to execute policies and enforce their rules/laws clearly and transparently. Corruption can also be an issue, with collusion between large groups that are drivers of deforestation and those in power being a strong force against changes in business-as-usual practices. Addressing these challenges will entail increasing investment in capacity building activities, enhancing data transparency and improving coordination between stakeholders and policies.

A study in Vietnam found aspects of participatory approaches introduced by international organizations in collaboration with governmental and domestic non-governmental actors were deemed to reduce certain corruption risks. The types of anti-corruption activities being implemented, including social safeguards, grievance and fund management mechanisms, reveal attempts to strengthen principal-agent type interventions and promote participation as a norm within policymaking processes, and support law enforcement efforts. Yet lobbying at the interface between the private sector and politicians at provincial level, and limited involvement of local citizens in certain stakeholder processes point to competing pro-corruption social norms and the relative superficiality of some REDD+ consultations. While anti-corruption activities can have positive effects and should continue to be pursued, project implementers must be vigilant in guarding against corruption to ensure laws are properly enforced (Williams and Dupuy 2018[1]).

In the DRC, deforestation is partly driven by the inconsistency of the Forest Code and weak enforcement leading to ineffective forest management. Interviews with officials from the Ministry of Environment revealed that low wages and insufficient resources for monitoring contribute to weak law enforcement. These explanations are interlinked with the unwillingness of both the central government and local officials to enforce laws and monitor logging activities. The benefits they derive from logging operators through bribes demotivate them to enforce the laws. Forestry officers also supplement their low salaries through bribery and corruption. This is clearly demonstrated via the allocation of artisanal logging permits and mechanisms of enforcing the laws at the local level. These processes are driven by vested interests and rent-seeking behaviour of the administrative authorities while ecological concerns regarding forests are undermined (Samndong et al. 2018[2]).

Generally, when REDD+ is implemented at the group level, a mechanism is needed to ensure that individual villagers comply with restrictions in order for conditionality to be met. Explicit enforcement, which can be measured, primarily relies on patrols and punishments for those caught perpetrating illegal activities within the REDD+ forest. Yet, in some successful REDD+ pilot projects in Tanzanian villages, the villagers do not allocate any funds to this type of protection. One explanation for this lack of enforcement funding is that there has been considerable effort within these villages to build institutions. Experience with such institutions may reflect a tacit assumption that “social fencing” – a sense of collective responsibility to protect a commonly held and used resource – is sufficient to protect the REDD+ forests. Social fencing may ensure compliance by influencing “insiders” to adhere to village-level regulations. However, outsiders who are not part of the village and do not share in any REDD+ payment are unlikely to be subject to such pressures as they do not have a stake in the REDD+ forest, and thus are not affected by REDD+ payments or a shared sense of future (Robinson et al. 2016[3]). Even without a formal mechanism for law enforcement, a strong sense of collective responsibility over a public good may be enough to generate compliance.

In Vietnam’s Dak Lak province, illegal deforestation continues to be widespread, partly due to weak law enforcement in areas of forest managed by state forest authorities and state-owned companies. Service providers are paid to conduct patrols and take other measures to protect forests, but community-led patrolling is challenging. The payments people receive are deemed too low for the time and effort they expend traversing harsh craggy mountains. Community patrol teams are unable to impose fines, and lack the means to protect themselves, in part because villagers lack proper uniforms, personal protective equipment and other facilities. In contrast, violators are increasingly aggressive and better equipped. The fragmented and remote nature of forests also makes their protection even more challenging. Natural forest in Dak Lak continues to be cut down illegally and encroached upon, while forest owners fail to take adequate measures to prevent the situation, and often shift the responsibility to others. Challenges in addressing violations are poor facilities and resources for those responsible for enforcing forestry laws, and an unclear monitoring and evaluation system framework (Pham et al. 2021[4]).  

In Brazil, law enforcement is weak at both federal and state levels, and environmental agencies at all levels are understaffed. Data show that some state governments in the Brazilian Amazon played a key role in creating protected areas (PAs) since 2003, which helped decrease deforestation rates. Although Brazil made remarkable progress in creating PAs in the subsequent eight years, with considerable participation by the state governments, the future protection of forests cannot be taken for granted. Encroachments on PAs and indigenous lands are frequent, and deforestation rates remain high and vulnerable to market forces. Brazil and the Amazonian states should not wait for REDD+ money to solve these problems. Rather, they should immediately increase their investment in institutional capacity building to ensure they are ready to manage REDD+ money when (or if) it becomes available. Similarly, the federal government should consider REDD+ as just one part of an overall strategy to reduce carbon emissions (Toni 2011[5]).


Launched in 2018, Indonesia’s One Map Policy geoportal is a policy that aims to create one integrated map hosted on a geoportal database by harmonizing data across 19 ministries and government agencies. The government has found that 40 percent of the country’s land mass is disputed (The Jakarta Post 2020[6]). Since then, the policy has helped address some land tenure issues by increasing transparency and open data. The initiative is a step towards addressing the disputes and overlapping land claims resulting from inconsistent demarcation of land from different state institutions, and identifying the scale of overlapping tenure (Umali 2020[7]).

There is some improvement to be made with improving overall accessibility. Concern exists among civil society and Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs) around the inclusion of traditional customary land, which has historically been excluded in government geospatial planning documents; the main dataset of this integrated map. Furthermore, the One Map Policy geoportal is only fully accessible to key government ministers and departments. Strengthening the One Map Policy by incorporating participatory maps that cover customary lands and forests and providing public access to the map could help reduce the threat of land grabbing and conversion (Haupt et al. 2021[8]).

[1] Williams, D.A., and Dupuy, K.E., 2019. Will REDD+ Safeguards Mitigate Corruption? Qualitative Evidence from Southeast Asia. The Journal of Development Studies 55, 2129–2144.

[2] Samndong, R.A., Bush, G., Vatn, A., Chapman, M., 2018. Institutional analysis of causes of deforestation in REDD+ pilot sites in the Equateur province: Implication for REDD+ in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Land Use Policy 76, 664–674.

[3] Robinson, E., Albers, H., Lokina, R., Meshack, C., 2016. Allocating Group-Level Payments for Ecosystem Services: Experiences from a REDD+ Pilot in Tanzania. Resources 5, 43. [4] Pham, Thu Thuy, Le, T.T.T., Tuyet, H.N.K., Pham, V.T., Tran, P.H.N.K., Tran, T.D., Tran, N.M.H., Nguyen, T.T.A., Nguyen, T.V.A., 2021a. Impacts of Payment for Forest Ecosystem Services in Protecting Forests in Dak Lak Province, Vietnam. Forests 12, 1383.

[5] Toni, F., 2011. Decentralization and REDD+ in Brazil. Forests 2, 66–85.

[6] Aquil, A.M.I. 2020. Concerns of transparency, inclusivity raised as One Map nears completion. The Jakarta Post

[7] Umali, T., 2020. Completion of One Map Policy targeted for end of 2020. OpenGov Asia.

[8] Haupt, F., Manirajah, M., Conway, D., Duchelle, A., Matson, E., Peteru, S., Pham, T.T., 2021. Taking stock of national climate action for forests: 2021 NYDF Assessment report.