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International Conference on Collective Forest Tenure and Regulatory Reform in China, February 28-29, 2008

An international conference on collective forest tenure and regulatory reform in China was held in Beijing on February 28-29, 2008.
Forest tenure reform in China’s collective forests is a process of historical importance and with widespread and long-lasting impacts. It sets the institutional foundation for sustainable economic development and forest resource use in China’s mountain and forest areas, and is therefore becoming the most profound change in the New Countryside Development Initiatives.

Initiated in the Fujian Province in 2005, collective forest tenure reform has spread quickly across China. By early 2007, 12 provinces had announced their reform plan. The reform is expected to be completed in all of the provinces in China with collectively owned forests by 2010.

Forest tenure reform is also a process of broad participation. A number of thematic studies have been commissioned by the forestry authority in the decision formation process. National and international organizations (universities, research institutions, the World Bank, RRI, etc.) have contributed to various aspects of the political process. Large amounts of information have been generated through the experimental and research activities. This research, as well as that from other countries undergoing similar transitions, indicates that tenure reform sets the foundation for sustainable economic development; it by itself is not sufficient. The regulatory framework that controls the forest owner’s ability to use and benefit from the trees and forests is also critical, as is the ability of forest owners to organize in enterprises to process and market their products.

The collective forest tenure reform already underway in China and the broader reform agenda have attracted the interest of academics and policy makers around the world. Interest in collecting data  and conducting analysis on China’s tenure reform process and its performance has grown. At the same time, Chinese decision makers and researchers realize that they can benefit from international experience and lessons learned if they want to reduce errors in their effort to improve their regulatory framework, allowing forest owners and entrepreneurs to fully use and benefit from their forests.

For these reasons an international conference is to be held in Beijing, co-sponsored by the State Forestry Administration of China, the World Bank, Peking University, and the Rights and Resources Initiative. The conference will provide an opportunity for participants to review progress on China’s collective forest tenure reform, identify recommended next steps in the reform process, and enhance international collaboration so that a better international environment is created for China to improve forest management and rural development, and to make a greater contribution to the management of global forest resources and climate change initiatives.