Environmental Insecurity, Forest Management, and State Responses in Southeast Asia

Author/s (editor/s):

Peter Dauvergne

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 1998/2 (PDF, 1.88MB)

Peter Dauvergne, 'Environmental Insecurity, Forest Management, and State Responses in Southeast Asia', IR Working Paper 1998/2, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, March 1998.

Most Southeast Asian states now embrace the language of sustainable development, environmental protection, and biodiversity conservation. But the impact of these new policies differs across political and economic systems. This paper compares the links between commercial forest management and community insecurity in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sarawak (Malaysia), focusing in particular on the roles and responses of the state. Since the late 1980s, the Philippine government has decentralised environmental management, incorporating local governments, communities, and nongovernmental organisations. Although serious problems remain, especially in the areas that retain valuable commercial timber, compared to the years of President Ferdinand Marcos (1965-86), forest management is now far more transparent, inclusive, and responsive to the environmental security of communities. These changes were possible because of the collapse of the commercial timber industry, the fall of powerful logging patrons, and the emergence of democratic practices and a vibrant civil society. Sarawak and Indonesia have also reformed environmental and forest policies since the 1990s, such as raising forest fees, tightening regulations, and increasing the penalties for illegal and destructive loggers. But these new policies have had little impact on powerful, politically-connected companies. With substantial areas of valuable timber controlled by state-business networks, and with b state controls over civil society, state and business leaders have managed to resist and undermine genuine environmental reforms. They have also disputed or ignored the evidence that environmental degradation is contributing to community insecurity. When Indonesia and Sarawak do link security and environmental degradation, the purpose is generally not to improve environmental management, but to justify and legitimise campaigns to increase control and suppress internal dissent.

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