Hybrid Governance of Transboundary Forest Commons in the Rohingya Crisis

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"There has been a shift in both Myanmar and Bangladesh in the governance of forest commons away from top down, state led management, towards a more community oriented approach incorporating local knowledge. However, in both Bangladesh and Myanmar, the Rohin gya have been actively excluded from hybrid governance regimes, undermining their agency in managing the resources upon which they depend. The Rohingya are subjected to two different regime types of hybrid governance. In Myanmar, the Burma Citizenship Law of 1982 excludes the Rohingya from, among other things, the 2017 New Community Forest Instructions, which transfer the rights to forest land to local communities and give communities rights to commercially sell timber and non timber forest products. Across the border in Bangladesh’s Teknaf district, Social Forestry (SF) programmes have been set up to improve rural livelihoods and alleviate poverty among forest dependent people by managing afforestation to mitigate the rampant rate of deforestation. Seventee n stakeholder groups were identified in relation to their governance in a study by Islam and Sato (in Tani and Rahman, 2018). None of them, however, include the Rohingya or their representatives. Due to the acute need for building makeshift shelters and us ing biomass for fire, more than half of the 15 year old SF programme forest has been cleared by the Rohingya. This case highlights that the exclusion of the Rohingya from hybrid governance regimes predisposes SF programmes to a failure by premature and uns ustainable use of the forest commons. While being mindful of the critique t hat indigenous users of forest resources are just as capable of their over utilisation, the exclusion of forest users from key decision making renders SF programmes incapable of sup porting local rural livelihoods. Without the Rohingya, prospects for sustainable forest governance in both Myanmar and Bangladesh cannot be realised. The Rohingya’s social traditions of forestry resource organisation needs to be negotiated with the wider g overnment community regimes of governance. Due to the difference of topography between the flat Rakhine state and the hilly Teknaf district, the Rohingya’s indigenous knowledge of forest use is inadequate, as demonstrated by the practice of pulling out tre e roots, which in hilly areas increases the chance of landslides during monsoons. The inclusion of Rohingya would therefore have the much needed effect of exchanging localised knowledge to address unsustainable practices like roots pulling. In this way, re presentatives from the Rohingya and Teknaf communities could cooperate to produce collective ecological knowledge of sustainable and efficient use of the forest commons, suited to Teknaf’s topography. The case of the Rohingya highlights the importance of i nclusive and participatory hybrid governance regimes, which are needed to ensure that transboundary forest commons traversing the Myanmar Bangladesh border are governed sustainably and equitably."



commons, forests, governance