Forest negotiations at the United Nations: explaining co-operation and discord

Humphreys, David (2001). Forest negotiations at the United Nations: explaining co-operation and discord. Forest Policy and Economics, 3(3-4) pp. 125–135.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1389-9341(01)00039-9

Abstract

The paper examines the three rounds of intergovernmental negotiations that took place in the period 1990–2000. These are the UNCED forest negotiations (1990–1992), the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (1995–1997) and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (1997–2000). During this period negotiations became less conflictual and more cooperative. The paper explains this shift with reference to bargaining theory. There are two broad approaches to bargaining theory (although the names used to describe these approaches vary between theorists). The first is the distributive/positional approach where actors view each other as adversaries, outcomes are decided according to the relative strength of the actors, and negotiation is seen as a zero-sum game. The second is the integrative/principled approach where actors view each other more as partners addressing a common problem, outcomes are decided according to principles and fair standards, and negotiation is seen as a positive-sum game. The UNCED forest negotiations were characterised almost entirely by distributive/positional bargaining, whereas the IPF/IFF process saw a movement towards the integrative/principled model made possible by an emphasis on less politically contentious issues. There were three results to this. First, a new body of soft international law on forests, the IPF/IFF Proposals for Action, was agreed. Second, an international forests regime emerged during the 1990s (of which the IPF/IFF proposals are a significant part). Third, states have agreed to create a new forests body, the United Nations Forum on Forests.

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