1. Values, Interests and Conflicts


Grayson (1995) defines forest policy simply as public actions significantly affecting the use and management of forests. Krott (2005) argues that "forest policy is the societal control of interest conflicts" related to forests with the cooperation of stakeholders and implementation of a variety of regulatory interests.

Forest policy involves the setting of public aims and goals for forestry and the choosing, regulating and implementing of policy measures for the fulfillment of the aims and goals by monitoring achievements. Similarly, forest policy can be considered a public system designed to steer forestry and forest development, in concordance with the sector policy descriptions (as given earlier).

With regards to the "politics of forests" or to the "central concept of power" Krott (2005) makes an observation that in practice power is a factor that comes in many forms and is often strongest when concealed. The powerful do not need loud voices. He continues that "...power resists scientific analysis so all other aspects of forest policy are easier to discuss than that of power in this sector."


The concept of value has a variety of meanings. In a policy context values can be seen as general and permanent inclinations concerning the choice of goals. On the other hand, values can also be considered to be the basic or fundamental goals of human activities (Allardt 1983).

What is the role of values in policy formulation? In principle, the general and permanent values in society have a significant influence on sectoral policies. Indeed, some of the most fundamental social values and public goals such as welfare (satisfaction of basic human needs), economic growth, justice and democracy and other values (i.e., safety, employment, participation, respect of nature) are also referred to in forest policy documents. However, in reality the consideration of important values in policy documents proves difficult and may often only focus on recognizing conflicts between generally accepted social values.

Important principles, such as the principle of sustainability are also expressions of fundamental values (i.e., equal and just distribution of resources to future generations, and respect for nature). Both in national and international forest policy documents sustainability has become a general norm to be followed (more about the definition of sustainability in POLICY4).

In decision-making processes, politics makes reference to values that are anchored in society. A small sector such as forestry is highly dependent on the predominant values found in politics and society to secure the acceptance of objectives and interests relating to forestry (Krott 2005).

Stakeholders also have their system of values. According to Gluck;

"... the standards by which stakeholders evaluate their potential benefits are also of diverse origin. Values play an important role. They provide an orientation to stakeholders by characterizing their life philosophies, as well as being an additional emotional anchor. The value systems of forest stakeholders are determined by a high estimation of timber production on one hand and nature on the other." (Gluck 1986).


Recent forest policy research has emphasized the importance of interests. This relates to the action-oriented behaviour of stakeholders in the policy arena. The focus on interest is seen to be more realistic than the approach based on value formulations (at least to the extent where individual stakeholders and politicians are concerned) as can be seen in the following statements:

"Interests, based on action orientation, play a major role in determining all measures taken by politicians. Political players are subject to legal obligations, and they acknowledge certain values and proclaim high goals. Yet, when it comes to the action they take, all these goals are hardly binding; politicians tend to follow their self-interests as far as possible" (Krott 2005).

"Interests provide an orientation for forest stakeholders concerning the state of the forest and their evaluation of it. Furthermore they provide the motivation for the actions taken by the forest stakeholders. This would mean that interests constitute far more than values, even if the latter are honest convictions. Currently there is doubt as to whether values form a basis of action (albeit only to a limited degree). This is why surveys on values of small private forest owners, for example, do not provide sufficient information on the actions taken by them in practice" (Krott 2005)

An action orientation focus on forest policy research emphasizes individual decisions based on the interests of stakeholders rather than social choices in forest policy.


Conflicts in the area of forestry mainly relate to confrontations between stakeholders with regard to values, interests, goals and means and distribution of benefits and costs. Speaking about the broader reality of conflicts Rupesinghe (1991) identifies ideological conflicts, governance and democratic conflicts, resource-based conflicts (such as oil, rivers, water and forests) and identity conflicts.

The increasing variety of values and interests related to forests create conflicts. Thus the conflicts around the goals of forest policies may not always be the result of inappropriate policy planning but may reflect the existence of real value conflicts in the broader society at large. Conflicts are the inherent driving force of politics, although politics and policy making also requires cooperation. Forest policy is necessary for regulation and conflict resolution but also for other purposes including combating forest decrease and harnessing the development potential related to forests.

One Response to “1. Values, Interests and Conflicts”

  1. Sanket Says:
    If there is a case where forests are considered as oxygen gardens, and a fund which may have been setup to collate afforestation projects is not in a position to allocate or disburse the capital, how does this affect the NPV? How is the NPV of a forest calculated when it is a sacred grove, where people worship the trees, as the case maybe in a place like India? On the basis of what philosophy is a forest commodified or exempted from the forest policy?

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