Working group 5: Forests, politics and the infrastructures of inequality



Dr. Maria Brockhaus, Professor of International Forest Policy, University of Helsinki, Finland: 

Dr. Symphorien Ongolo, Researcher at IRD, France, and visiting scientist at the Chair of Forest and Nature Conservation Policy – University of Göttingen, Germany:

Dr. Grace Y. Wong, Associate Professor at RIHN, Japan, and researcher at SRC, Sweden: 


Tropical forests and forestlands are being claimed for a myriad of interconnected global, national and local interests embedded in flows of material (commodities), finance and ideas. Trade and investment patterns and discursive practices are intertwined with the establishment and persistence of plantations for timber, biomass resources, for the production of commodities such as soy and oil palm as well as to serve climate change mitigation, adaptation and conservation interests. These lands – conservation sites as well as plantations and their associated infrastructures – are also the scene of promises of ‘sustainable’ and climate-friendly development, poverty reduction, and ‘green’ growth. Here, government authorities, private sector actors, conservationists, communities, environmental defenders and other members of civil society execute their agency and negotiate divergent interests. Yet, there are power imbalances among these actors, often to the disadvantage of local people and environments and resulting in different and intersecting inequalities related to geographies, gender, class, ethnicity and age. In this context, inequalities are then reinforced and (re)produced over time through the discursive practices, incentive structures and power relations within the larger land use arena. In addition, there are trade-offs among the different and often conflicting objectives across levels of governance. Hence, we invite papers (particularly empirical contributions) that tackle one of the fundamental questions of a socially and environmentally just sustainable development: who – and whose society – benefit from forests and forestlands in the Global South? What are the mechanisms and infrastructures that enable and facilitate inequality related to forests and forestlands – and what are those that can help to break and transform long-standing institutional structures towards more equitable futures? 

Each of the 4-5 selected paper presentation will be commented by a discussant, followed by a moderated Q&A. Hybrid format. 

Please submit your abstract (500 words) to Maria Brockhaus (, Symphorien Ongolo ( and Grace Y. Wong (