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Pré-publication, Document de travail Année : 2019

Why do anti-deforestation policies succeed or fail? Review of the Theory of Change emerging from the existing literature


Studies addressing the effectiveness of policies aiming at combatting deforestation have produced mixed results, showing no obvious and undebated correlations between a certain type of forest policy instrument and its success in preventing or deterring deforestation. Hence, why anti-deforestation policies succeed or not still remains unclear. This paper proposes a new reading grid of the effectiveness of anti-deforestation policies, by mapping the causal mechanisms at stake from its design to its objective of avoiding deforestation. 264 empirical evaluations are collected and reviewed in order to reveal the theory of change (ToC) that emerges from the current practice of forest policy evaluation. This mapping sheds light on the different causal steps necessary for anti-deforestation policies to be effective, and on the conditions at stake at the various stages of the causal chain, according to the existing literature. Doing so, it allows visualising the reasons for the success of anti-deforestation policies -or lack of, as per the literature corpus analysed. It also provides guidelines with regard to the elements of context to look at when designing and implementing such anti-deforestation policies. Finally, it exposes what is most researched by evaluators, as well as observes the main apparent evaluation blind spots. Our results highlight that the effectiveness of anti-deforestation policies is context-specific on political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and structural dimensions: The political willingness, the nature of available funding, the governance structure, the existence of forest-related traditions, the social and economic situation of local populations, and the nature and spatial scale of the deforestation drivers are elements that influence the success of the policy. They may play this role at different stages of the policy design and implementation: at decision-making stage, during its implementation, or when evaluating its results and outcomes. The majority of conditions reported from the literature concern the implementation phase, at the local level. In other words, according to evaluators, the success or failure of anti-deforestation policies mostly lies in its effective implementation in the field, i.e. in its ability to generate a social acceptance of and compliance to the policy rules. However, some studies also show that a successfully implemented policy does not avoid deforestation if the actual deforestation driver is not properly addressed, thus resulting in deforestation being displaced or unchanged. This underlines the importance of prior risk assessments and field studies to design an adapted policy instrument to combat deforestation.
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Dates et versions

halshs-02090658, version 1 (05-04-2019)
halshs-02090658, version 2 (17-04-2020)


  • HAL Id : halshs-02090658 , version 2


Bénédicte Niel, Yann Laurans, Renaud Lapeyre, Pascale Combes Motel, Jean-Louis Combes. Why do anti-deforestation policies succeed or fail? Review of the Theory of Change emerging from the existing literature. 2019. ⟨halshs-02090658v2⟩
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