Forests are governed by a combination of sub-national and national as well as global and regional regimes. Policy analysis is mainly focused on international forest governance by global forest and forest-related regimes, e.g., on sustainable forest management, environmental issues such as biodiversity and climate change, trade, and other forest-related issues.
However, the international forest regime is described as multi-centric and fragmented due to the absence of a unifying legally binding agreement on world’s forests.
Consequently, the international forest regime has lately been conceptualised as an international forest regime complex (IFRC). According to Keohane and Victor, a regime complex “is a set of specialised sectoral and issue-based regimes and other governance arrangements that are more or less loosely linked together, sometimes mutually reinforcing but at other times overlapping and conflicting.”
The exceptionally high abundance of various international regimes addressing forests in multiple ways and the resulting fragmentation of the regime complex are due to the multiple interests of actors from several sectors as well as particular interests of states from the global North and South on the sovereignty over forest resources and forests as resources.
In this vein, regional regimes which consider forest issues directly or indirectly have drawn valuable attention to political and academic points of view in recent years.
Additionally, regional regimes with members from the same ecological contexts are more likely to develop a joint conception of what is perceived as a problem to be tackled. Hence, forests are put on the policy agenda in more coherent ways, than in settings with members from quite different contexts, such as the global North and South. Regional regimes have a beneficial influence on member states and their national interests, and they also support specific government bureaucracies and policy sectors to accomplish their goals.
For example, member states benefit through reducing contracting costs, providing sectoral focal points, enhancing information, and providing professionals to the secretariat.
Thus far, there has been a lot of research effort to analyse the structures established by international, state-driven formal agreements, conventions or treaty-based regimes such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as well as non-governmental/private sector-initiated transnational regimes such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest certification.
It also enables regime research beyond formalistic and often rather juridical accounts, which qualify institutions’ sets of rules as a regime only if based on formal explicit arrangements that are incorporated into documents (e.g., treaties or conventions) which Young called ‘constitutional’ arrangements.
However, the structure of highly formalised regimes includes the form of representation, the allocation of voting power, the relationship between representative bodies and management, the number of employees, sources of funding, annual budgets, and so on.
On the contrary, Young found that “formalisation is clearly not a necessary condition for the effective operation of international regimes.” In fact, rather formalised forest-related and forest-focused regimes, e.g., on biodiversity and on forest management, have been reported to have only limited effects. Hence, the study of highly versus weakly formalised regimes is necessary to enable comparison between the political options on a formal–informal continuum and for analysing the implications for policy development by the respective type of regime.
Biermann and Siebenhüner observed that the influence of international bureaucracies (secretariats located within one of the member states) within highly formalised regimes on, e.g., biodiversity and climate change provides for quite different degrees of autonomy and authority over the regimes’ policies.
However, no systematic and conceptual distinction has been made between regime structures, which once agreed, are rather persistent institutional settings, and regime policies, which are constantly developing over time.
In addition, the analysis of regime complexes allows for comparisons across whole issue areas, especially fields which are not governed by a single, strongly formalised, unifying regime, or which from a global or Western perspective do not seem to be governed at all in the otherwise anarchic international system.
In this way, the notion of a regime complex again opens the analytically valuable notions of implicit and informal aspects of regimes, which thus far have often suffered from rather formalistic applications of the regime concept. The key importance is that the comparison in this study is of regional regime responses to deforestation and forest degradation.
To exemplify this conceptual distinction between regime structures and regime policies empirically, this study employs the cases of the highly formalized forest-related regional regime of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the less formalised forest-focused Montréal Process (MP) regime.
This study attempts not to be exhaustive but rather to demonstrate the ways in which they may have synergy or disparity in their institutional design and forest policy development.
However, the aim of this study is to analyse the institutional design of this forest-related regime (i.e., ASEAN) and demonstrate how it addresses forest issues through active policy development compared to the forest-focused regime (i.e., MP).
To do that, this study highlights, in particular, the historical constitutional adoption of both regimes, which explains the functional mechanisms of the whole institutions. At the same time, the empirical questions are how does ASEAN as a forest-related regime within a broader economic integration umbrella become relevant for forest issues in terms of regional forest policies, and how have both regimes developed forest policies within their structures with a high versus low degree of formality?
We do so by pursuing the following guiding research questions:
•How does the institutional design of ASEAN and MP make them forest-related/focused regimes structurally?
•How do both regimes illustrate the adoption of coherent and consistent regional forest policies?
The ASEAN & MP Forest Regimes
ASEAN is a regional intergovernmental organisation comprising 10 countries in Southeast Asia which adhere to the principles of the United Nations Charter. Besides economic integration, this forest-related regime promotes sustainable development through protection of the region’s environment, sustainable use of natural resources, preservation of cultural heritage, and ensuring a high quality of life (ASEAN Charter: Article 1, Clause 9).
Meanwhile, MP is a non-treaty- and voluntary agreement-based regional forest-focused organization comprising 12 member countries in the northern and southern hemispheres aiming to conserve and sustainably manage their respective forests.
[Figure 1] Caption: Member states of forest-related Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and forest-focused Montréal Process (MP) regional regimes (adapted from Google Maps).
However, ASEAN covers about 20 percent of global biodiversity, approximately 35 percent of global mangrove forests and 30 percent of coral reefs.
By contrast, MP covers 90 percent of the world’s temperate and boreal forests, 49 percent of all forests, 58 percent of planted forests, 49 percent of global roundwood production, and 31 percent of the world’s population.
The ASEAN officially expanded its scope to forestry in 1981 by the Jakarta Consensus and tries to resolve forest and environmental problems (e.g., haze air pollution, deforestation and forest degradation, climate change, biodiversity loss, water pollution) by cooperation and collaboration among the 10 ASEAN member states.
On the other hand, the creation of the forest-focused MP was a direct response to the Forest Principles developed at the 1992 Earth Summit. The promotion of sustainable forest management (SFM) is of the utmost interest and priority to ASEAN member states through developing their respective country-specific national SFM criteria and indicators (C&Is).
Meanwhile, MP promotes SFM C&I by simplifying the essential components of SFM by providing a common understanding, as well as a universal framework for describing each individual country’s progress towards sustainability at a national level.
Indonesia holds the hegemonic position based on the highest gross domestic product (GDP) (US$1,015,539.02 million in 2017) and forest area (91,010 thousand ha) among the ASEAN member states.
Meanwhile, Indonesia was blacklisted by ASEAN member states for haze pollution (particularly in Kalimantan and Sumatra) which affects mainly Malaysia and Singapore. Among MP member states, the US holds the top position in terms of GDP (US$19,390,604.00 million in 2017), but Russia is the leading member based on forest area (814,889.48 thousand ha).
However, ASEAN and MP show a striking difference in the range of issues covered in and continuous change over time. ASEAN’s foundation ideology was not only to reinforce the economic and social stability of the Southeast Asian region but also to establish stability and security from external intervention.
Besides economic integration, in 1977, ASEAN adopted agricultural cooperation for agriculture and forestry, aiming to strengthen international competitiveness in the food, agriculture, and forestry sectors.
Notably, in 1981, ASEAN took strong initiatives on forests through endorsement of the Jakarta Consensus on ASEAN Tropical Forestry, which was the first blueprint of the ASEAN common forestry policy and technical cooperation, cooperation in intra-ASEAN trade, and an ASEAN common stand on international issues on forestry.
In contrast, MP mainly focuses on SFM issues related to temperate and boreal forests since its initiation as a response to the Rio Forest Principles.
In order to have a high degree of comparability between cases, ASEAN and MP were selected as intergovernmental institutions. The EU, as a potentially alternative case, was not selected as it has competencies of supranational nature, leading to quite distinct rivalry among its bureaucracy and Member States especially in forest-related issues.
ASEAN & MP Structures
ASEAN encompasses Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR or Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It was founded in 1967 by the nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand and, over time, the group expanded to include its current 10 members.
Notably, Papua New Guinea and East Timor are currently seeking accession to ASEAN as full members. However, the latest expansion was the creation in 1997 of ASEAN Plus Three consisting of ASEAN, China, Japan, and Korea.
On the other hand, the countries of MP are Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Korea, the United States, and Uruguay. The 10 founding members of MP were Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, and the US.
The memberships of ASEAN and MP are restrictive by design. For example, admission to ASEAN is geologically restricted to Southeast Asian states, and the candidate country must fulfil the admission criterion according to the Charter rules of Article 6  (Chapter III); in contrast, MP membership is voluntary and inclusive of those countries with temperate and boreal forests.
Theoretically, the hegemonic position of any member state in both forest governance groups is not significant through the lens of financial contribution to the regime. Notably, it is undeniable that Indonesia is the leading hegemonic country among the ASEAN member states based on, for example, the ASEAN Secretariat being in Jakarta, GDP, forest area, and its hosting of high-profile events including the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2008 in Bali, the 2009 World Ocean Conference in Menado/Sulawesi, and the 2013 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.
In MP, the GDP-based hegemonic member states are America and China, and the forest area-based powerful member states are Russia and America.
However, ASEAN started with the main issue of economic integration and prioritized several specific issues over time, forestry issues specifically functioning under the umbrella of the ASEAN Economic Community. MP is a specialised forest-focused regime and has dealt with SFM C&I issues relating to temperate and boreal forests since its initiation as a response to the Rio Forest Principles.
The institutional tasks of the ASEAN and MP regimes are clearly described in the ASEAN Charter and MP Booklet 2015, respectively, which determine the duties and powers of the institutional works as well as laying down their principles of cooperation.
The governance structure of ASEAN is classified into, briefly, the Summit, Secretariat, Coordinating Council, Community Councils, National Secretariat, Foundation, Sectoral Ministerial Bodies, Committee of Permanent Representatives, and ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (Chapters IV and X).
MP is comprised of three distinctive organs: The Working Group (MPWG), Liaison Office (MPLO), and Technical Advisory Committee (MPTAC).
The ASEAN Summit is the highest decision-making body and is composed of the heads of the ASEAN member states. The ASEAN Secretariat is located in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Secretariat works as a facilitator for member states, and also monitors progress on the implementation of ASEAN agreements and decisions as well as submitting an annual activity report to the Summit.
In contrast, MPWG is the supreme body of MP which develops and improves the SFM C&I. The voluntarily selected officials from MP member states became members of MPWG. MPLO MPTAC give support to MPWG.
Importantly, ASEAN deals with forest policy and strategy through the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Forestry (AMAF). AMAF gets assistance from the ASEAN Senior Officials on Forestry (ASOF) which consists of each member state’s forest ministries, departments, or agencies who are responsible for forest issues.
ASOF assists six working groups on Forest Management, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Wildlife Enforcement, Forest Product Development, Forest and Climate Change, and Social Forestry Network.
Notably, the ASEAN Social Forestry Network (ASFN) was transformed in August 2016 into the ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry (AWG-SF) with the main mandate of strengthening ASEAN Cooperation in Social Forestry through the sharing of information and knowledge.
This is a government-driven social forestry network in Southeast Asia that reports to ASOF then AMAF. It has objectives and a scope of work extended from those of the former ASFN, that link government forestry policy makers directly with other network members.
Now, it contributes mainly to ASEAN Cooperation in Forestry Strategic Plans of Action, the ASEAN Multisectoral Framework on Climate Change: Agriculture and Forestry towards Food Security, and ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Roadmaps.
However, the ASEAN Secretariat is differentiated from MPLO by its own activities and initiatives. For example, the ASEAN Secretariat adopted the Charter in 1997 and forced it to take effect in 1998 to stand against the financial crisis by the end of 1997.
ASEAN’s external relations partners are designated as having Dialogue Partner, Sectoral Dialogue Partner, Development Partner, Special Observer, Guest or other status during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.
These external relations include, for example, economic and technical benefits from foreign direct investment (FDI) and development activities.
According to recent data from the ASEAN Investment Report 2018, FDI flows to ASEAN increased significantly from $123 billion in 2016 to $137 billion in 2017.
At this point in time, ASEAN has 10 Dialogue Partners: Australia, Canada, China, EU, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Russia, and the us, as well as four Sectoral Dialogue Partners: Pakistan, Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey.
ASEAN also has a Development Partnership with Germany. Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste received Observer status in 1976 and 2002, respectively.
In this regard, the MPWG meeting is also open to other C&I processes as well as international organizations or even non-governmental organizations (NGOs). MP has cooperated with International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), Forest Europe and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) in order to improve the global forest reporting process towards SFM.
The ASEAN Summit and MPWG are, respectively, the top policymaking bodies of ASEAN and MP.
ASEAN Summit meetings take place twice annually and in special or ad hoc situations when necessary. The chairmanship of ASEAN is rotated every year on the basis of the alphabetical order of the member states’ English names.
The ASEAN member state which has the chairmanship takes the role of chair for all the institutional organs or structures of ASEAN including the ASEAN Summit. Differently, MPWG meetings take place once a year on a rotational basis, and ad hoc meetings are held when necessary by agreement of MP member states.
The host country which is predetermined at the previous meeting is required to decide the date and venue with the support of MPLO. The chairmanship of the MPWG meeting is also selected by the host MP member states. In both ASEAN Summit and MPWG meetings, decisions are taken by the basic principle of consultation and consensus among the member states on common understanding.
However, all ASEAN decisions must be unanimous. In addition, the ASEAN Secretariat-General which is the head of the Secretariat is appointed by the ASEAN Summit and serves a five-year non-renewable term. Each of the Deputy Ministers in the Secretariat serves a three-year term of office.
The ASEAN Coordinating Council meeting is held at least twice a year. Each of the ASEAN Community Council meetings takes place twice a year and has its own rules of procedure.
Meanwhile, the MPLO location can be sporadically moved when needed, and one of the forest-specific officials of the host MP member state supports MPLO. MPTAC intends to reduce the number of meetings in person and prefers to communicate in online-based meetings. Hence, MPTAC meetings take place when MPWG asks for aid.
Moreover, ASEAN and MP are operated by separate financing systems. Whereas ASEAN has an obligatory contribution from ASEAN member states to operate the Secretariat and to conduct its policy instruments, MP mainly relies on voluntary contributions and MP member states to cover the traveling costs to participate in meetings themselves.
ASEAN and MP both pursue flexibility to face new circumstances. The ASEAN Charter as the constitution of ASEAN apparently mentions the procedure of amendments in Chapter XIII.
First, ASEAN member states can propose amendments to the Charter, and the ASEAN Coordinating Council submits the proposal of amendments to the Charter to the ASEAN Summit. Then, amendments to the Charter are discussed in the Summit meeting and decided by the ASEAN Summit by consensus.
Additionally, the MP C&I are monitored continuously and are open to be flexibly refined, for example, when the technology and research skill is advanced or the understanding of SFM is broadened. The set of indicators for criteria 1–6 were revised in 2007 during the 18th MPWG Meeting.
The indicators for criteria 7 were revised in 2009 at the 20th MPWG Meeting. Additionally, the MP member states can adjust the MP C&I based on each country’s national environment when these are applied in practice.
This study appropriately limits forest policies by the last ASEAN and MP strategic plans adopted as their fundamental policy initiatives. The Strategic Plan of Action for ASEAN Cooperation on Forestry (2016–2025) and the 2009–2015 Conceptual Framework for the Montréal Process Strategic Action Plan were considered in order to represent the current circumstance of forest policy development.
Similarly, it is clear that both regimes address the same direction-based goals inherently under the broad umbrella of forests, except one of ASEAN’s goals of “trade facilitation, economic integration and market access.”
To support each of the goals, ASEAN has adopted several goal-associated policy instruments such as donor-funded projects, action plans and Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs), and has established a working group and biodiversity centre, newsletters, and flyers which are coherent and non-conflicting. Conversely, MP has adopted a number of policy instruments to achieve each of the policy goals, including statements, booklets, technical reports, fact sheets, and posters.
Interestingly, the first priority goal of ASEAN’s forest policy is elaborated as “protection and conservation of forests in an ecologically sound and integrated manner through regionally and internationally agreed C&Is for SFM”, which matches the MP policy.
To achieve this goal, ASEAN endorsed in 2017 a very strong policy tool: ASEAN Regional Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Management of Natural Tropical Forests.
However, there is significant disparity in regulatory instruments between the two forest governance bodies, which reflects their degree of formality based on institutional structure i.e., strong Secretariat vs. super-flexible Liaison Office. Indeed, ASEAN has two financial resources to support the implementation of forestry activities, while MP has no concern about incentive instruments but follows a need-based strategy.
Without using the ASEAN Development Fund (ADF), ASEAN has implemented a number of forest-based projects through donor financial support. Thus, ASEAN attracts multiple donors with a wide variety of issues on forestry. These donors are usually ASEAN Dialogue or Development Partner countries and they offer not only financial support but also technical support for policy programmes and projects on forestry (see the project lists in Annex A).
Regarding informational instruments, MP with its low degree of formality, is more advanced than ASEAN; one iconic example is Sustainable Forestry and Montréal Process Public Service Announcement video presented by Emmy Award nominee Christina Hendricks.
Therefore, both regional regimes are committed to achieving sustainable development and environmental conservation through the conservation and sustainable management of tropical forests (for ASEAN) and temperate and boreal forests (for MP).
To do so, AMAF and ASOF, including subsidiary bodies, work dedicatedly on forestry development activities to reach the vision that “forest resources are sustainably managed at the landscape level to meet societal needs, both socio-economically and culturally, of the present and future generations, and to contribute positively to sustainable development”.
In the same way, MPWG, MPTAC, and MPLO work intensively on forestry development activities to advance the development and refinement of internationally agreed C&Is for the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests.
Both global and regional regimes reveal their diversity through the use of formal agreements, conventions, or treaties. However, scholars have observed that the ASEAN forest-related regime has restricted membership admission and was established through strict adherence to the principles of the UN Charter and non-alignment.
Since its inception, ASEAN as a multilateral organization has expanded its membership boundary over time. In this vein, Yoshimatsu insisted that expansion of a regime’s membership represents a changing trend of institutional value. MP’s forest-focused regime started with 10 sovereign countries, now 12 after the expansion of membership admission, who have the same interest to work together for non-European boreal and temperate forests.
According to Taylor and Olson, having a large group increases the difficulty of cooperation, while Kenneth Oye stated that it increases the likelihood and robustness of cooperation. For instance, the EU transformed through enlargement over time (grew from six countries to 28).
ASEAN brought the forestry issue to the fore a long time after its formation, in 1981 through adoption of the Jakarta Consensus on ASEAN Tropical Forestry. In this case, Sarker et al. pointed out that environmental issues evolved as a policy, but not so much as a regime issue.
They further stated that this may occur in order to adapt the regime to changing legal and political conditions and the demands of hegemons or other members.
At the present time, ASEAN forestry cooperation is working towards implementation of the broader umbrella of the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025, with SFM the focusing issue, whereas MP has mainly focused on SFM issues related to temperate and boreal forests since its initiation as a response to the Rio Forest Principles.
From the beginning, MP has sought to implement C&I to guide forest monitoring, assessment, and reporting and to institute forest policies and practices that foster progress towards SFM. MP has one of the most active C&I processes in harmonized forest reporting.
However, it is evident from this analysis that ASEAN is a more highly formalized regime than MP. ASEAN is operational based on an intergovernmental treaty, whereas MP is considered as a transnational organization, mainly driven by sectoral bureaucracies.
From a structural point of view, regimes may be more or less formally articulated, and they may or may not be accompanied by explicit organizational arrangements.
With this low degree of organisation, MP struggled to get global recognition/legitimacy at the beginning for fulfilling the interests a single member state, i.e., Canada, and finally achieved it through strong informal negotiation by Canada.
Consequently, since the United Nations Conference on Environment (UNCED), MP, ITTO, Forest Europe, and the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment (GFRA) have utilized sophisticated C&I frameworks for reporting on forest-related environmental, social and economic aspects.
Accordingly, the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) acknowledged and mentioned that these four bodies continue to make significant progress by working together to promote SFM.
Scholars have criticised the implementation of C&I and progress towards SFM besides the positive initiatives. Equally important, with a high degree of formalization, are the strong initiatives of Indonesia and Malaysia using ASEAN solidarity to keep ramin, a high-quality wood species, in CITES Appendix A, in which it has been listed since 2004.
This institutional formalisation affects the class of organizations’ administrative bureaucracies (i.e., Secretariat) which execute assigned central administrative or general secretary duties.
These bureaucracies affect the political processes in the regimes in various and distinct ways. ASEAN and MP are run by the ASEAN Secretariat and MPLO, respectively. The ASEAN Secretariat has been located in Jakarta since its foundation and consists of around 300 staff including one Secretary-General, two Deputy Secretary-Generals, four Directors, 14 Assistant Director and Programme Coordinators, 23 Senior Officers, 27 Programme Officers, and 28 Assistant Programme Officers.
Expressly for forestry development, the ASEAN Secretariat provides support to the Senior Officials Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (SOM-AMAF), and AMAF with the support of SOM-AMAF provides policy guidance to subsidiary bodies, namely the ASEAN Working Group (AWG) on Forest Management, AWG Forest Product Development, AWG CITES and Wildlife Enforcement, AWG-SF, and AWG Forests and Climate Change.
On the other hand, MPLO and MPTAC mainly support the work of MPWG. As one of the MP member states hosts MPLO, the country assigns an MPLO task to one officer and voluntarily covers all the budget which is associated with the translation, printing, and dissemination of official MP documents and publications.
Moreover, Tarasofsky argued that international forest regimes can be explained as the aggregation of norms, rules, standards, and procedures. The charter system as a constitutional law in regimes catalyses the development of a legal order with regard to the hierarchically superior values.
The ASEAN Charter led to a number of institutional changes such as the coordination of organizational structure. In addition, ASEAN became a rules-based organization as the Charter requires the strongest form of commitment among ASEAN member states, whereas MPWG argued that MP is a less formal regime but costs less and also offers countries more flexibility in how they participate compared with many other international forest-related initiatives.
Forest Policy Development
This research has revealed that both regimes have same the political interests on forest issues (i.e., SFM) in their currently adopted forest polices. The broader goal of ASEAN forestry is to “enhance sustainable forest management for the continuous production of forest goods and services in a balanced way and ensuring forest protection and biological diversity conservation, as well as optimise their utilisation, compatible with social and ecological sustainability”.
Meanwhile, MP addresses the broader goal of “criteria and indicators for the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests”. However, both regimes address clear and coherent policy goals internally; in particular, they are in the same direction or could have synergistic overlaps.
According to Young, institutional linkages are politically significant connections between multiple, nominally separated institutions, including regimes. On the whole, both regimes endorse and propose making choices on certain legal policy instruments. One synergetic example is that both regimes have been commonly active in coordinating and expanding commitments to promote SFM in terms of C&I.
For this, ASEAN endorsed a revised Framework for ASEAN Regional Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Management of Natural Tropical Forests in 2017 in which the seven criteria have been aligned with those adopted in the ITTO’s Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Management of Tropical Forests, 2016.
In the same way, MP adopted the fifth edition of its Montréal Process Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests booklet which presents the MP framework of seven criteria and 54 indicators, and a rationale for the inclusion of each indicator within the relevant criterion, together with contextual information.
Notably, the ASEAN C&I process collects data every second year; on the other hand, the MP C&I monitoring and reporting process is mainly nationally based and is initiated every five years in most cases, or more frequently.
Additionally, ASEAN uses an online and offline monitoring, assessment and reporting (MAR) format at both national and forest management unit (FMU) levels for reviewing and assessing the implementation of ASEAN’s SFM C&Is.
According to a UNFF report, the main obstacles of ASEAN to SFM are forest governance issues at national and local levels due to increased power, roles and functions of local government units in implementing forest-related projects and activities; financing issues due to policy and market failures on the profit of unsustainable forest practices versus SFM; and land use change issues due to the competition for land among agriculture and forestry, food security and bio-energy, biomass/bio-energy and forestry, etc.
Importantly, the choice of policy instruments will have a substantial impact on the success of a policy. According to Howlett et al., policy tools are consistent when they work together to support a policy goal. Congruence is achieved when a consistent instrument mix serves a coherent set of policy goals.
In this vein, both regimes perform through utilizing a consistent policy mix. Supporting this result, it is noteworthy that these sets of regional multi-level agreements constitute a key building block in a strategy of diversifying and widening the policy instrument toolbox in order to embrace the complexity of forestry problems and overcome the deadlock that the international regime building pathway has encountered.
Additionally, effective regime interplay is achieved through the careful use of procedural policy instruments and other techniques common to multi-level governance in other sectors.
Regarding policy integration, Briassoulis stated that “on the demand side, contemporary problems are complex and inter-related, defying treatment by means either of narrow, sectoral policies or of all encompassing, super-policies. On the supply side, numerous policies, related to particular aspects of one of more of these problems, exist.”
Integration involves the alteration of specific elements of an existing policy mix—the goals, objectives, and calibrations of existing policy tools—in order to produce a new mix, with the aim of avoiding counterproductive or sub-optimal policy outcomes associated with the old arrangement and enhancing its determinacy, effectiveness, and sustainability.
This has been illustrated empirically for both regimes by adopting/proposing policy tools to achieve policy goals. In fact, in the development of their current policies, both regimes have acted as forerunners for integrating sectoral policies into broader strategic frameworks in support of greater policy coherence and better cross-sectoral coordination, especially for integrating other important issues like biodiversity and climate change.
However, organisational factors could be regulating the precise setting of policy instruments. In this case, Majone stated that the performance of policy instruments depends more on the institutional framework within which they are used than on their technical characteristics.
Böcher and Töller added that actors (e.g., member states) are interested in policy instruments which serve their interests in seemingly effective environmental policies where individual costs remain low.
Importantly, this study observed that ASEAN applies a mix of regulatory and economic tools more significantly than information policy instruments for the promotion of sustainable development of forests.
MP uses information policy tools more substantially than the other two tools, believing in low-cost and flexible organizational development for the promotion of SFM C&Is globally. For example, ASEAN has implemented some big-budget projects which are supported financially by development partners.
MP has chiefly emphasized informational policy instruments and used online-based systems on a large scale, e.g., making a video with a famous actress and publishing booklets, numerically based country reports (New Zealand) and posters, while ASEAN has created transnational expert networks to support better-informed policymaking and scientific collaboration on forest-related issues.
Therefore, the treaty-based forest-related ASEAN and non-treaty-based forest-focused MP regional forest governance architectures have successfully applied new governance instruments to existing mixes in such a fashion, which is a potential decentralized approach to global forest policy design.
In concluding, it is worth reiterating the propositions presented earlier in this study of how ASEAN and MP have differences and similarities to each other through their institutional design structure, and forest policy development.
However, the broad institutional design of ASEAN rather offers ample possibilities for issue linkages, e.g., to trade and poverty, food security, and a number of other issues possibly relevant for forests and the regime’s forest policy.
In contrast, the forest-focused institutional design and policy of the MP provides for clear, technically detailed guidance for forestry issues. It, however, does not provide for interlinkages to other, forest-related issues and relating frameworks as fruitfully as observed under ASEAN.
Although the intention was for MP to be formalised at its fourth meeting, it still has the view of state-based coalitions willing to face SFM issues. While struggling with a high versus low degree of formality, both regimes have endorsed policy goals which assume a coherent and consistent approach towards achieving SFM against global deforestation and forest degradation.