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Corruption and Conservation Efforts

By: Logan Roscoe

Image Courtesy of Unsplash


Conservation efforts often require a shift in established practices—changing standards and ridding of unsustainable behaviors. With these changes, however, party interests come into conflict. Parties that have integrated themselves into pre-established practices now have to reorient and find new ways to sustain themselves during major shifts. This can lead to new conservation efforts becoming porous, as conflicting parties look for ways to push back on these efforts or to gain an upper hand on the situation. This is where corruption spouts—in those porous cracks. Bribery especially points to conflicting party interests and moments when it is not clearly discernible who is working for which side.


Bribery is defined as “the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official, or other person, in charge of a public or legal duty” (Cully). In the context of conservation efforts, this often looks like people in positions of power within unsustainable practices paying off those who can further their practices. A specific example of this involves the United Nations’ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation program, also known as REDD. They are working within 29 different countries and have massive international backing. They provide financial support to developing nations “for carbon sequestration resulting from reduced deforestation and forest degradation” (Enrici).


One of the countries they’re involved in is Indonesia, where they establish and enforce boundaries wherein no deforestation can legally occur. Despite starting their efforts in 2007, no notable change has occurred in their deforestation rates since. One of these reasons stems from the corruption innate in the law enforcement surrounding REDD practices.

The REDD project areas in Indonesia are laced with bribery and collusion, often through different appearances. Illegal encroachment and stealing regularly happens with this corruption present. Many stakeholders and respondents describe difficulties such as local authorities doing nothing to stop illegal encroachment and generally failing to approve and enforce project boundaries. “The police won’t do anything, really they should be trying to enforce themselves,” a project organizer said. “There was a road built through our concession two years ago, after our concession was approved, it [gives access for] illegal logging” (Enrici). The local authority tells people who wish to encroach on the boundary that he owns the land and that they must pay him. This reflects how people in these conversation efforts abuse their power to gain an upper hand.


Similarly, REDD workers in Indonesia report that an unknown source has repeatedly sold land on these conservations without the no authority to do so. The only proof the “residents” have that they bought their land is the fact that they gave money to some person. Though not objectively bribery, this act involves the exchange of money and the slowing of conversation efforts, with no benefit to anybody except the person who abused the system.


The corruption within law enforcement doesn’t allow for conventional solutions. In fact, even enlisting help from people in the villages has resulted in police abusing their power to maintain a corrupt system that makes them richer. “Now there’s police operating with the illegal loggers. So if somebody [from the village] doesn’t cooperate, they’re put in jail,” one of the respondents says (Enrici). And if REDD workers do ask police for help, the police expect a bribe. If police, the government in charge of police, or the community itself all cannot be counted on to uphold the conservation efforts of projects such as REDD, it reveals a bleak, bleak situation. Only one of three sites under REDD’s administration is currently being evaluated by an independent agency for the monitoring component of governance capacity.

Works Cited

Enrici, A. M., and K. Hubacek. 2018. Challenges for REDD+ in Indonesia: a case study of three project sites. Ecology and Society 23(2):7.

https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-09805-230207

Cully, Miranda, “Corruption and Climate Denial.” Google Slides, 10 October, 2022, https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1D8kGpLeZj9u0uKTdysPOd3zH2eVil-Bq0lE8OzOK05Y/edit#slide=id.p



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