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Methodology 2009

The key aim of this project is to increase transparency in the forest sector. The project has developed and will use a transparency report card as a means of assessing progress.

Report cards are popular assessment tools, but the use of such a tool in the forest sector is innovative. This report card is a product of a 'participatory action research' process involving Global Witness and the initial four project partner NGOs. The process was initiated by commissioning research into the use of report cards in other sectors, and by partners developing their own ideas in response to local circumstances. A workshop was held in April 2009 and each partner shared their ideas and presented their draft template of the transparency indicators to be used. The following key methodological issues were identified:

  • In some countries, individuals or communities can own forests. In others, all forest is regarded as the patrimony of the nation and so ownership by the state or individuals is not possible;
  • In some countries, the prevailing notion is that information held by the public administration is, by rights, public. This weakens the argument for disclosure by private or non-government organisations;
  • In most countries, access to information from the perspective of rural communities was felt to be the priority. Whereas in PerĂº, which has more developed right to information legislation, the preference was to start, first of all, by assessing government's achievements in implementing these norms;
  • Given that the project is only operating in just four countries in year one, and that the situation in each of these countries is very different, it would be difficult and unhelpful to try to make like-for-like comparisons. Instead, the focus should be on asking objective 'yes/no' type questions, with supporting evidence and comment. Lessons learned in one country which could be applied in another will be the main basis for collaboration between countries.
Methodology 2009
It's important to point out that the project is developing the methodology collaboratively. It was therefore agreed in the workshop that each country team would continue to develop a report card methodology which matched their own situation, but that all teams would contribute towards a common data set (shown schematically in the diagram).

By the time of the workshop, some country teams had already substantially completed their set of indicators, and so concentrated on expanding or adapting their work to include the common elements. Other teams preferred to take the common elements as their starting point.

The research approach taken in the individual countries themselves also fell into two categories:

  • In Ghana and Liberia, assessing access to information from the point of view of ordinary people was a priority, and so an easy-to-use questionnaire approach was taken;
  • In PerĂº and Cameroon, the focus was on assessing government capability and responsiveness. In this case, undertaking a desk-based study of 'the rules' and 'the reality' seemed to be the most appropriate method of gathering this information.

In year one, then, we are encouraging experimentation in approach, with the methodology expected to become more rigorous - and easily replicable -- and results more conclusive in subsequent years.

For more details on each country team's methodology and results, click on countries at the top of this page.

For more on the final common set of transparency indicators, and the key differences between the approach in different countries, follow the links below.

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