Illegality and informality

Understanding the nature, extent and impacts of illegality and informality, and their effects on livelihoods

CIFOR’s research has focused on the economic and social nature of illegal forest activities.

Luca Tacconi, a former CIFOR scientist, explains that illegal logging and illegal land clearing are persistent issues, and further research on the links between corruption and illegality will contribute to our understanding of some of the underlying causes of deforestation and degradation.



Featured scientist

Luca Tacconi

Luca Tacconi worked at CIFOR from April 2001 to March 2005. He is currently Professor of Environmental Governance at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University (ANU). At the ANU, he has held various positions, including Director of the Environment and Resources Program at the Crawford School, during which he founded the Master of Climate Change. For his PhD he specialized in Ecological Economics. Prior to his time at CIFOR, he held positions with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and the Australian Agency for International Development. He has also consulted for several national and international organizations.

In conversation with Luca Tacconi

  1. What was the main focus of your work when you were at CIFOR?

    My research at CIFOR was initially focused on the economic, livelihood and policy aspects of fire and haze management in Indonesia. I then started to focus on forest governance and particularly on how decentralization and illegal logging were affecting forests, their implications for livelihoods, and how illegality in the forest sector could be reduced.
  2. If you could choose one piece of work that would be the highlight of the research you did at CIFOR, what would it be? Why is it a highlight?

    A book on illegal logging is the publication I would like to highlight. It was the first comprehensive academic analysis of a problem that is still a significant cause of deforestation and forest degradation. It highlights the complex nature of illegal forest activities, including the economic and sociological aspects. Unfortunately, illegal logging and illegal land clearing are still rampant in many countries and the fact that the book and several of its chapters are still being cited even if they are ten years old demonstrates their relevance.

  3. Since being at CIFOR, how have you seen research in your field evolve?

    Unfortunately, illegal logging and illegal land clearing are still significant problems and researchers are still seeking to understand how they could be reduced. Forest and peatland fires are also still significant issues in Southeast Asia. So while it is more than ten years since I carried out research on illegal logging and fires at CIFOR, they are still very relevant areas of research.
  4. What future challenges related to your research area do you foresee? How does your research address these challenges?

    I believe that corruption is a significant factor facilitating the continuation of illegal logging and illegal land clearing. I have done some research on the role of corruption in deforestation, but it is a difficult issue to research due to many sensitivities. It can also be dangerous for the researchers to carry out fieldwork-based research on corruption. But I do believe that we need to work more on this issue to support the development of more effective anti-corruption policies.
  5. Why do you think that the work CIFOR does on forestry is key for the future of our planet and the people living on it?

    CIFOR is in a unique position to bring together researchers from across the globe, to promote comparative research and hopefully inform policy development by governments who can reduce forest degradation. This is needed not just for the benefit of many people who depend directly on forests for their livelihoods, but for all of us – we all benefit from the contribution of forests to the earth system.
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