Examining the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan in Ghana through a governmentality lens



Over the past decade, the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan has emerged as a key global initiative in addressing deforestation and forest degradation. Yet, there is considerable scholarly debate and disagreement about the impact of FLEGT on forest governance, and ultimately, its effectiveness in arresting deforestation and degradation. This article contributes to this debate through a detailed examination of FLEGT in the case of Ghana. It applies a governmentality analytical lens that examines practices of problematization, knowledge production, intervention and subjectification. The article builds on a detailed review of the substantial literature on FLEGT in Ghana, the first timber producing country to enter into a voluntary partnership agreement with the EU. The article illustrates how FLEGT frames illegal logging as the central problem, and how this focus relegates other problems – especially those concerning tree tenure and benefit sharing – to secondary positions. This goes hand in hand with production of knowledge that stabilizes illegal logging as the key problem and provides legitimacy to the FLEGT implementation. The article then examines the many interventions which FLEGT has triggered. On the positive side, it has enhanced consultation and participation of private sector and civil society in forest governance, as well as increased forest sector transparency. Despite its stipulated aims, FLEGT has been less successful in nurturing deeper forest governance reforms that could provide incentives for agents in the sector to engage actively in forest conservation and cultivation of trees. FLEGT focuses on technical issues and challenges, failing to address inherently political issues concerning forest and tree tenure. It maintains local populations living in and close to the forest as passive subjects with limited rights to the forest or influence over its management. The article concludes that to achieve its aims, FLEGT needs to move away from its current technical focus and colonial forest governance model to seriously address issues of tree tenure, benefit sharing and access. It discusses what is required for such a change to take place, and more generally, what a governmentality lens has to offer political ecology.

Keywords: Governmentality, Government rationalities, Illegal logging, Rendering technical, Forest governance

How to Cite: Hansen, C. (2022) “Examining the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan in Ghana through a governmentality lens”, Journal of Political Ecology. 29(1). doi: