The Ecology of Responsibility
|Most people do not realize it, but their sofas and kitchen tables often have stories that span the globe. From the fast disappearing forests of Indonesia and Malaysia, and the factories of China and Vietnam, to the well-lit furniture showrooms in the suburban shopping malls of Europe and North America, the trail of Asia-Pacific timber is long, tangled and often opaque.
However, one thing is crystal clear: everyone along the supply chain – from policy makers, to foresters, to manufacturers, to retailers and shoppers – shares responsibility for the consequences of the global trade in forest products.
‘Responsibility for’ also creates a ‘responsibility to’ act. There are now many people and organizations involved with regulating, promoting, researching and/or implementing more responsible forestry and trade;1 each with different interests, expertise, roles and influence. While they occupy different niches in the forestry and trade landscape, they are connected and interdependent, much like organisms in an ecological system. Support can be provided to this movement by engaging people and organizations in a way that reflects their niche and amplifies their contribution within this ‘ecology of responsibility’.
RAFT recognizes that the power to facilitate change is enhanced by focusing on five key elements of good development management: 1) combining the right group of implementing partners who 2) share an agreed set of common goals and targets, together with 3) the allocation of resources based on an adaptive management approach, and 4) employing strategic coordination, including 5) a ‘learning and leverage’ strategy to scale-up site-based learning and results.
Many challenges remain, but RAFT has proved itself a useful and cost-effective part of the overall response to forest loss and degradation, and is a model worthy of adoption or replication. Indeed, although the RAFT program was designed for the forest sector, its approach is equally applicable to other globally traded commodities, such as agricultural and fish products. The ecology of responsibility in the trade of these commodities is one that can be supported with a partnership program involving the right group of coordinated people and organizations.