Marshall Adams, Ph.D., is a 2020 graduate of the Ph.D. Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Jean Kayira, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • James S. Gruber, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Bas J.M. Arts, Ph.D., Committee Member


Good forest governance, FLEGT VPA, capacity, Q methodology, sub-Saharan Africa

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Since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the international community has launched several policy initiatives to address complex environmental problems, in particular illegal logging. One such initiative is the European Union (EU) Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan and its Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). The scholarship on FLEGT has overwhelmingly focused on technical and governance aspects, drawing largely from a single institutional analysis theory. However, there is scant empirical research on a range of theories to understand FLEGT efficacy from a multi-scalar governance perspective. My dissertation research contributes to a multi-scalar forest governance analysis approach to FLEGT efficacy by using two strands of concepts—namely policy coherence and institutional capacity for good governance—to answer three of the most critical and under-researched questions: (a) How do the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) and the United Nations Strategic Plan on Forests (UNSPF) interlink with the FLEGT Action Plan at policy objective and policy instrument levels? (b) What are the potential and realized capacities of VPA processes for advancing principles of good forest governance and implementation of a Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) in Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Republic of the Congo (Congo), Ghana, and Liberia? (c) What are the different stakeholders’ perspectives on good governance as applied to VPA in Ghana? My dissertation is comprised of three interlinked studies with different methodological designs. An in-depth comparative analysis was employed to examine interlinkages among FLEGT, NYDF, and UNSPF (Chapter 2) and institutional capacity of the VPA process in Cameroon, CAR, Congo, Ghana, and Liberia (Chapter 3) using a review of policy documents. The review of policy documents was complemented with focal point interactions and meta-analysis of VPA cases for Chapter 3. Q methodology was used to examine stakeholder perspectives on good forest governance in Ghana (Chapter 4). The results show that FLEGT, NYDF, and UNSPF share inherent interlinkages of policy instruments such as information sharing, strategic plans, financial resources, and technical capacity support. The presence of common strategic agendas on finance for forests and good forest governance in FLEGT, NYDF, and UNSPF demonstrate cross-institutional coordination through the prioritization of policy instruments (Chapter 2). Managing interlinkages within the larger climate change governance architecture requires inter-institutional learning and international cooperation in the light of identified strategic agendas. The results also show that potential capacities exist for advancing governance and implementing TLAS, but that complex socio-political and technical challenges limit the realization of their capacities. These challenges have constrained the effective implementation of the VPA process. Political will and capacity building can impact on the realization of capacities (Chapter 3). Furthermore, the results reveal three distinct perspectives among stakeholders within Ghana’s VPA process, highlighting areas of disagreement or tension among key stakeholders. Engaging with and shaping these perspectives is an instrumentally and normatively appropriate governance action to advance the VPA in Ghana (Chapter 4). The results point to the fundamental conclusion that additional institutional efforts are needed to advance FLEGT globally and to achieve the VPA in Africa and beyond.


Marshall Adams

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0003-3469-1316