In the debate over the forest, policy research organizations have concentrated on uncovering the causes of deforestation and recommending measures to develop them sustainably. This article examines the conditions under which those prescriptions find their way into public policy, specifically, into reforming forest laws. We argue that this is a political rather than technocratic process that requires knowing the principal actors, their interests, and their power resources. The combination of these factors and, therefore forest policy outcomes, varies across our cases. However, similar combinations in other cases should have comparable results. We found that actors who dominated the policy process in the early stages, such as the World Bank, lost significant ground in the later stages, in part because legislatures were an important policy-making arena and legislators had significant impact on outcomes. The latter was surprising because one tends to assume the executive branch is the principal locus of policy-making in developing countries.

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