How successful have nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) been in influencing international forest policy? Specifically, how effective have they been at altering the texts of international forest policy declarations and agreements? This paper studies NGO efforts to influence international forest policy from the mid-1980s, when deforestation first emerged as an international environmental challenge, to 2001 when the United Nations Forum on Forests was created. This paper demonstrates that, in the short term, NGOs are more effective when they: 1. involve themselves in the early stages of negotiations, 2. suggest substantive and procedural ideas that are already well-known in fora outside forest politics, and 3. align their suggestions with the prevailing neoliberal discourse of international politics. The paper suggests that such conditions can be rather limited and thus speculates about NGO efforts within a longer time frame.