Abstract This article's originality and major contribution lies in its empirical roots. Based on the case study of the European Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA-FLEGT) in Cameroon, the paper questions what happens when global forest governance reforms meet domestic politics in Africa. Coupled with a carefully selected literature, this entrenchment helped to clearly identify the formal and informal strategies deployed by key actors to put or resist the European sustainable forest management policy reforms on the agenda in Cameroon from 2003 to 2019. The signing of the VPA-FLEGT in Cameroon triggered several debates on the relevance of a new legal instrument for sustainable forest management against the backdrop of an already prolific (poorly or non-enforced) legislation. This article aims, on the one hand, at analysing the process through which VPA-FLEGT was put on the agenda in Cameroon, identifying the key actors involved and examining their roles, interests and strategies as regards this global forest policy instrument. On the other hand, it seeks to investigate how the institutionalisation of VPA-FLEGT in Cameroon change or not the politics of forestland governance in national arenas. In order to attain the aforementioned objectives, we adopted a sociology of the State-based approach. The research indicates that (i) although VPA-FLEGT is an innovative policy instrument in Cameroon, it essentially relies on recycled already existing forest policies. (ii) Several technical and political roadblocks, largely underestimated or overlooked by European actors hamper the implementation of this instrument. (iii) Lastly, the legitimacy and relevance of VPA-FLEGT in Cameroon is subject to many controversies and tensions among the main actors. Our research shows that Cameroonian state bureaucracy’s commitment to this initiative was mainly motivated by a ‘cunning government’ strategy of rents capture and blame avoidance tactics..

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