This paper was prepared for an informal donor co-ordination meeting held in November 1998 which aimed to review current conservation and management strategies in the Guiana shield region and considered prospects for future donor action. As one of the few unfragmented blocks of tropical forest on earth, the Guiana Shield forest is a unique resource. Its preservation so far has been the result of low-potential rainforest soils, limiting both population pressure and (until recently) interest from logging companies in forest where most trees are of small stature and diameter, where the few valuable species are found at low densities and where extraction costs are high. The governments of Suriname and Guyana have been eager to replace previous sources of revenue (mainly bauxite and sugar) with gold-mining and logging. Government capacity to regulate these activities is limited and important resources are being depleted with limited returns to national treasuries, and with severe effects on the livelihoods of rainforest peoples.