This paper explores the potential for applying rights perspectives in policy development in the tropical forest sector, focusing especially on an area of current concern: forest law enforcement and governance (FLEG). The argument presented here is based on the assumption that where the challenges are largely rights-related, adopting a rights perspective should logically provide a powerful way to address them, with positive effects on both the long-term condition of the forest resource and the distribution of benefits deriving from its exploitation. However, this is easier said than done, as the legal framework in the forest sector is often profoundly anti-poor, if not always in its conception, at least in its operation. In consequence, there is no guarantee that forest law enforcement will improve the welfare of the poor. Indeed, there are good grounds to argue that the reverse is much more likely to occur.