This briefing paper applies a rights perspective to understanding legal and institutional reform of the tropical forest sector. The sector is characterised by strongly competing interests, and massive differences in the power of stakeholders to influence the application of the law. The regulatory regime governing the sector often discriminates against the poor. This is of particular concern in the context of donor- and industry-led initiatives to combat illegal logging. Upholding legal frameworks which already fail to accommodate local rights could compound injustices. A rights perspective focuses attention on the channels by which the poor can contest and uphold their claims in the face of national and international interests in the forest sector.