Between 1979 and 1985, a Tropical Forest Action Plan (TFAP) was developed, with contributions from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the World Resource Institute (WRI), which provides a framework for environmental management and sustainable forest development at national, regional and global levels. By 1992, 81 countries have adopted the TFAP. In the same year, the Statement of Forest Principles was agreed at the UN Commission on Environment and Development (UNCED) which encourages countries to prepare national plans for sustainable forestry. Ecological considerations have been firmly embedded in the aims and activities of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) thanks to the efforts of the UN and NGO's. The ITTO was established in 1987 to implement the International Tropical Timber Agreement which came into force in 1985, which stated that timber-producing and timber-consuming countries would work together for the sustainable management of tropical forests.
Traditional indigenous farmers in tropical forests moved from place to place without seriously damaging the ecosystem. The principal agents of tropical deforestation are refugees from civil war and rural poverty, who are forced to eke out a living on marginal lands. Activities such as road building, logging, and commercial agriculture have barely increased in tropical forests since the early 1980s; slash-and-burn farming by displaced peasants accounts for far more deforestation – roughly three fifths of the total. Most of the wood from trees harvested in tropical forests – that is, those not cleared for farms – is used locally for fuel. The likeliest path to protecting the rain forest is through economic development that enables peasants to farm efficiently, on land better suited to farming than to forest.