Speakers Discuss Enhanced Cooperation, Coordination in Implementing Strategic Plan for Forests, as Forum Continues Session
Convening on the penultimate day of the United Nations Forum on Forests’ fourteenth session, delegates considered efforts to streamline sustainable forest management and respect for biodiversity across the work of Governments, regional groups and industries, with speakers diverging on the importance of ensuring a fully synchronized global approach to such endeavours.
In discussions throughout the day, Forum members touched on topics with broad implications for the future of forest management schemes around the globe. Those included efforts to enhance cooperation and coordination in implementing the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030, as well as the work of the Collaborative Partnership for Forests, an informal group of 15 forest‑related international organizations.
Many delegates voiced support for stronger coherence across those instruments, citing the need to help nations develop and implement sustainable policies. The representative of the European Union, for one, pointed out that a common understanding of the term “sustainable forest management” has been agreed by more than 40 European countries. The strategic plan for forests provides an opportunity to move towards greater coherence on such issues, she added.
The representative of Indonesia echoed the calls for more coherence, spotlighting the important role of the timber industry and other non-Government stakeholders in sustainable forest management. Pointing out that Indonesia’s forest‑product industry plays a key role in its comprehensive and legally mandated certification schemes, he underlined the need to harmonize language around sustainable forest management more broadly.
However, not all speakers agreed on the need for uniformity in the way countries work towards sustainability. The representative of the United States called for more flexibility and sensitivity to diverse approaches, in line with the principle of national sovereignty. Indeed, she said, countries may have good sustainable forest management strategies in place without specifically referencing the strategic plan, or its global forest goals, in their policies. Emphasizing that managing forests is a complex process requiring different perspectives, she urged the Forum to accommodate a variety of approaches.
Several delegates drew links between enhanced coherence and revamped support to developing countries, many of which continue to struggle with sustainability in the context of limited resources. Malaysia’s representative said his country’s forest policies reflect a commitment to good governance, conservation and respect for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Noting that sound forest management requires huge financial investments, he said developing countries need international assistance that is provided in an unbiased manner.
The representative of Costa Rica, striking a similar tone, called for more resources for developing countries — especially those that fall into the high‑forest, low‑deforestation category. Among other things, he said, funds are needed to incentivize forest owners not to cut down their woodlands.
Uruguay’s representative agreed that new mechanisms are needed to reward countries that put in place strong, sustainable forest management policies. Pointing out that Uruguay is making a tremendous effort in that regard, he nevertheless expressed concern that funding will eventually run dry.
In a related discussion, Forum members convened a panel discussion to consider the work of various United Nations environmental instruments, as well as ways to create more synergies between them. Representatives of the secretariats of the Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention to Combat Desertification briefed the Forum, as did the Chair of the Collaborative Partnership for Forests. Among other things, they outlined support provided to Member States and explained the responsibilities borne by countries to report measurable and verifiable national data.
One panellist, a member of the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia, called on the Collaborative Platform for Forests to provide more collective, normative and scientific support for international agendas. He also emphasized the importance of cross-sectoral efforts to achieve forest-related goals, stressing that the forest goals cannot be separated from other multilateral agreements.
In the afternoon, the Forum convened two additional panel discussions. The first focused on actions by regional and subregional partners in support of the strategic plan for forests, while the second considered the role of major group partners.
The Forum on Forests will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 10 May, to conclude its session.
Introduction of Secretariat Note on Item 6
HOSSEIN MOEINI-MEYBODI, Forum on Forests secretariat, introduced that body’s note (document E/CN.18/2019/5) titled “Enhancing global forest policy coherence and a common international understanding of sustainable forest management”. Pointing out that it provides an overview of intersessional activities carried out by the secretariat and other stakeholders, he said those included the preparation of an informal survey sent to the members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, as well as regional and subregional partners and major groups. The goal of the survey was to seek information on progress made towards integrating the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030 into the work of the various stakeholders, he said, recalling that 21 responses were received, and the results discussed at the Collaborative Partnership on Forests retreat in December 2018.
Noting that the survey’s results — along with the subsequent discussions — are reflected in the secretariat note, he said a wide variety of forest-related contributions were recorded. However, the survey also revealed that there may be room to improve policy complementarity and coherence, as many of the stakeholders queried had yet to fully integrate the global forest goals into their forest‑related policies and plans. Noting that strategic forest management is a dynamic concept, he described a range of actions recorded by the survey, including the use of ecosystem approaches and landscape management tools. Against that backdrop, the secretariat note makes several recommendations, including strengthening the capacity of the major groups and facilitating their inclusion in the work of the Forum.
The Forum then began a general discussion of its agenda item relating to enhancing global forest policy coherence.
Ms. ZERVA (European Union) requested those partners and entities that have not yet done so to integrate the United Nations strategic plan for forests — and its six global forest goals — into their work. Noting that the enhancement of global forestry coherence and an understanding of sustainable forest management are closely linked, she said the strategic plan provides an opportunity to move towards a common understanding of sustainable forest management. A common understanding of sustainable forest management has been agreed upon by more than 40 countries across Europe, she added.
Ms. CONJE (United States) said the strategic plan and the core set of indicators exist within a broad and well-established universe of science and academic study. In that context, she called for more sensitivity to diverse approaches, more flexibility and stronger efforts to avoid a top-down approach, all in full respect for national sovereignty. Indeed, many countries may have good sustainable forest management strategies without specifically referencing the global forest goals in their policies. Turning to the core set of indicators being developed, she stressed that they should be viewed as a way to refine existing indicators, rather than to supersede them. Noting calls for the preparation of an analytical study to examine the coherence of various forest-related policies, she questioned the usefulness of such a study. Manging forests is complex and requires different perspectives, she stressed, urging the Forum to accommodate different perspectives and approaches to sustainable forest management.
Mr. PARTHAMA (Indonesia) called for greater coherence and prominence for sustainable forest management in general. Noting that forest‑product industries —including the timber industry — are important stakeholders in those efforts, he said Indonesia’s forest‑product industry plays a key role in its comprehensive and legally mandated forestry certification scheme. Underlining the need to harmonize language around sustainable forest management, he said the available set of global forest indicators may be insufficient and could benefit from further review.
ALEXANDER SHESTAKOV of the Convention on Biological Diversity secretariat echoed calls to further harmonize the objectives of the various global forest instruments. Noting that the Convention on Biological Diversity and other global conventions have already begun to draw up plans for post-2020 frameworks, he said forest-related goals must be incorporated into them.
Mr. DAS (India) said the strategic plan for forests, the global forest goals and their related targets and indicators provide a strong basis for policies around the world. Every Member State, as well as regional and subregional organizations, should work coherently to achieve them. Outlining some of India’s efforts in that regard, he called for the engagement of a wide range of stakeholders — including industry groups and civil society — in efforts to build forest policy coherence.
Mr. MAHMOUD (Malaysia) said his country has undertaken efforts to incorporate the latest developments into its sustainable forest management. Malaysia’s forest policy encompasses its commitment to good governance, as well as to the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services; the conservation of forest reserves; the continuous supply of forest resources; the engagement of indigenous peoples; and the provision of adequate resources to improve the utilization of forests and forest resources. Noting that sound forest management requires huge financial investments, he said developing countries require international assistance that is provided in an unbiased manner.
Mr. SOUST (Uruguay), associating himself with the statement delivered by the representative of Indonesia, said a strategy for native forests is already in place in his country. Calling for mechanisms to reward countries that put in place strong, sustainable forest management policies, he pointed out that Uruguay is making a tremendous effort, but fears that funding will eventually run dry.
Ms. POLIAKOVA (Ukraine), expressing support for the proposals made by the representatives of the European Union and the United States, underlined the need for stronger regional cooperation on sustainable forest management.
Ms. RODRÍGUEZ ZUÑIGA (Costa Rica) underscored the need to consider positive externalities with resources provided to forest owners, with the aim of ensuring enough income to discourage them from cutting down those forests. In that context, he echoed calls for more resources for developing nations, especially high‑forest, low‑deforestation countries.
STEFFEN DEHN of the major group for children and youth spotlighted the importance of education and called on all parties to promote education on the value of forests across non-forest sectors, as well as industries. However, he said, streamlining forests into education curricula is only the baseline. Youth engagement in policy development is also crucial, as is the development of a solid definition of the term “sustainable forest management”. “It is vital to know what we are talking about, and what success looks like in the long run,” he stressed.
HOSNY EL‑LAKANY, Director of the International Forestry Programme, Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Colombia, Canada, said the 2016-2017 World Bank study was reflected in both the Collaborative Partnership on Forests strategic plan and in the questionnaire that followed. Paragraph 9 of the secretariat note points to the Collaborative Partnership on Forests mapping exercise, the core of the matter, he said, stressing: “We need to look at existing capabilities and where the gaps are.” One conclusion of the report relates to the further integration of global forest goals and targets into the strategic plan on forests, as well as into national plans and programmes. Noting that the Collaborative Partnership on Forests is a voluntary arrangement, and that each organization has its own mandate and working modalities, he stressed that harmonization is important.
Introduction of Secretariat Note on Item 7
AFSA KEMITALE-ROTHSCHILD, Forum secretariat, introducing the secretariat note on “Enhanced cooperation, coordination and engagement on forest-related issues” (document E/CN.18/2019/6), said it offered an overview of intersessional activities since the Forum’s thirteenth session. The Forum continued to cooperate with regional and subregional partners, notably through a workshop organized to enhance their inputs to the strategic plan on forests and the quadrennial work programme. Attendees discussed their contributions to enhancing global forest policy coherence, the Sustainable Development Goals under review by the high-level political forum on sustainable development, and agreed on the content of written input on regional and subregional partners on the fulfilment of the forest goals. On the guidelines for the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network adopted at the Forum’s thirteenth session, participants said it would helpful to seek Network support for capacity-building activities in their regions and subregions. For major groups, an expert group meeting was held in Bangkok in January, focused on implementation of the major groups work plans. Some suggestions that emerged were to advance implementation of the strategic plan on forests, the Paris Agreement on climate change and biodiversity targets, and to strengthen stakeholder engagement in promoting policy coherence at all levels.
The Forum then held a panel discussion on “enhancing cooperation, coordination and cross-sectoral engagement in support of implementation of the UNSPF [United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030] and other forest‑related international agreements”. It featured presentations by: Hiroto Mitsugi, Assistant Director General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Chair, Collaborative Partnership on Forests; Alexander Shestakov, Director of Science, Society and Sustainable Futures Divisions, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity; Peter Iversen, Programme Officer of Migration, Data and Analysis, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat; Sasha Alexander, Policy Officer, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification secretariat; Ulrich Apel, Senior Environmental Specialist, Global Environment Facility secretariat; and Hosny el-Lakany, Director, International Forestry Programme, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Canada.
Mr. MITSUGI, explaining that the secretariat note provided an account of the Collaborative Partnership’s activities, said one of its aims is to promote implementation of the United Nations forest instrument, and forests’ contributions to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Partnership operates on the basis of that work plan, which is developed on a periodic basis, aligned with both the strategic plan on forests and the quadrennial work plan, and includes the resource implications of planned activities. There are 10 joint initiatives, with several more in the pipeline or in various stages of development. While some organizations have a mandate from their governing bodies related to their contributions to the Partnership, that is not the case for all organizations. Nonetheless, they strive for a consistent message across the system so that synergies can be established, he said, explaining that the Partnership plans to map its activities against the global forestry goals. On collaboration with the Rio Conventions, he said environmental regimes have grown complex, making it all the more important to seek greater synergies, especially on the issue of food.
Mr. SHESTAKOV, describing the Convention’s 2050 Vision for Biodiversity, agreed in 2010 by its 196 parties, said first that it is not a conservation instrument, but rather, a sustainable use convention. Forests have much to contribute to that agenda. The 2050 Vision also aims to provide essential benefits to all people. Regarding the potential to strengthen synergies among various instruments, he said the Convention wished to see the various goals and targets “owned by” the instruments to be mutually supported. Many instruments are undergoing their own exercises related to the post-2020 period. Noting that the Convention’s major instruments are national biodiversity strategies and action plans, he said the idea is to understand how all those elements are mutually supportive at the national level. “Sectoral coordination is extremely important,” he stressed. On the issue of mainstreaming, forestry was a major subject of the thirteenth Conference of the Parties in Mexico, where much attention focused on integrating biodiversity into the forestry sector, and vice versa. It is also essential to have good coordination among national focal points to foster implementation. Describing the post-2020 process on engagement with the Forum, he said key dates for the biodiversity framework include a June meeting in Bern, Switzerland, which will bring together biodiversity stakeholders, those from the chemical cluster, the Forum, FAO and others, as well as several thematic meetings.
Mr. IVERSEN said that, at the twenty-fourth Conference of the Parties, countries agreed on an enhanced transparency framework. Every two years, countries will now submit biannual transparency reports, which the Secretariat will review to understand whether they are in compliance. All such efforts will contribute to a “global stock take”, providing the “motor” for countries to provide more ambitious updates on intended nationally determined contributions, and in turn, help achieve temperature goals. In the Framework, there are references to forests. For example, the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries programme is an important part of the Secretariat’s work. Since its launch in 2013, 39 countries have submitted forest reference emissions levels for assessment. Most submissions cover deforestation, and increasingly, emissions from forest degradation. Of the 39 countries, 8 have submissions on REDD+ results. Noting that Brazil has been allocated results-based payments by the Green Climate Fund, he said the pilot is ongoing and expressed hope that more countries would join. Various bilateral schemes are also under way. The first set of intended nationally determined contributions were submitted before the Paris Agreement on climate change, with many reflecting forest contributions as part of both mitigation and adaptations efforts. Some included economy-wide emission‑reduction targets. Noting that 75 per cent of all intended nationally determined contributions include something on forests, he said nonetheless “we know that we need to do more”.
Mr. ALEXANDER said the Convention to Combat Desertification secretariat has led efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 15.3 at the national level. It began in 2013 with 13 pilots, and today, has 123 countries participating in its land degradation programme. One unique feature of the programme is to convene multisectoral working groups at the national level. Another aspect is the provision of data to facilitate baseline assessments, set targets across ecosystems and map hot spots. Countries then identify policies to reduce degradation and estimate the resources needed to reach targets. Noting that the Convention is embarking on a new phase in its capacity-building efforts, he said the 2018 reporting cycle, with 140 countries submitting reports, highlighted the role of forests in taking a landscape or “land degradation neutrality” approach. Countries recognize that urban expansion and population are among the main drivers of land degradation and deforestation. Among the proposed solutions is farmer‑managed natural regeneration and the creation of protected areas. Fuel‑wood‑dependent countries brought renewable energy into the mix. Noting that an alarming percentage of trees have been planted under the guise of restoration, he said global efforts must strive to build a real restoration economy.
Mr. APEL said the Global Environment Facility is well-placed to enhance synergies among the three Rio Conventions [Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification]. With 183 countries and 18 accredited implementing agencies, it is also an active partner in the Collaborative Partnership on Forests. Describing its work programme on forests, he said there are 506 forestry projects in some 100 countries, and that between 2014 and 2018, the Facility provided $824 million in grants. On the synergies among the three Conventions, efforts related to climate change, conservation and mitigation can be best achieved by — and working in — forests, notably through slowing deforestation. The Facility is working to create synergies through impact programmes, which address the drivers of environmental degradation in a more integrated fashion and deliver impacts across the three pillars of climate change action. Highlighting the “food systems, land use and restoration” impact programme, he said it aims to create effective food-value chains and remove deforestation from supply chains, notably for beef, soy and palm oil. It includes restoration of degraded lands and efforts to transform large landscapes. The “sustainable forest” impact programme focuses on globally important forest biomes — Amazon forests, Congo Basin forests and the dryland forests — all of which require regional and ecosystem approaches to maintain their integrity. The demand for funding for impact projects already exceeds what is available, he stressed.
Mr. EL-LAKANY, describing how joint initiatives contribute to the global forest goals, said the Partnership supports the work of the Forum and its member countries, as well as other activities. All work programmes are built around the climate change and sustainable development agendas, and more recently, the global forest goals. Citing a report commissioned by the World Bank to map activities to Partnership members, he said member countries outline in their national reports their activities to achieve forest goals and associated targets. In those submissions, he encouraged countries to include more measurable and verifiable information. While such initiatives are often organized along the same themes, some are more directed towards achieving the forest goals than others. On measures to strengthen synergies between the strategic plan on forests and other multilateral agreements, he called for more collective, normative and scientific work in supporting international agendas. He also emphasized the importance of cross-sectoral issues to achieve forest‑related goals, stressing that the forest goals are not separate from the other multilateral agreements. There must be more involvement by major groups in such efforts and coordination between the forestry sector and other economic sectors, he said.
In the ensuing dialogue, delegates asked targeted questions, with the representative of Switzerland asking how the Forum can enhance its support to the various initiatives and processes presented by the panellists. The representative of New Zealand, asked about other key events where the Forum could contribute to the post-2020 process, given that its next session is in May 2020 and the third open-ended working group would be held afterwards. The representative of Jamaica, noting that there are various focal points in countries’ capital cities, asked how States can effectively coordinate efforts on the ground, as forestry is a cross‑cutting issue.
The representative of the United States, recalling the proposal for a joint funding mechanism, asked Mr. Mitsugi whether a joint funding approach could work, given the various mandates involved in the Partnership. In a broader sense, she asked for suggestions on the political or other support needed from Partnership members to help it enhance its branding and visibility. The representative of the Russian Federation asked about ways to harmonize contributions, given the different methods for making contributions under each of the Conventions. The tempo at times also does not reflect that of the Forum. The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo asked Mr. Apel about water resources, as they are affected by degraded forests, while the representative of Germany asked Mr. El-Lakany how the process he outlined would be taken further, as Germany had financed its preparatory work some time ago.
The speaker from a non-governmental organization advocated the pooling of visions and messages, asking panellists whether the participation of non‑governmental groups had been considered in the possibilities for collaboration. They could help in creating baseline indicators and communications, among other activities.
Mr. IVERSEN replied that, in his experience, it is always good to “stay close” to the finance ministries, as it seems easier to be heard among the competing appeals for funding.
Mr. SHESTAKOV said any organization or stakeholder can provide a written submission of proposals to the Convention on Biodiversity secretariat, which will inform formal negotiations in open-ended working groups. Also, there are opportunities to participate in thematic consultations, for example on forests, or take part in negotiations. It would be welcomed if working group attendees included both focal points and other experts. Key dates on the calendar include open-ended working group meetings in August, and in February 2020. In terms of visibility, he described a “Rio Pavilion” that highlights specific issues each day, as well as occasions for joint messaging that reflect the interests of various organizations.
Mr. MITSUGI, agreeing on the importance of increasing the Partnership’s visibility, raised the possibility for dialogue with non-governmental organizations on the side lines of the Forum.
Mr. ALEXANDER, to questions on the project preparation facility, said it will not be an exclusive “Rio Conventions facility”. As efforts progress on that facility, he raised the possibility of working together to “refresh” the memorandum of understanding with the Forum, signed two years ago. The Secretariat constantly works with regional coordinators and asks national focal points to meet. Ideas must centre on what works best in the national context, he said, noting that even small information exchanges can be capitalized upon. The next Conference of the Parties will be held in New Delhi in September.
Mr. APEL, to the question raised by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s delegate, agreed that water is an important resource, especially in areas such as the Congo Basin. To the query raised by Jamaica’s delegate, he said the Secretariat is interested in designing joint projects carried out with funding from the Global Environment Facility or the Green Climate Fund, should countries request such assistance.
Mr. EL-LAKANY replied that funding is needed for joint activities. To the point raised by Germany’s delegate, he said much work is under way. It is up to the Forum and the Partnership to decide upon the next steps.
OH KYUNGMI (Republic of Korea) outlined her country’s various sustainability programmes, which are carried out both domestically and internationally. For example, the country’s forest section is now included in the national 2030 Greenhouse Reduction Road Map and work is under way to use forests as a form of carbon sink, with the goal of capturing 22.1 million metric tons of carbon. Outlining a range of other activities, she said the Republic of Korea supports the Forest Landscape Restoration Mechanism which helps developing countries on related activities.
Mr. VAN OPZEELAND (New Zealand) asked whether it would be possible to include the panellists’ suggestions and responses in the secretariat’s summary of today’s proceedings.
Mr. MUTTAGIN (Indonesia) voiced support for the Collaborative Partnership for Forests’ workplan. Welcoming efforts to link the strategic plan for forests with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, he underlined Indonesia’s support for the latter and outlined efforts to move towards a low-carbon economy despite facing resource constraints as a developing country. He also described successes towards achieving various conservation and biodiversity targets.
Mr. OGAWA (Japan), underlining the importance of the Paris Agreement, said his country enacted a forest environment tax aimed at securing stable resources for sustainable forest management and combating climate change.
Mr. BALDAUF (Germany) expressed support for the Collaborative Platform, which he said bears a special responsibility in promoting coherence and should assume a greater role in facilitating funding in the future. Spotlighting Germany’s support to the Collaborative Platform’s activities in such areas as global forest education and global green supply chains, he said it also supported FAO’s role as lead agency of the Collaborative Partnership through a staff secondment. Germany also provides support to other countries and regions and supports the Global Landscapes Forum as an independent, science-based, cross‑sectoral platform providing a “global community of practice”.
Ms. CORONEL (Ecuador), pointing out that her country suffers the impacts of climate change despite having contributed very little to causing the problem, noted that work is currently under way to achieve a 4 per cent reduction in greenhouse‑gas emissions. There is also potential to achieve a steeper 16 per cent reduction, provided Ecuador receives the necessary international support.
CATHERINE K. COLQUE (United States), reiterating her country’s support for the Collaborative Partnership for Forests, said the strategic plan for forests provides “tools, not a structure” and does not require national approaches to be completely synergized. Emphasizing the need to avoid intruding on the mandates of other organizations — including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — she warned against introducing additional reporting burdens and called for flexibility. Stakeholders should be cautious about identifying any single policy or approach for all Forum members, she stressed.
Mr. MAHMOUD (Malaysia), expressing support for the Collaborative Partnership for Forests’ workplan, urged that body to be more proactive by increasing its outreach to and communication with Member States. He also underlined Malaysia’s commitment to meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and other critical global sustainability targets.
In the afternoon, the Forum held a panel discussion on “actions by regional and subregional partners in support of the United Nations strategic plan on forests 2030”. Moderated by Paola Deda, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Forests, Land and Housing Divisions, and Chief, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/FAO Joint Forestry and Timber Section, it featured presentations by Godwin Kowero, Executive Secretary, African Forest Forum; Almami Dampha, Senior Policy Officer for Forestry and Land Management, African Union Commission; Peter Csoka, Secretary, Committee on Forestry and Team Leader of the Statutory Bodies of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and Outreach of the Food and Agriculture Organization; Thang Long Trinh, Programme Coordinator, Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan for green development, International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation; and David Gritten, Senior Programme Officer, The Center for People and Forests.
Ms. DEDA said panellists will cover the actions and steps taken to integrate forest goals into policies and programmes, as well as steps taken to raise awareness about the contributions of forests and forest goals to the Sustainable Development Goals under review.
Mr. DAMPHA said the African Union Commission brings together 55 African countries under one political framework with headquarters in Addis Ababa and efforts focused on economic integration. Sustainable forest management is important for attaining Africa’s Agenda 2063, whose Objective 5 considers sustainable resource management as the basis for creating a prosperous, peaceful continent. The development of a sustainable forest management framework for Africa is under way in partnership with FAO, the Forum, African Forest Forum and others. In addition, the African Strategy on Combating Illegal Exploitation and Illegal Trade in Wildlife Fauna and Flora is being implemented, as are efforts to build resilience through landscape restoration. The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel is one key initiative, he said, noting, as well, that many countries have committed to the “Africa 100” programme — coordinated by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) agency in South Africa — to restore over 100 million hectares of land by 2030. The Commission also promotes land‑degradation neutrality targets as a way to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 15.3. Many countries have completed the target-setting phase and are now in the process of implementation. Africa is also developing a continent-wide strategy for climate change mitigation in the context of the Paris Agreement.
Mr. KOWERO said the African Forest Forum is a membership institution, with more than 2,000 members who define the agenda to be implemented by the secretariat. Describing some of the seven programmatic areas, he said that, in terms of better forest management, efforts focus on expanding forest cover, notably through investments in plantations and farmer-managed regeneration efforts, including in South Africa, measures that are attracting private sector interest. Forest certification and free husbandry practices are also under way. Regarding the role of forests in poverty alleviation, efforts focus on livelihood opportunities. In terms of forest supplies, the private sector is highly disorganized and studies were undertaken to understand which public-private partnerships can be promoted. As for the contribution of trees to environmental health, efforts focus on biodiversity and other activities that correspond to Goals 1, 2 and 6. In terms of forests’ contribution to food, nutrition and food security, efforts focus on interactions between forests and agriculture at the landscape level. “We’re still scouting for resources to work in this area,” he said, citing other activities in the areas of policies and governance, local forest management, capacity-building and skills development.
Mr. GRITTEN said his non-profit is a capacity-development organization in the Asia-Pacific region, working with Governments, civil society and international agencies. Its focus is on building the rights of local communities. Explaining that community forestry involves customary and indigenous practices, as well as Government-led initiatives, he said that at the heart of its mission is the idea that local communities know their forests the best, depend on them the most and have rights to their forests. In South-East Asia, community forestry is important, and the reasons Governments invest in it are to address deforestation and degradation, and to achieve the ambitious forest targets they have set. Some targets have been developed in a systematic manner, and others simply for the sake of being a target. A Government can set a target that cascades down to the local level. Evidence in South‑East Asia has shown, however, that, while targets are slowly being met, there is a mixed picture on whether they are achieving substantive outcomes — for example, changes in livelihoods and income. Those involved must ensure that efforts are not carried out in a top-down process with little consideration for the rights of local communities.
Mr. TRINH said the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation has 45 member States and is headquartered in China with five regional offices. It promotes bamboo and rattan in efforts to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals. Noting that there are more than 1,600 species of bamboo and more than 600 species of rattan, he said bamboo can foster climate change mitigation. One hectare of bamboo stores several metric tons of carbon. In Mexico, for example, carbon locked in one hectare of bamboo holds 140 metric tons of carbon for more than 30 years. He highlighted various efforts for bamboo pellets, charcoal and ethanol, pointing out that the organization works in the United Republic of Tanzania to support bamboo charcoal, creating jobs for local people. In Madagascar, it introduced bamboo gasification plants to 250 households, he said, adding that consumption of 180 kilogrammes of bamboo generates electricity for six hours.
Mr. CSOKA, noting that FAO works at the regional and global levels, said that, in terms of its governing bodies, forestry is the only area that covers six regions. Global interaction is important in its governance mechanism. On integrating the global forest goals into policies and programmes, he said the Forum’s outcomes and strategic plan on forestry is a standing agenda item for forestry commissions that recommend actions in such areas as forest indicators. These commissions also provide invitations to the Forum, including to identify areas for collaboration. Raising awareness of forests’ contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals is another key focus. Since the Goals are standing items on the Committee on Forestry’s agenda, FAO can provide such normative and analytic products as thematic studies and reports on the Goals and targets for which the Committee is a custodian. More broadly, he said the forest and farm facility works in three regions to support small forest producers to increase their activities, noting that almost 1,000 associations representing 30 million producers were supported in developing new business plans. Through it they increased their income sometimes as much as 500 to 1,000 per cent. “What we’re talking about is not a small thing here,” he said, stressing that there are 1.5 billion small producers worldwide.
To a question posed by the representative of Finland about challenges faced and lessons learned in the area of awareness raising, Mr. CSOKA said FAO governing bodies are the very Member States present in this room. As such, FAO receives “very consistent guidance” from its governing bodies.
Mr. DAMPHA said that the Commission’s mandate is to support its Member States. It does not have an enforcement mandate, as its members are sovereign countries. The most it can do is raise awareness and advocate. “This takes time,” he said, and the economic, social and environmental contexts must be regularly considered. “The will is there, and we are on the right track.”
Mr. KOWERO said the key actors on the ground who should invest in forest activities are in the private sector, including companies and groups of individuals, such as farmers. However, their representation in major forums is weak and the main information is not reaching them. Surveys found that there is little awareness, especially in academia. “It is frightening,” he said, as academics are responsible for moving future generations in the right direction. As a result, there are few university students who understand the global forest goals. As well, information from international processes is not reaching national constituencies quickly. Institutions wanting to bring such information to them require the resources to do so. “We should move with speed,” he said because they want to participate in development processes.
Mr. TRINH said his organization has a communications team that creates information to share with Member States. It organizes awareness‑raising events for policymakers, and regional workshops for Governments and private sector actors, including companies. The challenge lays in finding funding for work with Governments and communities.
Mr. GRITTEN said the global forest goals are in their early stages. In South-East Asia, there is little knowledge of them, in part due to a lack of funds. Governments will not consider them as part of a process unless they have the resources to move forward to achieve them.
The representative of Fiji said it is working towards a framework to ensure resources are available to strengthen coordination among organizations at the national and subnational levels. The Government plans to plant 4 million trees starting in 2019 and is now finalizing its forest legislation, notably in terms of strengthening enforcement. Importantly, forest wardens also provide support to communities to foster sustainable forest management.
The speaker from International Union of Forest Research Organizations said his organization is an active member of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, providing scientific information on a variety of topics. On forest-related goal 4, concerning partnerships, and goal 4.5, related to the accessibility of forest information, it leads global scientific assessment reports through global forest expert panels. Over 10 years, six such scientific assessments have been completed, the results of which have informed policy decisions, including in the Forum. Its global network of scientists can help Member States with any challenges related to implementation of the global forest goals and the strategic plan on forests.
The speaker from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources described the Bonn Challenge, a non-binding commitment by countries or land owners to recover degraded or deforested lands to achieve societal needs. Plantations are components of such strategies, and also part of landscape approach strategies which aim to deliver a range of benefits. Restoration must meet myriad needs, including resilience of small-holder farming systems. Citing Brazil’s progress, she encouraged delegates to review the Bonn Challenge Barometer of Progress.
The Forum then convened a panel on the theme “Actions by major groups partners in support of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2030”. Moderated by Joseph Cobbinah, Forum Focal Point for the science and technology major group, it featured six panellists: Steffen Dehn, Forum Focal Point for the children and youth major group; Lucy Mulenkei, Forum Focal Point for the indigenous peoples major group; Martha Cecilia Nunez Canizares, Forum Focal Point for the non-governmental organizations major group; Fernanda Rodriguez, Forum Alternate Focal Point for the women’s major group; Cecile Ndjebet, Forum Focal Point for the women’s major group; and Sim Hoek-Cho, Forum Alternate Focal Point for the science and technology major group.
Mr. COBBINAH, opening the discussion, recalled that the major groups represent segments of civil society and have been engaged in all United Nations environmental discussions since the 1992 Conference on Environment and Development. Noting that the panel provides a chance for constituents to present progress made in implementing the strategic plan for forests, he asked them to identify steps taken to streamline the plan and their global forests goals into the work of each major group, what more can be done to accelerate the progress of the goals and which constraints should be addressed to stay on course.
Ms. NDJEBET, presenting the collective umbrella workplan of the major groups, said four main areas have been identified in which they can add the most value: information in support of capacity for advocacy; localizing the strategic plan and translating it to people on the ground; promoting mutual accountability for commitments made and statements of intent; and strengthening major groups’ own capacity and resource base for effective action. Noting that 30 actions have been planned in those areas, she described the 10 actions already begun. The first, to be led by the major groups focal point, is to develop an information and knowledge-sharing platform, including for traditional knowledge. Others include promoting gender mainstreaming; raising awareness and boosting engagement in local forest management; building capacity in entrepreneurial skills; advocating for secure land and forest/tree tenure; promoting mutual and collective accountability for delivering on forest-related commitments; and increasing market access for forest- and nature-based industries and enterprises.
Mr. DEHN, outlining forest-related activities carried out by the children and youth major group in the last year, recalled that it participated in an expert group meeting on Sustainable Development Goal 15 ahead of the Economic and Social Council’s 2018 high-level political forum. To highlight the valuable role of forests in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the major group took part in a Climate Week project — alongside the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and various local actors in New York City — which used a comic art design contest and a theatre programme to reach young people in innovative ways. For the International Day of Forests, the major group engaged in World Café sessions around the globe, bringing people from different generations together to discuss forest-related topics. It also held a webinar training session on the theme “International Forest Policy in the UN and Beyond” and a Landscape Leadership Youth Workshop. However, he said, the children and youth major group faces limited opportunities and huge challenges in time, capacity and resources.
Ms. MULENKEI said there are over 350 million indigenous peoples around the world, belonging to more than 5,000 groups in some 90 countries. Many are forest‑dwellers or depend on forests for their daily economic activity. Land tenure issues are critical to their lives and to helping accelerate the strategic plan for forests and its global forest goals. “The forest to us is life,” she stressed. Following massive displacements resulting from deforestation around the world, indigenous peoples have worked with various partners to help localize the strategic plan and translate the Forum’s decisions to people on the ground. Spotlighting the major groups’ collective target of developing a knowledge-sharing platform as particularly important, she said the indigenous peoples major group is also developing its own roster of technical and scientific experts to help with communication and advocacy. Agreeing with other panellists that education and awareness is key, she cautioned that communities which are not informed or engaged are too often left behind.
Ms. NUNEZ CANIZARES said the priority topics for the non-governmental organizations major group include communications and outreach, capacity-building, awareness raising, advocacy and networking. Special attention has been paid to the security of forest land tenure, she said, adding that the major group’s activities aim to demonstrate the contribution of forests and their importance in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Global Forest Coalition and its partners, for example, has been working to raise awareness of the main drivers of deforestation and perverse subsidies to the livestock industry. Meanwhile, Coordinadora Ecuatoriana de organizaciones para la Defensa de la Naturaleza y el Medio Ambiente and its members lead trainings and discussion sessions, conduct climate advocacy, promote the recollection and the analysis of information and work to raise awareness of the risk of forest loss. She also described her work at a member of the Forest Management Certification Scheme, known as FSC, which protects forest lands and peoples and ensures free prior and informed consent. Describing obstacles facing the work of the major group, she cited resource constraints and challenging conditions of participation in international meetings.
Mr. SIM, spotlighting the crucial importance of relevant, updated information, said knowledge is the core business of the scientific and technological community. Maintaining existing web platforms is costly and difficult. Noting that such challenges present obstacles to the collection and sharing of traditional forest-related knowledge, he said participation in sessions of the Forum has helped the various major groups work together in developing joint communications and outreach strategies, thereby saving scarce resources. Working with local communities and encouraging their participation in the work of the major group provides people with a sense of ownership and helps to adapt the global forest goals and targets to local contexts. He also outlined efforts to build capacity in entrepreneurship. “Forests are not just for wood,” he said, spotlighting their multiple functions for the well-being of humans and the planet. Sustaining their health also contributes to food security and poverty reduction and bolsters efforts to combat climate change.
Ms. NDJEBET, outlining ways in which the workplan of the major group for women dovetails with the global forest goals, said the group seeks to mainstream gender across each of the goals while empowering females. Among other things, it advocates for the collection of disaggregated data on women in sustainable forest management and in the forestry industry, as well as on their relationship with land tenure, access and rights. It also works to increase women’s entrepreneurship and leadership in the forest economy; seeks to better understand how many national resources are allocated to women and gender equality programmes related to the forest sector; and collects information to help build the Forum’s key messages on gender equality. However, she joined other speakers in stressing that the major groups require more resources and support and warned that an overall lack of monitoring and evaluation could jeopardize the strategic plan’s success.
In a brief ensuing discussion, the representative of Ecuador agreed with the panellists that scientific research and data collection are critical for countries to take appropriate decisions. In her country, sustainable development efforts engage the voices of women, young people and other segments of society. Access to land is free under Ecuador’s Constitution, but more work is needed to strengthen institutions and promote land ownership among women.
A representative of the major group for non-governmental organizations expressed regret that a lack of financing has limited the ability of the various major groups to hold critical meetings.
The representative of Germany said his country will soon conclude a funding agreement with the Forum to strengthen the capacity of major groups and stakeholders to engage in its work.
Mr. SIM echoed the concerns expressed by the representative of Ecuador, noting that, while people today are bombarded with knowledge and data, policymakers need to be better educated on which data to use.
Ms. RODRIGUEZ agreed that advocating for gender equality in the forestry sector is challenging and requires greater effort.
Mr. DEHN stressed that children and youth cut across the work of all major groups and can help bridge the gaps identified today.
Ms. MULENKEI, describing a women’s tree‑planting scheme in Kenya, said women need to know their own power.
Ms. RODRIGUEZ, stressing that men are not a problem, but part of the solution, underlined the importance of both genders in promoting equality and women’s empowerment in the forest sector.
Also speaking was a representative of the major group for farmers and small forest landowners.