The Forum on Forests, meeting via video-teleconference, continued its sixteenth session today with speakers discussing the progress achieved so far in launching the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network clearing house, as well as monitoring, assessment and reporting issues.
Yan Lang, Programme Management Officer, United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, recalled that, at its thirteenth session in 2018, the Forum requested its Secretariat to start work on the online clearing house with the aim of creating a user-friendly platform that would help Member States access financing for sustainable forest management.
Introducing the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network website — https://forest-finance.un.org/ — she said it features three searchable databases dedicated to financing opportunities, information and learning materials for accessing resources, and good practices and lessons learned. Developed at a cost of $20,000, it was created and is hosted by the United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology using in-house expertise and in compliance with the Organization’s guidelines and standards.
“Forest financing is a complex issue and mobilizing adequate resources for sustainable forest management is now even more urgent than before,” she said, adding that delegations are invited to suggest ways of making the clearing house even more useful.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, Member States praised the launch of the clearing house and suggested ways in which financing for forest-related projects can be improved, particularly in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Paris Agreement on climate change and efforts to “build back better” once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.
The representative of the European Union invited the Collective Partnership on Forests to tell others about the Network’s potential for helping countries define forest financing strategies as an integral part of their post-pandemic recovery plans. At the same time, more needs to be done to speed up the operationalization of all the Network’s activities, with a specific focus on the clearing house. Turning to the proposed Network office in China, she requested more information, adding that the office should add value to the Network’s mandate. She went on to say that the Union and its member States support well-defined work between sessions to review the Network’s impact in the context of preparing the Forum’s midterm evaluation of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests.
The representative of Peru called for more financing to promote national strategies geared towards sustainable forest management, forest‑planting and conservation, and national protected areas. Noting that 61 per cent of his country is covered by Amazon forest, he said that Peru is making some progress in such areas as the restoration of degraded lands and the commercial planting of more than 1 million hectares to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that, as co-host of the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and President of the Group of Seven, her country will ensure that the natural world stays at the top of the global agenda. Much of the £3 billion that the United Kingdom has earmarked for international climate change finance will be invested in forest-related projects. She emphasized the need to scale up private sector investment and called on multilateral development banks to mainstream nature across their entire portfolios.
The representative of Argentina said that forest protection has become even more relevant in the context of the pandemic. To that end, developed countries must contribute fresh resources for developing nations. By halting deforestation and promoting reforestation and sustainable forest management, working in particular with indigenous, rural and remote communities, Argentina is aiming to reduce its carbon emissions.
The representative of China said that his country is pleased to see the Forum secretariat making positive progress on the clearing house. The pandemic has had an immense impact on forest financing and funding sources are facing huge challenges. However, funding should be an inseparable part of the post-pandemic recovery. He added that the Network requires more resources to fulfil its responsibility and that it should speed up efforts to set up its office in China.
The representative of the United States welcomed the idea of intersessional workshops, adding however that they should be voluntarily, and ideally, held in person when that becomes possible. The Network should look beyond official development assistance (ODA) and multilateral financing by reaching out to the private sector and the philanthropic sector. Turning to the establishment of a second database, she said that duplication must be avoided.
The representative of South Africa said that implementing the Strategic Plan for Forests and its global forest goals requires a significant improvement in implementation mechanisms, including the allocation of financial resources and the promotion of technology transfers. The Network’s partnership and support for South Africa’s forestry plans — including the planting of 2 million trees in its townships every year for the next five years — has been encouraging.
The representative of Fiji said that, for small island States, financing procedures and mechanisms can be cumbersome to the point of becoming constraints. Such countries have limited capacity and need an extra push to capitalize on the growing number of forest financing sources. He added that, for small island States, the costs of forest action on a per‑capita or per‑unit basis are much higher than in bigger countries which enjoy economies of scale. More consideration should also be given to the blue forest sector, such as mangroves, he said.
The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) spotlighted the support that the agency gives States for their sustainable forest management efforts. Despite the pandemic, its Forestry Division portfolio nearly doubled in size in 2020 compared to 2019, totalling $926 million thanks to bilateral and multilateral funding partners. Eighteen per cent of Global Environment Facility projects, for which FAO is the implementing agency, relate directly to forestry, as do more than half of the approved projects in its Green Climate Fund portfolio. Underscoring the important role of the Collective Partnership for Forests, she proposed that a meeting be organized with interested countries to discuss ways to enhance its work, including through more financial contributions.
Representatives of Indonesia, Argentina, Mexico, Switzerland, Ukraine, Japan, Panama, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador and Kenya also spoke. Nicaragua and Mali were requested to submit their statements in writing due to technical difficulties.
The second meeting of the day focused on monitoring, assessment and reporting. Moderated by Forum Vice-Chair Jesse Mahoney (Australia), it featured presentations from Tomasz Juszczak, Forest Affairs Officer, United Nations Forum on Forests secretariat; Tiina Vähänen, Deputy Director of the Forestry Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization; Ewald Rametsteiner, Deputy Director, Forestry Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization; and Stephanie Linser, Senior Researcher, International Union of Forest Research Organizations.
Mr. Juszczak said the Global Forest Assessment before the Forum was created as a tool to communicate global forest goals to the public and to raise the profile of forests within United Nations system. The report aimed to track progress towards targets, but also revealed several challenges, including data availability, particularly measuring progress as it relates to social economics and poverty. There were also some issues with indicators, several of which are lacking finished methodology and data. In addition, a majority of the 26 targets are political in nature and measuring progress towards each is not straightforward, he explained.
Another area that could use improvement pertains to the number of reports submitted, which was lower than ideal. Some of the data from national correspondents came from other institutions and agencies outside the forest sector, which is helpful because the goals and targets cover a wide spectrum of areas. Acknowledging that there is a need to further streamline the reporting format, he asked the Forum if an expert group meeting would help address those issues. Monitoring progress is not easy but is feasible, thanks to collaboration and participation from Member States and other United Nations agencies. He went on to suggest the possibility of making the report a recurring publication and wondered if there is there a way to get more country reports through additional support provided to Member States.
Ms. Vähänen gave and overview of the Forestry Division’s process, reporting that its national correspondent network covers 187 countries and territories, which together contain 99.5 per cent of the world’s forests. FAO trains those members to compile standardized country reports via a comprehensive online platform which is crucial for consistent, transparent coverage across countries. Reports are then subject to review and validation. She went on to outline the various formats in which the results of assessments are offered, including an interactive digital report and online platform.
The findings of 2020 showed that, while deforestation has declined at a substantial rate, the reduction is not enough to meet global goals. However, more than 2 billion hectares of forest is under management plans, which is an increase of 13 per cent in the last 20 years. Moving forward, in addition to a forest resource assessment report every five years, guidance, tools and support will be provided for more consistent reporting on primary forests and the use of remote sensing there.
Mr. Rametsteiner provided an update on tier one, two and three indicators. He proposed a multiagency task force to investigate support for reporting on each indicator, data coherence and rapid data‑collection. There is also an opportunity to reduce the reporting burden by teaming up with United Nations agencies, he said. As for additional steps in the lead up to the expert workshop, he suggested preparing further guidance notes. He went on to note that there is no agreed‑upon methodology for the tier three indicators. Regarding the number of “forest‑dependent” people, there can be good progress towards tier two if there is a reclassification from “forest-dependent” to “forest‑proximate people”, a term which can be used as a proxy and combine the geospatial information with World Bank poverty databases. That way, methods to extrapolate poverty estimations to forest communities can be developed. Similarly, as it pertains to food security, further exploration into estimation methods through the development of a proximity index can be conducted. Funding and support mobilization will be needed for the next steps, which will include further work on the global core set of indicators as part of the Collaborative Partnerships on Forests Work Plan for 2021-24, he said.
Ms. Linser spoke about the research and development of core indicators. She pointed out that almost every country in the world — except for seven — participates in 1 of the 11 areas engaged in criteria and indicator processes. However, there are big differences in the degree of involvement between countries, with Europe being the only region with a ministerial contribution. There are also notable differences in coordination in the processes, which have diverged over time. Member State contributions only result from commitment, she said, adding that success factors often include political support leading to sufficient data. The major impacts of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management processes include enhanced discourse and understanding; better focused science; a framework to guide research; improved monitoring; aligned global forest reporting with national data systems; and improved dialogue and communication in and outside of the forest sector. She went on to give short updates on a selection of processes, including the Montreal process which is selecting key indicators for a survey on the pandemic’s impact on forests.
In the ensuing general discussion, Mexico’s representative acknowledged that it is important to draft and submit reports for the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests in a timely manner to measure progress made towards achieving the global forest goals. Establishing a group of indicators and increasing the capacity to compile data for Member States will contribute to the success of those efforts. As such, Mexico requests support for workshops for Member States so they may continue to compile data for the indicators and ensure success. In addition, there is a need to develop analytical tools so countries can attain information more easily.
The representative of Canada pointed out that only 52 Member States sent voluntary national reports in 2020. In that context, she expressed support for increased capacity-building and an expert group meeting to support countries’ needs. It is time to see what works well, what needs improvement and bring stronger policy recommendations, she stressed. Furthermore, the flagship publication should be disseminated beyond the United Nations community.
The representative of Malaysia suggested that financial indications and impacts on countries’ reporting burdens must be considered moving forward and said future resources should be allocated for that purpose.
The representative of Australia proposed that Member States should include their own definitions of indicators upon submission of reports. She said the global forest goals report must be a living, adaptive document and should be used as a building block for future work. The short form of the publication provides a precise update that will be easily digestible by the non-United Nations population. She went on to agree with other Members that the publication should be recurrent and in line with other national reporting.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the flagship United Nations Forum on Forests publication should also be published in the Organization’s other official languages. As for the next cycle of reporting, she agreed with the suggestion to have submissions due 6 or 10 months after the next forest resource assessment cycle to minimize burden and enhance productivity. She went on to note that regular updates during intersessional periods would be helpful and said colleagues who are involved in core indicators could make the work more participatory. However, she expressed doubt for the need to give more resources to indicators where there was a failure concerning agreed‑upon methodologies.
Also speaking were the representatives of Indonesia, Ukraine, China, United States, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and South Africa, as well as the European Union. Members of the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization and Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization also made statements.