Issue #1

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WHAT'S IN THIS FIRST ISSUE:
Dear friends,

It is with pleasure that the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat presents the first edition of "Regional Voices". It is quite clear to us that regional and sub-regional actions are fundamental for sustainable forest management - SFM around the world. In this regard, our Secretariat has been trying to find ways to enhance the communication with and among our regional/sub-regional partners.

Our first edition follows two major developments in the regional/sub-regional forest arena: the First Summit on Tropical Forest Ecosystems of Amazonia, the Congo Basins and South East Asia took place in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo and the Forest Europe Ministerial conference in Oslo, Norway.

The Brazzaville meeting launched a promising path towards a true South-South sustainable forest management cooperation process, while in Oslo European countries decided to pursue a legally binding agreement in the context of Forest Europe.

In addition, this first edition of our newsletter included input from the International Model Forest Network - IMFN on their various model forests throughout the world. It is always inspiring to see how the same principles applied in different regions are so successful and we are glad that this newsletter will contribute to publicize further the amazing job being done by our IMFN friends.

From the Congo basin we are reminded by both the Central African Forests Commission - COMIFAC and the Réseau des parlementaires pour la gestion durable des écosystèmes forestiers d'Afrique Centrale"1 - REPAR, that human beings, people, are to be taken into account and the promotion of SFM is a work of collaboration among various sectors of the society. As this is the theme of the International Year of Forests, we are doubly grateful to these regional organizations for their vision and commitment.

I hope you enjoy the "Regional Voices" and that we can hear from you as well! For comments, suggestions and ideas please contact Barbara Tavora-Jainchill at tavora-jainchill@un.org. Please include Miriam Danar, at danar@un.org in your emails.

With my warmest regards to all colleagues,

Jan McAlpine
Director
United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat


1 Unofficial translation: Network of Members of Parliaments for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa.

FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference Oslo 2011
forest_europeEuropean countries shape forest policy: Historic breakthrough
For 20 years, FOREST EUROPE’s policy process fostered protection and sustainable management of Europe’s forests. At the FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe 14-16 June in Oslo, ministers and high-level representatives from FOREST EUROPE’s Signatories made a historical commitment to secure the sustainability of their forests, enhancing Europe’s contributions to International Year of Forests 2011, and highlighting the role of forests for human well-being.

By launching negotiations for a Legally Binding Agreement on Forests in Europe, forest ministers confirmed that sustainable management of Europe’s forests requires a platform for policy implementation.

Crown Prince Haakon of Norway opened the FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference, hosted by Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food, Mr. Lars Peder Brekk, and organised with the Spanish Minister of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs, Dr. Rosa Aguilar Rivero.

Opportunities, challenges
The challenges and opportunities of sustainable forest management in Europe are addressed in the publication “State of Europe’s Forests 2011”, launched during the Conference.

The report, prepared jointly by FOREST EUROPE, UNECE and FAO, reveals the challenges of Europe’s forests, providing decision-makers and the public with information on sustainable forest management in Europe from 1990-2010.

Europe is the most forest-rich region in the world, representing 25% of global forest resources, with huge potential to mitigate climate change, provide renewable materials, wood, energy, and to foster a green economy. Sustainable forest management promotes biodiversity. However, threats like air pollution, insects and diseases have affected soils and the natural balance of species. Storms, wind and fires also increase with changing climate.

For 20 years, European forests expanded, averaging .8 million hectares yearly. From 2005 - 2010, Europe’s forests annually absorbed approximately 10% of the region’s 2008 CO2 greenhouse gas emissions.

Protected regional forests increased about half a million hectares annually over the last 10 years, mainly due to successful governmental policies. Europe’s forests have potential for a green economy and new jobs; 4 million Europeans work in forestry enterprises.

The report is based on the understanding of what European sustainable forest management means, from collaboration developing common principles, criteria and guidelines for sustainable management.

Ahead
The Oslo decisions will lay foundations to mitigate climate change, conserve biodiversity, foster a low carbon economy, provide green jobs and tackle illegal logging.

At the signing of the Oslo Ministerial Decision: European Forests 2020 and Oslo Ministerial Mandate for Negotiating a Legally Binding Agreement on Forests in Europe, FOREST EUROPE Signatories adopted a vision, goals and new targets ensuring forests can perform their ecological, economic and social functions and provide goods and services. Representatives decided to elaborate a Legally Binding Agreement on Forests in Europe and establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) with the mandate to develop a Legally Binding Agreement, and a Bureau for the INC.

The conference was attended by ministers and high-level representatives from 41 FOREST EUROPE countries and the European Union. Six observer countries from outside Europe and 29 international organizations, environmental and social NGOs, forest owners' associations, the forest industry and intergovernmental organisations participated as observers.
Green Heart - Rosy Future

Since 2008, the Congressmen members of the “Réseau des parlementaires pour la gestion durable des écosystèmes forestiers d’Afrique Centrale” – REPAR from Cameroon have engaged in a project called “Green Heart-Rosy Future”. It aims at fighting climate change and desertification relying on collaboration agreements with decentralized communities, academic institutions and associations for the protection of the environment. Even though the plan is to cover the whole of Cameroon’s territory, the initial focus of the Members of Parliament – MPs - will be on areas which are most endangered by those two phenomena.

Some forest-environment sector stakeholders believe that the initiative deserves special attention. From their point of view, the results of previous editions are overall satisfactory: 24 reforestation sites, 32,000 trees planted. It must be especially noted that, despite the lack of financial means, MPs have shown a great support not only by being massively present at meetings aimed at raising awareness of public opinion, but also by providing multifaceted support.

At the time when the 2011 campaign is announced, full of innovations, all eyes are already glued to the shoreline and Southwest of the country, areas of mountains and mangroves with fragile ecosystems, suffering the consequences of wild urbanization. In addition to the planting of 27,000 trees, an increase over the previous editions, public debates and roundtables, aiming at further involving the affected population, in particular the youth, are envisaged. Already strongly mobilized in support of the cause, the MPs call for a synergy with the actions and strategies at the national and international levels.

The 3rd REPAR Conference (Libreville)

After Yaoundé (Cameroon) in 2006 and Bata (Equatorial Guinea) in 2009, the Members of Parliaments of Central Africa are preparing to meet once again to talk about the sustainable management of forest ecosystems. And this time, it will be in Libreville, Gabon.

Announced in a context dominated by the persistence of bad governance, the emergence of new challenges (REDD), as well as the preparation for international negotiations, this 3rd Conference should build on the commitments reached in Bata and provide a response to the many changes of our time. It should also take stock of previous actions by the review of the actions and formulate recommendations with a view to achieve the goals set by Governments.

The results of the previous two conferences are noticeable: the common position adopted for the climate change conference held in Copenhagen and the renewed vitality observed among parliamentarians after the Bata meeting.

A glance at Libreville reveals that preparations are well on their way, although much remains to be done. Libreville is considered a favourable host city for the Conference, especially due to the policies of the Gabonese President, H.E. ALI BONGO ONDIMBA, author of "Green Gabon" and the triptych ''Peace-Development-Sharing".

In view of the above and taking advantage of the opportunity offered by a meeting of its regional steering committee in Yaoundé on 5 May, REPAR recommended that the themes to be discussed at the Conference be reflected upon during its General Assembly in N'Djamena, Chad. But before that, in the coming weeks, an exploratory mission composed of REPAR Cameroon members will be sent to Libreville.

The Model Forest Approach and the International Model Forest Network

A Model Forest is a large, forest-based landscape encompassing land uses, values, resource management, land ownership and stakeholder organizations.

One of Canada's responses to the early 1990s' challenge of sustainable forest management (SFM) was the Model Forest Program. From an initial ten Canadian Model Forests, the IMFN now includes 55+ sites in over 24 countries on five continents, with thousands of partner organizations.

Each Model Forest is a member of the IMFN and a regional network: Canada, Ibero-America, Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean, with Model Forests in Sweden and Russia as well.

The IMFN facilitates exchange of lessons learned across regions, translating sustainable natural resource management ideas into on-the-ground action.

Enhancing SFM through Model Forests:
India
The Cauvery River in Karnataka, India provides water for Bangalore, Mysore, and a large rural population. However, annual rain flow into the watershed has dropped significantly, intensified by loss of forest cover. Shade-grown coffee encompasses much of the economy and coffee growers seek increased timber rights to supplement declining income.

With funding from the IMFN, Kodagu Model Forest supports an assessment of watershed ecological goods and services. Coffee growers are now approaching local governments about Payment for Environmental Service (PES) initiatives and as a result, encouraging the use of PES instruments over the long-term to conserve natural capital and enhance local economic sustainability.

Inter-regional collaboration
Manitoba Model Forest, Canada has partnered with Reventazón Model Forest, Costa Rica on ethno-cultural tourism, management plans, infrastructure and technology for business and education of youth and women.

Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest collaborates with two Model Forests in Cameroon promoting small enterprise development, harmonization of forest use and integrated land management.

Argentinean and Canadian Model Forest Networks are exchanging Canadian Model Forest experiences and lessons learned in local-level criteria and indicators (C&I) for SFM. This enhances capacity to report on impacts of forest management activities locally and within a global C&I framework.

Within the boreal region, indigenous peoples consider reindeer and woodland caribou as cultural keystone species. Model Forests in Canada and Sweden are collaborating to link these species' distributions, based on indigenous observations of changing climate and habitats, to herders' and hunters' adaptive strategies. The focus is on how knowledge is gained rather than what knowledge is gained. Teaching modules are being proposed to link with resource management courses at northern and boreal universities.

Spain
The Urbión Model Forest, in the region of Castile and León, Spain offers an online information system to help local municipalities improve wood sales from sustainably managed forests in one of the largest wooded areas on the Iberian Peninsula. These forests provide over half its inhabitants with employment. Timber from Scots pine is harvested and processed; edible mushrooms and other non-timber forest products, gathered. With recreation, these form the basis for sustainable development.

This online information system shows woodlots, roads to transport wood and distribution plans, simplifying registration for companies that bid on lumber at auctions and facilitating wood marketing.

For more information, visit www.imfn.net

Participatory forest management in Central Africa

The management of natural resources in most countries of the Congo basin is oriented for several years towards a participatory approach. Such an approach, advocated by the Central African Forests Commission - COMIFAC, aims to promote the contribution of forest resources to the improvement of livelihood and development of the sub-region indigenous and local communities. A sub-regional directive on the involvement of the population and Non-Governmental Organizations on the promotion of Sustainable Forest Management was adopted in 2010 by COMIFAC, and the forest laws of most countries of the sub-region take into account the participation of the population in forest management and even the provisions on sharing of benefits.

Regarding implementation of these provisions, efforts have been made by countries to ensure the participation of local actors in forest management and to facilitate redistribution of these royalties. Following the findings of a study on the contribution of forest royalties in Central Africa, about 10 billion francs CFA (approximately 20 million US dollars) obtained from the exploitation of forest resources are paid annually by the administration for the development of local and riparian communities. For Cameroon, specifically, where those measures have been effective since 2000, it is estimated about 50 billion francs CFA have been paid so far for the benefit of these stakeholders. One is tempted to wonder if those significant amounts are actually being used for local development. Opinions on this issue are mixed. Indeed, despite visible achievements (increase in the school enrolment rate, improvement of basic infrastructure such as schools, health facilities, drilling of wells for drinking water), it is clear that, in the majority of cases, those funds meant to benefit local and indigenous communities are being used for other purposes.

It is therefore important to strengthen the mechanism of participation and sharing of revenues from forest management for the improvement of livelihoods of local populations and indigenous peoples of Central Africa.