Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations Recommends Status for 70 Groups, Defers Action on 40 Others as It Opens 2019 Regular Session

Opening its regular session for 2019, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations today recommended 70 organizations for special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and deferred action on the status of 40 others…

Read More

Strengthening indigenous food systems is key to achieving a zero-hunger world

9 November 2018, Rome – Indigenous Food systems and indigenous traditional knowledge have survived hundreds and sometimes thousands of years, therefore they may have some of the answers we are looking for, FAO Director-General José Graziano da S…

Read More

General Assembly Takes Action on Second Committee Reports by Adopting 41 Texts, also Passes Overhaul of United Nations Peace, Security Pillar

Increasing Official Development Assistance, Updating Bank Policies to Support 2030 Agenda among Resolutions ApprovedGearing up to implement the international community’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the General Assembly today adop…

Read More

Agriculture ministers urged to address African rural youth unemployment

Photo: ©FAO/Tamiru Legesse

An FAO-supported horticulture project in Ethiopia is helping create job opportunities for young people.

2 July 2017, Rome – Youth employment should be at the centre of any strategy to face economic and demographic challenges in Africa, the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization José Graziano da Silva told a joint African Union-European Union meeting, hosted at FAO headquarters in Rome. 

In 2014 alone, about 11 million young Africans entered the labour market.  But many see few opportunities in the agriculture sector and are constrained by a lack of skills, low wages, and limited access to land and financial services. Combined, this makes them more prone to migrate from rural areas.

“Fostering sustainable agriculture and rural development is essential to absorb these millions of youth looking for a job,” Graziano da Silva said. “A sustainable world can only be achieved with the full engagement of young people. They must feel integrated and believe that a more peaceful and prosperous world is possible.”

The one-day meeting was co-hosted by the African Union Commission, the European Commission and the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council and was attended by Ministers of Agriculture of the African Union and the European Union.

The aim was to build a common vision on how to generate sustainable, inclusive jobs for African youth in the rural sector.

Five step solution

The Director-General outlined five steps to engage youth in agriculture and rural development. Firstly, enhance youth participation and leadership in producer organizations and other rural institutions to empower them to engage in policy dialogue.

Secondly, stimulate private sector investments to create a modern and dynamic agricultural sector and value chains, and to build infrastructure needed for agricultural investments. Thirdly, provide rural areas with better services such as electricity, education and health.

The fourth step is to strengthen the physical, economic, social and political links between small urban centres and their surrounding rural areas. Finally, invest more in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) which has the potential to improve efficiency in some farm work and facilitate access to markets, information and business opportunities.

FAO’s work to support youth

FAO is supporting the implementation of many programmes that target youth in rural areas. Uganda, for example, has adopted FAO’s Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools methodology, funded by Norway, Sweden and Belgium. This simple but efficient program teaches vulnerable children and young people about farming and management skills.

In Nigeria, FAO is supporting the design of the National Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme; and FAO and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) have joined forces to increase jobs and business opportunities for young people in rural areas of Benin, Cameroon, Malawi and Niger through a $4 million grant made available by the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund.

The conference outcomes will be presented at the Africa-EU Summit in November and will guide future work of both the European Commission and the African Union Commission.

Read More

Forum on Forests Poised to Guide Investments in Woodland Areas for Building Sustainable, Resilient Societies, Speakers Say as Session Continues

The United Nations Forum on Forests was in a position to lead high-level discussions on how smart investments in woodland areas could reduce the risks of natural disaster, mitigate climate change and more broadly foster implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, speakers said today as they continued the policy body’s twelfth session.

In particular, said Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Forum on Forests could provide guidance to the High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development when it convened in 2018 under the theme, “transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”.

While its inputs would be particularly important for the review of Sustainable Development Goal 15 on forests, they would also be useful for evaluating Goals 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 12 (responsible consumption and production) and 17 (partnership).  “You are the experts on forestry,” he said, “the curators of that pillar that is so essential.”

Forum on Forests Chair Peter Besseau (Canada) encouraged delegates to “think out loud” about how to communicate the importance of forests to the 2030 Agenda and perhaps invite other sectors to work on forestry issues.

In turn, speakers representing Government, civil society, the United Nations and trade groups offered proposals for broadening the Forum on Forest’s outreach, with some welcoming the announcement of an international conference on Goal 15 and others suggesting that the Collaborative Partnership on Forests — an informal group of 14 agencies — enhance its cooperation with the Political Forum.

In that context, a speaker from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said a revised concept note for a proposed international conference to prepare for the 2018 Political Forum had been e-mailed to all participants of the twelfth session.  A speaker from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations meanwhile drew attention to a new expert panel on forests and water.

Manoel Sobral Filho, Director of the Secretariat of the Forum on Forests, presented the Secretary-General’s report on enhanced cooperation, coordination and engagement on forest-related issues, stressing that communications and outreach were essential components of the Strategic Plan on Forests 2017-2030.  The secretariat had identified key audiences, messages and activities, he said, highlighting efforts to enhance the roles of major groups, and regional and subregional bodies in international forest arrangements.

Switzerland’s delegate, however, objected to proposals for the creation of new bodies to foster cooperation with regional processes, or coordinate interregional work, questioning how they would be financed.  Nor was a network needed on poverty reduction, the timber trade and illegal logging, which would supersede the Forum on Forest’s mandate.  She, likewise, questioned what a multistakeholder advisory group would do.

In the afternoon, the Forum on Forests held a panel discussion on “means of implementation for sustainable forest management”.  Panellist Penny Davies, Programme Officer for Equitable Development at the Ford Foundation, described two streams of investment financing — for sustainable agriculture that did not clear natural forests, and for both sustainable and community-based forest management.

“However, we are finding it difficult to place [that financing],” she said, due to a number of constraints that made those investments too difficult to justify.

Werner Kornexl, Manager of the Programme on Forests, said that, despite the consensus that environmental services from forests were vital for the world’s climate, livelihood, water regulation and biodiversity, a widening gap existed in investments in those areas.  The World Bank’s current forest portfolio — about $500-$600 million per year — fell far short of what was needed.  Flexible, cross‑sectoral thinking was needed to overcome the notion that most financing instruments were too risky in the context of forests, he said, adding that green bonds and fiscal transfer mechanisms were complex, “but doable”.

Ivan Tomaselli, President of STCP Engenharia de Projectos Limitida, said the private sector spent an estimated $125-$170 billion to manage natural forests.   Timber investment management organizations, which acted as brokers for institutional clients, managed more than $60 billion in forest assets and had replaced industry as the main forest managers in many countries.  Such organizations were designed to maximize returns, he said, adding that investments in research and development had largely declined.

Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programmes of the Global Environment Facility secretariat, moderating the discussion, noted that the Facility had supported 411 forest-related projects amounting to $2.7 billion — and leveraging some $13.8 billion in co-financing — since 1991.  Those programmes targeted biodiversity, climate change mitigation and the inefficient use of land, as well as improving local livelihoods.

The Forum on Forests will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 5 May, to conclude its twelfth session.

Implementation of United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030

THOMAS GASS, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, updated on the work of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which he said was not only about centralizing authority and data to New York.  It was about “subsidiarity” and ensuring an intergovernmental space for engaged civil society, experts and Governments to discuss the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 outlined that the Forum on Forests should contribute to the review of the 2030 Agenda and its related Sustainable Development Goals, notably through the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.

Pointing out that the 2018 High-level Political Forum would review Goals 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17 under the theme, “transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”, he said its contribution would be of particular importance to Goal 15, on forests, and to Goals 6 and 7, which were linked to sustainable forest management.

“The Forum’s input can give clear and concrete guidance on national actions towards achieving the forest-related Sustainable Development Goals,” he said, stressing that it might consider holding intersessional activities ahead of the thirteenth session in 2018, during which States could be invited to submit their views on the contributions of forests to those Goals.  The Forum on Forests’ understanding of forestry was already higher than that of the Political Forum.  It could speak to the nexus between forestry and the other goals and he encouraged participants to review targets “with a fine-toothed comb” to help others understand where forestry was most important.

In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Iran said the Political Forum was a universal platform for presenting views and ideas.  The feedback it received in the expression of views was important and he asked how those views helped States achieve goals and targets.

Mr. GASS replied that the Political Forum was a space where several information tracks came together.  For example, quantitative information was collected from an aggregate of official global indicators.  The Forum on Forests had more granularity and details about what was behind the data.  About 80 of the Council’s functional commissions were invited each year to provide inputs to the Political Forum, which could be found on the sustainable development knowledge platform.  As for feedback, States should not expect a detailed analysis of the Forum on Forest’s contribution to the Political Forum.  There would be a summary of the proceedings.  Also, it would be important that Political Forum members bring information back to the Forum on Forests.

The representative of the European Union welcomed announcement of an international conference on Goal 15.  Any emerging issues or gaps should be identified and the Political Forum should provide guidance in that regard.

The representative of Bhutan said that, at the national level, forestry was a large part of sustainable development.  Bhutan was up for voluntary national review in 2018.  Given the importance of forestry in the national development framework, the issue would be strongly reflected in its review.  He encouraged others to take a holistic approach to forestry and its role in development.

The representative of Switzerland said her country would engage with the Political Forum every year and would make forests a high priority in its voluntary review.  She asked whether it would be necessary to wait until 2019 to hear about the results of the Political Forum and how those results would be carried to the General Assembly.

Mr. GASS replied that forests were always relevant to the Political Forum.  It was difficult for 193 Member States to make conclusions on six Goals and an overarching theme, as well as provide feedback to contributors, be they countries or thematic fora, with the kind of expertise that was reflected in their initial contributions.  There were other reporting mechanisms, which were more traditional relationships.  “Through your input and presence in the High-level Political Forum, you can make sure the discussions are pertinent to what you need to get in terms of feedback,” he said.

The representative of Germany said the Strategic Plan should be used to signal that there were threats to forests, due to unsustainable practices in other sectors.

The representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, describing the Forum on Forest’s inputs on resilience of cities and communities, said it was time to more towards more action.  If those contributions were to be transformative they should address mechanisms and processes for bringing change to those communities, notably institutional arrangements and policies for leveraging actions and resources for achieving actionable ends.

The representative of Malaysia said the forestry sector played an important role in Goals 6, 12 and 15.  On Goal 6, the protection of inland waters was essential and underscored the importance of incentivizing development.  On Goal 12, the promotion of forest certification must be intensified in order to reduce illegal logging.  A “green premium” could be used by importing countries to promote sustainable forest management.

The representative of China called the Strategic Plan a milestone outcome.  Establishing a connection between the Global Forest Goals and six targets highlighted the Plan’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Through monitoring, assessment and reporting of the Strategy, the Forum on Forests could report on progress towards achieving those Goals.  The gaps in implementation should be identified in sustainable forest management.  Members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests could also enhance cooperation with the Political Forum.

A speaker from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations outlined his views on the Strategic Plan and the Forum on Forest’s contribution to the 2018 Political Forum meeting, drawing attention to a new expert panel on forests and water, which would produce an assessment and launch a policy brief during the 2018 meeting.  He suggested that space be allocated for scientific discussions.

A speaker from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), referring to the proposal to hold an international conference to prepare for the 2018 Political Forum, said a revised concept note had been e-mailed to all participants in the Forum’s twelfth session.

The representative of New Zealand said that, as the leading body on sustainable forest policy, the Forum on Forests must provide input to all aspects of Goal 15 and other Goals and targets under consideration at the 2018 Political Forum meeting.

Mr. GASS emphasized the complementary between the Political Forum and Forum on Forests, stressing:  “You are the experts on forestry, the curators of that pillar that is so essential.”  He cautioned against placing expectations “on the centre” which “the periphery could do very well”.  The Forum on Forests could ensure that Governments included contributions to the Strategic Plan during their voluntary national reviews by the Political Forum.

Enhanced Cooperation, Coordination and Engagement on Forest-Related Issues

MANOEL SOBRAL FILHO, Director of the Secretariat of the Forum on Forests, presented the Secretary-General’s report on enhanced cooperation, coordination and engagement on forest-related issues (document E/CN.18/2017/5), which gave an overview of activities by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and contained proposals on revised guidelines for country-led initiatives related to the Forum on Forest’s work.  He highlighted the expert meeting on developing global forest indicators, hosted by FAO, and the holding of expert panels.

He said the Secretariat had co-organized, with the Economic Cooperation Organization, an expert meeting in September 2016 to enhance the roles of regional and subregional entities in international forest arrangements.  Proposals made during the meeting served as inputs to subsequent discussions in Bangkok and had proven instrumental in the Forum on Forest’s work.  The eleventh session had reaffirmed the roles of major groups in international forest arrangements.  As such, the Secretariat had worked with major groups to enhance their participation in intersessional work.  In October 2016, it had organized an expert meeting to strengthen the engagement of stakeholders in international arrangements.  It also worked with the focal points of major groups to prepare for the Forum on Forest’s twelfth session.  On communications and outreach, an essential component of the Strategic Plan, the Secretariat had identified key audiences, key messages and activities.

The Forum on Forests then turned to a discussion on country-led initiative guidelines and activities to celebrate the International Day of Forests in 2016.

The representative of Colombia highlighted activities her country had carried out to mark the International Day, with a strategy based on civic duties.

The representative of Chile said her country had celebrated the International Day with broad participation by children, the level at which countries must start awareness-raising.  That required a solid communications strategy.

The representative of Ecuador said there were more than 700 participants in his country’s celebration of the International Day.

The representative of Nigeria highlighted activities related to water, energy, climate change and financing.  To commemorate the International Day in 2017, it had joined efforts with the Republic of Korea in a community-centred event focused on rural communities and the role of tree farmers in planting.

The representative of Ukraine said that, for 11 years, her country had carried out a forestry campaign, which featured seminars, trainings and school events.

The representative of Australia said that, with the Partnership’s recent Twitter communications, the Forum on Forests had a strong foundation to form its communications and outreach strategy.  There was an opportunity to curate the content of the story of forests.

The representative of Mexico underscored the importance of aligning communications with progress on the Strategic Plan, pressing the Forum on Forests to work on such a communications strategy.  He called on member organizations to work with Governments in disseminating all information about the International Day.

The representative of the Economic Cooperation Organization said forests were the most feasible mechanisms to combat climate change.  His organization, which relied on support from the United Nations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, could be a regional platform for developing sustainable forest management programmes.

The representative of Sri Lanka said that, in 2016, his country had organized awareness programmes, with particular attention to water, as dry-zone rivers depended on wet-zone mountain areas.

The representative of Slovakia highlighted the leadership role her country had played since 2014 in Forests Europe, a high-level political forum.  She supported its cooperation with the Forum on Forests in order to seek coherence on strategic issues.

The representative of the United States said her country presented stories on the Department of Agriculture’s website and through the Department of State’s social media in 2016.

The representative of Canada expressed support for sustained and diverse communications to audiences throughout the year, stressing that meetings were not the only approach to intersessional activities; online tools should be used.

The representative of Belarus said increasing awareness was an important part of his country’s plans around forest resources.  Recalling that a hurricane last year had destroyed thousands of hectares of land, he said those areas had been replanted with trees, while voluntary participation in forest clean-up continued to grow each year.

A speaker from the children and youth major group described missed opportunities.  While there was a declared theme of the International Day, discrepancies existed among the many related social media campaigns and she requested that children and youth participate early in preparations for such outreach.

The representative of Japan said the Forum on Forest’s website featured only three country reports and he encouraged States to better use the site to promote the International Day.

The representative of China said her country had celebrated the International Day in March, suggesting that the Strategic Plan be used to encourage States to launch nationwide communications and outreach.

The representative of Malaysia said his country had consistently celebrated the International Day, with last year’s programme focused on tree planting with the goal of “greening the nation”.

The representative of Papua New Guinea said that, since 2013, his country’s activities included awareness-raising in schools, suggesting that promotional material be provided by the Forum.

The representative of the European Union said increasing visibility and impact across regions and all levels required a communications and outreach strategy that operated in the context of the 2030 Agenda and was developed with contributions from experts, major groups and other relevant stakeholders.  He suggested the appointment of Goodwill Ambassadors or Envoys on forests.

A speaker from the scientific and technological major group, citing paragraphs 17, 19 and 22 of Economic and Social Council resolution 2015/33 on the international arrangement on forests beyond 2015, called on the Secretariat to strengthen engagement with major groups.  His group was a major investor in forests.  Stressing that development Goal 7, on responsible consumption and production, could bring together forest actors, retailers and public procurement companies, he appealed to the Forum on Forests “to do whatever it takes” to attract those investors.

The representative of Switzerland questioned proposals for the creation of new mechanisms, notably to foster cooperation between the Forum on Forests and regional and subregional processes, asking what type of mechanism it would be and who would finance it.  On the proposal for an interregional coordination mechanism, she said the existing reporting format sufficed.  The Forum on Forests was a policy body, not a capacity-building entity.  She did not think a mechanism was needed to exchange information with regional and subregional organizations, as there were already intersessional activities and venues.  She also did not think a stakeholder consultation was something the Forum on Forests should organize and similarly expressed scepticism about facilitating a network on poverty reduction, timber trade and illegal logging, which would supersede the Forum on Forest’s mandate.  “We should not actually build a network on this,” she said, questioning as well what a multistakeholder advisory group would do.

The representative of Ghana welcomed the International Day 2018 theme of forests and education, noting that, each 21 March, a ministerial news conference was organized to create awareness about the importance of forests, which was followed by television and radio discussions, mainly targeting young people.

The representative of Kenya described the legislative framework for his country to participate in international processes for implementing the Strategic Plan.  The national forestry programme coordinated activities for 2016-2030 and was a joint venture between Kenya and Finland.  Kenya’s close working relationship with the Forum on Forests had been instrumental in implementation of the programme’s priorities.

A speaker from the Global Force Coalition, citing paragraph 15 of the report, stressed the importance of following the outcomes of meetings in Ottawa, as well as hosting stakeholder consultations and maintaining a database of major group experts.  He agreed with the representative of Switzerland that a multistakeholder advisory group was not needed.

The representative of Morocco said the International Day coincided with the Mediterranean Forest Summit, organized by FAO, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Global Partnership for the Restoration of Forests, where participants adopted an “obligations document” that referenced the Strategic Plan.

A speaker from the Africa Forest Forum recognized the importance of regional institutions in implementing forest decisions.  He called on the Collaborative Partnership to better coordinate on national, regional and subregional levels, and on the Forum on Forests Secretariat to both improve collaboration with regional and subregional processes, and to coordinate the monitoring, reporting and sharing of information on progress made in sustainable forest management.

Mr. SOBRAL FILHO then introduced a note by the Forum on Forest secretariat on the means of implementation for sustainable forest management (document E/CN.18/2017/4), pointing out that the greatest source of sustainable forest financing had been, and would continue to be, private investments.  The note, however, reviewed the situation of international public financing, focusing on the role of forest funding in the context of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and other recent international commitments.  Noting that the Addis Agenda had referred to forests in the context of combating hunger and malnutrition, he said the Green Climate Fund — which had become operational in 2015 — had deployed $711 million for 43 projects under its Sustainable Forest Management Programme.  The Paris Agreement, which now had 144 parties, had also called on States to focus on reducing deforestation and improve forest conservation.

Providing a brief update on the work of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, he said the new Strategic Plan for Forests called on the Network to promote and assist the design of national forest financing strategies, help countries in mobilizing resources and serve as a clearing house and tool for sharing lessons learned and best practices.  Over the last two years, the Network had learned that working directly with countries was very effective as provided them with targeted, tailor-made support.  Helping to mobilize funding was also critical, as were regional and subregional workshops aimed at raising national awareness on forest financing opportunities and catalysing national actions.  “Even modest funding can have a meaningful impact,” he stressed in that regard.

Means of Implementation

This afternoon, the Forum held a panel discussion on “means of implementation for sustainable forest management”.  Moderated by Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programmes, Global Environment Facility Secretariat, it featured three panellists:  Penny Davies, Programme Officer for Equitable Development, Ford Foundation; Werner Kornexl, Manager, Programme on Forests; and Ivan Tomaselli, President, STCP Engenharia de Projectos Limitida.

Ms. DAVIES, noting that the Ford Foundation was the second-largest private donor in the United States, focused her presentation on what the Foundation and other private philanthropic funds were doing to secure sustainable and equitable forest management, and why.  Saying the Ford Foundation planned to disburse $1 billion over the next 10 years into private funds promoting “social and environmental justice” activities, she described two specific streams of forest-related investment financing:  first, sustainable agriculture that did not clear natural forests and included some protection of forests; and second, sustainable forest management and community-based forest management.  “However, we are finding it difficult to place [that financing],” she said, due to a number of constraints that made those investments too difficult to justify.

The first of those risks, she said, was “incoherent spatial mapping” and uncertain land tenure, where investments could be contested by several parties.  The second risk was conflict, she said, noting that conflict could cause delays in the Foundation’s projects or cause the withdrawal of its partners.  “We look for countries and places to invest in where tenure is secure and recognized”, and local people had given their prior and informed consent, she said, noting that a country that was attractive for investment was one with “green domestic credit lines” promoting sustainable land use, or a Government that “named and shamed” parties promoting such practices as unsustainable land use, or logging.  When it did invest, the Foundation supported the creation of community-managed funds for community forestry, she said, citing the Brazilian “Fundo Dema” as an example.  It also helped to establish intermediary funds that could connect forest communities with international financing and expertise.

Mr. KORNEXL, pointing to an existing consensus that environmental services from forests were essential for the world’s climate, livelihood, soil preservation, water regulation and biodiversity, said there was, nevertheless, a widening gap in investments in those areas.  Recalling that the World Bank’s Forest Action Plan had been established in 2016 to increase the Bank’s footprint in the forest sector — concentrating on sustainable forestry and on “Forest Smart investments” — he said such investments were still very risky.  Those risks meant that many common financial instruments were not applied to forests.  While the Bank’s current forest portfolio included about $500-$600 million per year, the amount was still very low compared to what was needed.

In that context, he said, the Programme on Forests was leading the analytics to drive the forest investment agenda.  Indeed, while Forest Smart investment seemed to be an easy concept, it was actually very difficult to implement because Governments, the United Nations and the World Bank itself were all organized into silos.  Clear leadership and more synergies were needed, as were increased knowledge and the delivery systems to reach rural areas with technology.  Calling for the appropriate mix of funding instruments in that regard, he said financing needed to be reinvented every day “as we learn more about the needs”.  Flexible, cross-sectoral thinking was essential in order to overcome the notion that most financing instruments were too risky in the context of forests, he said, adding that such instruments as Green Bonds and fiscal transfer mechanisms were complex, “but doable”.

Mr. TOMASELLI, asking why the private sector would invest in sustainable forest management, pointed out that the sector sought a consistent supply of timber and non-timber products.  The global demand for timber currently stood at about 4 billion cubic metres per year.  There were two main sources of supply:  forest plantations and natural forests.  The private sector spent an estimated $125-$170 billion just to manage those forests, he said, calling for scaled up expertise and technology that would result in more sustainable supplies of forest goods.  Investments were based on a series of factors that sought to maximize economic value, in particular forest policy, market and market access and technology and expertise.

Noting that institutional investors such as equity funds, pension funds, insurance companies and large fortunes were today increasing their forest-related investments, he said timber investment management organizations known as “TIMOs” currently managed more than $60 billion in forest assets and had replaced industry as the main forest managers in many countries.  Such organizations were designed to maximize returns, he said, adding that investments in research and development had largely declined.

Mr. FONSECA, recalling that forests had been central to the Global Environment Facility since its inception, said the Facility had supported 411 forest-related projects amounting to $2.7 billion — and leveraging some $13.8 billion in co-financing — since 1991.  Those programmes targeted biodiversity, climate change mitigation and the inefficient use of land, as well as improving local livelihoods.  The Paris Agreement on climate change and the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the Role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks in Developing Countries (REDD+) framework spotlighted the Facility as one of the leading instruments to finance such projects.

Noting that the Facility had made increasing amounts of funding available for forests and worked to bring local communities and other forest stakeholders into the mainstream, he described its cooperation with the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network and similar complementary instruments, which sought to raise awareness of the availability of the Facility in a number of countries.  The Facility had also developed a financing approach that recognized the key role of agricultural commodities, such as palm oil and soy, aimed at ensuring that they were eventually produced in a “deforestation-free” manner.  In addition, the Facility had launched a pilot “non-grant instrument” project aimed at increasing forest-related investments by reducing market risks, he said.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates from a range of countries described their experiences of having received sustainable forest management financing from the Green Climate Fund, the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, REDD+ and other sources.  The representative of Mexico, for one, noted that his country had received critical financial support from its multilateral and bilateral donors — as well as from the Global Environment Facility — and had been able to develop its forestry sector as a result.

Similarly, the representative of Ecuador recalled that his country had been the first to receive a disbursement from the Green Climate Fund, and was now working closely with the World Bank to facilitate sustainable forest-related investments and the promotion of sustainable forest plantations.

The representative of Bhutan emphasized that the sustainable management of forests was a priority for his country and played a central role in its overall sustainable development strategy.  Bhutan’s forest cover currently stood at 71 per cent and 51 per cent of its land had been designated as protected areas — one of the highest levels in the world.  Posing a number of questions for the panellists, he asked Ms. Davies why the Ford Foundation had found it so difficult to place its forest-related investments, and whether it was working with Governments, non-governmental organizations or other partners to place those funds.  He also asked Mr. Fonseca whether the Global Environment Facility had any activities planned in South Asia, and asked Mr. Tomaselli whether he saw a “real appetite” among the private sector to invest more capital in sustainable forests.

Responding, Ms. DAVIES said the Ford Foundation worked through its various regional offices, including Asia-based offices in Delhi and Jakarta.  It did not invest its funds through Governments, but usually delivered investments directly to “project proponents”, such as local communities.  However, that model involved some constraints, she said, noting that all project proponents had to be legally constituted entities with good governance.

Mr. TOMASELLI said that, while he was quite optimistic about private sector investments, he, nevertheless, expected that “it will take a bit longer” to see those investments increase.

Speakers also made a number of specific observations about the various forest-related financing instruments and issued concrete recommendations.  The representative of the European Union pointed out that transparency, good governance and effective and accountable institutions — as well as results-based programming, monitoring and assessment — were all critical to the evolution of sustainable forest management, and underlined the need to focus financing efforts on the priorities of the new Strategic Plan for Forests while also placing more emphasis on cooperation with other sectors.

The representative of the United States agreed that there was a clear connection between transparent forest governance and clear land use rights on the one hand, and attracting investment on the other.  Making a number of clarifications with regard to the secretariat’s note and the panellists’ comments, she said that, while some had cited “waning support” for REDD+, billions of dollars were still available to countries under that programme if they could show reductions in their emissions.  She also pointed out that the United States was currently reviewing its climate change commitments, including those under the Paris Agreement, and therefore reserved its position on the matter.

Meanwhile, the representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed optimism that the existing forest-related financing instruments would be more effectively utilized.  Noting that that would require the provision of more adequate and predictable resources, he called on the Global Environment Facility in particular to find better ways of assisting developing countries.

The representative of South Africa, associating herself with that statement, asked Mr. Fonseca what proportion of the Global Environment Facility’s planned support would be given to the African continent.  The representative of Brazil echoed calls to mobilize financing for developing countries, while the representative of Malaysia emphasized that such financing must include the transfer of environmentally sound technology.  The representative of Niger — noting that forests in Sahel countries were critical for pastoralism and relied heavily on customary use rights — asked Mr. Tomaselli how private financing could be increased for the preservation of those activities.

To that question, Ms. DAVIES responded that neither the public not private sector could make investments unless there was a strong enabling environment in place.  Groups that were merely customary in nature posed a challenge, she said, adding that “you have to get your rule of law in order” before any investment was possible.  In that regard, she spotlighted the role of public-private partnerships to help Governments invest where the private sector could not.

Mr. KORNEXL, responding more broadly to those comments and questions, agreed that the World Bank should focus more of its activities on the de-risking of sustainable forest-related investments and increase its efforts to bring together capacity, research and solutions across various sectors.  Indeed, he said, that cross-sectoral approach was a “huge and very exiting” agenda into which the Bank was ready to move.

Mr. TOMASELLI said the private sector — as the most important investor in sustainable forest management — would increase its forest-related investments all over the world in the coming year.  Pointing out that private investors expected higher returns when they took on greater risks, he said Governments could, therefore, make forest-related investments more attractive by facilitating access to technology, improving the expertise of forest managers, reducing transaction costs, reducing corruption and increasing compliance.

Also speaking were the representatives of Germany, Cameroon, Saint Lucia, China and Guinea.  A representative of the Scientific and Technological Community also participated.

Read More

Tree-Based Ecosystems Could Be Vital to Ending Hunger, Promoting Food Security, Improving Nutrition, Speakers Tell Forum on Forests

Tree-based ecosystems could play a vital role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 — on ending hunger, realizing food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture — participants said today, as the United Nations Forum on Forests continued its twelfth session.

Highlighting the ability of forests to diversify human diets, create livelihood safety nets and provide respite to overcultivated farmland, panelists participating in the morning’s interactive discussion called for a paradigm shift towards “climate-smart” landscapes and “nutrient-sensitive” value chains, along with policies that actively supported them.

Keynote speaker Bhaskar Vira, Founding Director of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, pointed out that, although 216 million fewer people around the world were malnourished today than in 1990, nutrient deficiencies persisted amid rising obesity.  Meanwhile, some 800 million people remained undernourished, with natural and human-induced disasters and political instability increasingly affecting food security in many countries.

Against that backdrop, forests and other tree-based systems had an important role to play, he said.  They contributed wood fuel for cooking, increased people’s food sovereignty and their food-related decision-making and helped to balance diets.  They could also contribute ecosystem services and provide tree products for income generation.

Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General for Climate and Natural Resources at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said an estimated 3.3 million hectares of forest land were lost annually due largely to its conversion to agricultural land.  “We have a promise, and a bold objective, to leave no one behind,” she stated, stressing that such changes often encroached on the rights of vulnerable groups.  New, integrated policy instruments were needed, including measures to regulate land-use change and prevent conflicts with existing land tenure rights, she said.

John Parrotta of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations described a shift away from traditional agricultural policies that allowed land to lie fallow and regenerate, noting that the increasing intensity of cultivation was reducing soil fertility and productivity.  In that context, he advocated for hybrid agroforestry systems that maximized synergies between trees and crops, outlining their myriad advantages over permanent (crop) agriculture alone.

Pointing out that 2 billion people — nearly a third of the world’s population — remained micronutrient deficient, Bronwen Powell, Assistant Professor at Penn State University, said Sustainable Development Goal 2 was about more than just hunger.  It also sought to broaden discussions about nutrition and food systems, she said, calling for greater attention to dietary quality and diversity and underscoring the role of forests — as providers of fruits and vegetables — in that regard.

With the floor open for comments and questions, speakers from around the world described innovative national strategies crafted to ensure sustainable forest management and responsible exploitation of forest-related food products.  Some considered the discussion’s implications for the future of particular industries and sectors, while others noted the close links between the role of forests in maintaining food security and their ability to reduce poverty and empower women.

During the afternoon plenary session, participants discussed the Forum’s monitoring, assessment and reporting structure, progress made in developing a set of global forest indicators, and the cycle and format for voluntary national reporting on implementation of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests (2017-2030).

Presenting a related Secretary-General’s report (document E/CN.18/2017/3), Manoel Sobral Filho, Director of the Secretariat of the Forum on Forests, said the reporting cycle and format must consider both the five-year forest review cycle, and the four-year Sustainable Development Goal review cycle.  The reporting format had been developed based on three consultations, including an initiative on a global set of forest indicators.

Tomasz Juszack (Czech Republic), representative from the Forum on Forest Secretariat, presented the format contained in annex I of the Secretary-General’s report, which had been structured around the six Global Forest Goals.  Narrative in nature and action-oriented, each of the Goals had seven standard questions, with one linked to voluntary national contributions that allowed States to provide information on progress made.

Vicente de Azevedo Araujo Filho (Brazil) provided an overview of the outcomes of the Brasilia Expert Meeting held in February, in which issues related to the sustainable management of forests had been discussed along with the development of global reporting indicators and potential uses of information collected during the reporting process.  Among other things, participants had agreed they should focus on reducing reporting burdens, while relying on data that were globally available.

Eva Muller, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization Forestry Policy and Resources Division, then gave an overview of various organizational aspects of the Forum’s organization-led initiative.  Among other things, she noted that the Collaborative Partnership on Forests had agreed to launch a new joint initiative on streamlining, with the results to be summarized into a consolidated proposal and presented at a global meeting in Finland from 12 to 16 June.

The Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 4 May, to continue its work.

Panel

A panel discussion was held on the theme “contributions of forests to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2:  forests and food security”.  Moderated by Paola Deda, Chief of the Joint Forestry and Timber Section of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it featured three panelists:  Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources, FAO; John Parrotta, Vice-President, Task Forces, Special Programmes, Projects and International Union of Forest Research Organizations-led Initiatives, International Union of Forest Research Organizations; and Bronwen Powell, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Penn State University (United States).  Bhaskar Vira, Founding Director of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute (United Kingdom) and a Reader in Political Economy of Environment and Development at the University’s Department of Geography, delivered a keynote address.

Keynote Address

Mr. VIRA noted that 216 million fewer people around the world were malnourished today than in 1990.  Nevertheless, some 800 million people remained undernourished.  Malnutrition and obesity were simultaneously affecting every country in the world and natural and human-induced disasters and political instability were increasingly affecting food security.  Pointing to global parallels between the state of forests and the state of food security, he recalled that the International Union of Forest Research Organizations had convened an Expert Panel on Forests and Food Security and had launched its report at the last United Nations Forum on Forests in 2015.  It would bring the topic to the global stage again later this year.

Highlighting some of the Expert Panel’s findings, he said there had been impressive increases in agricultural productivity, noting “our ability to feed the world has definitely become a lot better”.  However, current agricultural strategies did not necessarily address all of the world’s hunger- and nutrition-related issues, and were often swept up into markets, leading to an increasingly unbalanced diet.  Against that backdrop, forests and other tree-based systems could play an important supplementary and complementary role, contributing wood fuel for cooking, increasing people’s food sovereignty and their food-related decision-making over the course of annual seasons and helping to balance diets.  In addition, they could provide livelihood safety nets and such indirect contributions as ecosystem services and tree products for income generation.

In studying those relationships, the Expert Panel had found that every sixth person worldwide depended on forests, particularly in the context of their food security, he continued.  However, while hunger rates were declining, there had been little change in the rates of human micronutrient deficiencies, including iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc.  “You might be calorically food secure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a balanced diet,” he said, adding that about half of all fruit consumed by people originated from cultured trees that still had “wild” or “semi-wild” stands in native forests, and that the hunting of bush meat provided an important source of protein.

Forest-based food systems were particularly critical to human food security during agricultural “hunger seasons”, he underscored.  There was also growing empirical evidence that access to forest-based food systems were associated with increased fruit and vegetable consumption and increased dietary diversity, often leading to better health outputs.  As well, programmes promoting the consumption of insects contributed to the human diet.  Thus, forest-based food systems provided people with a more diversified livelihood portfolio, rather than just relying on one agricultural product.  He called for a shift towards more resilient, “climate-smart” landscapes, “nutrient-sensitive” value chains which went beyond a production-centric approach to food security, along with policies that supported that more integrated and diversified approach.

Ms. SEMEDO, stressing that food and agriculture lay at the very heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said FAO was particularly focused on realizing Sustainable Development Goal 2 on ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.  Around the world, deforestation continued, with an estimated 3.3 million hectares lost every year.  Approximately 80 per cent of that loss was due to the conversion of forests to agriculture and took place in tropical and low-income countries.  The FAO’s flagship State of the World’s Forests had addressed such land use challenges and found that few countries had formal policies governing those change.  “Deforestation and expansion is encroachment,” she said, underlining the importance of customary law, based on traditional rights, for vulnerable groups.  However, such laws and customs were regularly ignored.

“We have a promise, and a bold objective, to leave no one behind,” she stated, stressing that achieving the 2030 Agenda was a collective responsibility for all people.  Calling for a “paradigm shift” in policies, programmes and investments, she emphasized that the agricultural sector could no longer develop its policies in isolation.  Against that backdrop, FAO had developed a common vision and an integrated approach to sustainability across agriculture, forestry and fisheries, focusing on improving efficiency in the use of resources; enhanced resilience of people, communities and ecosystems; and responsible and effective governance mechanisms.  Policy instruments could include measures to regulate land-use change and prevent conflicts with existing land tenure rights.  In that regard, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of Food Security, agreed by countries in 2012, could serve as an excellent basis for action.

Mr. PARROTTA, recalling that forests and agricultural lands had historically been managed synergistically, emphasized that forest and tree-based systems were part of a broader economic, political, cultural and ecological landscape.  Paleo-botanical research showed that humans had been managing and manipulating forests for thousands of years, often utilizing communal practices that incorporated a fallow phase allowing lands to regenerate.  While such “shifting cultivation” practices had been common around the world until the nineteenth century, they were now limited to tropical and subtropical regions.  Such dynamics had changed, with a greater intensity of cultivation and resulting adverse consequences.  Shortened cropping cycles and similar changes — often sparked by political and demographic shifts — had often led to soil fertility and productivity declines.

The rise of agroforestry systems were based largely on traditional and indigenous knowledge and involved the careful selection of trees and crops to maximize their synergies and efficiency, he continued.  Such practices helped prevent or reverse land degradation and were particularly useful in semi-arid regions as Africa’s Sahel.  Indeed, about 43 per cent of the world’s agricultural lands had at least a 10 per cent tree cover.  The diversity of forest species cultivated by farmers was “truly impressive” and included over 170 species of fruit and nuts alone.  It also represented an important source of income for farmers, he added, pointing out that such diverse agroforestry cultivation offered advantages over permanent (crop) agriculture alone, given the adaptability of forests to a broader range of environmental and socioeconomic conditions.

Ms. POWELL said that, while the cross-disciplinary efforts being discussed were indeed crucial, such work was often difficult as it required broad expertise in multiple fields and sectors.  As a nutritionist, she expressed concern that about 2 billion people — nearly a third of the world’s population — remained micronutrient deficient.  There were also increasing rates of challenges due to “overnutrition”, such as obesity.  Pointing out that individuals suffering from overnutrition were actually more likely to be micronutrient deficient, she said obesity was no longer just an issue for wealthy people.  Indeed, it was increasingly associated with poverty and lower-income status.  Furthermore, malnourishment in general was transmitted intergenerationally.  With that in mind, Sustainable Development Goal 2 was about more than just hunger. It also sought to broaden discussions about nutrition and food systems.

Calling for greater attention to dietary quality and diversity, she said most food security indicators still did not adequately address those issues.  Indeed, while the World Health Organization (WHO) had listed the low consumption of fruits and vegetables as one of the top 10 risks of mortality globally, people in most societies still did not eat enough of those foods.  In light of the importance of fruits and vegetables, forests could play a critical role.  “We need to get over our obsession with calories,” she stressed.  Spotlighting the role of wild foods in human diet quality, she added that the majority of global vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium and folic acid were supplied by animal and insect-pollinated crops.  That underscored the importance of ecosystem services, including those related to forests.

During the ensuing discussion, speakers outlined innovative national strategies on the sustainable management of forests and responsible exploitation of forest-related food products, as well as the implications of those policies.  Panelists also fielded questions and addressed a variety of concerns.

The representative of Gabon described a national programme that allocated funds from the country’s forestry-related activities to local communities.  The Government had also embarked on a process to draft a new code for water and forests, placing those resources firmly at the centre of its sustainable development plans.  

Similarly, the representative of Colombia drew attention to her country’s National Adaptation Fund — aimed at supporting the food security of its Afro-indigenous communities — while the representative of Thailand said his country’s food industry was commonly known as the “kitchen of the world” and made positive use of both agricultural and forest-based food systems.

A number of speakers considered the implications of today’s discussions for the future of various industries and sectors, drawing attention to their countries’ native forest products and outlining national platforms aimed at their sustainable management and exploitation.  In that vein, the representative of the United States welcomed the panelists’ focus on synergies, stressing that “the aim is not competition, but integrated and sustainable land use” between various sectors. 

The representative of the Russian Federation pointed out that his country accounted for a large percentage of the world’s boreal forests and contained a wide range of edible and medicinal food and plants.  There needed to be a greater market access for those products.  Such increased production could help achieve a number of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, including those relating to economic growth and livelihood generation.

The representative of Germany, voicing support for the development of corporate social responsibility guidelines related to forests, agriculture and nutrition, asked the panelists to forecast the future of such policies and discuss the role of the private sector more broadly.

EVA MULLER, Director of Forest Economics, Policy and Products Division of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, said that FAO was looking forward to the Forum’s guidance in its future work.  She asked Germany’s delegate to provide more detail on what he wanted the focus of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests to be on in that regard.

Speakers also expressed a variety of opinions about human nutrition, with the representative of Chile pointing out that messages were widely mixed and often confusing.  Noting that many misconceptions existed about the consumption of meat, eggs and refined sugar, in particular, she asked the panelists for their opinions about the “market madness” on what to eat and what not to eat.

Responding, Mr. VIRA agreed that nutritional recommendations were often complex as consumers tried to balance health, price point, sustainability and other factors.  While he did not have a concrete answer, he urged more transparency in food supply chains and more attention to the nutritional knowledge held by women and indigenous communities.

Ms. POWELL noted that nutritional knowledge was rapidly evolving.  Consumers could focus their efforts on eating healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.  She also underscored the need to develop policies that would lower the market price of such products.

Speakers also pointed to close links between today’s discussion on forests in food security and yesterday’s discussions on forests in the context of poverty eradication and the empowerment of women. 

The representative of the farmers major group stressed that too many girls and women still missed out on education — as well as opportunities to work and make their own decisions — because they remained unable to own land, buy cattle or access education or financing.  It was estimated that if women enjoyed such access, developing countries could greatly increase their harvests and reduce global hunger by about 15 per cent, she said.

The representative of the European Union called on the Forum to highlight the importance of food security in its input to the Economic and Social Council’s High-level Political Forum on sustainable development.  Dialogues on forestry, agriculture and related areas and their inclusion of a wider variety of stakeholders needed to be improved.  The 2030 Agenda offered a unique opportunity to balance the social, economic and cultural dimensions of sustainable development, which had major implications for agricultural policy and the sustainable management of forests.

Also speaking were representatives of South Africa, Indonesia, Nigeria, Canada, Mexico, Cameroon, New Zealand and Nepal.

Introduction of Report

MANOEL SOBRAL FILHO, Director of the Secretariat of the Forum on Forests, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on monitoring, assessment and reporting on progress towards implementing the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 (document E/CN.18/2017/3).  He recalled that resolution E/2016/33 had requested the Secretariat to propose a reporting cycle.  The United Nations Strategic Plan stated that the review of that plan should be based on internationally agreed indicators, and that the reporting cycle and format must consider both the five-year forest review cycle, and the four-year Sustainable Development Goal review cycle.

Another document contained a proposal for voluntary reporting, he continued.  Consistent with the quadrennial work programme, the format had been developed based on three consultations:  the organization-led initiative on a global set of forest indicators; an expert meeting on reporting, hosted by Brazil; and subsequent inputs received from States, major groups and others.  Resolution E/2015/33 had outlined that assessing the progress on United Nations forests instruments would take place during odd-year Forum sessions.  Therefore, the next role of reporting could be in 2019 at the fourteenth session, which would test the new format.  Countries would then be invited to report in 2021 at the sixteenth session.

TOMASZ JUSZACK (Czech Republic), representative from the Forum on Forest Secretariat, presented the format contained in annex I of the Secretary-General’s report, which had been structured around the six Global Forest Goals.  It was narrative in nature and action-oriented.  Each of the Goals had seven standard questions, with one linked to voluntary national contributions that allowed States to provide information on progress made.  The 2015 format was being used as the baseline for reporting, since the 2030 Agenda, the eleventh session and the Food and Agriculture Organization session all had taken place that year.  The terms and definitions used in the format were being compared to the FAO Forest Resources Assessment.  Other features, characteristic of that reporting when assessing and summarizing progress to achieving the Goals, would supplement information received from States with quantitative data, already available in other databases of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.  Annex II of the report contained a list of potential indicators and targets.  The Collaborative Partnership on Forest-led task force on reporting aimed to complete its work by 2019.

Reporting on Brasilia Expert Meeting Outcomes

VICENTE DE AZEVEDO ARAUJO FILHO (Brazil) gave an overview of the outcomes of the Brasilia expert meeting last February, in which participants had discussed issues related to the sustainable management of forests, and development of global reporting indicators and potential uses of information collected during the reporting process.  On voluntary national reporting, participants had agreed they should focus on reducing reporting burdens and should rely on data that was globally available.  Because the relevance of targets might vary from country to country, based on national experiences, the meeting had produced a draft reporting format.

On development of indicators, he said they should be based on available data, clearly related to Global Forest Goals and targets, and that the list should be streamlined to the extent possible.  As for sharing arrangements, participants had agreed that the Forum should decide its own reporting cycle, which should build on and add value to other forest reporting cycles, and should consider the role of forests in meeting the Sustainable Development Goal targets.  They agreed that national reports would also be useful for sharing best practices and lessons learned.

EVA MULLER, Director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Forestry Policy and Resources Division, speaking in her capacity as Co-chair of the organization-led initiative in support of the United Nations Forum on Forests, gave an overview of the initiative’s various organizational aspects, noting that its objectives were to propose a common and concise set of global indicators; provide inputs to the development of a proposal on the cycle and format for reporting for the Forum; and provide guidance to the process of developing Forest Resources Assessments 2020.  The outcome should help streamline global reporting on forests.

Outlining key outcomes, she said participants had agreed that the core set of indicators should cover sustainable forest management, progress towards the forest related Sustainable Development Goals, and be limited to 10 to 15 indicators.  Of the 21 indicators proposed, 9 had been approved, 11 required more work and 1 had been discarded.  Experts had agreed it was important to ensure wide-spread consultations on the indicator list, a process which should be completed by mid-2017.  Despite efforts to streamline reporting, participants had also agreed that the issue of insufficient capacity must be addressed by the international community.

She went on to say that the Collaborative Partnership on Forests had agreed to launch a new joint initiative on streamlining.  A task force had met in mid-March to review the initiative’s outcome and refine recommendations.  It had suggested creating 13 indicators and dropping 4 indicators.  An online consultation would soon be launched and she invited the Forum to participate.  The results would be summarized into a consolidated proposal to be presented at a global meeting to take place in Finland, from 12 to 16 June.  Those recommendations would then be taken to the appropriate governing bodies.  The usefulness of a core set of indicators hinged on the “will to use it”.

A discussion was then held on the proposed format and cycle for voluntary national reporting to the Forum

The representative of Ghana said his country had adopted a monitoring and assessment framework similar to that being proposed.

The representative of Austria said monitoring, assessment and reporting was crucial to the implementation of the Strategic Plan, which required a sound technical and procedural basis.  The Forum’s first responsibility was to arrive at a common understanding of “what to report on”.

The representative of Canada said monitoring and reporting of the Strategic Plan must be carefully considered, and the Forum must decide what it wanted to achieve.  While the outcomes of the Brasilia workshop were a good first step, the Forum must build on raw data from country submissions and globally available data, and then produce an analysis on key issues.  She suggested intersessional work to advance the discussion.

The representative of United States said it was her understanding that the Secretariat would take charge of pulling quantitative data from the Forest Resources Assessments for each target or indicator in order to supplement Member State reporting.  It was also critical to capture the true economic value of forests to sustainable management, including employment generated by construction and non-timber forests sectors.  The current dataset underestimated the true contribution of forests.

The representative of Japan, noting that the reporting format was largely narrative, added that States would be encouraged to supplement them with quantitative data, where available.  The draft format stated that countries would be asked to provide information not available to the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.  On voluntary national contributions, he requested clarity around the procedure for communications related to those domestic reports.

The representative of Switzerland questioned whether the Forum should promote the core set of indicators for use in different processes.  Sustainable forest management was a “tricky” indicator because it involved various data.  However, it was the Forum’s core competency and he voiced support for advancing those efforts, including in intersessional work.  Turning to the combination of qualitative and quantitative data in reporting, he said it would be helpful if quantitative data were included in the format.  Such an approach should be tested in pilot countries or areas.

The representative Ukraine voiced doubts about including financial information, stressing, instead, the importance of information on legal and policy actions.  Furthermore, it was a mistake for the Global Forest Goals to mention North-South cooperation twice; they should include North-North cooperation.  She also raised questions around voluntary national contributions.

The representative of Colombia proposed the generation of country-disaggregated information, which must be comparable and standardized.  It was not clear whether the Secretariat would be responsible for compiling information from countries, how it would define criteria for States, or whether information sources would be recognized as official.

Mr. FILHO said there was no guidance from the Forum for the announcement related to national voluntary contributions.  Different views had been raised during informal discussions at the Brasilia expert meeting.  It would make sense that contributions would relate to the targets and goals outlined in the Strategic Plan.  The Secretariat had analysed about 10 announcements.

“They are all different,” he said, noting that some were more than 10 pages, others fewer than two.  Concerning whether there was an additional reporting requirement outside of the national voluntary contributions, he said that, in the quadrennial work programme, the Forum had decided that in its “technical discussion” years, it would focus on those Sustainable Development Goals which were on the agenda of the High-level Political Forum.

Mr. JUSZACK said it would make sense for the Secretariat to pull data from existing global databases.  “We do not want to ask Member States to repeat the same information,” he said.

Ms. MULLER, to a question by Switzerland’s delegate, said the core set of indicators would only reduce the reporting burden if States used it.

The representative of Chile said her country supported the format for country reporting.  Associating herself to Canada’s statement, she expressed support for the efforts outlined for 2019 and 2021, while cautioning against the duplication of information.  When announcing voluntary national contributions, it would be important to hold consultations on what information to include.

The representative of the European Union stressed the need to complete the work on global forest indicators as soon as possible, to further streamline and reduce the reporting burden, and make the best use of existing forest-related indicators and processes.  Before taking a decision on the cycle and format for reporting, the Forum must be clear on the purpose of reporting.

The representative of Malaysia said developing countries were burdened to report data to various forest fora, including the World Bank, the International Tropical Timber Organization and the FAO Forest Resources Assessments.  Hence, there were differences in the data provided.  She proposed such reporting be embedded in the Forest Resources Assessments.

The representative of Mexico, noting that he agreed with the format, asked what the information would be used for.  If countries were to dedicate considerable human resources to collecting such information, they must be ensured it would be used as effectively as possible.

The representative of Nigeria, speaking for the African Group, urged States to step up data collection.  There were some indicators that had not been subject to reporting.  The Forum should make it more user-friendly.  Furthermore, monitoring, assessment and reporting should also consider regional, subregional and other reporting initiatives and processes.  Stressing the need to identify gaps, he underscored other needs for clear reporting guidelines and more flexibility around statements describing national circumstances.  He also suggested that 2019 would be an appropriate year for making those statements.

The representative of Indonesia reiterated the call for streamlined and interlinked reports, with the help of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.  The format for voluntary national contributions must consider nationally determined contributions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The representative of New Zealand, voicing his appreciation for the Montreal Process, commended the work on the draft format, particularly because it remained largely narrative and that information submitted would be supplemented by other quantitative data.

The representative of Australia encouraged members to consider the broader international landscape, as forests, now more than ever, were being viewed from a wider perspective.  The Forum must consider how information would be provided and presented by Member States, and who the audiences would be for such products.  She also questioned if reporting would support that for the Sustainable Development Goals, urging that intersessional time be used to develop the format.

The representative of China said that, to reduce reporting burdens, the reporting cycle should consider other relevant cycles, especially for the Sustainable Development Goals and the Forest Resources Assessments.  He expressed support for the format proposed by the Secretariat, noting that forest data should be selected once, for all relevant purposes and processes.

The representative of Norway called for minimizing the reporting burden, information overlap, inconsistent data and new data collection unless absolutely necessary for assessing the implementation of the Strategic Plan.  He voiced support establishing pilot countries to report on their national experiences.

The representative of Brazil welcomed the proposed narrative reporting format, which would allow States to provide complementary information.  He also welcomed the development of global forest indicators, stressing that the Forum should deepen its discussions in that regard.  There should be a correlation between the indicators and the Global Forest Goal targets, and it was essential to use those indicators which had pre-existing sources or that could be measured through the provision of adequate support.

The representative of Germany urged developing a common understanding of sustainable forest management, stressing that the core set of indicators was among the best vehicles for such efforts.  Informal or intersessional time could be used for that purpose.

The speaker from the farmers major group expressed support for the proposed reporting format, emphasizing that the voluntary national contributions should be seen as way to raise political commitment to the Forum’s process.  The starting point for submissions in 2019 would allow time to arrive at the core set of indicators.

The speaker from the children and youth major group underscored the need for clear reporting, stressing the need to communicate outcomes to the public.

The speaker from the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe expressed her group’s commitment to enhance monitoring and reporting on European forests and outlined its involvement with global processes.  She expressed support for streamlining and harmonizing reporting, reducing the reporting burden and synchronizing data collection.

The representative of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, on behalf of 42 member States, spoke about the global assessment for bamboo and rattan, which would help decision-makers maximize use of those plants in climate change and other policies.

Mr. FILHO said he foresaw no problems in proceeding with the suggestion for pilot countries, and perhaps using doing intersessional time to answer questions raised.  The goals of the Strategic Plan were related to the Sustainable Development Goals.  Decisions must be made this session on what the Forum would contribute to the 2018 review of Sustainable Development Goal 15

Ms. MULLER reiterated that indicators would only be useful if they were used.

Read More

Lake Chad Basin: a crisis rooted in hunger, poverty and lack of rural development

Photo: ©FAO/AO/Pius Utomi Ekpei

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva last week visited some of the worst affected areas in Chad and northeastern Nigeria.

11 April 2017, Rome – The crisis afflicting the strife-torn Lake Chad Basin is rooted in decades of neglect, lack of rural development and the impact of climate change, and the only way to ensure a lasting solution is to address these including through investments in sustainable agriculture, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, said today.

“This is not only a humanitarian crisis, but it is also an ecological one,” Graziano da Silva said at a media briefing in Rome on his visit last week to some of the worst affected areas in Chad and northeastern Nigeria.

“This conflict cannot be solved only with arms. This is a war against hunger and poverty in the rural areas of the Lake Chad Basin,” the FAO Director-General stressed.

“Peace is a prerequisite” to resolve the crisis in the region, but this is not enough, the FAO Director-General said. “Agriculture including livestock and fisheries can no longer be an afterthought. It is what produces food and what sustains the livelihoods of about 90 percent of the region’s population.”

Some 7 million people risk suffering from severe hunger in the Lake Chad Basin, which incorporates parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and northeastern Nigeria.  In the latter, some 50,000 people are facing famine.

While fighting and violence have caused much of the suffering, the impact of environmental degradation and climate change including repeated droughts, are exacerbating the situation, the FAO Director-General said.

He noted how, since 1963, Lake Chad has lost some 90 percent of its water mass with devastating consequences on the food security and livelihoods of people depending on fishing and irrigation-based agricultural activities. And while Lake Chad has been shrinking, the population has been growing, including millions of displaced people from the worst conflict areas. 

Food assistance and production support urgently needed

FAO together with its partners including other UN agencies is calling on the international community for urgent support – a combination of immediate food assistance and food production support is the only way to make dent in the scale of hunger in the region.

Graziano da Silva reiterated the call he made last week during his visit to Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria: if farmers miss the coming May/June planting season, they will see no substantial harvests until 2018. Failure to restore food production now will lead to the worsening of widespread and severe hunger and prolonged dependency on external assistance further into the future.

During his visit to the region, which included the capital of Chad, N’Djamena, Graziano da Silva also publicly presented FAO’s Response Strategy (2017-2019) for the Lake Chad Basin crisis.

Key activities include the distribution of cereal seeds, animal feed and the provision of cash transfers and veterinary care. This will enable displaced farmers and voluntary returnees to get a substantial harvest and replenish their food stocks, and to prevent animal losses among vulnerable herders

However, there is a huge shortfall in international assistance to meet the demands of the coming planting season. Of the $62 million requested under the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria, FAO has only received $12.5 million.

Long-term investment for agriculture and rural development in Africa

The FAO Director-General warned that the situation in the Lake Chad Basin reflects in many ways the threats facing other countries in Africa, where a combination of ethnic or religious tensions fueled by rural poverty and unemployment, particularly amongst young people, could escalate full-scale crises.

Key to addressing this is the promotion and support for longer-term sustainable agriculture practices that can assist people in rural areas to adapt to climate change and the increasing scarcity of many natural resources, such as water and forests.

To do this, more investments in agriculture are needed, Graziano da Silva stressed, citing the example of Ethiopia where government support to the sector has helped alleviate the impact of El Niño-linked drought.

In the Lake Chad Basin region, FAO is working with farmers and displaced people to assist them with producing food and to sell their surplus in the markets. This includes the distribution of cash vouchers that help to stimulate markets for agricultural products.

In addition, FAO together with its partners is exploring the possibility of introducing irrigation techniques that will help save water, and to help train farmers in using these techniques.

Read More

Lake Chad Basin crisis is both humanitarian and ecological – UN agriculture agency

11 April 2017 &#150 Critical investments in agriculture and climate change relief are needed to address the crisis in Africa’s strife-torn Lake Chad Basin, where hunger, poverty and a lack of rural development prevail, the United Nations food security agency said today.

“This is not only a humanitarian crisis, but it is also an ecological one,” José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said at a media briefing in Rome following his visit last week to some of the worst affected areas in Chad and north-eastern Nigeria.

He underscored that the crisis is rooted in decades of neglect, lack of rural development and the impact of climate change, and the only way to ensure a lasting solution is to address these including through investments in sustainable agriculture.

“This conflict cannot be solved only with arms. This is a war against hunger and poverty in the rural areas of the Lake Chad Basin,” stressed the FAO Director-General.

“Peace is a prerequisite” to resolve the crisis in the region, but this is not enough, Mr. Graziano da Silva said. “Agriculture, including livestock and fisheries, can no longer be an afterthought. It is what produces food and what sustains the livelihoods of about 90 per cent of the region’s population.”

Some seven million people risk suffering from severe hunger in the Lake Chad Basin, which incorporates parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and north-eastern Nigeria. In the latter, some 50,000 people are facing famine.

FAO has developed a three-year strategy for the Lake Chad Basin crisis to improve food security and nutrition, focusing on women and youth. Photo: FAO/Pius Utomi Ekpei

While fighting and violence have caused much of the suffering, the impact of environmental degradation and climate change – including repeated droughts – is exacerbating the situation, continued the FAO Director-General.

He noted that since 1963, Lake Chad has lost some 90 per cent of its water mass with devastating consequences on food security and the livelihoods of people depending on fishing and irrigation-based agricultural activities. Furthermore, while Lake Chad has been shrinking, the population has been growing, including millions displaced from conflict areas.

Food assistance and long-term investment production

FAO and its partners, including other UN agencies, are calling on the international community for urgent support – a combination of immediate food assistance and food production support – to make assuage hunger in the region.

Mr. Graziano da Silva reiterated that should farmers miss the coming May/June planting season, no substantial harvests will be seen until 2018, leading to more widespread, severe hunger and prolonged dependency on external assistance.

He recalled FAO’s Response Strategy (2017-2019) for the crisis, which includes distributing cereal seeds and animal feed and providing cash transfers and veterinary care to enable displaced farmers and voluntary returnees to get a substantial harvest, replenish their food stocks and prevent animal losses among vulnerable herders.

The FAO Director-General warned that the situation reflects the threats facing other African countries where a combination of ethnic or religious tensions fuelled by rural poverty and unemployment could escalate to full-scale crises.

In the Lake Chad Basin region, FAO is working with farmers and displaced people to assist with producing food and selling surplus in the markets, which includes distributing cash vouchers that help stimulate markets for agricultural products.

Additionally, the agency, together with its partners, is exploring the possibility of introducing irrigation techniques to save water, and then helping to train farmers in using them.

Read More