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UNECE and FAO issue guidelines to develop national forest monitoring systems

Many communities around the world rely heavily on healthy forests for the social, economic and environmental benefits they bring.

But without the required skills and capacities to monitor and measure the status of forests, they cannot guarantee the sustainable management of these precious resources. Improving forest management requires an effective monitoring framework to evaluate if forest policy goals and targets are being met.

However, monitoring forests is complex. For example, in Central Asia and the Caucasus, countries face a series of challenges that have hampered a proper monitoring scheme on the state of their forests. As a result of a lack of capacity for regular national forest inventories and monitoring systems, forest data is often estimated and based on outdated measurements. Evidence-based decisions on forest policy can therefore often not be made.

To address this challenge, UNECE and FAO have created a framework to develop national criteria and indicators (C&I) and reporting systems for sustainable forest management that will ultimately strengthen the national capacity of countries to manage their forests. The “Guidelines for the Development of a Criteria and Indicator Set for Sustainable Forest Management” were used as the basis for the development of national C&I sets in Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Now, officially published and available for a broader audience, other countries can benefit and use the Guidelines to develop or improve their own national criteria and indicator set for monitoring progress towards sustainable forest management.

The publication contains a step-by-step approach on how to start a consultative process to develop a C&I set in a participatory way. A toolbox of stakeholder engagement methods facilitates the application of the guidelines. The comprehensive “shopping list” of regionally and globally used indicators provides an overview of approaches to measure the main features of the forest sector.

As the main training material for the UNECE/FAO Development Account project “Accountability Systems for Sustainable Forest Management for the Caucasus and Central Asia” the guidelines were tested and proven to be a useful tool in the four project years. The project supported countries in defining the scope and relevance of information that is necessary for the implementation of sustainable forest management at the national level. Further to this, these C&Is provided the necessary framework to support evidence-based policy making which is important to implement effective policies that will tackle national forest issues. On the ground, the national C&Is sets will be used for monitoring the trends in the forest sector with the goal in mind to progress also in monitoring towards the sustainable development goals. The next meeting under this project will be a Forest Congress for the region taking place 28-31 May 2019 in Kyrgyzstan.

The “Guidelines for the Development of a Criteria and Indicator Set for Sustainable Forest Management”  are part of a series of publications covering forest issue in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The “State of Forests of the Caucasus and Central Asia”, is the first regional overview of the forest sector in these countries and highlights the need to improve the information base for sustainable forest management. The publication “Forest Landscape Restoration in the Caucasus and Central Asia” provided the basis for countries of the region in setting their national forest landscape restoration targets and pledges towards the Bonn Challenge.

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