Forests are one of the most valuable natural resources in Georgia. They cover about 40% of the country and have significant potential for production of wood and wood products. About 98% of Georgian forests are natural forests, which are crucial for the country’s biodiversity, providing important ecosystem services and hosting unique species. Georgia is among the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots, with more than 20% of its forests protected. However, numerous studies stress that weak forest governance combined with unchecked and undocumented activities are causing forest degradation.
To ensure the sustainable management of forests, a proper monitoring system is essential. Since 2003, Georgia has been a signatory country to the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (known as Forest Europe), which together with the European Union, develops common strategies for its 46 member countries on how to protect and sustainably manage forests. Nevertheless, so far, Georgia has not developed a national reporting system to account for sustainable forest management. Georgia is now progressing towards such a national forest reporting system via a participatory process for the development of a national criteria and indicator set for sustainable forest management.
This process is supported through the project “Accountability Systems for Sustainable Forest Management in the Caucasus and Central Asia”, undertaken by UNECE and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protecting of Georgia and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ). The project aims to strengthen national forest sectors by facilitating a participatory, multi-stakeholder process to develop accountability systems with the participation of international and national experts.
A national workshop organized by UNECE/FAO (29 November - 1 December 2017 in Tbilisi) focuses on establishing a criteria and indicator set for sustainable forest management, bringing Georgia one step closer to achieve its national forestry goals, as well as the commitments under Forest Europe and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Georgia works actively to create a favourable environment for investments in the forest sector, which facilitates the development of different fields of industry. This includes the creation of green jobs for rural communities, which are highly dependent on forests and fosters favourable conditions for the sustainable development for the country.
Georgia’s initiative under the UNECE/FAO project is a considerable step forward in tackling these issues and to establish a reliable long-term monitoring system for Georgian forests.
“Georgia fully supports proceeding towards the implementation of the commitments under the Ministerial Conferences and is prepared to implement them through national strategies, programmes and initiatives, further considering the coordination of external support and cooperation with partner organizations”, said Carl Amirgulashvili, the head of Biodiversity and Forest Policy Department of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection.
“Georgian forests not only conserve unique biological diversity, but ensure continuous delivery of vital direct and indirect benefits and resources to the population. The forest sector in Georgia has great development potential, with many of its forest resources still untapped”, stated Ekrem Yazici, Deputy Chief of the Joint UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section.
The project “Accountability Systems for Sustainable Forest Management in the Caucasus and Central Asia”, initiated in 2016 and expected to operate until 2019, is financed through the UN Development Account. Together with Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are beneficiary countries of the project.