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Forest monitoring made easier with new FAO, UNECE guideline

Many communities in the Caucasus and Central Asia rely heavily on healthy forests for the social, economic and environmental benefits they provide.

However, countries in the region often do not have the capacity to fully monitor their forests and thus are unable to sustainably manage them. Improving forest management requires an effective monitoring framework to evaluate whether forest policy goals and targets are being met.

Countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus face a series of challenges that have hampered proper monitoring schemes. As a result of this lack of capacity, forest data is often estimated and based on outdated measurements, and forest policy is therefore often not based on evidence.

To help in combating this issue, UNECE and FAO have created a framework for countries to develop national criteria and indicator sets and reporting systems for sustainable forest management; ultimately, this will strengthen the national capacity of countries to manage their forests.

This framework, the Guidelines for the Development of a Criteria and Indicator Set for Sustainable Forest Management, already have been used in the development of national sets of criteria and indicators in Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Now, officially published and available for a broader audience, other countries can benefit from the guidelines, using them to develop or improve their own national criteria and indicators 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 set of criteria and indicators in a participatory way,” said Ekrem Yazici, deputy chief of the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section. “It contains a toolbox of stakeholder engagement methods to facilitate application of the guidelines and a comprehensive ‘shopping list’ of indicators used in the region and around the world that provides an overview of approaches to measure the main features of the forest sector.”

The guidelines proved to be successful as the main training material during the four-year UNECE/FAO Development Account project Accountability Systems for Sustainable Forest Management for the Caucasus and Central Asia. That project supported countries in defining the scope and relevance of information necessary for the implementation of national sustainable forest management. Further, these criteria and indicators 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 criteria and indicators sets will be used for monitoring the trends in the forest sector, with the goal of progressing in monitoring towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The next meeting under this project will be a Forest Congress for the region 28–31 May in Kyrgyzstan.

The new guidelines are part of a series of publications covering forest issues in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The State of Forests of the Caucasus and Central Asia, the first regional overview of the forest sector in these countries, highlighted 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 to set their national forest landscape restoration targets and pledges towards the Bonn Challenge.

23 May 2019, Geneva, Switzerland

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