Forestry in the Near East: water scarcity and climate change must be addressed as priorities
Issa Al Shobaki, Chairperson, 21st Session Near East Forestry and Range Commission, Under Secretary General for Forests and Range, Ministry of Agriculture, Jordan
Our region faces many challenges, but in natural resource management the Near East Forestry and Range Commission’s recent session in Amman, Jordan, identified two of the most pressing: water scarcity and climate change. The scale of intervention may appear vast, but viable options exist. Through a shared understanding and vision of the role of forests and rangelands and the commitment of our members and partners, we can identify and implement sustainable solutions that could transform the food security and livelihoods of people in the region.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was honoured to host the Twenty-first Session of the Near East Forestry and Range Commission (NEFRC) and the Third Near East Forestry Week (NEFW) in its capital Amman from 26 to 30 January 2014. We were delighted that the two events attracted around 260 representatives from 18 countries and several intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, the private sector and NGOs from within Jordan and the region. I was also greatly honoured by the decision of the NEFRC member countries to entrust me with the chairmanship of NEFRC for the coming two years.
In his opening remarks, our Minister of Agriculture, His Excellency Akef Alzubi, reiterated our country’s appreciation of these honours and, on behalf of the Prime Minister of Jordan, His Excellency Elnsour, extended a very warm welcome to all participants who had travelled to attend these two major regional events.
The Near East is witnessing political, social, economic and institutional transformations, and in his opening remarks His Excellency the Minister emphasized that addressing two major issues - water scarcity and climate change – must be foremost in regional actions and that success would hinge on strong and coherent cooperation and collaboration between all major parties and partners. With this challenge before us, our discussions on increasing the visibility of dryland forestry and rangelands in the global and regional forestry agenda took on greater significance, particularly in the debates on the many ways in which forestry and rangelands can contribute to the green economy and regeneration in the region.
From our dialogues two key needs emerged: 1) to fully take into account the value of the goods and services provided by forests and rangelands ecosystems; and 2) to develop pertinent guidelines tailored to the context of the region. We, as members of the Commission, recommended that our countries and FAO work together to inform policy-makers about the importance of sustainable drylands, forests and rangelands and the variety of benefits to be gained for local people from their sustainable management and restoration. This should be done in order not only to raise awareness of these issues but also to elevate the profile of drylands in political agenda, at the national, regional and international levels, and to increase related, and necessary, responsible investments.
But there are also other important issues that need to be addressed. What needs to be done to facilitate cooperation in forest, range and climate change adaptation? Delegates made a clear call for FAO support in accessing climate change finance. In the areas of forestry training and research delegates noted a strong need for sustained assistance, particularly in physical restructuring and soft skills. Our region also has to deal with the impact of crises on sustainable forest and rangeland management.
The challenges our region faces are many, and our member countries look to the new FAO Strategic Framework as a means to enable us to meet them. It is for this reason that we have urged greater recognition of the role of forests and trees outside forests in resolving many developmental challenges, and we recommended that this be fully reflected in the implementation of the Organization’s new Strategic Objectives.
The message from the Commission on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was also clear: a strong preference for a standalone SDG on forests that would include rangelands, wildlife, trees outside forests and mountains. It requested FAO to support this proposal, and we hope that the Organization’s efforts in the various international fora will soon bear fruit.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to FAO for the excellent collaboration with the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture in organizing this 21st NEFRC Session. I particularly wish to thank Assistant Director-General Eduardo Rojas-Briales and his team at FAO headquarters; Mr. Abdel Hamied Adam, Senior Forestry Officer for the Near East, and his team in the FAO Regional Office for the Near East in Cairo, Egypt, for their excellent work in organizing the NEFRC session. My thanks also go to the Regional Office for West Asia of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, for their outstanding organization of the 3rd NEFW.
Installation of an irrigation network in a tree nursery, Yemen. ©FAO/Rosetta Messori
Steering Committee reviews agenda for next session of FAO’s highest-level forestry body
The Steering Committee of the Committee on Forestry (COFO), comprising representatives of FAO’s six regional forestry commissions, met in Amman, Jordan, after the Near East Forestry and Range Commission, to align the Commissions’ recommendations with the first draft agenda of COFO’s 22nd Session. COFO 22, together with the 4th World Forest Week, will take place at FAO headquarters this June.
The newly composed Steering Committee met for the first time following the election of officers at sessions of the regional forestry commissions (RFCs) held between September 2013 and January 2014.
The Committee reviewed briefly the rich outcomes of the RFC sessions, three of which had been held with parallel forest weeks (Africa, Europe and the Near East) and attracted considerable professional and media interest. The Committee was also briefed on progress in implementing the decisions of various FAO governing bodies, and noted the results of the strategic planning process and the preparations for the FAO Programme of Work and Budget for the 2014–15 biennium.
Implementation of the FAO Strategic Framework was acknowledged as a learning process that required due attention. Careful vigilance is required to ensure a holistic approach to including forestry issues in all Strategic Objectives. Action on forest issues and ensuring that a holistic approach to forestry transcends all Strategic Objectives would also require careful vigilance. The Committee also encouraged initiatives that would support cross-sectoral collaboration within FAO and suggested that coherent messages be developed by the various governing bodies. Of equal importance was the need for the RFCs to make clear recommendations to the FAO Regional Conferences and to promote these actively through collaboration in and contribution to the sessions.
The Committee was unanimous in agreeing that COFO 22 should focus on the socio-economic impacts of sustainable forest management (SFM) and that thematic discussions should be centred around the key issues and findings presented in the 2014 edition of the State of the World’s Forests. It specifically suggested that the core of the COFO 22 agenda be developed around four major thematic areas: SFM’s role in meeting global socio-economic challenges; its contributions to global processes and initiatives; implementation of the FAO forestry programme – progress and further guidance; and programme priorities for FAO in forestry. It also agreed that, following the positive experience of the past three COFO sessions, COFO 22 should be organized in conjunction with the World Forest Week.
The COFO secretariat was invited to ensure that the agenda and thematic structure of COFO 22 are officially announced by 23 March 2014.
Cross-sectoral partnering on tenure in Sierra Leone
The German Government is supporting Sierra Leone in translating the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests into sustainable action, by funding a multi-stakeholder capacity-building project. Technical and policy support is central to FAO’s first cross-sectoral project since the Guidelines were endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in 2012. Read more on forest tenure-related work.
New York sustainable development meetings: game-changers for forests and mountains?
New York was the venue for a recent series of high-level meetings of potential significance for the future of forests and mountains. FAO was represented most recently at the 8th session of the Open Working Group and contributed to several events, the outcomes of which will feed into the consultations for defining the post-2015 sustainable development goals.
Forests in the post-2015 sustainable development landscape
The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG-SDGs) held its 8th session in February 2014 at UN Headquarters in New York. FAO Forestry Assistant Director-General, Eduardo Rojas-Briales, made a statement in the OWG-SDG plenary on behalf of FAO and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), addressing the importance of including concrete targets and indicators on forests and mountains. The statement is available on cpfweb.org.
The two co-chairs of the OWG have drafted a first document on the SDG ‘focus areas’ on the basis of eight intergovernmental consultations, culminating with OWG-8. The 9th session considered this output during its recent meeting from 3–5 March 2014 in New York. In the ‘focus areas’ document, forests are already included under ecosystems and biodiversity. Read more.
Advocating for mountains in the post-2015 development agenda
Mountain countries, supported by FAO and the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS), confirmed their determination to integrate mountain ecosystems in the new sustainable development goals during the 8th session of the UN Open Working Group in New York in early February 2014. Bhutan, Peru and Romania were three of many countries at two FAO-MPS events that said the time had come for mountain-related targets.Read about the New York mountain-related events here.
Collaborative Partnership on Forests supports development goal aims
On Monday, 3 February, FAO, in collaboration with the CPF and the Government of Finland, held a side event and informal meetings on the fringes of the OWG-8 session to determine the potential for including forests in the post-2015 development agenda. Former President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana and President of the International Family Forestry Alliance, Mr. Peter De Marsh, were present to offer possibilities for including forest issues in the SDGs. A summary of the event can be found here.
In addition, the CPF held a regular meeting on 5 February, to further discuss a CPF draft paper on possible forest targets and indicators, which was finalized by the CPF in late February and distributed at the UN Forum on Forests’ recent Ad Hoc Expert Group meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on the International Arrangement on Forests review. In addition, the CPF considered its regular business, including CPF’s potential contributions to the upcoming FAO Committee on Forestry meeting and the IUFRO World Congress, as well as IUFRO’s proposed ‘Policy Learning Platforms’.
Save the Date! XIV World Forestry Congress, Durban, South Africa, 7–11 September 2015
The XIV World Forestry Congress organizers invite you to join them at this major international gathering that seeks to chart a visionary, people-focused course for 21st century global forestry. Forests and people: investing in a sustainable future is the theme that will frame and shape the week-long multi-media events and connect participants through numerous interactive dialogues and debates. Read more about the XIV World Forestry Congress to be held in Durban, South Africa, 7–11 September 2015
Understanding forests and trees’ primary and protective role in the water-food security nexus
The High-Level Panel of Experts of the Committee on World Food Security has been tasked with preparing a report on water and food security for submission to the Committee’s 42nd Session in 2015. An e-consultation to shape the report’s scope and structure has received many contributions, including one from FAO Forestry's Watershed and Mountain team on the primary and protective role of forests and trees. Read the Watershed and Mountain team's HLPE contribution here.
Celebration of 1st World Wildlife Day
The Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management is a voluntary partnership of international organizations with substantive mandates and programmes for the sustainable use and conservation of wildlife resources. On the 1st World Wildlife Day 2014 the Partnership issued a call for international efforts to support action on sustainable wildlife management and related human well-being. Read the Partnership’s message here 1st World Wildlife Day sees launch of human-wildlife conflict management centre in Zimbabwe
Africa is witnessing demographic expansions with resulting encroachments into wildlife habitats and a rising number of human-wildlife conflicts (HWC). Dramatic trends in criminal hunting and trade are also threatening many wildlife species to the verge of extinction. Zimbabwe has taken steps to counter these phenomena by setting up a HWC management centre in the Mukuvisi woodlands of Zimbabwe.
Read more about the centre established by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, CAMPFIRE, and BIO-HUB Trust, with technical and financial support from FAO.
Greater cross-sectoral integration needed to meet ecosystem restoration targets
Greater integration between the forestry, agriculture and rangeland sectors would increase West Asian and North African countries’ capacity to meet ecosystem conservation and restoration targets, stated participants at the Aichi Biodiversity Target Workshop organized by CBD with FAO financial and technical support. International dialogues on forest and landscape restoration must also extend beyond biodiversity and protected areas, FAO and CBD suggested.
Read more about the Convention on Biodiversity Aichi Biodiversity Target Workshop, Amman, Jordan, held back-to-back with the 21st Session of the Near East Forestry and Range Commission.
REDD+ promotes scaling up in sustainable forest management
The challenges in scaling up implementation of sustainable forest management (SFM) within REDD+ at all levels and in all forest types were reviewed at a Japan/FAO/UN-REDD international seminar in Tokyo. Participants from mainly African and Asian countries learned of experiences, best practices and tools that could increase national capacity in SFM while contributing to the five REDD+ activities. Read more about the Tokyo international seminar on REDD+ implementation and sustainable forest management.
Upcoming meetings and events
International Day of Forests - 21 March 2014
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests (IDF) to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests. On each IDF, countries are encouraged to organize local, national and international events involving forests and trees, such as tree-planting campaigns or educational activities. Click to read the UN Resolution.
FAO Forestry will be holding a seminar at headquarters, Rome, on the forest monitoring work of the department, including an update of the global remote sensing survey of forests.
- International forum on payments for environmental services of tropical forests, International Tropical Timber Organization, FAO, National Forest Financing Fund, Costa Rica – San José, Costa Rica, 7–10 April 2014
- Insects to feed the world, FAO and Wageningen University – Ede, The Netherlands, 14–17 May 2014
- North American Forest Commission – Madison, Wisconsin USA, 11-13 June 2014
- 22nd Session Committee on Forestry, FAO headquarters, Rome, Italy, 23-27 June 2014
- 47th International Poplar Commission – Executive Committee meeting – Vancouver, Canada, July 2014
Expo 2015: Feeding the planet, energy for life Milan, Italy – 1 May to 31 October 2015
“Expo 2015 will be an extraordinary universal event displaying tradition, creativity and innovation in the business of food. It will bring together many themes that have already been handled by this event in the past, and set them out anew in light of new global possibilities whose common core is the idea that everyone on the planet should have access to food that is healthy, safe and sufficient.”
- 14th World Forestry Congress, 7-11 September 2015, Durban, South Africa
- Fire of the past, fire in future - 6th International Wildland Fire Conference - PyeongChang, Republic of Korea, 12–16 October 2015
Collaborative Partnership on Forests – events calendar, including:
- International Poplar Symposium VI, IUFRO, Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada, 21–23 July 2014
- 24th IUFRO World Congress, October 5–11 2014, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Trade and exhibition fair
IUCN World Parks Congress – Sydney, Australia, 12–19 November 2014
FAO, the Ministry of Environment, Japan, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas are lead organizations for the stream on Supporting human life.
United Nations Forum on Forests 11: Progress, challenges and the way forward for the International Arrangement on Forests – UN headquarters, New York, USA, 4–15 May 2015
New publications and videos
Unasylva reader survey
Unasylva is the FAO's journal of forestry and forest industries. FAO wants to ensure that it continues to be an effective medium for articulating the ideas, practicalities and challenges of sustainable forest management. You can help by participating in a short (5–10 minute) Web-based survey. FAO will use your responses to improve Unasylva and increase its impact in the development of effective forest policy and practice. You can find a link to the Unasylva survey here
International Day of Forests - 21 March 2014
Forests and trees sustain and protect us, providing clean air and water, safeguarding biodiversity and acting as a buffer against climate change. For many people, they also offer food, shelter and employment. It is up to us in turn to sustain and protect our forests -- our future is at stake. Join FAO in celebrating the International Day of Forests on 21 March.
View the International Day of Forests video in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian, and German and Italian.
Unasylva: a stroll down memory lane
In this series, we feature extracts from early editions of Unasylva, FAO Forestry’s international journal of forestry and forest industries.
Forest history of the Near East
Unasylva, 17(68), 1963
Knowledge of the natural forest conditions which existed in the historic past, and of the manner of their evolution up to the present day, are essential requirements for a proper understanding of the present situation and for the framing of corrective national land and forestry policies and programs.
The peoples of the Near East are beginning to recognize that improvement in their economic and social conditions can be brought about through forestry, and governments are initiating positive scientific thinking to attain betterment of environment and general well-being. The urgent need for afforestation and for the improved management of the remaining forest areas is evident.
Constructive forestry programs will slowly but surely reverse the trend of uncontrolled destruction and re-establish a forest heritage for future generations, thereby providing incalculable benefit to the social and economic order of the Near East.
Karl Oedekoven, FAO Regional Forestry Officer for the Near East, FAO Regional Office for the Near East Cairo, Egypt, 1963
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