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The Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism (FLRM)

The strategy and action plan for Forest and Landscape Restoration in the Asia-Pacific Region

Year published: 05/10/2016

On 22 July 2016, a side event, co-organized by FAO, the Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management and Rehabilitation (APFNet), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Resource Institute (WRI), was held during the 23rd Session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO 23) at FAO Headquarters to discuss the draft Strategy and Action Plan on Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR) in the Asia-Pacific region.

This draft Strategy and Action Plan was developed by FAO, together with key partners and in close consultation with countries, agencies and experts in the region, based on the recommendations from the 26th session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) held in February 2016. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Marcial C. Amaro Jr., Assistant Secretary of Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Philippines, and chair of the 26th APFC session.

APFNet and ASEAN-ROK Forest Cooperation (AFoCo), two active organizations in the region working on forest rehabilitation as a priority, introduced their ongoing work relevant to FLR in the region. APFNet has been monitoring the progress towards the APEC aspirational goal of increasing forest cover in the APEC region by 20 million ha by 2020 and has carried out a mid-term assessment in 2015 for the APEC Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Forestry. AFoCo is a regional cooperation initiative between the ASEAN and the Republic of South Korea. Mr. Jun Seok Choi, Vice Executive Director of AFoCo secretariat, introduced their 10-year landmark program, which includes capacity building activities and restoration through AFoCo model forests.

Patrick Durst, Senior Forestry Officer of FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific pointed out that substantial restoration activity was taking place in the region and much opportunity was available for scaling up the effort. He introduced the main outcomes from the high-level consultation on developing an Action Plan for FLR during 26th APFC session. The general consensus was that a regional FLR initiative could add value to national restoration efforts and a more ambitious target would help to advance restoration in the region (see the detailed outcomes of the consultation).

Ms. Unna Chokkalingam, FAO consultant, presented the consultation results and proposed components of the draft Strategy and Action Plan.

1. Summary of the strategy & action plan
As of 1 July 2016, written and/or verbal feedback had been received from 14 countries and 24 other agencies and experts through interviews and / or questionnaires.

  1. Feedback on value of a regional “initiative”
    Ten out of the 14 countries agreed that a FLR regional initiative could add value to national efforts. Among the 24 agencies and experts interviewed, 22 felt a regional initiative on FLR would be useful. Respondents also favoured the establishment of “an initiative” rather than “a mechanism”, since the latter implies a formalized system or procedure with legal and prescriptive implications. Other potential terms suggested include “Platform”, “Partnership” and “Alliance”. 
  2. Coverage and nature of the initiative
    The initiative would primarily cover member countries of the APFC. It would be voluntary, non-binding, and open to all countries and agencies who could play different roles depending on their interest, needs and experience. It is proposed to get the endorsement of APFC member countries at its next session at the end of 2017.
  3. Regional target 
    It is recommended to have a regional target to indicate the scale of the problem, create enthusiasm, connect to the media and mobilize finances. The process of setting the target should combine both the top-down and bottom-up approaches, be based on the country targets, and could set 2030 as a timeframe to align with SDGs and other international goals. The target should also prioritize areas with both high biophysical and socio-political potential for restoration and include both forestland and trees outside forests.
  4. Proposed strategies 
    There are seven proposed strategies, among which immediate actions could be carried out under Strategies 1, 3 and 4 prior to the formal endorsement by APFC at the end of 2017. Direct country actions as specified in Strategy 2 and elsewhere can be carried out by the countries at any time with support from FAO and other partners and initiatives, depending on interest and resource availability.
  • Strategy 1: Establish a regional network, and small regional institution or secretariat
  • Strategy 2: Develop national-level FLR programs and restoration targets
  • Strategy 3: Promote regional dialogue and coordinated action on FLR
  • Strategy 4: Build recognition and support the use of different technical, social and institutional approaches as appropriate for different landscapes and objectives
  • Strategy 5: Mobilize finances for national FLR efforts from a broad variety of sources
  • Strategy 6: Support private sector engagement in FLR
  • Strategy 7: Support community-level action on FLR

2. Summary of the discussions
Following the presentations, participants had a general discussion on the draft strategy and action plan. The main points discussed are summarized below:

  1. Cross-sectoral scope and challenge of FLR
    Participants raised questions about the definition of the “landscape” that needs restoration and said it would be difficult in some national contexts to coordinate with other sectors if the “landscape” involves different land uses. Most participants present at the meeting were from the forestry agencies and FLR (now specified as Forest and Landscape Restoration) extends beyond their territory. However, it was also pointed out that a cross-sectoral approach is the innovative aspect of FLR which seeks to bring in agriculture and other sectors that influence forests, and to enhance the role of trees and ecological functioning across different land uses.  The proposed initiative should tackle the challenge of building a common vision among sectors and institutions to implement FLR in an integrated manner.
  2. Targets and monitoring progress/success
    Opinions were mixed concerning targets and monitoring. Some participants were not sure about a regional target, at least at the start. Participants mentioned that the Asia-Pacific region is quite diverse, and restoration definitions and targets vary from country to country. One participant from China mentioned that FLR included everything which was an issue, and that the terminology and scope needed clarification for monitoring, which also resonated with several participants. Ms. Chokkalingam pointed out that there is one section in the draft strategy that summarizes the current definitions of FLR and the scope of activities it could encompass.
    The Indian representative raised a question on whether yet another target beyond the Bonn Challenge and other processes was useful. Mr. Charles Barber of WRI clarified that any targets set would be integrated into the existing Bonn Challenge and other processes and would not result in a doubling of targets. Participants suggested that the strategy should include some technical guidance on information gathering and criteria for monitoring success which should be based on more than just how much area was planted.  APFNet representative noted that the initiative could support countries in the setting of realistic and ambitious national targets.
  3. Access of funding
    The Indian representative also indicated that countries find it difficult to access the available funds, which tend to be fragmented and subject to complex processes. It was suggested that the initiative could build capacity of countries to formulate proposals to access available funds.
  4. Coordination and collaboration
    Participants mentioned existing initiatives and commitments in the region and reaffirmed that it would be necessary to add value to and coordinate with ongoing efforts. Other global initiatives could also potentially support this Asia-Pacific region initiative and it would be useful to get a diverse range of voices and spokespersons on board.
  5. Knowledge sharing and facilitating action on the ground
    Knowledge and experience sharing was mentioned by several participants as quite necessary and helpful, as countries could learn from each other, such as the experience of China and the Philippines in lobbying their government to secure public finance for restoration. Australian representative proposed an action focus, with mentoring and skills exchange across countries to link policy and expertise to practical actions on the ground. Korean representative stated that FLR was top priority for the Korean Forest Service and that they would be interested in supporting field-based actions as part of the initiative. Indonesian representative introduced their peatland restoration target of 2 million ha in 5 years and enquired about possible cooperation under this regional strategy and action plan to achieve their national target.

3. Conclusion and the next step
At the end of the side event, Mr. Christophe Besacier, FAO's FLRM, briefly summarized the discussion and mentioned that FAO RAP is still expecting written feedback from all interested countries and partners. Meanwhile, FAO RAP will continue to work with key partners and interested countries in the region to move this initiative forward by the next meeting of the Asia Pacific Forestry Commission in late 2017. The idea to organize a second regional consultation on the updated version of the Strategy and Action Plan, before the next session of the AFPC in 2017, was also mentioned by FAO teams. The FLRM could support this regional event that could be focused on the estimate of a relevant regional restoration target (building on existing national targets of APFC members) in partnership with all interested partners in the Asia Pacific region.

For more information contact: FO-FLR-Mechanism@fao.org

Lin Chen