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The Puembo process: strengthening
the dialogue on forests in Latin America
and the Caribbean

W. Thies, J. Rodríguez and E. von Pfeil

A regional initiative to strengthen national forest programmes and
regional organizations as a bridge between the national and international levels.

Wibke Thies is Project Officer, and Evy von Pfeil is Project Leader, in the International Forest Policy project, Executive Secretariat of the Puembo II Initiative, German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Eschborn, Germany.
Jorge Rodríguez is Vice Minister for Environment and Energy, Costa Rica.

Protecting and managing forests today is no longer so much a technical issue (most countries now having the necessary technical expertise), but a policy and governance issue, necessitating civil society participation in decision-making, adequate legislation and law enforcement. National forest programmes (NFPs) provide a means to address the political dimension of sustainable forest management by involving all stakeholders in a country that have an interest in forests.

However, in a globalizing world, forest protection and management have increasingly become a matter of dialogue among countries, both because the world is realizing that forest services provide global benefits (such as stabilizing the climate) and because countries recognize that many forest problems go beyond national borders. NFPs are therefore also a reference point for policy dialogue at the regional level.

The importance of countries acting together when formulating forest policies has been widely recognized in Latin America and the Caribbean. National forest policies are increasingly influenced by international agreements on forests. However, although several Latin American countries have formulated NFPs, there has been little interaction among countries or between the international level where forest-related negotiations take place and the national level where internationally agreed actions should be implemented.

The Puembo process was created to provide countries in Latin America a platform for dialogue:

Through discussion of common issues, identification of topics that could benefit from joint action, work on transboundary solutions, and exchange of information on best practices, the process aims to strengthen NFP processes as well as regional organizations as a bridge between the national and international levels. The idea is to improve the information and knowledge flow among countries and the coordination of action between the countries and the various regional and international processes.The objective is to increase political attention to forests, especially regarding their contribution to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals 1 (“Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”) and 7 (“Ensure environmental sustainability”).

Protecting and managing Latin America’s forests has increasingly become a matter of dialogue among countries
W. Thies


The Puembo process began from a workshop held in Puembo, Ecuador in 2002, called by the Ministry for Environment of Ecuador and supported by the Netherlands and Germany, on Implementation of International Forest-Related Agreements through National Forest Programmes in Latin America. The nine Latin American countries that participated – Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru – formulated a commitment to joint action to support NFP processes.

Participants noted that to strengthen the NFP processes in the countries, there was a need to advance on issues such as dialogue with other sectors, capacity development for stakeholders in decentralized organizations, better participation of civil society, integration of the forest sector in national development and poverty reduction strategies, development of innovative financing strategies for sustainable forest management, and coordination between actions at the national level and decisions taken in international and regional fora.

After presentation of the workshop results in numerous international fora (the Latin American Forestry Congress, the sixth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity [CBD], FAO’s Latin America and Caribbean Forestry Commission [LACFC] and the fourth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests [UNFF]), participating countries and regional organizations requested a continuation of the Puembo process.

In November 2005, the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), the Central American Commission on Environment and Development (CCAD), the Southern Cone Subregional Group of LACFC, the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs (DGIS) and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) launched the Puembo II Initiative to strengthen the dialogue on forests within and among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. They proposed including more countries in the process and broadening the scope to include biodiversity issues, intersectoral approaches and overall poverty reduction goals. Subsequently almost all Latin American countries joined the Puembo II Initiative (see Map).

Four themes were identified as crucial for sustainable forest management and necessary to take up in Puembo II:

Although regional cooperation in Latin American forestry is not new, what is new about the Puembo approach is that it does not only work with regional organizations or countries, but links both to the international dialogue on forests – by linking the countries’ development of NFPs with the implementation of regional and international commitments, and by contributing to the regional agendas on forest development of ACTO, CCAD and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR). The Puembo process also seeks to improve coordination among these existing regional processes.

Members of the Puembo II Initiative


The three founding regional organizations, ACTO, CCAD and FAO (through LACFC), guide the initiative and define priorities for its topics and projects. These organizations strengthen the forest networks in the region, improve relations among the national, regional and international levels, and strengthen the political dialogue between member countries and the different sectors that impact on forests. They receive support from FAO, the National Forest Programme Facility, Germany and the Netherlands.

The initiative is politically guided by a Steering Committee which consists of representatives of ACTO, CCAD, LACFC, DGIS and BMZ. The Steering Committee is assisted by a Technical Support Group which includes representatives of the National Forest Programme Facility, FAO, ACTO, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Netherlands. The Technical Support Group is responsible for the coordination and facilitation of the initiative, together with the Executive Secretariat which is managed by GTZ.

Participation is not exclusive to countries that are members of the participating organizations. Other potential partners such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the World Bank are invited to contribute to the process. Future cooperation with MERCOSUR is planned (see below).

Key interventions to date have included the following:

Working groups of NFP focal points and others during Southern Cone subregional workshop in Santiago, Chile exchanging lessons learned from national studies and identifying common issues
W. Thies


Only half a year after the start of the Puembo II Initiative, participating countries have stated that the Puembo process has created a “common language” and a common understanding of forest issues among countries. They have begun to talk about the four Puembo key themes and to identify topics within the themes that are relevant to them but also to the region.

The following needs have been identified by all countries:

The subjects of forest dialogue vary from country to country, but areas such as illegal logging and criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management were identified as relevant to most countries and relevant for discussion at the regional level.

Several regional and multilateral organizations (the National Forest Programme Facility, IUCN South, ACICAFOC, the Regional Alliance for Forest Biodiversity coordinated by the CBD Secretariat and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center [CATIE], the World Bank and the Central American Council for Agriculture) have already integrated or have shown interest in integrating their topics into the Puembo process, indicating the need for such a regional platform for dialogue on forests and NFPs. LACFC has included support to the Puembo process and its four key themes in its Biannual Mesoamerican Work Plan.

The four Puembo key themes and the results of the national studies prepared during the Puembo II Initiative constitute a basis for the new Strategic Regional Forest Programme (Programa Estratégico Regional Forestal, PERFOR) presented for approval to the Central American Forest Committee of CCAD. PERFOR will be one of the programmes implementing the Environmental Plan of the Central American Region (Programa Ambiental para Centroamérica) under the Central American Forest Strategy (Estrategia Forestal Centroamericana). The World Bank, which will finance a regional initiative on forest law enforcement and governance under PERFOR, has consequently integrated the Puembo objectives in its planning.

In the Southern Cone area, MERCOSUR, especially its Working Group on Environment, has shown interest in supporting the Puembo process in its member countries. MERCOSUR, like CCAD and ACTO, could provide the networks necessary to strengthen the dialogue on forest issues among member countries.


The Puembo II Initiative has a duration of two years, until the end of 2007. To continue the momentum, efforts are under way to promote the ideas and objectives of the process among regional organizations, NGOs and other bi- and multilateral donors and to secure financing to continue activities after 2007. Early encouraging signs are the interest that several regional organizations have shown in integrating their objectives with those of the Puembo process. For example, the Puembo process will serve as a platform for follow-up of the FAO Workshop on Intersectoral Planning of Forest-Related Policies in Central America, held in October 2006 in Costa Rica.

At the national level, the NFP focal points, with support from the Puembo II Technical Support Group, will discuss the outcomes of the subregional workshops at national participatory workshops and define follow-up activities to be implemented before the regional Puembo conference in 2007, such as integrating the results of the subregional workshop in Central America in national policies and identifying national topics that should be taken up and treated by regional organizations.

Further information about the Puembo II Initiative can be found at:

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