Boosting transparency of forest data

Institutionalization of forest data to support forest monitoring and climate action


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been at the forefront of championing a sustainable future through the institutionalization of forest data. Their recent launch of the online course 'Institutionalization of forest data' is a testament to their commitment. This self-paced course is meticulously designed for all individuals - from legal experts to interested individuals - to establish and enhance the national forest monitoring system (NFMS).

Monitoring forests has become essential, given the need for up-to-date data to track changes, enhance decision-making, and provide reliable reporting for both national and international frameworks, including REDD+. With many countries already making significant strides in developing and operationalizing their NFMS, understanding the legal provisions required to clarify how the NFMS operates is crucial. This course delves deep, teaching enrollees about the strategic elements required to bolster institutional arrangements for NFMS, the significance of an NFM strategy, and the roles of various stakeholders.

One of the standout features of this eLearning course is presenting the participants to the NFMS assessment tool. This tool, stemming from the collaborative efforts of the FAO with partners such as the GEF, and the UN-REDD Programme, is a game-changer for countries aiming to institutionalize forest data.

Forests have always been a linchpin in the fight against climate change. The transparency and reliability of forest-related data have become paramount, especially with the implementation of the enhanced transparency framework (ETF) under the Paris Agreement. The FAO and GEF, through the "Building global capacity to increase transparency in the forest sector" (CBIT-Forest)" global project, has been aiding developing countries in gathering, analyzing, and disseminating forest-related data. This endeavor aims to fortify both institutional and technical capacities, fostering global knowledge sharing.


A Focus on the NFMS Assessment Tool

The NFMS assessment tool is a sterling achievement of the FAO. Developed under the CBIT-Forest project, this tool is designed to identify the needs and gaps essential for establishing or enhancing a country's national forest monitoring system. It offers guidance on three pillars, which includes institutional arrangements, measurement and estimation, and reporting and verification. Created in line with FAO's Voluntary Guidelines on National Forest Monitoring and reinforced with resources from the Global Forest Observations Initiative, this Excel-based tool, available in 6 languages, encapsulates half a century of FAO's experience. 

In just a year since its inception, the NFMS assessment tool has made significant inroads. It's been tested with 6 pilot countries and so far used by additional 13 countries. More widely the tool has been shared with approximately 2000 individuals from over 140 countries worldwide through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) on forests and transparency and more recently with more than 1300 participants who joined the SEPAL online facilitated course. These courses, complete with handouts, videos and live webinar sessions, have empowered participants to learn from global experts and stakeholders about NFMS implementation.

The NFMS assessment tool, paired with the Quick Guidance available in all six official UN languages, provides a comprehensive overview, guiding users through its objectives, target users, and overall structure. It outlines a five-step procedure for assessment:

  1. Select the language and country for assessment.
  2. Identify gaps in institutional arrangements.
  3. Pinpoint needs in measurement and estimation.
  4. Recognize gaps in reporting and verification.
  5. Analyze the results of the capacity assessment.


National forest monitoring system (NFMS): A Beacon for Climate Action

Open and transparent forest data has underpinned climate action. NFMS offers transparent, reliable, and sustainable forest data that not only aids countries in reporting their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) but also caters to their multi-purpose national data needs. With the enhanced transparency framework of the Paris Agreement promoting transparent country reporting, the NFMS assessment tool is crucial. They empower countries to combat climate change, meet their sustainable development goals, and pave the way for a sustainable future.

In conclusion, as the FAO tirelessly works towards a sustainable future through transparent forest data, the NFMS assessment tool stands out as a pivotal instrument, shaping the future of forest monitoring globally and supporting climate action.

Related links

Self-paced elearning course Institutionalization of forest data  (also available in SpanishFrench)