Boosting transparency of forest data

Transparency building takes center stage at XV World Forestry Congress


In early May, the XV World Forestry Congress (WFC) was held in Seoul, marking an important opportunity for the international community to collectively assess the state of the world’s forest resources. Organized by the Korea Forest Service (KFS) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), diverse representatives from a variety of organizations and country governments participated in this global forum, hostingsub-theme sessions, side events, and high-level dialogues. These events presented opportunities and challenges to turning the tide of deforestation, launched new tools and mechanisms, and set global agendas for future action 

Dynamic solutions are required to address climate change through the reduction of deforestation. As outlined in Article 13 of the Paris Agreement, improving access to reliable and transparent data is among these crucial solutions. This topic was highlighted at WFC during the FAO event, “Towards open and transparent reporting and dissemination of forest data”, funded by the projectBuilding global capacity to increase transparency in the forest sector (CBIT-Forest). This sub-theme session explored how collecting and sharing forest data can lead to better policy and sustainable forest management. 

Globally, 10 million hectares of forested land are lost each year– releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere and exacerbating climate change. Because of this critical role forests play in the global climate system, reliable and accurate forest data are needed to guide policies and practice that not only address forests and climate change but also improve local and indigenous livelihoods and enhance sustainable development.  

International commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) of the Paris Agreement, have recognized and promoted the significance of improving the collection and transparency of forest data and information. To help countries meet these national and international targets, FAO has supported the strengthening and development of national forest monitoring systems (NFMS), through which countries collect, analyse and disseminate data related to forest resources.  

Strengthening these monitoring systems has requiredtechnical and institutional capacity development and the creation of accessible, easy-to-use tools. Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by FAO, CBIT-Forest has spearheaded capacity development and knowledge sharing, through webinars, trainings, learning materials, and more.  The project has even led innovation with the creation of an NFMS Assessment Tool, the expansion of virtual engagement and digital capacity-building through massive open online courses. 

The CBIT-Forest project has successfully identified a number of recommendations for improving forest data transparency and sustainability at national, regional, and global levels. The following recommendations and lessons learned from the project were presented at WFC.  

  • Open data platforms provide the up-to-date and integrated information needed for better climate policies.  

  • Virtual knowledge sharing allows widespread capacity development to continue despite disruptions, such as global health crises.  

  • To support the transparency requirements of the Paris Agreement,quality, timeliness, accessibility and usability of global forest-related data must be enhanced.  

  • Innovative global composite learning programmes,that combine virtual and in-person training, help to develop capacities to work towards open and transparent data in pilot countries and at the global scale 

  • As international momentum builds around forests and transparency, data sharing becomes more and more vital.  

  • Cementing networks regionally, and with new partners such as from the academic sector, is need to ensure sustainability and transparency of forest reporting 

Beyond capacity development, FAO has helped produce and disseminate forest-related information through the development of the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA). By presenting data on the condition, management and use of forest resources, the FRA provides the data needed to inform environmental decision-making. As development of the next Global Forest Resources Assessment, FRA 2025, continues, the quality, accessibility and transparency of global forest information will improve even further. 

This transparency event at WFC also amplified country voices, with representatives from Uganda, Brazil and Mexico detailing their various efforts to increase and ease the collection and dissemination of forest data. It was well recognized that in 2021 Uganda utilized the Food and Agriculture Microdata Catalogue (FAM) tobecome the first tropical country to openly share its national forest inventory data. In addition to the success stories and key lessons presented, experts shared research on various topics, including implementation of a national forest inventory in the Republic of Korea and use of remote sensing to map tropical forests. 

The country and technical experts used this event to inspire future action, share knowledge and best practices, and to emphasize that open and transparent data is critical to tackling global challenges. Better data means better decision – decisions that will enable conservation of the world’s forests and the security of a sustainable future for the entire planet.  

Learn more about CBIT-Forest and the related topics covered at WFC: