REDD+ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation

Ensuring the sustainability of National Forest Monitoring Systems


Since 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been collaborating closely with the Virtual Center of Excellence on Forest Monitoring (CEVMF) to reinforce South-South Cooperation in forest monitoring. This partnership operates within the framework of the Mesoamerican Strategy for Environmental Sustainability that aims to deepen and diversify existing regional cooperation in environmental matters in the context of the growing economic, political and social connection between ten countries of the Mesoamerican region. National Forest Monitoring Systems (NFMS) in Latin-America have consistently evolved and progressed, thanks to the efforts of the regions’ numerous stakeholders and the increasing relevance of the collection of data for decision-makers on policies related to forests, land use planning and food security. A needs assessment undertaken in the framework of the CEVMF at the end of 2017 identified the need for further learning and information sharing about the institutional arrangements to ensure financial sustainability and data accessibility for multiple purposes.

On 11 July 2018, a webinar was organised to share experiences of Costa Rica and Colombia in establishing institutional and legal arrangements of National Forest Monitoring Systems to guarantee financial sustainability, national ownership, and interoperability. The event was organized with technical support from UN-REDD, a collaborative programme that has been supporting both countries in their NFMS activities for years. Bringing together 36 participants from governmental institutions, national and international organisations of 15 countries, the webinar aimed to respond to country needs, boost the dissemination of country progress, and encourage south-south cooperation in the region.

During the webinar, FAO presented key elements of the Voluntary Guidelines on National Forest Monitoring (VGNFM), and shared practical examples of developing legal instruments for NFMS in the countries that have received technical support from the organisation - Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras and Ecuador. Later, presentations from Costa Rica and Colombia also highlighted successful models of these institutional arrangements.

Why are NFMS important?

Robust and transparent NFMS are essential for countries that would like to establish effective national decision-making processes and to comply with international procedures. For countries participating in REDD+, NFMS represent one of the four core mandatory elements to be developed and strengthened. In addition, NFMS play a crucial role in improving the transparency of information under the Paris Agreement and other processes such as the Bonn Challenge, Sustainable Development Goals (especially SDG 15), as well as the objective 5 of the Aichi Goals, and the New York Declaration on Forests.  


What are institutional and legal arrangements for NFMS?

Solid Institutional and legal arrangements are crucial to ensure countries’ efforts in strengthening NFMS. Countries in Latin America are making tangible progress in this field. For example, in Costa Rica, in collaboration with its three ministries, the government is developing a decree to ensure formal long-term participation of institutions that have committed to using the Monitoring System for Land Use, Coverage and Ecosystems. Colombia presented their progress and challenges in building a legal framework to assure financial sustainability. The country also talked about the ways to develop a functional and interoperable system that is able to satisfy the high demand for climate change information among different sectors, including forestry and land use change.

Overall, the exchange re-confirmed that national forest monitoring should be considered a standard data collection activity of governments to support informed decision-making. There are various ways NFMS can be embedded in institutional and legal arrangements. For example, countries can form a legal basis for national forest monitoring by adding a corresponding paragraph to a national forest law (Principle 2 of VGNFM), as well as by adopting a regulatory instrument aiming to clarify roles and responsibilities of institutions linked to NFMS. It could also help to establish a formal link between the national forest monitoring system and national forest programmes, which promote institutionalisation and long-term sustainability. At the same time, the webinar underlined the importance of building on existing national institutions and national capacities while keeping in mind that long-term and secured adequate funding is required.

Future activities are planned to continue sharing information and knowledge, including a repository of documentation related institutional arrangements, and to continue the discussion through the open community on NFMS, which is held on the Virtual Center of Excellence on Forest Monitoring platform.


All the material, as well as the Questions/ Answers of the 36 participants, are available at the following link (in Spanish):


Useful links:

Colombia’s Environmental Information System:

Subscription to the Latin-America open community on NFMS:

FAO work on NFMS:

Voluntary Guidelines on National Forest Monitoring (VGNFM):

Strengthening National Forest Monitoring Systems for REDD+:

Propuesta de alineamientos para el monitoreo participativo en Colombia y su articulación con el Sistema Nacional de Monitoreo de Bosques


For more information, please contact:


Carla Ramirez

National Forest Inventory Expert, REDD+/NFM Cluster

Forestry Department, FAO Subregional Office for Central America

[email protected]


Francesca Felicani-Robles

Foresty officer, Legal

Forestry Department, FAO Subregional Office for Central America

[email protected]


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