High-level forestry officials gather to discuss challenges and opportunities of the forest sector post-COVID19 and the strategic way forward for international cooperation.
May 3, 2022 — Following the 1st AFoCO Ministerial Meeting in October 2019, the Second AFoCO Ministerial Meeting was envisioned to reaffirm high-level commitment and support on AFoCO and its activities. AFoCO will take the opportunity of the XV World Forestry Congress which is the largest global gathering of foresters.
The focus of the high-level discourse during the 1st AFoCO Ministerial Meeting was innovative local actions on global targets, the future of sustainable capacity development, and the way forward of international forest cooperation. In 2021, AFoCO Annual Thematic Dialogue highlighted the roles of regional entities in unleashing the full potential of forests to meet climate goals and building back better and greener from the COVID-19, and assessment of AFoCO projects impact and best practices.
The Second AFoCO Ministerial Meeting was the venue to share opportunities and challenges of the forest sector in the era of post-COVID-19 and the global climate commitments in forestry, particularly in the AFoCO Parties and Observer countries. Building on these past discourses, the Meeting recalled global actions and commitments for sustainable development and sustainable forest management, and provided the venue for ministers responsible for forests and forestry to:
- reaffirm the high-level support for international forest cooperation through AFoCO;
- share the priorities in each country in achieving common global goals and commitments;
- review the progress and contribution of AFoCO and its activities; and
- shape the strategic direction to implement the actions identified by global goals
Theme 1: Challenges and Opportunities of the forest sector in the era of post-COVID-19 and the commitments at the COP 26
The COVID19 pandemic further aggravates the challenges of climate change. In the result of the study commissioned by the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) in 2021 to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the forest sector, key challenges faced by countries in the Asian region in addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on forests and the forest sector were identified as follows:
- Mobility and restrictions -induced challenges in monitoring and managing forests;
- Low or lack of political commitments to forests;
- General absence of forest-specific policies and strategic plans to combat the impact of COVID-19;
- Financial constraints as funds are realigned to address the impact of COVID-19;
- Technological challenges as the application and wider use of modern ICT technology have not been fully operationalized in the Forest sector;
- Human resources constraints due to limited trained personnel in the frontline.
The significance of the forest sector has been highlighted through a number of global initiatives to halt and reverse forest loss as well as increased awareness of the public and private sectors on the important roles of the forest sector. The forest sector needs to maximize the emerging opportunities. While the global commitments and investments in the forest sector are increasing it is imperative to clearly identify and integrate the role of the forest sector in national priorities including its contribution to regional and international commitments.
In this context, the Meeting shared insight on the challenges confronting the forest sector and coping-up actions and plans in AFoCO Parties and Observers, and emphasized that cooperation is needed to address the challenges and maximize the emerging opportunities.
Theme 2: Strategic way forward for international cooperation in the Asian region for the forest sector
AFoCO projects are currently valued at 77.6 million USD. The programs and projects are guided by our five strategic priorities as defined in our strategic plan 2019-2023 — initiating customized restoration and reforestation models; supporting research and development in climate change adaptation approaches; introducing systematic management on forest-related disasters; local livelihood improvement and community-based small enterprise development; and strengthening institutional capabilities, diversifying resources, and promoting regional actions.
The 2021 Annual Thematic Dialogue recommended 4 approaches:
- Regional and international network expansion, particularly on public-private partnership and research networks;
- Supporting evidence-based policy through regional cooperation to address and resolve problems in the field of public policy;
- capacity development to improve professional competencies in forest planning, community forest, and environment impact assessments;
- mobilization of financial resources from public and private sectors to fully operationalize our strategic priorities and required technological development for forest restoration, biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Towards this direction, AFoCO Green Partnership was launched as a platform for private sector engagement. Under this Partnership, AFoCO, as an intergovernmental organization, highlights its reliability, efficiency, expertise, and coherence. AFoCO is committed to providing the bridge for public-private sector engagement by enhancing cross-sectoral cooperation and broadening coordination and coherence among the Parties, partner countries and the private sector on the sustainable management of forests.
Building on its past experiences, AFoCO is currently shaping its next strategic plan (Strategic Plan 2024-2030) incorporating the carbon partnership strategy, among others. Alongside these efforts, the long-term roadmap for capacity building is also under development. The Second Ministerial Meeting provided guidance and recommendations on the strategic direction and long-term plans of AFoCO and discoursed the actions to be undertaken to properly address the needs and challenges of Parties and Observers of AFoCO.