Having reached the final year of ENPI FLEG II implementation, all of us are taking a breath and reflecting on the work that has been implemented and results achieved. It is indeed a pleasure for me to provide a lead-in to the winter edition of the FLEG Newsletter. Not only do I want to extend my sincere thanks to the European Commission and Austrian Development Agency for their support, but to also reflect on the St. Petersburg Declaration, from which we focus on the elements promised and turn them into realities.
In the ENPI East Region and Russia millions of people are dependent to some degree on forests for their livelihoods, well-being, and income. Environmental products — i. e. products from non-cultivated ecosystems such as natural forests, woodlands, wetlands, lakes, rivers, and grasslands — can be a significant income source for rural households providing energy, food, construction and medicines both for subsistence and cash uses. This has come to be known as the "hidden harvest".
I am pleased that FLEG has become a recognized brand. This recognition has been earned through the hard work and dedication of the varied "components" of the Program. As we all face the realities of the future, where we find ourselves facing uncertainties brought about by a changing climate, food security issues, global financial influences and failure to fully understand the complex and diverse role played by forests, I find myself encouraged by the progress made by the FLEG Program. FLEG has not only produced remarkable results it has united a region by viewing it through the "lens" of forest resources. This "lens" is special because it blocks out many biases, preconceived notions, and inertial thought processes and helps direct conversations and processes toward transparency and openness.
As we move toward the formal end of the ENPI FLEG II Program I take great pleasure and solace in the fact that the people who are part of the FLEG II Program are skilled practitioners, experts in many disciplines, see hope where others don't and have collectively made FLEG II a resounding success. FLEG has made life better for many people as well as for the natural heritage bequeathed to us for safeguarding while we are here.
Mr. Richard Aishton
FLEG II Program Coordinator for IUCN