Batumi, GEORGIA – At the side event NGOs, government stakeholders, and forest experts discussed the results and planned the way forward for the FLEG II Program.
11 years ago, 44 governments of Europe and Northern Asia signed the St. Petersburg Declaration, where they committed to take action to address illegal logging and associated forest crimes.
8 years ago, the European Commission, the World Bank, WWF and IUCN teamed up to implement the Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) Program in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.
On June 9, 2016, at the FLEG II side event during 8th “Environment For Europe” Ministerial Conference, key stakeholders gathered to discuss the progress that has been made both in implementing the St. Petersburg Declaration and by the ENPI FLEG Program and how to mainstream and scale-up the work done.
Among the participants of the discussion were:
Mr. Besarion Abashidze, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resource Protection, Georgia spoke about FLEG II achievements in Georgia and highlighted program’s role in ensuring public participation in decision making process: “Ministry of Environment and Natural Resource Protection of Georgia and National Forestry Agency with FLEG II program support has done an important job for drafting new forest code. To ensure people’s voice is heard, we have held more than 30 meeting all over Georgia to meet with local people, with NGOs and local government representatives. This was successful, completely new practice. The process showed us, how active people can be if they are given an opportunity.”
Mr. Tuukka Castrén, Co-Task Team Leader of ENPI FLEG Program, World Bank, moderated the discussion.
“Our life would be very difficult without FLEG. I am happy that I take part in FLEG II and hope that we will continue the cooperation”, said Mr. Tornike Gvazava, Head of National Forestry Agency. He stressed that of special importance is FLEG’s technical support in practical forest management work.
Ms. Kulsum Ahmed explained why forests are important to the World Bank’s goals of eradicating extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity. “Forests are important for rural people due to employment, revenue, non-timber forest products and energy. Therefore sustainable management of this resource is essential from a pure livelihood angle.” She also talked about the role of forest in providing jobs, climate change mitigation and adaptation, FLEG’s role in promoting public participation and transparency.
The opening remarks were followed by a lively discussion. One of the topics was “Is there a future for regional engagement, or should we start focusing exclusively on the country level?”
“Yes, we need regional work”, said Ms. Angela Bularga. “But I’d like to go one step up and say that we need international action, and understanding how much illegal logging costs for all of us. We all need to take responsibility, not only as producers, but also as consumers. I’m very happy that I managed to teach my 6-year old son to read different labels and tell me each time: “Mom, this is not from sustainable forest, don’t buy it”. We need to have a situation where internationally, legislation stimulates sustainable forestry, and we need to work together on this and take responsibility on all levels of governments and as individuals as well”.
To conclude, Mr. Tuukka Castrén pointed out three takeaways from the event. “My first point is that even if we reached some milestone in the reform process, new challenges are coming, and we have to rethink the paradigm. There is a constant ongoing paradigm shift in our sector. The second is best expressed by the cliché, “Think global, act local”. Forest management is done in forest management units, which are very local. But management decisions are influenced by national and regional policies and nowadays even by global policies. The third core message would be that we need to engage all segments of the society. Even if the final ultimate responsibility for management may lie, for example, within the National Forest Agency (NFA) of Georgia, or Agency “Moldsilva” in Moldova, but still NFA or Moldsilva are not alone in making those decisions, but they have to engage with different stakeholders and with the society”.
The Eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference took place in Batumi, Georgia, from 8 to 10 June 2016 with 700 delegates from member states within the UNECE region, organizations of the United Nations system represented in the region, other intergovernmental organizations, regional environmental centres, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and other major groups. The “Environment for Europe” process and its Ministerial Conferences provide a high-level platform for stakeholders to discuss, decide and join efforts in addressing environmental priorities across the 56 countries of the UNECE region, and is a regional pillar of sustainable development. For more information, please go to: http://www.iisd.ca/unece/efe8/