Launching the “European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument East Countries Forest Law Enforcement and Governance II Program” (ENPI East Countries FLEG II Program)
The 1st Steering Committee for the ENPI East Countries FLEG II was held in Belarus, October 1-3, 2013. Representatives from all the participating countries presented the successes of the first phase of their forestry reform programs, and discussed plans for the most effective progress in the second phase.
The FLEG II Program is funded by the European Commission and implemented by the World Bank in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The Program builds on and further develops the initiatives and activities undertaken during implementation of the first EC funded ENPI FLEG Program (2008-2012). The FLEG II Program promotes sustainable forest governance, management, and protection of forests in the participating countries, ensuring the contribution of the region's forests to climate change adaptation and mitigation, to ecosystems and biodiversity protection, and to sustainable livelihoods and income sources for local populations and national economies.
The meeting brought together representatives of governments, and partners from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, international organizations, including the European Commission and the World Bank to foster dialogue, discuss the objectives, overall direction of the FLEG II Program, country specific priorities and work plans for dealing with different aspects of law enforcement as well as forest management.
We are pleased to introduce the key figures of the second phase of the program, as well as its crew and staff. This feature will present the public positions of the 7 participating countries for the coming year, including the full events of the meeting and the details of the subsequent team building event, held in the Belarus forest on October 3rd, 2013.
The country workplans were unanimously approved for activities to be implemented by June 30, 2014, during the two-day Steering Committee meeting. The meeting had more than 50 people present, including representatives from the European Commission and the EU Delegation to Belarus, the national FLEG Focal points from all 7 countries. Also attending were representatives of relevant ministries and government agencies from Belarus, implementing organizations (IOs) on a program level (PMT) and country level (PCTs).
On behalf of the Ministry of Forestry, Fedor Lisitsa gave a brief speech which emphasized the importance of the Program as a "positive example of multilateral international cooperation, based on the idea of sustainable development." The FLEG process itself was named the official "tool for improving forest management, combating illegal logging and illegal timber trade." Fedor Lisitsa assured that "Belarus supports the goals and objectives of the FLEG, and is ready to cooperate in all aspects."
The Deputy Chief of Operations, Audrine Urbonaviciute, representing the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Belarus, then welcomed the participants and emphasized the social and environmental aspects of forestry in the whole of Europe, and Belarus in particular:
"More than 40% of the EU is made up of forest, and many people and communities depend on the forest. Apart from the traditional production of wood etc., forests are also important for the ecology, biodiversity reserves, climate change, clean water, protection from disasters, and a resource for renewable energy.”
Kulsum remarked that the meeting was reminiscent of a "family reunion" - and, indeed, the opening session had the warm atmosphere of a meeting of old and good friends. The participants are already comfortable working together, as this is the second phase of the FLEG program.
“As a good family, we can argue with each other, and support each other, because we have known each other for such a long time. This factor should serve as a basis for achieving more effective results. We have already gone all the way with the program once, and know what works and what does not; knowledge that will help immediately in our preparations for the second phase. After all, any challenge requires a change of behaviour, and we have already passed all these lessons, so let's hope that it will help us improve.”
The main purpose of the meeting was to take stock of the first phase of the program in order to draw lessons for the second period. This was the focus of the speech from Andrew Mitchell, Task Team Leader for FLEG, World Bank. He encouraged everyone to look back, summing up the results and lessons learnt from the first phase of the program country by country. He highlighted the key areas needed for strengthening, reflection, and further work: illegal logging, strengthening rules of law with a focus on the environment, sustainability, human rights and gender equities.
“The main lessons learned from FLEG I were seen to be that the tasks at hand are complex and take time to implement; we should not expect immediate results. The long term goals are to change attitudes and behaviour, which takes time. The Program is not just about forest governance, which covers diverse fields including climate change and social welfare. This said, the process and program have been effectively monitored and show positive results, indicating if the project will achieve its development objectives. But though these results are recorded, the outcome (and long term implications) are less clear – which is something that we hope to address during the second phase of the program”.
Finally, in response to a question, Andrew gave a good recipe for the program:
“A couple of things are really important. The first is the impact in terms of engagement for the government and the FLEG focal points. When we work together, we all bring the results of our own different experiences, energy, and enthusiasm.”
On behalf of the European Commission, Mr. Mathieu Bousquet, Head of the Sector for Environment - EuropeAid - EC Policy on Forest Law enforcement and government, then took the stage.
Mr. Bousquet gave the audience a world overview of the European Commission’s activities in connection with forests and their development, including the implications for livelihoods (income and jobs), the climate, national economies and ecosystem services. He also explored EU timber regulations and other specific subjects connected with the illegal logging. Mr. Bousquet highlighted that the transparency of the stakeholders should be a key principle for the FLEG II Program.
In the following presentation, the participants were introduced to the prospective overview of FLEG II. The Steering Committee meeting is, at this time, the highest decision-making body of the Program, and typically includes representatives from each of the countries, from the EU, the WB, WWF, and IUCN. It will approve the work plan and give strategic advice to the PMT. It was demonstrated that, building on the initiatives established in phase 1, the next 4 years will see the same countries, and the same partnership, shifting their goals towards timber regulations.
“We would like to increase the result monitoring, to monitor how we achieve the development objectives. The current result framework has 7 PDO (program development objective indicators).”
Other Day 1 – good pictures
The day then opened up to discussions of individual country plans (CWPs) and goals, as each member country gave a presentation and had the opportunity to discuss their current and future positions in the program.
First, to the right of the host country, Mr F. Lisitsa, First Deputy Minister of Forestry, spoke on behalf of the Belarus Focal group. Forestry traditions in Belarus account for a 400 –year history and nowadays the sector is demonstrative positive trends and readiness for modernization. With state support, the forest cover increase now – it reached 45% of the territory. The efficient work of the forest guards, the amount of illegal cuts is 4 thousand cubic metres (m3).
“There is no universal algorithm for efficient forest stabilisation, and we should take into account traditions, legislation, economy and society, and the availability of resources.”
“We are interested in improving forest relationships with our European colleagues on the issues concerning radionuclide contamination (20% of all Belarus forests were polluted after the Chernobyl catastrophe), and we will also discuss the process of emigration from villages, and demographic issues.“
Involving small businesses and communities: “In the current process of selling timber in Belarus – our scheme provided equal conditions for everyone, to involve the local population and offer them the possibility to set up small businesses. The Ministry of Forestry does everything possible to assist logging services, and to create ideal conditions for small businesses in this area.”
Elena Klochan, Belarus Program coordination team (PCT) stressed the succession of the two phases. She gave a review of existing forest management systems and a roadmap to improving the development and implementation of sector reforms.
"Our priorities for the second phase of the program are based on the achievements of the first phase - the update of forest policy and legislation, improving forest law enforcement, and the training of personnel. The country Work Plan has 4 key areas and 20 activities in place to address issues and achieve priority goals."
Rouben Petrosyan–designated representative of Mr. Martun Matevosian, FLEG National Focal Point in Armenia .
Rouben explained that illegal logging is being reduced year-on-year thanks to an electronic system tracking deforestation and marking timber. Certifications of timber, improved training for forestry sector staff and outreach programs are also helping in this area.
During FLEG I, analysis was conducted of illegal logging (with reference to its sociological and economic impact) and the legislation regarding the environment. Instructions were issued for the forest sector by WWF, a book on forestry management was published, and an Armenia forestry website was designed (ArmLes –“all the plans which our forestry units have are available on this website, which is unprecedented”).
In 2011, changes were made to the legislation of forest management. An institute for training in forest management was established, something which was not there before.
“After the Soviet period, the heritage forests were in a very bad condition because they were very badly managed. There were no forestry management institutes in Armenia at that time; we trained in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus. Nowadays, we do have the Forestry Institute of Armenia, and we need to expand there.”
“The more opportunities we have for sharing information and generating feedback from the general population, the better off we are.”
Arusyak Alaverdyan , Armenia Program coordination team (PCT)
The focuses of FLEG 2 will be the increased monitoring of regional cooperation, exchanging knowledge, building capacity, and the analysis of the legal work and partners.
Ms. Arusyak articulated the issue of Synergy: "The former Soviet Republics have much in common. For example, the work program for Azerbaijan is connected with improvements to legislation (which already exist in Armenia). Russia has the goal of improving human potential, which is taken into account in Armenia and Georgia. In Moldova, there is a priority to boost economic activity and involve the local population - we also pay attention to the involvement of local people in forest management. In Ukraine the focus is on the dissemination of information, and generating support for decisions, and we have something like this in our work plan.”
Azerbaijan - Rahim Ibragimov- FLEG National Focal Point for Azerbaijan
In his speech, Mr. Ibragimov emphasised consistency and continuity for the first and second phases of the program. That, according to him, would ensure the success of the whole project.
“We stuck to three main principles while preparing our proposal of the CWP: 1) continuity; 2) consistency in implementation; 3) the national priorities and principles of the Saint-Petersburg ministerial Declaration.”
The priorities for FLEG 1 were noted as: reducing illegal logging, using protective forests, improving the legal system, the diversification of the energy sector, and building a dialogue between the government and businesses for certification of the forestry sector. Also focused on were the development of education systems and the tourism sector, support for young forest workers, safety in the forest areas, and forest management systems.
The Priorities for FLEG II were noted as: education, research, the development of local tourism, a concentration on the effectiveness of macrobiotic consumption, support for regional initiatives and certification, creation of materials to highlight the program and a website for increased general educational.
Gulana Hajiyeva, Azerbaijan Program coordination team (PCT)
Ms. Hajiyeva shared the recent lesson learnt that active engagements with parliamentarians and MPs has brought about effective co-operation, with an understanding about the development and continued operation of the main areas.
Mr. Zsolt Lengyel, Team Leader & Key Expert on Climate Change introduced the EU funded Program on CLIMA EAST and focused his presentation on creating synergy with FLEG II. The CLIMA EAST Program has the same set of parameters: the same beneficiary countries and a similar timeline. The overall objective of CLIMA EAST is to support PCs so that they are better equipped for greenhouse-gas emission reductions and better prepared to deal with climate change impacts.
Mr. Lengyel listed a number of proposed forestry related activities: address LULUCF data and reporting issues with a view to supporting both mitigation and adaptation activities; support the development of sectored NAMAs in the forestry sector (Armenia, Georgia); expert support for the improvement and application of methodologies and models of vulnerability assessment (all countries).
Georgia – Merab Sharabidze, Nominated to represent FLEG National Focal Point for Georgia.
In Georgia, the government has seen a dramatic change in structure, and the Forest Service, and Energy and Natural Resources, have been placed under the auspices of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. These three agencies have developed appropriate mechanisms, strategies and legislation.
As noted by Merab, “The main problem for forests now is a lack of inventory licensing for forestry. The Ministry began to check all of the terms and conditions of the license holder’s status, a schedule has been drawn up and gradually implemented field inspection of licensed areas."
Merab outlined a number of planned activities in the Georgia proposed country workplan:
“Another goal will be the regional assessment of the results of activities, in terms of assessing their impact on the environment and bringing our strategic objectives to the necessary level.”
Nino Inasaridze – PCT (WB), Georgia
The results of FLEG 1 were: increased awareness and involvement through seminars and conferences, training regional staff and the dissemination of information through newsletters and national television.
Plans for FLEG 2 : There will be four pilot projects in Borjomi and Sagaredjo to educate and encourage the local communities regarding the use of wood and wood substitutes, beekeeping training, accountancy, inventory training, and new methods of assessing economic and social impacts on the environment.
There are also top priorities regarding the Forest Code, and the basis for its regulations, and strengthening education in forestry.
Moldova - Mr. Rotaru Petru – FLEG National Focal Point for Moldova
The achievements of FLEG1 in Moldova are numerous:
The plans for FLEG 2 in Moldova are:
Ukraine – Mr. Vitaly Storozhuk, designated representative of FLEG national Focal Point for Ukraine.
In Ukraine, under the National Program “Forests of Ukraine” for 2010-2015, the 20,000 hectares of forest that are planted every year was increased in 2011 by 33,000, with 30% public ownership. The single national system of electronic accounting of timber has been introduced and has been functioning in 197 forest enterprises, started in order to reduce illegal logging. There are a number of other key forest sector developments in Ukraine as well as political and legal context changes which should be considered for the FLEG II launch and implementation in the country. In Ukraine the following areas were selected to be targeted in the country workplan activities:
By 2020, there will be a change in law regarding ownership of forests. There will be work on reducing corruption and increasing transparency in the forest sector.
The main priority is the economic assessment and improvement of the methodology for the preparation of documents and laws for protected areas.
Since 2010, Ukraine has been continuing with administrative reform. The forest is located in the department of the Ministry of Agriculture. This could be a breeding ground for the creation of a separate document regarding forestry, which could inspire a forest policy dialogue.
Alexei Slenzak, PCT (WB)
The reality is that the issue of sustainable forest management and illegal logging persists.
Speaking on the results of FLEG 1, he said:
"I would like to emphasise the creation of a communications and information platform, without which it would be impossible to proceed from one phase to another. It has played an important educational role and had a big impact on business communications, journalism and the general public."
In 50% of the forests in the Ukraine, no work is being carried out, due to questions of management and ownership. These are either protected or spa areas. Wood is a matter of national interest, however.
To proceed to FLEG 2, research on legislation will be presented to the public with a view to the open discussion and improvements of this wood legislation.
Russia –Alexander Panfilov – FLEG National Focal Point for Russian Federation
The First Phase of the ENPI FLEG Program served as a catalyst for many crucial processes in the Russian forestry sector, including the process of attracting resources from IFIs and the national budget.
The majority of the priorities identified in 2008 for FLEG-I, in cooperation with FFA, stay relevant for the 2nd phase. The following 5 priority areas were identified for Russia:
The current situation of Reform of Forestry in Russia also calls for a new forest policy .
Mr. Panfilov introduced a number of activities to be hosted by Russian Federation and invited cooperation for these activities.
Marina Smetanina, PCT (WB) highlighted that "One of the strong points of our work is the good support and understanding of the processes of the Federal Forestry Agency”. The NPAC composition has not changed, and will work in the second phase. And all the people who were involved in evaluation, support, and the training of our country workplans are fully informed on what is happening in the countries, and many of them are experts in the field of forestry in these countries."
Some new priorities that have arisen include improving planning and monitoring during FLEG 2, as well as strengthening the educational component.
Marina Smetanina also thanked the PMT and EC for a number of activities being approved for Russia. For example, the WB had established missions to the Khabarovsk, Moscow Oblast, and Arkhangelsk regions. These missions involved meetings with key stakeholders and government officials, and explored the use of funds for the solution of problems in the regions. They also explored the prevention of natural disasters, the issue closely linked with climate change.
During the closing statements by representatives regarding the main results, events, and ideas for the next phase of the Program, Mathieu offered his input on major regional programs for the second phase.
Vlada Nemova - ENPI FLEG Secretariat (WB)
"Our regional plan had to take into account flexibility, synergy and cooperation. These are the fundamentals on which we will prepare the plan."
These concerns include the need to consider the international calendar and other programs, partner organizations, and the EU when planning regional events. The final message is do not operate alone, extract the maximum effects of synergy.
The plan will be linked with indicative research, outcomes and results to achieve this goal.
Nina Rinnenberger, FLEG 2 Project Coordinator (WB) - talked about specific examples of regional plans.
"Regional work plans will be updated annually. The same rule applies to the country plans.”
Nina set two development objectives: 1) the rapid development, evaluation and implementation of programs, and 2) the development of ToRs, and the exchange of information, to expand relations with the EU and work closely with the EC Delegation.
After that Nina gave the floor to all the participants to build a bank of ideas for regional events. All participants shared their thoughts and the following comments arose:
Belarus suggested building international experiences into forest development, including educational trips, experience exchanges and press tours for journalists from neighbouring countries.
Armenia also suggested experience exchanges and cross-border cooperation, particularly with Georgia, as well as a timber tracking system.
Georgia suggested training customs officers to recognise illegal traffic, and an exploration of the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity, to understand their true value.
Azerbaijan also wished to explore the true value of ecosystems and biodiversity, and suggested developing summer camps for youths and conferences.
Moldova felt it was most important to understand the FLEG general audience at a more fundamental level, and suggested more efforts should be made to establish a dialogue with the community and the private sector. They particularly looked to the lessons from Belarus to support these improvements in communications.
Russia voiced support for regional activities and suggested increased field trips, as already evidenced by their events.
Ukraine suggested a round table or a work meeting (with high-ranking officials). A meeting on forest policy, discussions of the Forest Code and "Forest Library", and translations of legislation for all countries in PM.
The question of the essence of the term "regional" was clarified, as was the difference between the "sub" and multi-country activities.
Russia – Mr. Panfilov commented: “We found it very useful to join the Steering Committee in order to cement the FLEG 2 agenda. We definitely found it useful to take advantage of the opportunities arising from the co-operation and the interaction between the participating countries in the project. And, together with other participants, we are prepared for our joint presentation which will be presented during the European Forest Week in Finland, so you could rely on us.”
Thus ended the official part of the first working session of the Steering Committee. The chairman of the meeting thanked participants for sharing their experiences and promised to make decisions the next day, during a closed session. But discussions would continue during the informal joint dinner parties that followed.
The day ended on a positive note, with the various lessons of the member countries well presented and understood. It was made clear, over the course of this first day, that by bringing together these nations the Steering Committee would consolidate the lessons of FLEG I and move forwards to the second stage fully informed, and with the means for ongoing cooperation between members.
Detailed feature story and photo-report for the 1st Steering Committee meeting, October 1-3, 2013