Renewed Hope for Sustainable Forest Governance as Landmark Event Concludes

Over 600 participants. 4 days. 10+ hours of presentations from international experts. Global representation. The first Asia-Pacific Forest Governance Forum concluded last month after an engaging week of discussion, dialogue and debate on effective forest governance principles in Asia-Pacific and beyond.

A fully virtual event hosted jointly by BirdLife International and the Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT), the forum brought together representatives from forest conservation science, capacity building, the commercial sector, indigenous communities and government, for a variety of workshops, lectures and expert panel discussions on forest governance. “We wanted to hear from all voices associated with forest governance in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, so we can work better together to protect the forests and biodiversity," says Hum Gurung, Regional Project Manager, BirdLife International.

It is this aim that guided the forum and also the European Union funded project the event supported. He says “for too long as forest stakeholders we have talked across one another, focused too much on our own priorities and been reluctant to engage in meaningful dialogue with each other.” This forum began – in part - the process of beginning to correct this.

The forum opened with words from Daniel Hachez, Minister Counselor and Head of Cooperation, European Union Delegation to Thailand who commented “it has never been more essential that nations reduce illegal logging, strengthen sustainable legal forest management and better account for the value of the forest”. This set the tone and direction of the days to come, with speakers engaged in discussion on themes as diverse as forest conservation principles, the role of Indigenous Peoples in forest science, best practices for forest community engagement and the value of capturing big data for local governance action.

A recurring theme across the sessions was the concept of how to better connect global, regional and local approaches to improving forest governance, biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. John Lotspeich from Trillion Trees – an environmental project - talked about the value of large-scale forest restoration projects alongside strengthening community conservation networks for more sustainable forest management. Other contributors to this theme included representatives from the World Resources Institute (WRI), that brought into sharp focus the need for accurate and accessible forestry data for actors on the ground alongside regional and national policy-makers.

Business and the wider commercial sector were well represented at the forum, with several forestry corporations and timber and trade federations presenting their work and approach to sustainable forest governance. David Hopkins, Timber Trade Federation UK, talked about how too often business has been seen as the enemy or block to sustainable forest governance, but that mindset has to change if we are to collectively achieve our environmental targets we have set for climate and people. This mindset is one that is echoed by the policy work BirdLife International has been conducting on restoration principles that acknowledges – amongst other things - that for sustainable forest governance to be successful, it is essential that private sector actors are properly engaged and consulted.

Richard Nyriendra, from CIDT commented that “the forum was a place where we wanted to empower all those involved in forest governance, particularly those that often go unheard”. One of those groups are Indigenous peoples. In the closing session Josefa Tauli, from the Global Youth Biodiversity network spoke passionately about the need to move away from the tokenism that often defines local and Indigenous peoples involvement in forest governance, and shift to properly listening and engaging with this group to better realise the value they possess as key forest guardians.

The forum closed with comments from UK and Malaysian government representatives, who stressed how events like this are essential for not only improving forest governance, but act as a model for collaboration and dialogue that will be at the heart of successful environmental action moving forwards. Maria Belinda de la Paz, Chief Operating Officer of The Haribon Foundation (BirdLife in the Philippines) commented that “we leave this event with much better knowledge of our shared interests in forest landscapes in Asia-Pacific and beyond. We possess a greater understanding of the shared responsibility we all have for managing them responsibly and sustainably, but there is still much to do.”

With COP26 just days away, that promises to be critical for shaping action on environmental, climate and biodiversity issues, many argue that it has never been more important for us to recognise the need to work together to manage and protect forest landscapes for the future.

Learn more about the event and the EU-funded project it supports here.


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