FAO Launches Voluntary Guidelines on Forest Concessions
UN Photo/Eva Fendiaspara
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The guidelines titled, 'Making Forest Concessions in the Tropics Work to Achieve the 2030 Agenda: Voluntary Guidelines,' were published by FAO in collaboration with the European Forest Institute, and are a product of the Forest Concessions Initiative.

Developed through a consultative process and building on best practices of forest concessions around the world, the guidelines offer a framework for planning, implementing and monitoring forest concessions to support sustainable forest management and SDG achievement.

10 May 2018: Launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) at the 13th session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF 13), the first voluntary guidelines for forest concessions focus on promoting sustainable forest management in concessions of public natural production forests in tropical regions. They aim to contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

According to FAO, over 70% of forests in the tropics used for harvesting timber and other forest products are state-owned or public. Most of the public forests are managed through concessions that governments give to private entities or local communities. They have existed for decades, but their contributions have not always been positive. While they have generated jobs and income for people in remote areas, in many cases they have also resulted in forest degradation and tenure conflicts. Poor management of concessions may result from: lack of forest management skills; weak governance; over-complicated rules; focus on short-term benefits leading to overharvesting; inadequate benefit-sharing; or infringement and lack of recognition of local people’s rights.

Forest concessions can improve the lives of rural communities in some of the poorest and most isolated parts of the world.

Speaking at the guidelines’ launch, Eva Muller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division, explained that if well managed, forest concessions can have multiple socio-economic and environmental benefits and increase the value of standing forests. According to FAO, well managed concessions can: ensure sustainable forest production and strengthened forest value chains; create employment opportunities and services; generate local and national revenues that can be invested in forest conservation, and better health and social services; and bring, overall, substantial contributions to achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “All in all,” Mueller said, “they can improve the lives of rural communities in some of the poorest and most isolated parts of the world.”

The guidelines are titled, ‘Making Forest Concessions in the Tropics Work to Achieve the 2030 Agenda: Voluntary Guidelines,’ and were published by FAO in collaboration with the European Forest Institute. They are a product of the Forest Concessions Initiative formed by FAO, with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Centre de Coopération International en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the World Bank, and the Brazilian Forest Service. Building on best practices of forest concessions around the world, they were developed through a consultative process with countries, regional organizations, the private sector, forest communities, certification bodies, academia, and civil society, through surveys, interviews, and regional consultations.

The guidelines were developed around four dimensions of concessions management: improved governance, economic feasibility, social inclusion and environmental integrity. They offer a framework for planning, implementing and monitoring forest concessions to support sustainable forest management. They provide a set of principles to be respected by all stakeholders during the full cycle of concessions, and tailored recommendations for specific stakeholders – governments, concession-holders, local communities, donors and NGOs. They also include a self-assessment tool so that stakeholders can verify if enabling conditions for sustainable forest concessions are in place.

The guidelines are structured under eight principles that call for:

  • coherence with forest and forest-related policies for sustainable landscapes;
  • clear, credible and efficient legal and institutional frameworks;
  • transparent and accountable planning, allocation, implementation and monitoring of forest concessions;
  • technical capacity for management and operation of concession regimes at all levels;
  • long-term economic and financial feasibility;
  • clarity and security of tenure rights;
  • community participation and benefits; and
  • environmental integrity in forest concessions.

Guidelines and recommendations are formulated under each principle. The self-assessment tool contains questions reflecting the guidelines and provides a hands-on instrument for evaluating and developing enabling conditions for both planned and existing forest concessions.

The guidelines were launched on the margins of UNFF13 as part of ‘Sustainable Wood for a Sustainable World,’ which is a new initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) led by FAO and developed jointly with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the World Bank (WB) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). [Publication: Making Forest Concessions in the Tropics Work to Achieve the 2030 Agenda: Voluntary Guidelines] [FAO Press Release] [UN Press Release] [IISD RS Coverage of UNFF 13]


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