2 August 2016
23rd Session of FAO COFO Supports ‘New Agenda for Forests’
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Participants of the 23rd session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), which convened in conjunction with the 5th World Forest Week, involved a series of discussions, events and publication launches under the theme, 'Shaping a new agenda for forests.'

cofo2325 July 2016: Participants of the 23rd session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), which convened in conjunction with the 5th World Forest Week, involved a series of discussions, events and publication launches under the theme, ‘Shaping a new agenda for forests.’

FAO’s flagship publication, ‘State of the World’s Forests 2016′ and reports on drylands and wood products were launched on the occasion. Events featured high-level dialogues on forests and climate change, and forests and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); discussions on forest communications, wildlife and food security, and indigenous peoples; and the adoption of voluntary guidelines on national forest monitoring. On the final day of COFO 23, Former President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, was appointed as FAO Special Ambassador for Forests and the Environment.

COFO 23 and the 5th World Forest Week were held jointly from 18-22 July 2016, at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. Participants at a high-level dialogue on the SDGs, which took place on 18 July, underscored forestry’s contribution to the SDGs and their targets. Participants noted that forestry, aligned with the agriculture and fisheries sectors, needs to instigate transformative change. They highlighted that the challenge is to adopt new, integrated approaches that bring about measurable and sustainable reductions in hunger, malnutrition and poverty, while conserving biodiversity and meeting the provisions of climate change agreements. The COFO 23 agenda further included consideration of forest-related indicators and monitoring of the SDGs.

Discussions on forests and climate change highlighted FAO’s climate change strategy. Currently under development, it aims to embody FAO’s corporate approach to its work on climate, strengthening the impact of its delivery to member countries and international processes. COFO 23 adopted new voluntary guidelines on national forest monitoring, enriching the technical resources at countries’ disposal for assessing their natural resources. The session also considered FAO activities in support of member countries’ efforts to enhance the contribution of forest products to food security and nutrition.

In addition to the launch of the ‘State of the World’s Forests 2016,’ FAO shared the preliminary findings of the first global assessment on trees, forests and land use in drylands. The drylands assessment was based on freely available satellite imagery, a newly developed survey methodology and research by more than 200 experts with knowledge of the land and land uses in specific dryland regions. The report aims to fill a significant knowledge gap on the presence and extent of forests and trees in the world’s drylands where the food security and livelihoods of millions of people, already precarious, are increasingly threatened by climate change.

A number of other publications were also presented and discussed during the week. A technical handbook on ‘Assessing woodfuel supply and demand in displacement settings’ uses a multi-sectoral approach to assess the energy-related needs and challenges of people in both displaced and host communities. The first part of the publication presents the methodology for assessing demand for woodfuel, while the second describes the methodology for assessing the woodfuel supply of the target area.

A FAO Forestry Paper, titled, ‘Forestry for a low-carbon future: Integrating forests and wood products in climate change strategies,’ cites a range of examples to indicate how the use of sustainably sourced wood can contribute to climate change mitigation measures, thereby helping to expand a low-carbon economy. Interest in the publication is expected to extend beyond policymakers and experts to engineers, architects and designers, where it could serve as a resource for rural and urban planning and energy sector development.

In addition, a FAO Forestry Paper on national forest funds shares emerging lessons on their establishment and management, with the aim of supporting countries in designing and operating national forest funds effectively, according to their specific needs and circumstances.

A day-long event held on 20 July, organized by the FAO Forestry Department, the Forest and Farm Facility and regional partners, focused on forest peoples and the Paris Agreement, urging the international community to place forest peoples and communities at the heart of climate change initiatives. Participants called for governments and international agencies to recognize the roles of local communities, indigenous peoples, smallholders, women, youth, and other vulnerable populations and their forest and farm producer organizations, and to directly engage them as the enabling actors to address climate change. The overriding common position was that, for climate change actions to succeed, securing land tenure and indigenous peoples’ rights should be recognized as a priority. The event also emphasized issues of gender with regard to forest, and heard examples of successful community and indigenous peoples’ engagement in climate change initiatives.

Another event showcased Africa’s ‘Great Green Wall,’ an initiative of more than 20 African countries together with local and international partners aiming to reverse land degradation, desertification and food and livelihood insecurity across the Sahara and the Sahel, and to combat climate change. Another event focused on the development of small-scale forest enterprises in Africa, aiming to help them move to more professional and productive levels, boost strategic planning and improve collaboration with key development actors. Other events focused on: the FAO-Google partnership meant to provide countries with access to free, state-of-the-art technology for monitoring of forest cover, land use and land-use change; forests, wildlife and food security; gender and forestry; urban forests; forests and agriculture; finance for sustainable forest and landscape restoration and land degradation neutrality; the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture; and social protection for building the resilience of forest-dependent people.

On 22 July, Former President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, was appointed FAO Special Ambassador for Forests and the Environment. As Special Ambassador, Jagdeo will promote the role of forests in achieving the SDGs, raise awareness of the vital contributions of forests to food security, rural poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration, and encourage actions to support the sustainable use of forests and other natural resources.

The week also included a Champion Trees photo competition and an experimental music performance by Costa Rican pianist and composer Manuel Obregón aiming to raise awareness about the threats to trees and forest ecosystems. A session on forest communications organized by the Regional Forest Communicators Network heard that public perceptions of forestry need to change, moving away from statistics and towards more positive perceptions of forestry issues.

COFO 24 is expected to be held in two years in Rome, Italy. [COFO 23 Meeting Highlights] [Natural Resources Policy & Practice Story on the State of the World’s Forests Report] [State of the World’s Forests 2016: Forests and Agriculture: Land-Use Challenges and Opportunities] [Trees, Forests and Land Use in Drylands: The First Global Assessment] [FAO Press Release on the Drylands Study] [UN Press Release on the Drylands Study] [FAO Forestry Paper 174: Towards Effective National Forest Funds] [Assessing Woodfuel Supply and Demand in Displacement Settings: A technical handbook] [FAO Forestry Paper 177: Forestry for a Low-Carbon Future: Integrating forests and wood products in climate change strategies] [FAO Press Release on the Forestry for a Low-Carbon Future Report] [FAO Press Release on Jagdeo Appointment] [FAO Press Release on Public Perceptions of Forestry] [FAO Press Release on Event on Indigenous Peoples] [FAO Press Release on Obregón’s Music Performance] [FAO Press Release on Photo Competition]

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