FAO and EU team up to boost forest governance

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The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Union (EU) have confirmed that they will work together to lend support to countries that produce tropical timber, helping to curb illegal logging and boost forest governance.

Under the new agreement, which totals an investment of $30 million, the two bodies will step up their joint efforts to improve the maintenance and management of forested land across these countries, as well as helping to promote the import and export of legally sourced timber.

It is hoped that the new agreement will ensure that the incomes and food security levels of communities that are reliant on the forest land will be improved by encouraging enhanced access to both local and global wood markets. It is also hoped that the environmental impacts of illegal logging — which can lead to increasing climate change — will be lessened as a result of the new agreement.

One of the voices promoting the agreement was Veronique Lorenzo of the European Commission Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, as well as FAO assistant director-general for Forestry, René Castro Salazar. They both confirmed that the efforts being discussed as part of the new agreement will help to boost the upcoming phase of FAO’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme, which is predicted to run up to and past the year 2020.

Mr Castro said: “Thanks to global initiatives like FLEGT, illegal timber production has declined by an estimated 22 per cent since 2002. The new FLEGT phase offers an important opportunity for lesson sharing across sectors, as it has become increasingly clear that broad partnerships are and will be needed to achieve the global impact that is necessary to reduce forest loss, food vulnerability and mitigate climate change.”

The $30 million funding amount comprises around $18 million from the EU, as well as $7.25 million from the UK and the final $5.3 million from the Swedish Government, according to the FAO.

Currently, illegal logging and the trade that is linked to that can costs global Government departments between $10 billion and $15 billion on an annual basis through slashing money from tax revenues. It can also have a major impact on those communities that depend on the forest for their income and food sources. Many key wildlife habitats are also ruined, while trees are razed, leading to the loss of biodiversity in the area and heightened climate change.

One of the key aims contained within the new agreement is a bid to ensure greater collaboration with major entities, as well as small private-sector entities, covering consumer and producer nations. It is hoped this will help to boost trade and remove hurdles which may be hindering such legal timber trade.

FAO confirmed that this would involved focusing specifically on empowering small and medium forest enterprises across Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean and Asia, which employ around 140 million people across the globe. “The idea is to help them to ‘go legal’, gain access to green markets and become active participants in the sustainable management of forest resources,” said the agency.

Ms Lorenzo added: “New evidence confirms that FLEGT has led to improved forest governance in all targeted countries. FAO continues to make a significant contribution by providing technical assistance and resources to stakeholders. This new phase is expected to scale up this work in strategic countries, in particular by engaging the private sector.”

GWD Forestry spokesman James Barrett said: “The support from both the FAO and the EU will be invaluable to these tropical timber producing nations, not only for the local people who rely on the forest land, but also for those that rely on the timber product trade. The new agreement will also bring many positive benefits for the wildlife and the overall environment.”

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