The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change in Dehradun has brought together over 80 delegates from 40 countries and 20 international organizations to address pressing global issues. The Country Led Initiative (CLI) taking place from October 26 to 28, 2023, focuses on two critical themes: forest fires/wildfires and best practices for prevention and restoration in fire-affected areas, as well as forest certification and sustainable forest management.
The Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Labour and Employment, Bhupender Yadav, emphasized the urgent need for forest fire prevention and post-fire restoration. Forest fires not only cause extensive harm to flora and fauna but also affect the livelihoods of communities living at the forest peripheries. Union Minister Yadav stressed the significance of forest certification as a tool for sustainable forest management, acknowledging the challenges it poses, particularly for small-scale producers in developing countries. India has initiated its national forest certification scheme to address these challenges.
Minister of Forests, Languages & Technical Education, Government of Uttarakhand, Subodh Uniyal, highlighted the successful strategy of empowering communities living near forests to work in cooperation with forest departments to minimize forest fire incidents. He underlined the importance of forest certification as a mechanism for forest monitoring.
Director of UNFF, Ms. Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, elevated the concern of forest fires as a global issue, emphasizing their detrimental impact on ecosystems and communities. The forum’s second theme, forest certification, is of paramount importance within the Global Forest Goals, and the need for actionable solutions is imperative.
The Country Led Initiative aims to address the increasing scale and duration of forest fires and wildfires, recognizing their profound impact on biodiversity, ecosystem services, human well-being, livelihoods, and national economies. Collaboration and action at local, regional, and international levels are deemed essential for prevention, reducing impacts, and restoring affected lands.
Forest certification has gained global attention, with a 27 million-hectare increase in the certified forest area between 2020 and 2021, led primarily by Europe and North America. However, developing countries and marginal forest managers face challenges in the certification process. The forum provides a platform for discussing these issues and aligning certification systems with trade rules.
The discussions during the two-day forum will encompass topics such as living with fires in a warming world, policies for integrated fire management, the Global Fire Management Hub, and Forest Certification and Sustainable Forest Management. The forum also includes cultural programs and a field trip to Rajaji National Park.
The Director-General of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change shared the importance of CLI and its role in enhancing international cooperation on global forestry issues. He noted the negative impact of forest fires on public health, economic activity, and forest biodiversity. India, where more than 62% of states are prone to high-intensity forest fires, has significantly improved its monitoring systems and fire forecast models. The country proposed a global collaboration, the Gandhinagar Implementation Roadmap and Gandhinagar Information Platform, to tackle the restoration of forest fire and mining degraded lands.
The forum’s panel discussions have featured the participation of various countries and international organizations, addressing forest fires, policies for fire prevention, and the role of community participation.
On Thursday, October 27, 2023, the forum will focus on interactions related to Forest Certification and Sustainable Forest Management, featuring presentations from South Africa, Russia, and India.
The outcomes of the forum will be summarized by the Co-chairs and submitted to the 19th session of UNFF, scheduled for May 2024 at the United Nations headquarters. The success of this initiative will rely on collective efforts to identify areas for action and recommendations to address the pressing global concerns of forest fires and sustainable forest management.