For the forestry sector in 2016, there’s a lot that feels new and a lot that feels normal. The Paris climate agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) all take us into new territories. But much remains as it was – deforestation and forest degradation are still major challenges and many feel the full potential of forests are still not being fully grasped.
So practitioners from recipient countries, donor countries, multilateral development banks, civil society organizations and the private sector gathered last week in Oaxaca, Mexico for the CIF’s Forest Investment Program Pilot Country Meetings to discuss trends and themes prevalent in the sector and work together on solutions based on practical experiences.
Pilot Country Meetings take place each year and offer a chance for all members of the FIP community to learn from one another, exchange views and experiences and drive fresh initiatives grounded in diverse perspectives. This year was no different and three main themes emerged from the busy buzz of conversations.
Firstly, while the picture varies across countries, one common discussion point was the multiple pressures forests are under. A rising population, agricultural expansion, logging – the drivers of deforestation are multiple and serious, with research from the World Resources Institute showing 30 percent of global forest cover has been cleared and 20 percent degraded.
Because if demands for and governance of forests involve a number of different parties then the solutions should too. That’s why the FIP brings together government departments, multilateral development banks, the private sector and indigenous peoples and local communities in client countries.
Secondly, forests are increasingly being viewed as central to a low-carbon future. Simply put – climate change cannot be slowed and neither the Paris climate agreement nor the Sustainable Development Goals will be delivered unless we pay attention to forests. Because here’s the thing – forests can actually remove harmful carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere. And with cleaner air, purer water and preserved biodiversity, there are many positive side effects of keeping forests standing.
For example, in Laos, the Forest Investment Program and partner multilateral development banks are helping provide sustainable livelihoods for local communities, investing in commercially viable and environmentally sustainable projects and strengthening the enabling environment. That’s in addition to the benefits all of us receive when carbon is absorbed rather than emitted.
Thirdly, no single person or group has all the answers. In many ways, it’s like a soccer team – every part of the team has their own role but they need to work together to achieve successes. Teamwork and collaboration is key. That’s where the FIP’s convening capacity is crucial because maximizing forests’ climate and development impacts requires all actors working together and champions at the highest levels of government.
Over the two days, we heard a lot about the FIP’s Dedicated Grant Mechanism. This is an innovative grant program for fighting forest loss which puts project design and funding decisions in the hands of indigenous peoples and local communities. This gives them the power to set priorities and implement programs aimed at conserving their natural environment. So the FIP provides funding and foundations and through the DGM catalyzes the power and potential of indigenous peoples and local communities. It’s a powerful combination.
Experience brings learning, change brings opportunity and pilot country meetings bring ideas and innovation. By convening a wide range of actors and harnessing their impressive body of knowledge for improved policies and practices, the FIP is aiming to make putting forests at the heart of sustainable development the new normal.