As Colombia steps up its efforts to fulfill commitments made under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and Agenda 2030, the cross-cutting theme of improved forest governance is at the centre of its efforts to halt deforestation and forest degradation as well as action to achieve Nationally Determined Contributions and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Recognizing forests as important components in strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change, the international community agreed on various processes designed to address problems of deforestation and forest degradation. Two of the most well-known initiatives are reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and fostering conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (known as REDD+) and the response to the global problem of illegal logging and trade in associated timber products (known as Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade, or FLEGT). In both the initiatives, four common themes in ensuring success and long-term results include: forest governance, tenure security, gender equality and stakeholder engagement.
With the support of various donors including the Governments of Denmark, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been helping many countries move forward with the UN-REDD Programme, in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Environment, as well as with the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme.
The UN-REDD Programme supports countries in getting ready for and implementing REDD+ activities. Additionally, the programme promotes the informed and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders, including indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities, in reducing forest emissions and enhancing carbon stocks in forests. The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme promotes the legal production of timber by assisting relevant stakeholders in removing the barriers that prevent them from achieving legal timber value chains, using grants.
UN-REDD and FAO-EU FLEGT collaboration in Colombia
With extensive experience in implementating both initiatives, Colombia actively promotes the collaboration between REDD+ and FLEGT processes to strengthen forest governance, helping to address climate change and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. UN-REDD and FAO-EU FLEGT in the country are jointly supporting the implementation of various activities embedded in the National REDD+ Strategy, “Bosques Territorios de Vida.” Those include sustainable forest management and forest control and monitoring.
Colombia’s REDD+ Strategy implementation around sustainable forest management is advancing with a focus on local communities. In addition, the Ministry of Environmental and Sustainable Development, together with the UN-REDD Programme, designed an approach that includes the application of forest governance instruments improved with FAO-EU FLEGT support, the strengthening of forest producer organizations and their access to legal markets and providing technical assistance to forest producer organizations. In fact, FAO-EU FLEGT actions improved the efficiency of 11 existing procedures related to forest governance. This model is currently being implemented in four departments of the country: Antioquia, Cauca, Tolima and Valle del Cauca, with active participation from indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombian communities, local farmers and regional environmental institutions.
Availability of forest data plays a crucial role in both processes, helping informed decision-making for forest management, as well as the measurement and reporting on already implemented activities. When it comes to forest monitoring and management, Colombia has strengthened its National Forests Monitoring System (NFMS) for measuring, monitoring and reporting deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions for forest and other land use activities, achieving a transparent, accurate, consistent and complete system that follows the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requirements. The activities were implemented with the support of the UN-REDD Programme and other cooperation programmes such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and and GIZ’s Forest and climate protection (REDD +) Programme.
Additionally, the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme is supporting the construction of Colombia’s national system of traceability of wood. This system aims to provide reliable information on the harvest, transport and processing of legal timber and to create favourable conditions for fair and legal trade.
One of the most important lessons learned from Colombia’s experience in regards to strengthening forest governance and reducing deforestation and forest degradation is that the synergies and coordinated actions among processes and initiatives represent a unique opportunity to shift paradigms and improve the management of Colombian forests. While tackling the issue from different angles, the combined action of FAO-EU FLEGT and UN-REDD Programmes can address the drivers of forest loss, as well as increase in-country coordination and implementation between various programmes. The resulting synergies can support national forest governance reforms and strengthen multi-stakeholder engagement even further.