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Forest Fires and Forest Certification United Nations Forum Meeting Hosted in India

The event by Ministry of Environment is poised to be a significant step toward safeguarding the world's forests and ensuring their sustainable management in the face of global challenges.

Shivam Dwivedi
India Hosts United Nations Forum on Forests Meeting: Deliberating on Forest Fires and Forest Certification (Photo Source: MoEF&CC)
India Hosts United Nations Forum on Forests Meeting: Deliberating on Forest Fires and Forest Certification (Photo Source: MoEF&CC)

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is set to host a significant event as part of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), taking place from October 26 to 28, 2023, at the prestigious Forest Research Institute (FRI) in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. This event underscores India's commitment to sustainable forest management and its role as a founding member of the UNFF, which plays a pivotal role in advancing global efforts to protect and preserve forests.

The United Nations Forum on Forests is dedicated to promoting the responsible management, conservation, and sustainable development of all types of forests. As a founding member, India has played a vital role in shaping the global framework for actions related to forest management. The UN General Assembly adopted the first-ever UN Strategic Plan for Forests, covering the period 2017-2030, which serves as a blueprint for sustainable forest management and efforts to combat deforestation and forest degradation worldwide.

The Country-Led Initiative (CLI) event being organized by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has a primary goal: to contribute to the discussions of the UNFF concerning the implementation of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) and the UN Strategic Plan for Forests (UNSPF). Additionally, the CLI seeks to facilitate the sharing of best practices among UNFF member States to effectively implement SFM and the UNSPF. Specifically, the CLI will focus on thematic areas related to forest fires and forest certification.

Throughout this event, experts from UNFF member countries, UN organizations, regional and sub-regional partners, as well as major groups, will engage in deliberations about these critical thematic issues. The formal meeting is scheduled to commence on October 26, 2023. The program spans two days of intensive discussions on the guiding themes of forest fires and forest certification, followed by a one-day field trip. These discussions aim to promote the sharing of best practices in these areas to support the global actions required to advance the Global Forest Goals set forth in the UN Strategic Plan for Forests.

In recent years, the world has witnessed a concerning increase in the scale and duration of wildfires, resulting in profound impacts on biodiversity, ecosystem services, human well-being, livelihoods, and national economies. Approximately 100 million hectares, equivalent to 3% of the world's forested area, are affected by fires every year. India is no exception, with changing climate patterns leading to a surge in forest fires.

Concurrently, the issue of forest certification has gained global attention. The total forest area under certification has grown by 35% since 2010, with an increase of 27 million hectares between 2020 and 2021. Developing countries, however, continue to face various challenges related to the certification process, including excessive costs, audit and compliance issues, inaccessibility to remote forest owners, and a lack of capacity to navigate complex certification standards. Deliberations during this event will help enrich the policy landscape in developing countries with respect to forest certification.

The UN Forest Instrument has adopted several policy measures aimed at encouraging sustainable forest management through voluntary instruments, such as certification systems. However, some countries perceive the certification measures and requirements as potential trade challenges or market barriers for their forest products.

On the other hand, some view forest certification as an effective tool for ensuring SFM and preventing forest degradation or deforestation. Another key concern is the unequal recognition of certification from a few select certifying bodies, which can hinder market access for some countries. This meeting will provide an important platform for participating states to discuss these pressing issues. Over 80 delegates from more than 40 countries and 20 international organizations will attend, both in person and online.

The meeting is expected to yield implementable frameworks and recommendations for forest fire management and forest certification, all of which will be considered for further discussion at the 19th session of the UNFF scheduled to take place at the UN Headquarters in New York in May 2024.

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