The European Forest Institute is an international organisation, established by European States. 29 European states have ratified the Convention on EFI. The organisation conduct research and provide policy support on issues related to forests. The European Forest Institute also advocate for forest research and for the use of scientifically sound information as a basis for forest policies.
How to integrate the different scales from local to global in the preservation and restoration of forests?
Integration in local and national agendas and priorities is the key. Projects need to support policies at all levels and cannot succeed nor see their results scaled up without supportive policies at all levels. That is the conundrum that is so difficult to resolve. We need pragmatic, dynamic and innovative projects. We also need the right environment for them to grow and sustain change over time. To achieve this, we need to place the dialogue with and between all levels at the center of our action. We need to ensure that all actors who will have a say and ultimately take decisions impacting the projects are on board and look at them as a useful contribution to their own agendas and priorities. This is easy to say, much more difficult to achieve. It requires time and effort to understand and create the right environment for the project to succeed. And maintain it over time. Often operational aspects linked to establishment and implementation of projects take the precedence and we do not invest enough on the ‘integration’ part of the work. This is not only about understanding and reaching out. This is also about being open to adjust initiatives’ design to better suit local, provincial, regional priorities and as such, always includes a negotiation element and requires time.
Empowerment of actors is also critical to connect local to global. Relationships between local actors, such as farmers and global ones such as multinational companies or investors are complex. As a result the sense of responsibility on deforestation or restoring forests is diluted and nobody feels responsible to take real action. For local actors, empowerment can happen through clarifying and reinforcing local rights as most smallholder farmers in the tropics lack tenure security; for global actors through raising operational standards and reinvestments of profits in public-private initiatives in production areas.
Initiatives to fight deforestation or restore forests as well as funding are launched by both private and public actors. How can we strengthen cooperation between these sectors to accelerate action for forests?
The awareness of social and environmental sustainability issues and the willingness to act has progressed within the private sector over the past decade. Simultaneously, the need to involve all actors from the society has also been recognized from the public sector side. COP 21 was a turning point in that regard in international climate negotiations. Now, there is dialogue, willingness and commitment to work together expressed at highest level in the public and private sector. Nonetheless, it is always worth reminding that public and private sectors do not work with the same time spam nor in the same manner. Private funding requires operational opportunities to invest in the soonest it is mobilized. Public funding takes time to reach the ground, is less agile but on the other end can support in-depth changes in the operating environments of the projects, with a longer term perspective. We need to work with these comparative advantages. A balanced dialogue between public and private actors should lead to the development of common understanding, shared vision and operational roadmap. This in turn will help find ways to cooperate that are operational enough to generate the results the private sector needs to sustain investment while also involving aspects where public money can make the difference for successful pilot projects to swarm and be scaled up. To us, this level is the first jurisdictional level above the project level with regulatory power, the municipality, district or departmental level depending on the country. At this level, the handling of forest related matters are still operational and ‘concrete’ enough to generate productive collaboration with the private sector. This is also the level where national and local policies get integrated.
What are the 3 priority actions to implement to reach the Global Forest Goals by 2030 in your opinion?
Substantial funding pledges were made in Glasgow. This funding needs to reach the exact place where it is needed, quickly. Likewise, ambitious sustainable supply chain commitments need to turn into positive incentives up to the point of commodity production. This is critical to building trust and has proved difficult to achieve in the past. This needs to change, incorporating and acting on lessons gathered from previous funding cycles and supply chain initiatives. There are however limits for external funding to provoke real sector transformations. Integrating forest preservation and restoration as a priority in national public spending and fiscal systems, such as through fiscal transfers to subnational jurisdictions is also key.
Secondly, for the reasons I explained in the previous question, we need to accelerate the generation of public-private initiatives targeting the first jurisdictional level above project level, municipality, district or departmental level depending on the country. This is the level where the collaboration between public and private actors can be turned into reality. This is also where national and local policies come together. Trade-offs and priority setting are also easier to handle at that level due to smaller scale and more homogeneity in social and natural conditions.
Finally, we need to work actively towards filling all the gaps which still exists between global level international commitments, emerging market requirements for forest-risk commodities and local level engagement. We are far from having generated enough level of engagement of public authorities, especially at sub-national level. Dialogue platforms linking different decision-making levels have a critical role to play in this regard, anchoring these dialogues into national and local priorities and ensuring that insights gathered from projects continuously feed into these dialogues to maintain impetus and interest.