Voluntary Forest Certification in the Caucasus: a workshop
The â€śRegional Workshop on Voluntary Forest Certification and Sustainable Forest Management Standardsâ€ť was held in Batumi, Georgia, on 23-24 May 2012 and was attended by about 45 representatives from government structures, NGOs and the private sector of the countries located in the Southern Caucasus and neighboring regions.
Questions on the merits of voluntary forest certification for sustainable forest management were raised again by experts. Regardless of that, evidence shows that hundreds of millions of hectares of forests have already been certified across the globe under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and other schemes. Unfortunately, so far no certified forests exist in the Southern Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia).
The main objectives of the workshop were:
- To exchange information about voluntary forest certification related to the participantsâ€™ countries;
- To identify the initial steps towards supporting initiation of voluntary forest certification process in the Southern Caucasus.
The key messages delivered by the participants were:
- Voluntary forest certification is important, as it safeguards sustainable forest management and entering new timber markets;
- In spite of the present policy, the institutional and legal setup is still not sufficiently adequate in the Southern Caucasus. Forest certification could be a good tool for achieving greater sustainability of forest management;
- In general, government representatives support voluntary forest certification.
Further discussions focused on the possible initial steps towards supporting the implementation of voluntary forest certification in the Southern Caucasus. Taking into consideration the high biodiversity value and essential ecological functions of forests in the Caucasus, the FSC scheme was regarded as more appropriate to be implemented in this region. The agreed next steps include the establishment of a Regional Initiative Group (RIG) on an informal basis, coordinated by the Forest Officer of WWF-CauPO. The group will include representatives from the state, NGOs and the private sectors, and should:
- Initiate policy analysis of the forestry sectors of the three Caucasus countries and analyze the correspondence of FSC standards with national legislation and norms;
- Compile, prepare and disseminate information materials on forest certification;
- Elaborate the draft of the generic forest management standard for the Southern Caucasus which could form the basis for the future national forest management standards;
- Harmonize the standard development processes with neighboring countries and regions;
- Promote and support the establishment of formal national Working Groups on voluntary forest certification (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) and elaboration of national forest management standards;
- Maintain close coordination with FSC and cooperate with other stakeholders at the national and international levels.
The outcomes of the workshop contribute to the improvement of international collaboration and knowledge-sharing in the field of forest certification and sustainable management. The workshop report will be uploaded to the ENPI FLEG Program website shortly.
For more information, including presentations, please contact Ilia Osepashvili, WWF-Caucasus Programme Office: firstname.lastname@example.org.