Certification at the centre of debate as UNECE and FAO commemorate 70 years of forest stewardship

85 per cent of the world’s forests certified as sustainably managed are located within the 56 countries of the UNECE region, which includes Europe, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the United States and Canada. Today, this region contains 42 per cent of the world’s forests and provides 1.2 Bn cbm of sustainably-sourced timber.

The forest area certified by the two largest forest certification schemes, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), has more than doubled and increased by 56 per cent, respectively, in the last 10 years. In 2017, the total forest area certified worldwide was 429 Mn hectares. The forthcoming Forest Products Annual Market Review indicates that 69 Mn hectares are certified by more than one scheme.

From 5 to 7 September 2017, more than 70 participants from 25 different countries were in Mariánské Lázně to highlight essential aspects of forest certification schemes. These include requirements for certification, the related bureaucratic burden and cost, and how to better facilitate certification for small and medium-sized forest-based enterprises. Given the sensitive nature of the topic, the event will be held under the Chatham House Rule, allowing for open and frank debate amongst experts.

The roundtable discussion took place as part of the celebrations of 70 years of cooperation between UNECE and FAO for sustainable forest management while meeting the demand for forest goods and services. 

The joint work of UNECE and FAO on forests emerged from the International Timber Conference held in Mariánské Lázně in 1947. New intergovernmental bodies were created to improve cooperation and promote mobilisation of wood on a sustainable basis after the wartime levels of harvest: the UNECE Timber Committee, later renamed the Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry (COFFI), and the FAO European Forestry Commission (EFC). Both bodies sought to address the situation of forests and timber in post-war Europe, including future demand for timber and the capacity of forests to supply the necessary wood.

In this spirit of exchange, the two bodies continue to provide a platform for collaboration and discussion on a number of emerging issues in the forest sector. Whilst their joint efforts over the last 70 years have resulted in important achievements in protecting and managing forests in the region, new challenges require even stronger cooperation among countries and organizations. The partnership between the Committee and Commission, based on an open and pragmatic, flexible and evidence-based approach, is therefore more important than ever in addressing the complex issues linked to forest management today, and will be key to ensuring a sustainable future for the forest sector in the region.

Source: UNECE