Forests provide multiple benefits…
Worldwide, over 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. We all rely on forests for the important role they play in mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration.
Forests also play an important role in six EU Eastern Partner (EaP) countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine providing multiple economic, environmental and social benefits. Forests supply renewable environmentally friendly raw material and are a source of renewable energy. Forest ecosystems are crucial for biodiversity conservation, climate change resilience, and protection of water and soil. People value forests for the recreational benefits they provide and for their ability to enrich our lives.
In Armenia 16.2 % of the population lives in forest areas where fuelwood and non-timber forest products are crucial for the people’s livelihoods. In Azerbaijan, forests bear high ecological and biological value forming an integral part of the Global 200 and biodiversity hotspot. Forests of Georgia, covering almost 40% of the country’s total area, are valued primarily for their protective and recreational services. The role of forests for the development of local communities is also very strong in Moldova. Many forest landscapes in Moldova are true refugia of biodiversity (including endangered species) with a pronounced social-cultural affinity to community development. In Ukraine, where the area covered with forests occupies the ninth place in Europe, forests are an important source of timber and non-timber products and are highly valued for the environmental and social benefits.
Progress was made in promoting better forest management in the EaP countries…
The EaP countries worked with the World Bank on institutional development support to promote forest governance through the EU-funded Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) Programs (Phase I 2008–12 and Phase II 2012–16). For example, in Ukraine, the Program helped to improve forestry legislation and silvicultural practices and harmonize it with that of the EU and developed recommendations for the forest management reform. The Program also established the first open dialogue platform on forestry related issues. The findings and recommendations of the Program were later taken up by other agencies providing technical assistance in Ukraine. In Azerbaijan, FLEG supported analytical work and raised awareness and built capacity of local forest dependent communities on the ecological and biological value of forests, and on the role of communities in sustainable management of forest resources.
In Georgia, World Bank and the EU support was instrumental in the development of Georgia’s Forest Code, which sets new standards and procedures for management of forest land and provides a role for municipal governments and local communities in forest oversight and access and emphasizes the importance of forests as a resource for rural tourism.
And more is being done…
Despite progress several challenges still exist. To help the EaP countries to address them the European Union and the World Bank continue supporting conservation and sustainable forestry and timber trade. Under the EU-funded EU4Environment Programme, a World Bank-led component was launched in 2020 which supports the EaP countries in developing communities’ capacities to increase non-timber goods production, strengthening the countries’ timber/wood trade control systems and developing well-planned and predictable financing for sustainable management of forests and ecosystem services.
For example, in Armenia, the World Bank supports a baseline assessment and baseline mapping of community engagement on forests and natural resources management and support community-driven eco-tourism planning.
In Georgia, support is provided to review the community involvement in forest and natural resources management and baseline mapping for community engagement. The support also includes a feasibility study for using forest biomass and timber processing waste for production of fuel briquets for firewood-dependent communities, facilitating enforcement of the new Forest Code, and developing plans for ecotourism development.
In the Republic of Moldova, the Program focuses on identifying high conservation value forests to help improve forest management through increased community participation, conducting silvo-pastoral planning through provision of communal forest and pasture management plans to avoid overexploitation and ensure long-term rational use. It also supports local public authorities in organizing community-based events to promote conservation and socio-economic development among forest-dependent communities, and strengthening timber and wood product trade control systems.
The Program’s forestry-related work in Ukraine will focus on strengthening the role of communities in managing forests and other natural resources and improving the timber tracking system for preventing illegal trade in timber and promoting legal trade.
These interventions aim to foster sustainable natural resources management, economic development and participation at local community level. They also promote legal trade and preventing illegal trade in wood products, and enhance strategic financing to the forest and natural resource management sectors. All activities carried out under EU4Environment are important contributions to the promotion of sustainable production and consumption and building a more resilient world for communities that depend upon forests.
Recent research by the World Bank has improved understanding of forests in European neighborhood and partnership countries:
- WB Study Ukraine: Building Climate Resilience in Agriculture and Forestry (2021)
- Ukraine Country Forest Note: Growing Green and Sustainable Opportunities (2020)