IUCN’s initiatives to restore the world’s degraded forests

IUCN’s major initiatives to restore the world’s degraded forests

By Stephanie Lee

The IUCN is the world’s first environmental organisation with biodiversity conservation being central to their mission. Forest Landscape Restoration, or FLR, is one of their major areas of work that focuses on the important role of forest and trees. A side event on  Forest Landscape Restoration and the Bonn Challenge was organised on day 4 of UNFF 12. Before moving ahead with the details of the event, let us understand what is FLR and the Bonn Challenge.

What is Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR)?

FLR is an ongoing process to restore degraded or deforested landscapes in a way that improves ecological functionality and enhances human well-being across the landscape. It is more than just planting trees. It is a long term vision of providing multiple benefits for the present and the future generations across landscapes. For more information you can visit https://infoflr.org/what-flr

What is the Bonn Challenge?

It is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. It facilitates the implementation of existing international commitments: the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the Land Degradation Neutrality goal, and climate change commitments under the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), including the Paris Agreement and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) related to forest and land use sector. For more information you can visit bonnchallenge.org

The ongoing work on Forest Landscape Restoration and the Bonn Challenge couldn’t have been more timely than now with the adoption of the UN Strategic Plan on Forest (UNSPF) 2017 -2030. The side event had presentations from IUCN, Ghana, Columbia and Ecuador.

Ms Carole Saint Laurent, Deputy Director of Global Forest and Climate Change Programme of IUCN talked about the restoration opportunities available globally, which is nearly 2 billion hectares of degraded and deforested land. She highlighted ROAM (Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology) which they use to identify and prioritize FLR opportunities. So those of you interested in GIS and mapping in forestry you must definitely take a look at this cool tool. The country representatives from Ghana, Columbia and Ecuador spoke much about their national efforts to restore the degraded forest landscape and their commitments to Bonn challenge targets. The targets did seem ambitious, but it sets out a road map for the countries to move towards the goal.

Find out more about FLR and Bonn Challenge through IUCN’s publication FORESTBRIEF https://www.iucn.org/theme/forests/resources/forest-briefs    




Report about a side-event by Oscar Crespo


Santiago Garcia (Ecuadorian Government), Rodrigo Sierra (Remote Sensing Expert)

Ecuador plays a very active role in the UNFF negotiations. Ecuador became the first country in receiving a grant amounting US$ 41.2 million to co-finance the implementation of Ecuador’s National REDD+ Action Plan. The Government of Ecuador is working as well with the World Bank and the forest products industry to promote timber plantations in the country. Currently 30% of the industrial timber used in the country comes from natural forests.

Net deforestation per year has significantly decreased in the last years from 0.65% in the period decade of 1990 to 2000 to 0.37% in 2008-2014. Transformation into other uses, specially agriculture has decreased in the last years since the 2000s as well. Two thirds of the deforested area are transformed into cattle ranching and approximately 12% into small scale agriculture. The historically highest deforestation rates took place in the 1960-1970s, favored by the government policies in support of colonization of the Amazonia.


Rodrigo Sierra pointed out the strong relationship between the banana economy in the coast and the beef producers in the interior. Ecuador is the largest exporter of bananas in the World.The last decades have seen an increase in the rate of urbanization and a concentration of rural population in small towns situated along the roads.


The data from the last years suggest that deforestation is highly concentrated in certain areas. Statistical analysis points out that economic growth in the major urban centers like Quito or Guayaquil drives deforestation for the production of goods and services in the rural areas. The lowest deforestation levels in the country were seen after the year 2000 when the dollarization decreased the power purchase of the population and after the 2008 global economic crisis.


Illegal mining is a major issue behind deforestation and forest degradation in the areas located close to the Colombian border. Palm oil plantations have already expanded in most of their suitable area in Ecuador so currently and in the future for their expansion they will require taking up the land from other uses like other crops or rangelands.


One of the major goals of Ecuador’s policy towards achieving zero deforestation by 2030 should be, according to the presenters, a diversification of the rural economy in Ecuador.

Gender Equality + Forests

Written by Stephanie Lee

Day 2 of UNFF 12 focused on discussions around gender equality and empowerment of women and girls (the 5th Sustainable Development Goal). Going with the theme of the day, a side event on women, forests and business opportunities was organised by Government of Finland & African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF).

As a forestry student with a major interest in understanding more about mainstreaming gender in forestry related decision making, this side event provided an opportunity to be a part of the discussion and be able to contribute to the discussion as well.  The panelist for the session included Ms. Cecile Ndjebet, President of REFACOF, Ms Eva Mueller, Director of Forest Policy and Resources Division FAO, Ms. Harsha Rodrigues, Chief Strategy Officer of Women’s World Banking , Ms Satu Maria  Temiala, forester from Finland and Seemin Qayyum of UN Women.

Overall the discussion emphasized on women entrepreneurs in the rural economy in particular forest, the key challenges encountered by women entrepreneurs, the entry points for addressing the barriers and recommendations to overcome them. An interesting part of the session was the presentation from Women’s world banking. The organisation aims to enable more low income women gain access to  financial tools and resources in order to build their security and prosperity. In this quest to empower women financially so that they can build their own business, the organisation did a lot of research on the perceptions of  women’s role in business and market. In the study conducted in Columbia, Peru and Paraguay, three roles of women in the market were identified namely –

  1. Contributor – involved in caring for family and subsistence farming, limited mobility
  2. Collaborator – jointly manages farm with other stakeholders
  3. Sole proprietor – contributes her own income generating activities and makes decisions in the family

It is interesting to note that women contribute 50% to household income in a consistent pattern. However this contribution to household income does not come easily to women as compared to men in the family. Women entrepreneurs face challenges such as the following –

  • Lack of technical and financial capacity to satisfy quality and quantity demand in the market
  • Seasonality of product poses a challenge to women who do not have the capacity to sustain production through out the year
  • Land and forest property rights is one the most crucial barrier to empowering women entrepreneurs
  • Women have no access to credit to dedicated funding mechanisms to help them upscale their enterprises
  • Some sectors are still male dominated such as bee keeping
  • Additionally, there are the societal norms and the rigid perception of women as being major care givers of the family which often makes it difficult to allow women to take on a different role.

To overcome some of these challenges some of the solutions discussed by the panelists were as follows –

  • Build technical, organisational and financial capacity of women entrepreneurs
  • Support value chain development to boost quality and quantity production of women entrepreneurs
  • Help them gain access to good markets
  • Increase in market share of products and services of women led entrepreneurs
  • Help and work actors who support women
  • Work with women to change their attitude and perception
  • Support leadership

At the end of the presentations and with the floor opened for comments and questions, it was interesting to observe that most of the discussions came from women present in the room, not that men were not present.  This is not surprising though because irrespective of so many dialogues and initiatives from the international community, equal gender right in particular for women is still being treated as an issue of discussion rather than a norm in the present society.

So, does this conclude that all these initiatives are meaningless? No! We need to constantly bring the subject matter to the surface and reinforce the important role women play in forestry and other sectors of the economy.

Kicking off the 12th United Nations Forum on Forest


Written by Ethan Miller

Peter Besseau, the chair of this year’s session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF), kicked off this year’s gathering at the United Nations in New York with one clear message: this meeting is going to be different.

Contextually, this year’s session comes at an opportune time for action and implementation. Just a few months earlier, on 20 January, 2017, the 197 Member States agreed on the first ever UN Strategic Plan for Forests (UNSPF). Marked by
six Global Forest Goals, the UNSPF builds on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by formalizing the ‘how’ of achieving the forest-relevant Sustainable Development Goals (as laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development).

The need for concrete implementation demands a different type of UNFF. As Besseau explained in his opening remarks, this meeting will include smaller and more technical sessions, designed to facilitate more focused discussion and collaboration between parties.

As countries embark on implementing their commitments, sharing lessons learned, successes, and challenges because ever-more important. And this year’s meeting is designed to do just that.

In the opening session, 20 different countries shared their experiences and plans for achieving the Global Forest Goals. The common thread was that the UNSPF is a momentous occasion for galvanizing action at the national and international level. But if its goals are to be achieved a few items need to be prioritized:

  1. Mobilize financing mechanisms for sustainable forest management
  2. Create a universal reporting mechanism for progress toward the Global Forest Goals
  3. Facilitate technology transfer to and between developing countries

While many other suggestions and comments were made, many of the delegates emphasized the need to figure these three items out before significant progress could be made.

The first session of this year’s Forum on Forests set the tone for the week. This week is about getting to the bottom of implementation; how to do it and who needs to do what to make it happen. With smaller side events, frank conversations, and hundreds of passionate participants, this year’s session promises to shape the dialogue and pace of forest conservation and management around the world.

Day 1 – Voluntary National Contributions

Written by Oscar Crespo 

This was my first in person contact with a United Nations event. Everything went as expected: most speakers repeated the same few concepts, kind words, reiterative information. The Forum offers countries an opportunity to share their views, experiences, and contributions to the work of the forum (‘voluntary national contributions). A few countries provided some interesting updates from their recent forest policy achievements or their main concerns and demands like the following ones:

  • Importance of monitoring emphasized through some projects like the one mentioned by Peru.
  • Israel called for increasing cooperation within the Mediterranean region for facing the risks posed by climate change.
  • Most of the developing countries pointed out the need of cooperation, capacity building and technological transfer to achieve the goals set by UNFF
  • Romania pointed out some of their most recent efforts to fight illegal logging and dealing with their forest land restitutions policy.
  • Chile announced the creation of its own Public Forest Service (Servicio Nacional Forestal), until now CONAF, a private non-profit organization was responsible for managing the forests in Chile. Forest policy in Chile, a major forest products exporter, is going through a review process after the catastrophic fires of this past season that burned down more than 270,000 ha.
  • Argentina and Panama mentioned their incentive programs for reforestation
  • Switzerland called for a single reporting mechanism.
  • Nepal pointed out the importance of community forests in the country and their role in rural development.
  • In general most countries pointed out the need of cooperation and every single intervention showed support for the goals of UNFF.

Do you know the Global Forest Goals for 2030 agreed by the UNFF this past January? In a nutshell, they are the following ones:

  1. Reverse the loss of forest cover and achieve a 3% forest area gain by 2030.
  2. Enhance the economic, social and environmental benefits of forests and improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities.
  3. Increase the area of protected and sustainably managed forests worldwide
  4. Mobilize financial and scientific resources for the implementation of sustainable forest management.
  5. Promote forest governance.
  6. Enhance cooperation, coordination and coherence across organizations, sectors and stakeholders.

For further information check the following link.

Can we achieve this goals by 2030? What do you think?

A small answer to a big question. How do we measure climate change impact on forest ecosystems?

Written by Salina Abraham 

It is well known that some of the most exciting parts to UN meetings are the side events. Today, IFSA’s partner IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organizations), held a side event on “Healthy forests for a prosperous environment: the multi-faceted aspects of forest degradation.” This event was held by the IUFRO Task Force on “Climate Change and Forest Health” with the intent to educate and improve understanding of interactions between forest and environment. In practice, this meant several scientists presented their findings in various topics related to climate change and forest health directly to policy makers and other stakeholders.

Of the many presentations – one that greatly interested me was a specific proposal of a global indicator on forests. 

There have been robust discussions around the need to monitor and assess progress and of course, the importance of indicators to this end. Professor Christina Branquinho, from the University of Lisbon, underscored the need for global indicators not only on the drivers of climate change but also on the effect of climate change and the impact of adaptation and mitigation policies. Currently, indicators for forest health have revolved around measuring the number of species in an ecosystem and corresponding rates of extinction but she believes there’s a radically better way. The challenge – we need to measure the effects of climate change at the ecosystem level and somehow be able to see the impact of a 2 degree increase on different ecosystems (alpine and tropical for example) and on ecosystems with varying resilience.

Finding a global indicator that is observable at different scales and can reflect long term changes is not an easy task. But the indicator proposed made me smile – Professor Branquinho, suggested lichens.Lichen-covered_tree,_Tresco.jpg

The professor and her colleague walked us through the rationale for using lichens as a global indicator. First, lichens exist in almost all terrestrial ecosystems and have a long history of being used as indicators (for pollution and land use changes). Their value comes from the fact that they are directly controlled by the atmosphere, both temperature and precipitation. Additionally, there are standard methodologies in place to use them as indicators (2 used in practice, 1 by the US/Canada and the 2nd by Europe/Asia). Professor Branquinho’s team has proposed a framework to integrate these two methodologies and jointly analyze results to eliminate this issue. The team seeks to use changes in functional attributes  (various shapes depending on different environments) rather than changes in species to measure effect. (functional diversity vs. species diversity)

As always, there are some challenges for interpretation on the global scale. The lichen respond to the most limiting factor of the environment, which could be sunlight, temperature, or precipitation depending on the environment. Currently, they have conducted studies in Brazil, Thailand, the USA and a few countries in Europe but the team is seeking to conduct pilot projects in more areas to fully assess feasibility. For now, it looks promising!

Do you see any problems with using lichen as indicators for ecosystem health or do you think that this is a great small answer to a big question? Let me know!

Get Introduced to UNFF 12 Delegates

The 12th session for the UN Forum on Forest will begin this Monday, May 1st in New York City and last until the 5th. IFSA has the honor of representing the Major Group Children and Youth and has 10 delegates attending the meeting. Follow our posts both on the IFSA facebook & Twitter along with the UNFF MGCY twitter and facebook.

Below are introductions to some of the delegates (this will update as we get closer to Monday):



O​riginally from Spain I am currently studying a Master in Environmental Management, specialization in Business and the Environment at Yale University, where I am the IFSA representative. Before; I worked in the forest industry and in biodiversity conservation projects. I studied forestry engineering in two Spanish Universities (Valladolid, Santiago de Compostela) with periods abroad in the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Maine. My main areas of interest are prospective financial incentives to promote sustainable forest management , rural development, forest health and wildlife. My passions are: hiking, wildlife photography and aged cheese. [Will be a key policy delegate assisting in the Major Group Children and Youth comments and interventions] 

 SALINA ABRAHAMsalina2.png

Hi everyone! I’m Salina and I’ve worked with IFSA for nearly two years now – first, as Head of the International Processes Commission, and, now, as the Statutes Councillor. I attended the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) Organizational-Led Initiative meeting in support of UNFF back in November on forestry indicators so I’m really excited to see what progress we’ll see at UNFF 12. For background: I am about to graduate with my B.S. in Environmental Science and Resource Management & Economics in June of 2016 (currently on a year long exchange at Tilburg University in the Netherlands). My bachelor’s research has been on corporate social responsibility impact at the first modern mine in Eritrea (my country of heritage) in land rehabilitation and rural women’s livelihoods. I am passionate about sustainable development policy, particularly as it relates to Africa. I am excited to lead our delegation, share the updates from UNFF 12 and I encourage you to engage with us as much as possible on here.


Max Webster Headshot.jpg

Max Webster is a Master’s student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. His current work focuses on aligning goals for community development and conservation by building creative partnerships between urban and rural areas. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Max has previously led conservation crews, worked in public affairs for city government and developed a number of community garden projects.  [Will be reporting on the forestry and green jobs side event on Thursday hosted by UNECE and UN FAO] 


Photo_Stephanie Lee.jpg

Stephanie joined IFSA LC UBC when she began her master course in international forestry last September. She was the head of special events of IFSA LC UBC. She was involved in organizing Prepping for COP 22 at UBC last year. Stephanie is almost completing her course and is thrilled to wrap it up with yet another important role at IFSA. She will be participating at the UN Forum on Forest 12 session (UNFF 12) as a policy delegate. She hopes to learn more about the processes of negotiations on forestry at the international level and get a first – hand experience of multi-stakeholder discussions. Prior to her course, Stephanie worked at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a leading research institute in India. She has been involved in research projects on the impact of climate change on the inhabitants of Sundarbans Island, water quality assessment of an industrial region in southern India and waste management. She has also been pro – active in sustainable development education and outreach wherein she conducted capacity building workshops for the youth and community, organized campaigns, seminars for the youth. [Will be a key policy delegate assisting in the Major Group Children and Youth comments and interventions] 



Ethan Miller is a first year Master of Forestry candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Ethan spends his time at the intersection of tropical landscape ecology, geospatial analysis, and stakeholder engagement. His research focuses on the question, “how can collaborative spatial planning and multi-stakeholder engagement improve landscape management in the neotropics?” Prior to starting at Yale, Ethan was a Research Fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama where he studied how drones and aerial photography can estimate biomass and growth in small-scale timber plantations. He holds a B.S. of Environmental Science and a minor in Geography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His work has taken him to the Yasuni National Park, the Galapagos Islands, the Panama Canal Watershed, and the Esri headquarters in California. Follow him @ethanfmiller.