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(CIFOR) — Crafting a lasting global development framework that supports sustainable forest management is a challenge for policymakers juggling the competing interests of a range of resource sectors.
Measurable international development targets due to replace the current anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015 have been under discussion since 2012.
After two years of debate, a proposed list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be presented to the U.N. General Assembly in September and finalized next year.
An ideal scenario would involve the inclusion of two forest-specific targets among the SDGs, said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, chair of the 14-member Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) and assistant deputy-director general for forestry at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
“The most likely outcome is an SDG on forests, mountains, land and other terrestrial ecosystems — the key question is whether the design of the SDG title and targets will be balanced between its elements or if one will dominate,” said Rojas-Briales from Rome where CPF and the Committee on Forestry (COFO) are meeting for World Forest Week and the development framework is under discussion.
“Depending on the number of possible targets, forests could have one or two targets related basically to the internationally agreed concept of sustainable forest management with a special emphasis on the socio-economic benefits for forest-dependent communities and a second one on stopping and reverting deforestation,” Rojas-Briales said.
“In our view, the ‘two targets’ option allows a clearer focus than bundling all into one.”
Forests, which host most of the biodiversity on land, provide wood and other vital forest products, including water supplies and medicines. They offer ecosystem stability, carbon storage and other key services supporting livelihoods, making it essential that a proper balance is struck between timber extraction and forest conversion.
During the debate to date over the SDGs, appeals from forest-heavy countries have resulted in an inclusive approach denying the opportunity for one element to dominate others, Rojas-Briales said.
“The very restricted presence of forests in the MDGs as just an indicator (deforestation) under environment is clearly over," he said.
The issue though is to avoid seeing forests only from the climate-change mitigation, timber producing or biodiversity preservation perspective.”
Such an approach would be inconsistent with the aim of integrating the three pillars of sustainability — economic development, social development and environmental protection — in a balanced manner, he added.