Countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus will showcase their efforts and achievements on forest monitoring and landscape restoration at the UNECE/FAO Forest Congress, which starts today here in the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan.

In recent years, countries have achieved significant progress in developing national forest monitoring systems and have committed to implement large-scale forest landscape restoration. The Forest Congress, which goes through 31 May, brings together around 60 representatives from five Central Asian and three Caucasian countries to reflect on how to progress in highlighting and prioritizing forestry issues on national, regional and international agendas. The efforts build on the Astana Resolution and the commitment of the region to restore over 2.5 million hectares of forests by 2030 under the Bonn Challenge. This commitment is a forest-related milestone for the region.

The United Nations recently declared 2021–2030 the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. This offers unparalleled opportunity to create jobs, address climate change, and improve food security.

“For this region, the decade bears the unprecedented possibility to scale up restoration while fighting the climate crisis and negative impacts of degradation and desertification,” said Ekrem Yazici, deputy head of the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section, at the Congress.

Another factor that can enhance ecosystem restoration in these countries is China’s Belt and Road Initiative – a infrastructure project linking China to Central and South Asia and onwards to Europe – which brings investments here. The initiative pursues a vision of green development, potentially bringing investment to infrastructure and ecosystem restoration, including watersheds, forests and grasslands.

Three recently published reports were presented at the Congress and, in parallel, at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. The “State of Forests of the Caucasus and Central Asia” study is the first publication to provide a full report of forest resources and the forest sector in the region, including major challenges faced by the sector and possible policy responses.

Practical tools needed to advance the monitoring of forests are set out in the “Guidelines for the Development of a Criteria and Indicator Set for Sustainable Forest Management,” which incorporate key aspects of the forest sector and provide a practical support in developing national monitoring systems for forests.

The “Forest Landscape Restoration in the Caucasus and Central Asia” study analyses key drivers of forest degradation and assesses the potential for forest landscape restoration in the region.

Representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are participating in the Forest Congress this week.

Together, UNECE, FAO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature have important roles as a platform of collaboration for governments and other stakeholders while assisting member states in shaping integrated policies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.