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Armenia harmonizes forest monitoring system

Over the past years, Armenia went through severe structural changes which also affected the forest sector. Forests, which were formerly under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture are now the responsibility of the Ministry of Nature Protection together with areas dedicated to nature conservation.

These changes allow for a harmonized and more efficient system for forest monitoring and management. This creates the momentum to finalize the national-level criteria and indicator set for sustainable forest management. The set has been developed over the past years through a multi-stakeholder process and addresses forest-related topics such as extend of forest area, biological diversity, socio-economic impacts, productive and protective functions. It strives to transparently measure Armenia’s progress in achieving national forestry targets including the reduction of illegal logging and the protection of forests and forest lands, and thus support evidence-based policy making. It can also go along with the development of a new national forestry program.

On 20-22 February 2019, more than 30 national forest sector experts came together to review and finalize the criteria and indicator set at a workshop organized by UNECE and FAO. Armenia is part of the project “Accountability Systems for Sustainable Forest Management for the Caucasus and Central Asia” which is funded through the United Nations Development Account and which supports several countries in developing national level criteria and indicator sets for sustainable forest management. “The results of this workshop can make a significant contribution to the positive changes that have taken place in Armenia, aiming to increase accountability and transparency in the forest sector” said Mr. Vahe Matsakyan, Deputy Chairperson of the Committee of Forest of the Ministry of Nature Protection.  

In 2017, Armenia ratified the Paris Agreement committing to increase its forest cover to 20.1 % by 2050. “It is crucial to create a functioning forest monitoring system to allow an assessment of the progress and quality of restoration efforts” said Mr. Ekrem Yazici, Deputy Head of the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section. For several years, remote sensing technologies have been applied for forest monitoring in Armenia. As a result, information about forests has become more accessible, is regularly updated and allows to draw conclusions about the historical forest situation in the country. This information is used inter alia to monitor and manage forest fires, the change of forest area and ecosystem health.

By developing a national-level criteria and indicator set, Armenia follows about 23 countries who are already using this approach, which promises to enhance discourse and communication on sustainable forest management.