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Countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus scale up ecosystem restoration

In recent years, countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia have made significant progress in developing national forest monitoring systems and have committed to implement large-scale forest landscape restoration. The Astana Resolution and the commitment of the region in 2018 to restore over 2.5 million hectares of forests under the Bonn Challenge by 2030 were major milestones in this regard.

This week, the countries of the region are showcasing their efforts and achievements at the UNECE/FAO Forest Congress, held 28-31 May 2019 in Kyrgyzstan. The Forest Congress brings around 60 stakeholders from the five Central Asian and the three Caucasian countries together to reflect on how to progress in highlighting and prioritising forestry issues on the national, regional and international agenda.

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 could enhance ecosystem restoration in these countries is the Belt and Road Initiative – an ambitious infrastructure project linking China to Central and South Asia and onwards to Europe. By harnessing the potential of this vision to contribute to the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the initiative could help catalyze green development, bringing investment to infrastructure and ecosystem restoration, including watersheds, forests and grasslands.

Three recently published reports were presented at the Congress and, in parallel, 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 provide key platforms for collaboration for governments and other stakeholders while assisting member states in shaping integrated policies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.