Future global forest governance: Learning across generations

This summer, office temperatures soared, the fan was blowing full throttle and my afternoon ice cream melted faster than I could eat it. I was not the only one under severe heat stress though. As I looked from my office window, I could see that the consistently high temperatures had affected trees and vegetation. Leaves had changed color and treetops looked thinner. The dry and hot weather in Germany and beyond since May also made forest fires inevitable. This year all of Europe suffered from peat and forest fires that started earlier and burned for longer than normal.

These are worrisome observations for me as individual and as junior scientist. Given the scale of deforestation and forest degradation globally, which is one underlying cause of rising emissions and a changing global climate, I feel uncertain about what and how my contribution could look like in addressing an issue of the scale of deforestation and forest degradation.

I feel the urgency to act when I observe consequences of 1°C of global warming, but also because in the future, we will be more people on our planet. More people who require food, jobs and strive for higher living conditions. This will add even more pressure on forest ecosystems and possibly cause further degradation. To interrupt this vicious circle and to make forests more resilient to these threats globally, I think we need to have a rules-based framework at the global level that addresses these challenges effectively. Something that gives guidance and regulates any illegal, destructive and harmful activities that affect forests – and ultimately us.

A rule-based framework is not a new idea. For decades, attempts have been made to create a legally binding forest convention – without success. Today, many initiatives work on different aspects and often in isolation of each other. Competition between the different institutions involved is high and it is almost impossible for someone who is new in the field to easily understand this spider web. So, I asked myself, why not approach experts, who have been involved in the field for many years, about their lessons learnt and what young people can contribute to improve global forest governance?

During a workshop on the future of global forest governance at EFI’s office in Bonn in September, my colleague Jeanne Roux and I had the opportunity to talk to some high-level practitioners and researchers. For us it was the perfect starting point to look for answers to some of the following questions we had: What have experts working in the field of global forest governance learnt so far? What motivates them to keep up the fight?

As research trainees with CVs that still fit a one-pager, Jeanne and I sought answers to these questions, but also wanted to know what role young researchers and practitioners could play in contributing and shaping global forest governance. Hence, we interviewed Gerhard Dieterle (International Tropical Timber Organization), Jan McAlpine (formerly United Nations Forum on Forests), Chris Beeko (Ghana Forestry Commission), David Humphreys (The Open University) and Claudia Azevedo-Ramos (NAEA Federal University of Pará). Have a look at our videos to see what they answered.

Our interviews are part of the EFI project New frontier in global forest GOvernance – from lessons learnt to FUture options (FuGo) funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). Within this project, our aim is to identify major challenges and lessons learnt and to assess possible pathways and action points for the future of global forest governance. If you are interested to learn more about the project, please have a look here.

With the FuGo project, EFI Bonn kicked off an interesting chapter for future discussions between science and practice, as we gave both worlds room to collide and develop actions points. During the coming winter, we aim to publish and communicate the results of our work. Once they are circulated, it will make all sweating over the summer and all change spend at the ice cream machine pay off in the end.

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