Voluntary guidelines for forest concessions in the tropics, entitled Making forest concessions in the tropics work to achieve the 2030 Agenda: Voluntary Guidelines, were launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in May 2018.
The guidelines build on best practices of forest concessions around the world, and are based on consultations with more than 300 technical experts from the public and private sectors, and representatives of civil societies from Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
This publication provides a set of principles to be respected by all stakeholders during the full cycle of concessions as well as tailored recommendations for specific stakeholders-governments, concession-holders, local communities, donors and nongovernmental organisations.
It also includes a self-assessment tool, so that stakeholders can verify if enabling conditions for sustainable forest concessions are in place.
Over 70 per cent of forests in the tropics used for harvesting timber and other forest products are state-owned or public; most of the public forests are managed through concessions that governments give to private entities or local communities.
But the contributions of forest concessions have not always been positive. While they have generated more jobs and better income for people in remote areas, in many cases, they have also left behind a trail of degraded forests and tenure conflicts, according to the publication.
When well-managed, forest concessions can curb deforestation and reduce forest degradation as well as enhance the provision of ecosystem services and reduce carbon footprint to combat climate change.
They can ensure sustainable forest production and strengthened forest value chains while creating employment opportunities and services. Furthermore they generate local and national revenues, which can be invested in forest conservation, as well as better health and social services.
The voluntary guidelines offer suggestions on how to shift from short-term harvesting objectives, which can lead to forest degradation or even deforestation, to long-term forest management, building the case for true sustainable forestry in the tropics.
For a longer-term, more comprehensive use of forests, the recommendations include: growing and harvesting agroforestry products (herbs, nut and fruit trees and shrubs) and agricultural crops alongside harvesting of timber and other wood products; replenishing of commercially important trees to avoid their extinction in the future; and more investment in silviculture – the active management of forest vegetation to make forests sustainable.