FSC Forest Stewardship Council
Member: Society Free
Charles de Gaulle Straße 5, 53113 Bonn, Germany
FSC welcomes Voluntary Guidelines for Forest Concessions in the Tropics
In May 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published voluntary guidelines for governments and all other stakeholders to “promote the sustainable management of public production natural forests in tropical countries through forest concessions.”
At their core are eight Principles, elaborated in 39 Guidelines, each accompanied with recommendations.
John Hontelez, FSC Chief Advocacy Officer, commented: “these guidelines provide a comprehensive programme to make tropical concessions, whether managed by companies or communities, more productive, in the social, environmental, and economic sense. At FSC we welcome the appreciation the authors have given to the role independent and voluntary certification schemes can play. We encourage all stakeholders to consider the use of these guidelines.”
Some 72 per cent of all tropical forests are publicly owned. In many cases public authorities determine their use. The dominant tool for production forest management is the forest concession, assigned to companies or communities. Currently, 123 million hectares of natural tropical forests are managed as concessions. While this is only 7 per cent of all tropical forests, concessions are nevertheless an important tool, as it dominates the production of tropical timber for commercial markets and can have impacts on other non-managed forests and their inhabitants.
In the new publication, one of the six Guidelines linked to Principle 3 (“Transparent, inclusive and accountable planning, allocation, implementation and monitoring of forest concessions”) is to “encourage independent and voluntary forest certification as well as industrial processes.” This is further elaborated in recommendations to governments, to provide incentives for certification, and concessionaires to seek such certification “as a means to improve long-term economic feasibility, social acceptance, and … environmental management.” Others are advised to promote certification through publicity and assistance to the concession holders.
The Guidelines also encourage governments to apply tax relief or other incentives for concessionaires, for successful application of forest legality schemes (part of Guideline 5.4), among other reasons.
Certification is presented as a recommended tool to:
- Promote respect for workers’ rights and safe working conditions [Guideline 4.4.];
- Protect markets from competition with products from illegal forest activities [Guideline 5.8];
- Engage local communities and Indigenous Peoples residing in or near concessions [Guideline 7.1.];
- Contribute to improved social welfare and local livelihoods [Guideline 7.2];
- Maintain and improve environmental integrity and ensure the sustainable use of forest resources at the operational stage [Guideline 8.2];
- Assess and monitor implementation performance and the achievement of expected outcomes [Guideline 8.4.].
The Guidelines were developed as part of the ‘Forest Concessions Initiative’, launched in 2015 by a team of experts from FAO, the European Forest Institute (EFI), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the French Agricultural Research and International Cooperation Organization (CIRAD), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the World Bank, and the Brazilian Forest Service. Other individuals contributed and consultations were held, including at regional level.
Official title: ‘Making Forest Concessions in the Tropics Work to Achieve the 2030 Agenda: Voluntary Guidelines”, available here.