The Greater Central Asia (GCA) region is characterized by arid and semi-arid climates, and economies within the region share common environmental challenges such as water scarcity, low soil water retention and productivity, and severe desertification, which are all exacerbated by climate change and economic development.
The region, located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and northern Africa, contains a small percentage of the world's forest area. However, the functions of the forest - including water and soil conservation and watershed management - are vitally important for all economies.
International efforts and goals targeting these areas include the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), in addition to sub-regional programs including the components on ecosystem conservation and sustainable development in the One Belt One Road initiative, which emphasizes the need to balance environmental protection and socioeconomic development.
APFNet’s activities in the region
APFNet has been actively collaborating with partners in the GCA region since 2014 to help address these issues. This is achieved by gathering senior forestry officials and NGOs to discuss forestry development issues in GCA, share good practices and identify potential collaborative actions that address domestic and transboundary forestry issues, while aligning with existing international/regional efforts.
As an organization mandated to promote sustainable forest management in the region, APFNet is in a unique position to support GCA economies to coordinate these actions. APFNet organizes the GCA Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Forestry (MMRF) and the Regional Workshop on Strategic Forestry Cooperation in GCA to discuss approaches to translate regional priorities into actions, and identify concrete activities for collaboration.
1. Establish a platform for high-level forestry exchange in GCA to promote experience sharing of forestry issues and the development of common strategic development priorities for all economies in the region;
2. Reinforce commitment to forestry development and promote collaboration in regional forestry initiatives, enhancing the position of forestry alongside economic and social aspects of development in GCA;
3. Organize regular meetings for all regional economies to implement ministerial statements resulting from the MMRFs, and to share thoughts on key projects and technical proposals;
4. Bring together a pool of experts to provide professional and technical support for the implementation of the outcomes of the MMRFs and the regional strategic forestry cooperation workshops.
Given their strong economic links, development trajectories, and shared geographical topographies, the target economies of activities include the relevant forestry authorities of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and People's Republic of China.
Greater Central Asia Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Forestry
The GCA MMRF aims to strengthen commitment to forestry, identify opportunities for cooperation and promote the development of forestry in the region.
The first MMRF took place in Astana, Kazakhstan from 30 to 31 May 2016 and was organized to create a platform for dialogue and exchange on forestry in the region.
The MMRF resulted in adoption of the Astana Statement, which highlights the importance of sustainable development and management of forests to social, economic and environmental development in the region, and the need for closer regional cooperation in forestry.
The second MMRF aims to capitalise on the momentum of the first MMRF and build upon the initial commitments made under the Astana Statement.
Regional workshops on Strategic Forestry Cooperation in the Greater Central Asia Region
APFNet has organized three regional workshops on strategic forestry cooperation in the GCA region to-date. The workshops facilitate the exchange of ideas on furthering forestry development at economy and regional levels.
At the most recent of these workshops, held in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan, from 28 to 30 June 2017, economies highlighted the need for increased emphasis on capacity building, combating desertification, evaluation of forest ecosystem services, transboundary forest fire prevention and development of a database of forestry information.
The workshops are a means of translating the Astana Statement into concrete actions. The next workshop is being organized back-to-back with the ministerial meeting.