The Governments of Myanmar and Finland today launched a trailblazing project designed to allow for monitoring of forests in a manner that is sensitive to local conflicts and protects human rights.
The five-year project will be led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) thanks to a EUR 8 million endowment from the Government of Finland, a consistent partner in the promotion of environmental sustainability.
The project is innovative in taking a conflict sensitive and human rights-based approach to forest monitoring. This has global relevance as it will provide insights into how to bolster sustainable forests in other fragile countries affected by conflicts that are frequently exacerbated by disputes over tenure and access to natural resources.
"Actions to monitor and measure Myanmar's forests have great potential to deliver benefits for multiple purposes. In Myanmar there are many conflicts or mixed governance land areas, which pose particular challenges in working and engaging ethnic peoples and stakeholders in the measurement of forests," said Xiaojie Fan, FAO Representative to the country. "While performing the technical tasks of forest inventories, this new project will ensure that the socio-political and cultural context is explicitly addressed through appropriate conflict sensitive and Rights based approaches."
The virtual signing ceremony for the project was held in Myanmar's capital Nya Pyi Taw today and attended by the Director General of Myanmar's Forestry Department, Finland's Ambassador to Myanmar, and the FAO Representative to Myanmar.
"The project is innovative in developing an approach to National Forest Inventory (NFI) in areas with security and conflict issues; a much needed approach with global application. NFI involves the physical measurement of the trees and forest on the ground, which is essential for accurate information on forests, and the corner stone of National Forest Monitoring Systems", said Julian Fox, FAO's Team Leader of national forest monitoring. "Accurate forest monitoring is the foundation of natural resource management decision making as well as contributing to global efforts to preserve biodiversity and fight against climate change", he added.
National Forest Monitoring Systems are also essential for evaluating and validating a country's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, an essential step toward enabling a country to obtain result-based payments from REDD+.
"In the Government and especially in the Forest Department we are very pleased with the support we are receiving through Finland and FAO for developing a truly national scale forest inventory, something which never has existed in the country before. We are in urgent need of better and updated data about the state of all the forests in Myanmar. These data will help to better plan and evaluate sustainable forest use and conservation in our country together with all stakeholders, public and private and also in the land areas of our ethnic brothers and sisters", said Dr. Nyi Nyi Kyaw, Director-General, Forest Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
The human rights-based scope of the project is anticipated to actively contribute to alleviating conflicts and offer a platform for improving the livelihoods of the country where 70 percent of the population who live in Myanmar's rural areas and rely on the country's estimated 29 million hectares of forests for basic needs and service. It also has a special focus on engaging the more than 100 different ethnic groups, each with its own history, culture and language or dialect, who live in the country.
As some of Myanmar's regions are affected by internal conflicts, the project is designed to be participatory and inclusive, with extensive stakeholder consultations, communications and a grievance procedure that will include minority groups as well as global and national organizations with expertise in human rights and conflict. This will contribute to a do-no-harm approach in development projects related to the country's natural resources.
"Forest monitoring is part of Finland's support for Myanmar to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It is important that conflict sensitivity and human rights remain in the core of the forest monitoring work in order to ensure that it benefits all people, including ethnic minorities," Finland's Ambassador Riikka Laatu said. "Building a conflict sensitive and a human rights-based methodology to forest monitoring is a key target during the first phase of the program. This includes answering questions on openness of data and building trust between the villagers and forest authorities on the use of data."
FAO is pledging to use the human rights-based approach to forest monitoring developed under this project to craft global guidelines for conflict sensitivity and human rights-based approaches in ecosystem monitoring more broadly around the world.