Non-Aligned Movement recognises the role of forests and sustainable forest management in sustainable development and has called upon the international community, and in particular the developing world, to conserve and manage their biological resources including all types of forests on a sustainable basis.

An important initiative for sustainable forest management in the developing world is the Sustainable Forest Management Framework for Africa 2020-2030 launched by the African Union (AU). Extending over 624 million hectares (ha), covering 20.6 percent of the continent’s land area and representing 15.6 percent of the world’s forest cover, Africa’s forests have a unique role in contributing to the attainment of the aspirations of the Agenda 2063, the Africa We Want, which envisages a prosperous continent with the means to drive its own development through the sustainable, long-term stewardship of its resource.

Forests also underpin key sectors of many African countries, including energy, forestry, agriculture, tourism and water, and support the livelihoods of millions of people. Forests and trees in Africa offer considerable support to agriculture, serving, for example, as reservoirs of land for the expansion of agriculture and providing supporting ecosystem services such as pollination, soil conservation, water retention and climate moderation.

In line with Agenda 2063, and to contribute to the vision for forests articulated above, the Sustainable Forest Management Framework (SFMF) for Africa has been formulated. The first phase of the SFMF time frame is 2020-2030. The vision of the SFMF was collaboratively developed with the active participation of AU Member States and the Regional Economic Communities under the coordination of the African Union Commission.

According the preamble of the framework, Africa’s forest sector is faced with many challenges that limit its capacity to provide meaningful and sustainable ecosystem services including contributing to socio-economic development. The challenges include weak forest and land-use policies, unsustainable forest management practices; competition for land from the agriculture, mining, livestock, energy sector and settlements. The objectives of the SFMF are to: 1) Provide strategic guidance to Member States and Regional Economic Communities on Sustainable Forest Management; 2) Facilitate Africa-wide monitoring and reporting on Sustainable Forest Management; 3) Facilitate harmonization of policies and legal frameworks across Africa; 4) Serve as a basis for coordinating knowledge management, exchange of best practices and information and 5) Facilitate establishment of partnerships and investments in Sustainable Forest Management.

The SFMF identifies five priority areas of action. Priority 1 is the enhancement of the value of forests and the sustainable production, processing, marketing’s and trade for forest products and ecosystem service. Priority 2 is the capacity development and knowledge management for sustainable forest management.

Priority 3 is to develop a political and institutional framework for sustainable forest management which entails adaptation and harmonization of national and sub-regional forest policies and regulatory frameworks in African nations. Priority 4 is to reduce deforestation, forest and land degradation and restore forests and landscapes for enhancing resilience and sustainable livelihood. Priority 5 is to establish strong partnerships and collaboration for mobilizing resources through a robust information and communication system.

The SFMF also calls for a creation of an Expert Working Group to provide technical oversight for its implementation. Established reporting processes and channels of the African Union will be used. The Regional Economic Communities will provide regional synthesized reports to the African Union Commission on regular basis in line with the sessions of the Special Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment.

The African Union Commission, as the secretariat, in collaboration with the Expert Working Group will collate sub regional reports and prepare them for submission to the STC for endorsement. The report will then be submitted to the higher organs of the African Union for adoption and further guidance.

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