Cancun, CBD COP13: Integrating Biodiversity into Forest Governance

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Cancun, CBD COP13: Integrating Biodiversity into Forest Governance

GLOBE's CBD COP13 Legislators Forum showcased the progress made in Mexico and Colombia reviewing windows of opportunity to advance the integration of national biodiversity objectives and mechanisms into forest governance with the support of the Japan Biodiversity Fund. Click *here* to watch the session.

The CBD COP13 Legislators Forum convened by GLOBE International on 7 December by invitation of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBDS) and the Government of Mexico provided an opportunity to report to an international audience of national and sub-national legislators on the progress made in Mexico and Colombia providing technical support through GLOBE to legislators keen to advance the integration of biodiversity governance in the forestry sector, in the framework of the project ‘Integrated multi-purpose forest governance for the national delivery of sustainable development, climate and biodiversity objectives’ financed by the CBDS with support from the Japan Biodiversity Fund.

The second session of the Forum, titled 'Developing Multi-Purpose Forest Legislation Towards the Delivery of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Biodiversity in Mexico and Colombia', and formally a 90’ side event of the CBD COP13, brought together senior legislators from Mexico and Colombia as members of a joint panel including CBD Executive Secretary Dr. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias which received the national Studies and commented on their findings.

Mexico was represented by Deputy Alma Lucía Arzaluz Alonso, Secretary of the Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, as the author of the bill to reform the forest law which is currently being discussed in Congress; Deputy María de los Ángeles Rodríguez Aguirre, President of the Climate Change Committee; and Dr. Andrés Ávila-Akerberg, Executive Director of the organization conducting the Study on forest and biodiversity governance in Mexico, Policy and Environmental Legislation A.C. (a.k.a. ‘POLEA’).

Colombia was represented by Hon. Representative Alfredo Molina Triana, President of the Fifth Committee of the House of Representatives, responsible for legislating on agriculture, environment, ecology, fishing, mining and land use, and President of GLOBE Colombia; by Senator Luis Fernando Duque García, President of the Senate's Fourth Committee, responsible for legislating on budget and fiscal control, and Vice-President of GLOBE for the Americas, and by Dr. Mauricio Umaña Camacho, author of the Study on forest governance and biodiversity in Colombia.

Dr. Andrés Ávila-Akerberg started his intervention explaining that the label ‘forest governance’ provides a framework for analyzing the different laws, regulations, policies, actions and interactions that deal with forest ecosystems from the local to the international. At the international level, the forest governance framework is outlined by a series of multilateral agreements that address specific issues but have contact points with the forestry sector. At the national level, the framework of forest governance is extremely complex, since it is framed in various general laws, regulations, plans, programs, strategies and its implementation corresponds to different government agencies and institutions of both the executive and legislative branches, while subnational governments and other relevant stakeholders such as indigenous and local peoples and communities, civil society organizations (CSOs), the private sector, academia and others are also key players.

Among the weaknesses of the current Mexican context Dr. Ávila Akerberg identified the legal dispersion and lack of coordination between the different governmental agencies that direct the policies of sectors that generate impacts both in forests and in biodiversity to implement policies according to their conservation and sustainable use. Another weakness is the lack of resources to implement different national and international commitments.

Dr. Ávila explained that at present a substantial window of opportunity has opened in Mexico as a result of the development of three major legal reform initiatives closely related to forest governance: the initiative to create a new general law on sustainable forestry development, the initiative to create a general biodiversity law and the initiative to create a new general water law. This alignment opens opportunities for the legislative power to promote coordination between the different Committees that are carrying out the processes of construction, analysis and discussion and from now on seek to harmonize the different initiatives presented to avoid future reforms and ensure that they strengthen forestry governance in the national scale while at the same time make possible to deliver Mexico’s international objectives on biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development.

Dr. Ávila pointed out that there are challenges that need to be addressed in order to achieve substantial progress and promote fundamental changes that generate benefits that will permeate the conservation and sustainable use of forest resources and the development of communities, namely:

  • to promote the integration of forest governance in the environmental, economic and social sectors;
  • to take advantage of the national and international conjuncture to make appropriate adjustments in the legal framework, and
  • to promote the inclusion of provisions to strengthen sustainable and community forest management, as they have proven to be key to the conservation and sustainable use of forests and to the fulfillment of objectives of climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development.


Deputy Alma Lucía Arzaluz Alonso started her presentation referring that on September 20th 2016 she had tabled an initiative to repeal the Sustainable Forest Development Law and create a new one to establish an updated legal framework that would guide the country towards the sustainable use of forest resources, and take advantage of its significant productive potential without putting at risk the goods and services offered by forest ecosystems to society. She stressed that her initiative seeks to bring order and coherence to the legal provisions in function for a new form of management, administration and integral control of the forest resources, through six main components: forest productivity; climate change; conservation and restoration; forest regulation; control, surveillance, security measures and sanctions, and cross-cutting issues.

Deputy Arzaluz explained that among the improvements pursued by her reform bill there were:

  • the incorporation of the forest-based commitments acquired under the Paris Agreement;
  • full respect for property;
  • the establishment of long-term forest policy instruments;
  • the promotion of sustainable forest development with a high biodiversity component; the strengthening of the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) to implement actions and establish incentives and economic instruments for adaptation and mitigation to climate change;
  • the creation of the National Forest Certification System;
  • the simplification of requirements for the establishment of commercial forest plantations; the promotion of environmental services certification;
  • the granting of powers to States to implement collection mechanisms for the improvement of environmental services of forest ecosystems; and
  • the promotion of gender by ensuring that women in forest territories participate and benefit from projects related to sustainable forest management.

Deputy Arzaluz closed her intervention stressing that the recommendations of the Study commissioned by GLOBE in the framework of the CBD project ‘Integrated multi-purpose forest governance for the national delivery of sustainable development, climate and biodiversity objectives’ on forest governance prepared by POLEA are being integrated into the bill, which includes forest governance in various sectors, addresses the national and international levels, seeks harmonization with various reforms in other areas and promotes Sustainable Forest Management.

Deputy María de los Ángeles Rodríguez Aguirre, President of the Committee on Climate Change, started her intervention by agreeing that it is necessary for the initiative to reform the forestry law to include and link the nationally determined contributions (NDC) that the country undertook under the Paris agreement. On this basis Deputy Rodríguez publicly invited Deputy Arzaluz to work together to include key issues in the initiative such as zero deforestation rate and forest governance. She also mentioned that in order to comply with the NDC it is necessary to update the General Law on Climate Change (LGCC) to include issues such as principles of transparency, gender perspective, respect for human rights, strengthening monitoring, reporting and verification (MVR) and financing.

Finally Deputy Rodríguez referred to the on-going initiative to adopt a General Law on Biodiversity, stressing that it should generate mechanisms for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems seeking to increase ecological connectivity between all protected natural areas and other conservation schemes through biological corridors and sustainable productive activities. In this sense she noted that the establishment of a functional harmonized forest governance framework would require harmonization efforts within not just the three aforementioned bills on sustainable forestry development, biodiversity and water referred to, but also some other 20-odd pieces of legislation.


Dr. Mauricio Umaña first gave a brief description of the country's forest governance framework under the focus of international commitments and the political-institutional state at the national level. He then presented an analysis of the national context regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the regulatory and institutional framework for progress in appropriate forest governance appropriate to the coherent fulfillment of the multiple national objectives on forests and biodiversity. The National Forestry Development Plan of 2000 was characterized as a clear success, although there is no publicly available data to determine its progress, except for the year 2010. The National Forest Development Plan - PNDF - offers a strategic vision of the National forest management for the next 25 years, transcending periods of government as a state policy.

Dr. Umaña pointed out that one of the most important challenges is the lack of information about the illegal use of forests. It is estimated that in Colombia 42% of the natural timber that is traded is of illegal origin. The National Forest Information System (SNIF), do not have sufficient coordination (online procedures and real-time compilation) on forest use permits and the mobilization of their products, making the monitoring and the information of the forest uses very difficult. On the other hand, lack of knowledge on populations and densities of high-value forest species makes monitoring and sustainability of forest use difficult. It is evident the lack of information and dissemination of forest information in the country. Specific normative advances in the forestry sector are scarce and the proposed zonifications for forest reserve areas do not obey the social realities of the territories. At the same time, the legal uncertainty of how to intervene and develop social policies and actions with forest dwellers and forest reserve areas in the country has historically marginalized these areas of public management and therefore deepened inequality in the country. Dr. Umaña stressed that institutional strengthening is needed in the development of forestry governance functions, which are described under a coherent but difficult to meet framework due to human, economic and technical constraints.

Dr. Umaña noted that Article 170 the National Development Plan 2014-2018 dictates the development of a long-term Green Growth Policy for the country, while Article 171 dictates the generation of a policy to avoid deforestation by the year 2030. This together with the development of the Plan of Action of the National Biodiversity Policy and the Integrated Management of Ecosystem Services - PNGIBSE can generate the framework for an adequate multi-purpose forest management in Colombia. Dr. Umaña then identified the implementation of Law 1753 of 2015 of the National Development Plan and the construction of several bills under way on the adoption and implementation of Payment Schemes for Environmental Services as the most immediate windows of opportunity to advance the multi-purpose approach to forest governance in Colombia.

On this basis, the preliminary conclusions of the Colombian Study recommend that bills submitted to the Congress of the Republic develop normatively the integration of the concepts of biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development and, in parallel:

  • to take into account forests in the new scheme of Integral Rural Development; include populations living in forests within the peacebuilding process;
  • to update forest policy and regulations so that they are easy to apply locally; to break the paradigm that ‘the forest cannot be taken advantage of’;
  • to change the approach to forest management, to address the challenge of the Regional Autonomous Corporations;
  • to work jointly in the forest territories to consolidate peace, and to make international cooperation more articulated and effective.

5th Committee President Hon. Rep. Alfredo Molina Triana carried out a comprehensive presentation on progress in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity within the framework of forest governance in Colombia. Rep. Molina pointed out that since 1991 the Political Constitution of Colombia has given a fundamental importance to the environment, establishing as a principle the obligation of the State to protect the natural wealth of the nation. The National Forestry Development Plan, approved in 2000, established a state policy on forests with a strategic vision for the year 2025, including the axes of sustainable management of natural and planted forests, sectoral competitiveness, job creation, life quality, promotion of participation and strengthening of public and private institutions.

Hon. Rep. Molina pointed out that two laws in particular define the context of future efforts to integrate forest governance and biodiversity conservation: Law 1450 of 2011 and Law 1753 of 2015. Law 1450 of the 2011 National Development Plan (PND by its Spanish acronym) ordered to add new hectares to the National System of Natural Protected Areas (SINAP by its Spanish acronym) and to advance the restoration or reforestation of new hectares for the purposes of protection and conservation of biodiversity; to make progress in the territorial planning and zoning of Forest Reserves under Law 2/59; to increase the area of hectares of deforestation avoided under the REDD mechanism, as well as to progress in the management of new hectares of natural forest. Rep. Molina reported that to date, the implementation of the Law has driven national progress to effectively add 3 million new hectares to the SINAP, to restore 70,000 hectares and reforest 20,000 more, to order 27 million hectares of forest reserves, to avoid the deforestation of 200,000 hectares and order 15 million hectares of natural forest.


Hon. Rep. Molina noted that at the same time Colombia faces the challenge of implementing recent Law 1753 adopted in 2015 under the National Development Plan, which mandates the development of a long-term Green Growth Policy for the country (Article 170), the generation of a policy to avoid Deforestation by 2030 (Article 171), and the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and of the National Biodiversity Plan. With regard to the latter, it is stated that ‘Deforestation reduction strategies will be based on the enhancement of sustainable productive activities and the improvement of local livelihoods, seeking convergence between social, economic and environmental welfare’. To this end actions will be taken to:

  • promote the legality of the supply and demand of timber products, through the implementation of the Intersectoral Pact for Legal Wood;
  • execute the Social Stewardship Strategy in the fight against Forest Fires;
  • implement the National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Illegal Trafficking of Wild Species and of the National Strategy for Forest Prevention, Monitoring, Control and Surveillance;
  • strengthen forest governance and capacity for management of forest reserve areas in the country;
  • implement the National Strategy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD +);
  • consolidate the forest and carbon monitoring system;
  • implement the national forest inventory;
  • implement sustainable production programs that, in addition to reducing deforestation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation.

Finally, Hon. Rep. Molina welcomed the initiative of the CBDS and GLOBE International to provide technical support to national legislators to guide their efforts advancing the integration of biodiversity objectives and mechanisms and emphasized that, once completed, the Study will constitute a fundamental tool for the formulation of laws that will firstly allow updating the Colombian framework and secondly to strengthen public policies from the Congress, in compliance with the provisions on environmental protection of the Colombian Constitution. The Repte. Posted his message of thanks on video via Twitter, available at: https://twitter.com/Unidosconmolina/status/806616755225448451

Senator Luis Fernando Duque García announced that, once completed, the Study would be launched in the Colombian Congress next February before a hearing of lawmakers, Colombian government officials, experts and representatives of civil society and forestry.