Bhutan Times: Bhutan didn’t bag the much coveted Future Policy Award (FPA) 2011 on environment conservation, but its forest policy did receive an ‘Honorable Mention’ during the international award ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Thursday.Honorable Mention was bestowed to Bhutan for the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, especially Article 5 (Environment) (2008) and its forest related policies.
The fifth Article is dedicated to the environment and clearly spells out that every Bhutanese citizen is a trustee of the natural resources and environment for the benefit of present and future generations.
Bhutan’s development, guided by the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, also puts environmental conservation at the center of our developmental approach.
This is stipulated clearly in the role of the Royal Government which shall protect, conserve and improve the pristine environment and safeguard the biodiversity of the country; prevent pollution and ecological degradation; Secure ecologically balanced and sustainable development while promoting justifiable economic and social development; and maintain a minimum of 60% of Bhutan’s total land under forest cover for all time.
Bhutan has the highest proportion of forest cover and protected areas of any Asian country.
Honorable Mentions were also bestowed on the forest policies of Nepal and Switzerland.
Nepal received the Honorable Mention for its community forestry program that was initiated in 1993, while Switzerland received for its Federal Act on Forests (1991) and Swiss National Forest Program 2004-2015.
Bhutan has been shortlisted amongst the six countries including Gambia, Nepal, Rwanda, Switzerland and the United States of America (USA) for its forest policy for the FPA by the World Future Council (WFC).
The global honor is meant to recognize the most inspiring, innovative and influential forest policies worldwide.
According to the Assistant Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Eduardo Rojas Briales, the FPA presents an excellent opportunity to emphasize the important role of national policies in restoring and preserving the vital functions of forests for people and to shed some light on the world’s best practices in governing forest resources.
Rwanda was declared the winner of FPA 2011 for its National Forest Policy initiated in 2004.
According to the report from the WFC, Rwanda is one of only three countries in Central and Western Africa to achieve a major reversal in the trend of declining forest cover despite continuing population and land pressures.
Its National Forest Policy, with the ambition of making forestry one of the bedrocks of the economy and of the national ecological balance, was implemented in 2004 and later updated in 2010.
“The government is currently implementing an Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy which considers the reversal of deforestation to be a crucial factor in alleviating poverty and has set the goal of increasing forest cover to 30% of the country by 2020,” the report stated.
The winner of the Silver Award 2011 was the USA for its Lacey Act with its amendment of 2008
The USA has become the first country, as per the report, in the world to place an outright, criminally enforceable ban on the import of illegally harvested timber, addressing this issue both nationally and internationally from the demand side.
The Lacey Act amendments of 2008 prohibits all trade in wood and plant products which are knowingly illegally sourced from any U.S. state or any foreign country. Banned goods include processed products such as lumber, furniture or paper and even products containing only a small wood component (such as musical instruments).
“Importers are legally obliged to declare the country of harvest, the scientific names of plants and trees contained in their products as well as the quantity and value of the import,” the report stated.
Another country to bag the silver award is Gambia for its Community Forest Policy initiated in 1995.
Prior to the forest policy reform of 1995, Gambian law emphasized government ownership and management of the nation’s forests. Local communities had limited rights to access and utilize forest resources resulting in disengagement from forest protection, widespread forest fires, illegal logging and forest clearances for agriculture and settlement, according to the report.
“The Forest Department became one of the first administrations in Africa to introduce a community forest management (CFM) approach. The new 1995 policy aimed to achieve forest management that is both sustainable and socially equitable by recognizing the rights of local communities to access forest lands and benefit from managing their own resources”
“In this way, the rural population played a key role in local development and poverty reduction while decreasing forest degradation through public involvement in fire prevention and forest protection.”
Further specific policy goals, as per the report, include maintaining forest land resources covering at least 30% of total land area and ensuring that 75% of this forest is managed and protected by communities.
20 forest policies from 16 countries were nominated for the award.
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