Gearing up for the 9th Ministerial Conference: FOREST EUROPE’s Expert Level Meeting set the stage

The last Expert Level Meeting (ELM) under German chairmanship took place in Freising, close to Munich, from 4-5 June 2024 and brought together 47 representatives from 26 signatory countries, the European Commission, and nine observer organizations. This gathering was pivotal in discussing and shaping the future of sustainable forest management (SFM) and forest risk reduction in Europe by negotiating and finalizing the Bonn Ministerial Documents and its annexes.

Key outcomes of the ELM

Finalization of Bonn Ministerial Documents

The key outcome of the ELM was the final agreement on the Bonn Ministerial Declaration and its annex (working modalities). This declaration underscores the commitment to SFM and outlines strategies to maintain its relevance in the face of evolving challenges. Additionally, the ELM concluded with the Bonn Ministerial Decision and its annex, “Terms of Reference to establish a Forest Risk Facility (FoRISK),” designed to address pressing forest risks such as climate change, forest fires, and biodiversity loss. Both documents were adopted by the ELM and will be forwarded to the ministers responsible for forestry in participating countries for consideration and signature at the 9th Ministerial Conference (1 and 2 October 2024, Petersberg, close to Bonn/Germany).

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Sweden’s Leadership Commitment

During the ELM, Sweden announced its willingness to take over the chairmanship from 2025 onwards for a period of two years. This commitment underscores Sweden’s dedication to advancing sustainable forest management practices across Europe. Their leadership will focus on implementing new working modalities and ensuring the continuity and stability of FOREST EUROPE’s initiatives.

Adapting SFM for future challenges

Discussions emphasized the importance of ensuring that the SFM concept remains adaptable and forward-thinking. Participants highlighted the need for innovative tools and policies to support sustainable forest management practices capable of withstanding future environmental, social, and economic pressures. This proactive approach is essential for maintaining forests’ health and resilience and ensuring their continued provision of crucial ecosystem services.

Enhancing collaborative efforts

Collaboration was a central theme of the ELM. Representatives from signatory countries and observer organizations shared insights and strategies to enhance cooperation and collective action. The meeting underscored the vital role of joint efforts in addressing complex forest management issues and achieving shared objectives, reinforcing the importance of working together to tackle challenges.

Preparing for the grand finale in Germany

As we approach the 9th Ministerial Conference, preparations are in full swing. This landmark event will convene ministers, experts, and high-level representatives to discuss and decide on pivotal actions for the future of Europe’s forests. Therefore, preparations were a focal point during the ELM, ensuring that the SFM concept remains dynamic to contemporary and future challenges. The commitments and agreements made in Freising provide a strong foundation for the 9th Ministerial Conference and beyond. The proactive measures and collaborative efforts discussed at the ELM are crucial for achieving the vision of sustainable forest management. The establishment of the Forest Risk Facility, in particular, represents a significant step towards enhancing our capacity to manage and mitigate forest risks.

Excursion to climate-resilient forests

An exciting highlight of the ELM on the second day of the two-day meeting was an excursion to the Climate Forest Forestry District in Freising. Hosted by the Bavarian State Institute for Forestry, this visit offered delegates valuable insights into innovative forestry practices and the management of climate-resilient forests.