With the demand for sustainable forest management growing in the Balkans, the PEFC 2014 Collaboration Fund is supporting a project in Macedonia to begin the development of national forest certification system for the country.
Forests are an important natural resource in the Balkans, providing income and employment opportunities for rural populations, not only through wood products, but also through non-wood products, tourism and recreation.
In recent years, there has been a growing call for the sustainable management of these forests. The general public is becoming increasingly interested in their forests and the role they play within the natural environment, and as a result, demanding their protection and responsible management.
The implementation of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) has also played a significant role in the move towards sustainable forest management and forest certification. The EUTR, which came into force in March 2013, prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber on the European market. Through PEFC certification, forest owners and companies can demonstrate alignment with the new regulations, enabling their certified products to be imported into, and sold on, the EU market.
Stakeholders within the forestry sectors of these countries are now increasingly looking to develop sustainable forest management and the use of forest certification to provide assurance that their forests are managed sustainably.
PEFC Certification in Macedonia
Following on from an initial outreach project carried out in the Southwest Balkans, the 2014 PEFC Collaboration Fund is now supporting a follow-on project to guide Macedonia through the system development process, up to their application to PEFC for the endorsement of their national system.
A key aspect of this project will be to build consensus on the criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management among the various stakeholders in the country. Using Stakeholder Mapping to ensure the participation of all relevant stakeholders, a working group will be created to develop the national standard. Once finalized, this standard will go through a public consultation and a pilot test to ensure it meets expectations.
Meetings will also be held to establish a National Governing Body which will eventually be responsible for governing and administrating the new national system.
The final objective of the project is the submission of the Macedonian national system to PEFC for endorsement.
PEFC Outreach in Southwest Balkans
The project in Macedonia grew out of an earlier project from 2013 that saw PEFC partnering with Connecting Natural Values and People Foundation (CNVP). This project aimed at developing awareness and capacity on sustainable forest management and PEFC certification within the forestry community of Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, with the goal to lay the groundwork for the development of national forest certification systems.
Working towards this objective, CNVP and PEFC reached out to a range of stakeholders through a series of meetings and workshops held within all three countries. A tool was developed to test small-scale private forest management against the PEFC Sustainable Forest Management criteria and indicators.
Key brochures, including "Promoting Sustainable Forest Management", were also translated into the Macedonian and Albanian languages. The project was concluded with a workshop seminar that brought together stakeholders, along with members of the press, from around the countries.