The study Forest Governance and Biodiversity, Climate and Sustainable Development Goals in Mexico was produced by local CSO Política y Legislación Ambiental - POLEA A.C.
Its findings were presented at a hearing hosted by the Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies ahead of CBD COP13, and then at a half-day open parliamentary Forum attended by over 100 representatives from the academia, civil society and government agencies on 22 March 2017.
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The 13-page Executive Summary & Recommendations of the Study are available in English and Spanish.
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Full Study (PDF in Spanish only)
Mexico has made and is making significant efforts to strengthen the legal and institutional framework that underpins its forest governance and to integrate it with the objectives of biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development, which would contribute to compliance with applicable international commitments. However, there are challenges that need to be addressed in order to achieve substantial progress and promote fundamental changes capable of generating benefits that would permeate the conservation and sustainable use of forest resources and the development of communities.
The first is to integrate key aspects of forest governance such as law enforcement, institutional strengthening, stakeholder participation, transparency in decision-making and the strengthening of public policies in the environmental, economic and social sectors, seeking a balance between legal, institutional and political frameworks, as well as their alignment and coordination. This would strengthen the governance of forest ecosystems and improve the implementation of public policies and decision-making processes.
The second is to strengthen the integration of conservation and sustainable development objectives into different productive and social sectors whose policies generate impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and especially on forest ecosystems. Although some efforts have been made so far, such as the construction of biodiversity integration strategies in four productive sectors (forestry, agriculture, fisheries and tourism), in the medium and long term it will be necessary to rely on sufficient political will and inter-institutional coordination to achieve its implementation, including the gradual integration of more relevant sectors such as transport, communications, energy and mining among others.
With regard to this point, it is vital to promote the harmonization of the legal framework, especially the laws on productive or extractive sectors which have provisions that are contrary to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Also, it is important that training is provided to the agencies involved, to raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity and to promote a true appropriation of the criteria for conservation and sustainable use.
A third challenge which could become a good opportunity would be to take advantage of the national and international context. The hosting of COP13 in Mexico represented an opportunity to give relevance to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the political agenda, as evidenced by the presentation of forest reform and biodiversity initiatives. In addition, the country invested financial and human resources in the elaboration of the different biodiversity integration strategies and other initiatives that were presented as the ENBioMex in the framework of the event. That is why it is very important that sufficient resources be allocated to implement the commitments signed in the framework of COP13 and to continue strengthening the legal and institutional framework on forest governance in the country.
Another key point as regards the international context is that Mexico ought to share with other countries its good practices on the model of community forest management that has been possible thanks to the titling of land rights in the name of ejidos and communities, especially in Latin America. As mentioned earlier, community forest management is one of the greatest strengths of forest governance in the country and sharing the Mexican experiences with decision makers in other countries can help replicate good practices and invest in the development of sustainable management schemes in community forest territories. Building good forest governance can attract international funding, which can strengthen compliance with national objectives on forests, biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development.
In relation to this point, it must be taken into account that the integration of these goals is an opportunity to make the allocation of budgetary resources more efficient since many programs can be complementary.
With regard to the national context, the initiatives tabled in the Chambers of Deputies and Senators constitute a starting point to strengthen the national legal framework that underpins forest governance and integrate it with biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development. However, there is still a long way to go from the analysis, discussion and Committee adopting process to the plenary voting stage and, if approved, to their implementation.
In the short term, during the process of analysis, discussion and Committee voting, it will be necessary to promote the broad participation of diverse stakeholders to ensure that the proposed changes respond to the needs of those who will implement the public policies that may derive from the laws.
Also, in view of the close relationship between the bills currently under discussion in Congress, and in order to avoid overlaps and divergences resulting in the need for subsequent reforms, it will be essential to generate the conditions needed for a strong linkage and coordination between the Chambers of Deputies and Senators, the organs of the executive branch involved and the interested parties, with the aim of seeking harmonization during the Committee reading stage, which must start with the setting of definitions and permeate administrative and implementation mechanisms.
An essential issue is to strengthen the role of the legislature in building good forest governance. Legislators play a key role in governance as they are the democratically elected representatives of citizens and are responsible for developing the legal instruments from which forest policies are generated. It is fundamental to promote greater involvement and specialization of legislators in these issues.
Another important challenge to strengthen forest governance in the short, medium and long term is to promote sustainable forest management (SFM), seeking the active participation of all relevant stakeholders of the forestry sector in the implementation of the various regulations, programs, strategies and public policies, from the federal level down to the local, and paying special attention to the holders of forest resources who are mainly indigenous peoples and local communities. In this sense, one of the main tasks will be to conserve and increase the social, economic and environmental values of forests through the strengthening of community forest management and of government support for the creation of technical, administrative and organizational capacities.
Another important issue is to replicate the good practices in community forest management that have been documented in the country, since sustainable forestry is a great opportunity to boost the development of forest dwellers who generally have high levels of marginalization and poverty.
Another key issue is to boost the productivity of the sector, for which it is important to diversify the supply of forest resources including non-timber forest products, to make the transformation mechanisms more efficient, and to create public-private partnerships that strengthen the trade balance and to bring domestic products closer to competitive markets.
In addition, it is vital that Mexico builds a solid financing and investment structure for the forest sector which guarantees a steady flow of resources to support policies and programs to achieve forest governance in the medium and long term. Otherwise the commitments will remain on paper and will never be implemented. In this sense, achieving the construction of public policies that respond to a long-term vision will be another challenge, because in Mexico the lack of policy continuity due to the sexennial changes is frequent, and this affects especially the goals included in the plans and programs.
It is also necessary to design guidelines for differentiated attention to indigenous peoples and local communities that bring them closer to institutional support schemes so that they can benefit from the existing support mechanisms for sustainable forest management (SFM), as well as to advance dissemination efforts so that information can reach them in a timely manner. It is essential to promote full legal recognition of traditional knowledge so that it can be preserved and valued. It is also important to seek greater integration of gender equality in the national legal and programmatic framework. At present a very low percentage of women have rights or access to land, so it is important to work on this point and to promote a gradual empowerment allowing equal access.
In sum, the country's forestry sector is facing an interesting paradox, as each challenge can become a window of opportunity to strengthen forest governance and fulfill the objectives of climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development. This will depend, to a large extent, on the creation of the necessary conditions to continue strengthening the political will to promote the fundamental changes that the sector requires, involving all relevant actors and sectors to implement them, and achieve a balance between legal and political frameworks, as well as their respective alignment and coordination.