In 1992, the UNCED signaled an unprecedented global consensus on the urgent need to find real, practical and sustainable solutions to the serious environmental challenges facing the planet. Since that time, a number of global initiatives and conventions have been developed to stimulate collaboration for the alleviation of poverty and the sustainable use and conservation of the world’s natural resources.
Model Forests assist in the advancement of these international initiatives and conventions by providing a practical and operational platform from which to translate sustainable development objectives into action. They also feed the results of that action back to policy-makers for application beyond the Model Forest's boundaries. Model Forests and their work contribute to the achievement of:
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): The core of this convention is the promotion of an “ecosystem approach” to sustainability. By practicing an integrated approach to natural resource management on large landscapes, Model Forests contribute to biodiversity conservation, enhanced wildlife habitat and reduced forest fragmentation.
Example: the Foothills Grizzly Bear Program was created by the Model Forest to provide knowledge and planning tools to land and resource managers to ensure the long-term conservation of grizzly bears in Alberta, Canada. Key to its efforts are sound scientific field research, practical results, and a large-scale or "landscape level" approach toward grizzly bear conservation. Significant research findings for wildlife management and the development of important land management tools have been developed, including Grizzly bear corridors and habitat maps.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDG): Model Forests in developing countries actively work toward, and promote, poverty alleviation (goal #1), gender equity (goal #3), environmental sustainability (goal #7) and developing a global partnership for development (goal #8) though participation in the IMFN.
Example: a training program in pili tree (Canarium ovatum) crop management and marketing in the Ulot Watershed Model Forest, Philippines, generates a sustainable economic alternative to unsustainable timber extraction on Samar Island. The program has encouraged communities to shift away from harmful forest practices toward conservation. Its success gained the attention of the UNDP Small Grants Program which provided additional funding for expansion.
National Forest Programs (NFP): Most of the principles describing NFPs can be found in Model Forests—partnership and participatory mechanisms, an ecosystem context, a focus on local communities and indigenous stakeholders, the development of criteria and indicators (C&I), capacity-building, international linkages and others. The IMFN Secretariat and the NFP Facility actively seek collaborative opportunities at the regional level.
Example: Model Forests in Central America are participating in an NFP regional study on forests and water, with a particular interest in payments for environmental services. Further, a representative from the NFP Facility sits on the Ibero-American Model Forest Network’s board of directors.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): Over a decade ago, most countries joined an international treaty—the UNFCCC—to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with temperature increases. Because of their landscape scale and focus on knowledge exchange, Model Forests have begun examining the issue of vulnerability and adaptability to climate change in forest-dependent communities.
Example: researchers in northern boreal countries are starting to develop and apply vulnerability approaches in specific country contexts, however they are largely doing so in isolation. The risk is that there will be a fragmented picture of the vulnerability of human systems to climate change. The Circumboreal Model Forest Initiative will provide applied climate change research with a structure and land base that will enable it to be coordinated and integrated. The Network itself, through its regional and international structures, provides a mechanism for efficient collaboration and information sharing amongst researchers, practitioners and policy makers.
The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD): The UNCCD came out of a global concern over the major economic, environmental and social impacts caused by land degradation. The Model Forest approach supports the convention’s call for an integrated approach and international cooperation in the areas of the collection, analysis and exchange of information, research, technology transfer, capacity and awareness building to combat desertification. To date, 24 countries with Model Forests have ratified the UNCCD.
Example: prolonged overharvesting of the red quebracho tree (Schinopsis lorentzii) for tannin, cattle grazing, and deforestation for vine-growing and fuelwood have left the soil of Ingeniero Juarez, Argentina, compacted and degraded. One of the ways Formoseño Model Forest is experimenting in meeting community needs has been through the construction of a 250-hectare native woodland protected area. The project merges the current system of production with the concept of sustainability by recovering soil capacity through the growth of native grasses and reforestation.