May 11, 2024

The Next Chapter: Harneshing Momentum for the Peace Forest in the South Caucasus – Advancing Towards a Second Collaborative Encounter

The Next Chapter: Harneshing Momentum for the Peace Forest in the South Caucasus – Advancing Towards a Second Collaborative Encounter

In the heart of Tbilisi, Georgia, the Peace Forest Initiative (PFI) in the South Caucasus’s second inaugural workshop unfolded from April 30th to May 2nd, gathering together 50 stakeholders from diverse environmental backgrounds in cross-border settings.

Bridging the goals of peace-building and land restoration under the Peace Forest Initiative the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Global Mechanism(GM), the Regional Environmental Centre for the Caucasus (REC Caucasus), the World Bank, and the Korean Forest Service(KFS), joined forces to assemble representatives from the three South Caucasus countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Key stakeholders from each South Caucasus coutry led the charge, including UNCCD focal Points and government officials responsible for key environmental domains, such as land management, forestry, water management, climate change and biodiversity conservation.

The first round of PFI consultations in the South Caucasus was held in Shekvetili, Georgia, in February 2024. Co-organized by the UNCCD and REC Caucasus, its goal was to identify common areas of interest, concepts, and project ideas crucial for boost meticulously prepared ing regional cooperation in the SC Region. As Key outcomes, all three countries  agreed on regional thematic priority areas such as sustainable land management and a joint vision document for land restoration, digital soil mapping, ecosystem restoration, and joint monitoring of migratory species.

The Second workshop aimed to delve deeper into the identified thematic areas and initiate concrete project and programme proposal development. Participants formulated detailed thematic and action elements, with a focus on regional soil mapping, ii regional ecosystem restoration programme, and iii. joint monitoring of migratory species. The workshop facilitated the identification of potential financing opportunities and the formulation of rationale and value proposals aligned with regional priorities, SDGs, and other policy objectives. These measures laid the groundwork for regional cooperation, engaging partners and donors in further project development and resource mobilization.

Participants at the workshop were welcomed by Mr Utchang Kang – Programme Management Officer at the Global Mechanism of UNCCD; Tengiz Nasaridze – Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia; Ms. Rolande Pryce, Country Director of the South Caucasus Country Unit at the WB. Sophiko Akhobadze, Nune Harutyunyan and Yashar Karimov – Directors of REC Caucasus and representative of the Ministry of Environment in Armenia and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources in Azerbaijan.

– Mr Utchang Kang, Programme Management Officer of UNCCD highlighted the importance of cooperation and collaboration in building resilient communities in the South Caucasus, noting the role of the Peace Forest Initiative as a catalyst in promting ecosystem restoration and sustainable peace, linking SDG 15 and 16.

  • I extend a warm welcome to our partners from international organizations, as well as our colleagues from Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is essential to seize every opportunity to promote and develop regional coordination and cooperation to address common environmental challenges in the region.” – Tengiz Nasaridze, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia.
  • Against the complex set of challenges for sustainable forest landscape management, investment and resource mobilization are key in the South Caucasus. We need a real paradigm shift to mobilize financing at scale to meet future landscape related investment needs.“- Ms. Rolande Pryce, Country Director of the South Caucasus Country Unit at the World Bank.
  • Recognizing the critical need for collective action in addressing the pressing issue of triple planetary crises, we serve as a platform for regional collaboration. By bringing together international partners and local stakeholders in PFI of South Caucasus, we foster collaboration on environmental, economic, and social challenges in pursuit of sustainable development in the region. In the upcoming days, our focus will be on nurturing dialogue and formulating regional strategies to promote sustainable land management, combat land degradation and desertification, and restore ecosystems, with a particular emphasis on regional cooperation and impact” – Sophiko Akhobadze, Director, REC Caucasus.

The Peace Forest Intiative is a flagship programme of the UNCCD to demonstrate the linkages between land, peace and security. Launched in 2019, PFI aims to address restoration of ecosystems and land based resources including land, soil, water and forests in fragile and conflict affected locations. In the context of environment diplomacy, it is designed to promote peace and prosperity througth cooperaion on sustainable land management and restoration while contributing to relevant SDGs and global restoration goals such as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

The agreed project and programme concepts will be further refined, discussed, and validated with all three country representatives in September. The final concepts will be presented at UNCCD COP16 in December 2024, engaging additional partners in turning the papers into the reality on the ground.