Forests filter out dust and other particles from air and have a positive impact on precipitation and the quality and availability of water. They prevent soil erosion and landslides, lower surface and air temperatures, and safeguard biodiversity. Today is International Day of Forests, which the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed in 2012 to raise awareness of how important forests are for the survival of mankind.
According to the UN data, forests cover one-third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter. Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.
Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12%-20% percent of the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change.
Deforestation accounts for 12%-20% percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change
In the Western Balkan region, forests cover significant portions of territories – from 29% in Serbia to an impressive 60% in Montenegro. According to the Regional Cooperation Council’s (RCC) Study on Climate Change in the Western Balkans, forests cover 36% of the territory in Albania, 53% in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 47% in Kosovo*, and 39% in North Macedonia.
Unfortunately, some of the Western Balkan countries are notorious on a European scale for illegal deforestation.
Project launched to drive regional action for combating forest crime and corruption
To help achieve good governance in the forestry sector and combat forest crime and corruption, non-governmental organizations CNVP (the Netherlands), the Forestry and Environmental Action (FEA) from BiH, and Green Home (Montenegro) have launched a three-year project to drive regional action for combating forest crime and corruption, according to a press release the three NGOs issued to coincide with International Day of Forests.
The project, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is aimed at increasing transparency and networking relevant stakeholders and institutions in the four countries of implementation (North Macedonia, BiH, Serbia, and Montenegro), including through the creation of an innovative information system, the improvement of monitoring mechanisms, and the adoption of national action plans.