Stakeholder meeting was organized to discuss the objectives and priorities

During the forest week 2015, around 30 people gathered in Batumi at the high level round table to discuss the objectives and priorities of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study for the forestry sector in Ajara Autonomous Republic, Georgia. The meeting was conducted on 26 and 27 November.

The meeting was opened by Giorgi Sanadiradze, the Director of WWF-Caucasus Programme Office, and Besarion Abashidze, Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia. Mr. Sanadiradze welcomed the participants, emphasized the importance of TEEB and expressed hope for the successful meeting. In his opening speech, Mr. Abashidze welcomed the participants and expressed gratitude for organizing the meeting: “The Georgian Government assigns high importance to the TEEB process. In 2013, as a joint effort of the Government of Georgia, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WWF-Caucasus, the TEEB Scoping Study for the five key sectors of Georgian economy (including forestry) was produced. We welcome the idea of conducting a full-scale TEEB study for the forestry sector, because we understand how important natural ecosystems are for our country and people. “

TEEB is an international initiative promoting sustainable economies in which the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services are fully re?ected in decision-making. TEEB study marks the relationship between the growing loss of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation and the benefits of conservation and sustainable use.

Forest ecosystem functions support ecological and economic services to humans. These constitute the direct and indirect contributions of forest ecosystems to human wellbeing. “TEEB aims to promote a better understanding of the true economic value of forest ecosystem services.” Said Ilia Osepashvili, FLEG II program country coordinator for WWF,” It also seeks to offer economic tools and develop policies that properly take this value into account.”

In the framework of the FLEG II Program, full-scale TEEB study for forests and the forestry sector of Ajara Autonomous Republic, will be conducted. The study will be carried out by the international consultant, Dr. Luke Brander, and will be completed in April 2016.

Stakeholders from Ajara and other parts of Georgia attended the meeting, including central and local government representatives, forestry experts, environment economists, policy makers, academicians, tourism industry representatives and donor organizations.

The participants of the round table identified regulating services (soil protection, water regulation, etc.) as the most important forest ecosystem services to be valued in Ajara. Local communities, government and businesses were identified as the key beneficiaries of these services.  A cross institutional Steering Committee will be established soon to facilitate coordination and cooperation between the consultant and decision-makers. The consultant will also consider different scenarios for future forest management.

The outcomes of TEEB study should help demonstrate the real values of forest ecosystems and biodiversity, largely underestimated at present. This should encourage decision-makers in Ajara to reflect these values in their policies and actions and, in this way, promote sustainable forest management.

Workshop was organized within ADA funded “ENPI East Countries FLEG II Program – Complementary Measures for Georgia and Armenia” which aims to support Georgia and Armenia in strengthening forest governance through improving implementation of relevant international processes, and enhancing their forest policy, legislation and institutional arrangements, and developing, testing and evaluating sustainable forest management models at the local level, on a pilot basis for future replication. Program complements the on-going ENPI East Countries FLEG II Program, funded by the European Commission in seven countries, including Armenia and Georgia.

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