Optimizing the role of community forestry to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through the ASEAN Cooperation on Food, Agriculture and Forestry


Despite significant development progress of tropical countries, including those in Southeast Asia, they are also facing numerous social (e.g. rural poverty, inequality) and environmental challenges (e.g. loss of natural forests and biodiversity), compounded by the effects of climate change. Amongst numerous initiatives to combat these social and environmental challenges in the region, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs [2000-2015])
were arguably the most prominent and successful. Nevertheless, many of these challenges still remain – this is the main motivation of the United Nations in launching the SDGs as a follow up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)¹.

The SDGs’ aims are reflected in their official title of “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. In other words ensuring that national and global development is done in a sustainable manner. While forestry received little coverage in the MDGs², it is, however, one of the key sectors in ensuring the SDGs are achieved, including in SDG 15³.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as a regional coordination body, is taking steps to achieve the SDGs, including supporting its Member States in their initiatives. One example is the launch of the Vision and Strategic Plan of Action, ASEAN Cooperation on Food, Agriculture and Forestry (FAF) sectors (2016-2025). It aims to provide clear guidance for the Member States to identify priority areas for cooperation in the FAF sectors. The strategy is designed to serve the Member States in responding to regional and global socio-economic and demographic changes through seven strategic thrusts, including promoting sustainable forest management, which directly aligns with SDG 15.

ASEAN aims to promote the sustainable management of forest resources to increase livelihoods of forest communities, including indigenous peoples and family smallholders, while at the same time protecting and conserving the region’s forests5. This will be achieved through strengthening the role of these communities in the sustainable management of forest resources while ensuring their livelihoods needs and cultural traditions are respected. The SDGs also place a great deal of importance, explicitly and implicitly, on community forestry (See Box1) in achieving the Goals (Box 2). With this in mind it is clear that CF is a strategic approach in achieving both the ASEAN Vision for the FAF sectors as well as the SDGs.