Global Activities on Sustainable Forest Mgmt.

Forests cover almost one-third of the world’s total land area. They have a unique potential to produce multiple global environmental benefits like biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration, and protection against desertification. Sustainably managed forests can enhance the provision of wood and nonwood forest products for about 1.6 billion people depending on forests for their livelihoods. Forest ecosystems are also expected to play a key role in helping people in developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change.

There is no universally agreed-on definition for sustainable forest management (SFM). The most widely intergovernmentally agreed-on language on SFM is represented in the non‒legally binding instrument (NLBI) on all types of forests of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF). The GEF fully supports this definition, which states: “Sustainable forest management as a dynamic and evolving concept aims to maintain and enhance the economic, social and environmental value of all types of forests, for the benefit of present and future generations.”

On a global scale, forests store more carbon than the earth’s atmosphere. Since 2007, the role of forests as important carbon reservoirs has gained remarkable attention in the global climate change discussion. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce deforestation and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.


Since its inception in 1991, the GEF has financed over 300 projects and programs focusing on forest conservation and management in developing countries (Figure 3). The total GEF allocation to forest initiatives during this period amounts to more than $1.6 billion, leveraging $5 billion from other sources. Drawing on guidance from the three international conventions dealing with forests (CBD, UNFCCC and UNCCD), the GEF has funded projects that can be broadly classified into three categories:

  1. Forest conservation (primarily protected areas and buffer zones)
  2. Sustainable use of forests (forest production landscapes)
  3. Sustainable forest management (addressing forests and trees in the wider landscape)

Since 2007, the GEF has increasingly provided resources for pilot projects focusing on REDD+, with a focus on fostering cross-sectoral cooperation. Pooling investments from different GEF focal areas has proven a valuable tool to harmonize interventions and maximize co-benefits from REDD+. For its fifth replenishment cycle (2010-2014), the GEF has further strengthened its commitment to REDD+ financing.