Since 2009, Switzerland has been a Partner of ASEAN through SDC’s support for the ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry (AWG-SF). An intergovernmental network endorsed by ASEAN Senior Officials in Forestry (ASOF), AWG-SF promotes SF policy and practices among Member States. SDC supports AWG-SF to address interlinked issues of food security, poverty and climate change through the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change (ASFCC).

Designed in consultation with Member States, the ASFCC partnership programme has two objectives: (1) SF approaches developed and integrated into the climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies of ASEAN and the Member States; and (2) Socio-economic benefits derived from the inclusion of communities, women and vulnerable groups in SF and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. ASFCC consists of three basic components: (1) SF policy framework development; (2) knowledge sharing, capacity building and networking; and (3) learning interventions, research and assessment. Working closely with the ASEAN Secretariat and in collaboration with GIZ, ASFCC seeks to contribute to ASEAN’s Multisectoral Framework on Climate Change: Agriculture and Forestry towards Food Security and to the regional Plan of Action on Forestry Cooperation.

Partner organizations with diverse strengths and expertise support the implementation of AWG-SF activities under ASFCC. In phase III of ASFCC (2017-2020), implementation Partners currently include: (1) the Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC), a regional training center mandated to develop Member States’ capacity to develop SF/ community forestry and strengthen its regional linkages to climate change adaptation and mitigation; (2) the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP), a civil society support organization tasked with promoting the engagement of civil society, especially Indigenous Peoples, community forestry and other vulnerable groups in ASEAN; and (3) Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a global research organization with the role of conducting research to inform policy and practice on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the context of SF. (4)World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), a centre of scientific excellence that harnesses the benefits of trees for people and the environment. and (5) Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), a non-profit organization established by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) in 1966.

Each Partner supports AWG-SF activities at the regional level and is assigned primary support roles in specific countries. The AWG-SF Secretariat which is hosted by Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry coordinates AWG-SF activities, leads ASFCC communication and knowledge dissemination and maintains contact with Focal Points in Member States. Overall technical guidance is provided by an Advisor who works closely with the ASEAN and AWG-SF Secretariats and Partners, liaises with ASEAN Member States (AMS) through ASOF and represents ASFCC in strategic international forums.

In the last three years (2014-2017) during the implement of ASFCC Phase II, various activities to support development of social forestry in the region have taken place. RECOFTC, as one of the ASFCC partner, has delivered various activities towards the achievement of the ASFCC outcomes: coordinated social forestry framework, knowledge sharing and learning interventions, through national action research, training and capacity development, learning groups, CF National Working Group (CFNWG) support, learning exchange program and study tours, knowledge sharing and dissemination, and active participation in various outreach events.

RECOFTC's Role in the ASFCC Phase III

ASFCC Phase III was planned through several consultation meetings with ASEAN member states, the ASEAN Secretariat, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and with all ASFCC partners.

Regional level activities are designed to respond to ASEAN led initiatives, but also from other regional actors that directly or indirectly work in the arena of social forestry. In Phase III, it is proposed that a program be implemented that directly responds to the opportunities and risks put forward by these forest landscape restoration (FLR) initiatives. This includes not only a regional training on FLR, but also trainings on issues that must be addressed for FLR efforts to be sustainable, including addressing issues such as tenure and livelihoods. The programmatic nature of the approach is also reflected in the national level policy dialogues held on FLR, and related topics, as well as discussion in Community Forest National Working Groups (CFNWGs), and networking and knowledge exchange. This programmatic nature is a strong feature of the activities proposed under Phase III. 

National level activities focus on responding to opportunities and requests in the countries in question, as well as building on the foundations laid out in the previous phases of ASFCC. Broadly speaking this will see the continued support of policy dialogue initiatives through the CFNWG. Additional focus is placed on translating the revised community forestry instruction (CFI) into tangible outcomes through supporting the development of the CFI Guidelines. This will be further supported by targeted individuals with an appropriate mandate attending relevant regional level trainings centered on how social forestry can benefit its constituents. In these trainings participants will have the opportunity to learn from other experiences in the region. As with all trainings, the participants will be encouraged to develop an action plan where they will implement the knowledge they have gained into their work. Where appropriate, they will also receive support from RECOFTC headquarters and/or country offices in implementing their action plan.

The emphasis on Phase III will also be on partnerships -- strengthening existing and creating new ones. These stronger partnerships include project partner's recognition of RECOFTC's strengths, such as participatory training, as well as the complementary strengths of the partners, such as ICRAF on agroforestry and NTFP-EP on livelihood development through the commercialization of social forestry. Partnerships with university institutions will also be strengthened during Phase III, building on previous phases.

This recognizes the vital role that these institutions play not only in conducting research that feeds into policy development, but also their importance in shaping the minds and skills of future leaders in the land use sector.

The activities and focus in partnering with universities, as well as forestry training centers, is part of a plan to support the mainstreaming of social forestry in higher and further education. This builds on the findings of capacity development needs assessments on community forestry in many of the ASEAN countries that RECOFTC has facilitated. One of the findings was that higher and further forestry education institutes and programs have often failed to mainstream social forestry and related activities. In recognition of this, a situation analysis will be conducted to examine the gaps in higher and further education in supporting the development of social forestry, an action plan will then be put forward to address these gaps. Furthermore, appropriate trainers and lecturers from ASEAN member states will be invited to attend relevant trainings and support will be provided to assist them in passing on the new knowledge in their own lecturing and trainings.