Curating a Common Language for Restoration and Finance

12 March 2018
Jeffrey Williamson
RECOFTC hosts two day dialogue to merge understandings of finance and forest landscape restoration (FLR).
Talk of the Forest
The Center for People and Forests

“By hosting this finance dialogue, we are trying to ensure that forest landscape restoration [FLR] becomes more actionable in ASEAN Member States (AMS),” remarked Ronnakorn Triraganon, Capacity Development and Technical Services Manager at RECOFTC,  at the opening of the Regional Policy Dialogue this past week. The dialogue, entitled Connecting Finance and Policy: Forest Landscape Restoration in Southeast Asia, was hosted from 8 - 9 March 2018 by RECOFTC - The Center for People and Forests, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Additional support was provided by the AFOLU Working Group. The event sought to foster more robust partnerships between the private sector, development agencies, and policymakers from ASEAN Member State (AMS) in forest landscape restoration efforts.

This Policy Dialogue comes at an opportune time in light of continued loss and degradation of natural forests in the region and the corresponding international initiatives to reforest and restore our landscapes. In 2011, the Bonn Challenge called to restore 150 million hectares of land by 2020; however, this would cost approximately $360 Billion USD. Another initiative, the New York Declaration on Forests, pledges to halve the rate of deforestation by 2020, end the loss of natural forests by 2030, and restore at least 350 million hectares of degraded forest lands by 2030. This initiative  would require approximately $830 Billion USD (FAO & UNCCD 2015). This trend is especially pertinent to those who reside in the ASEAN region, with an estimated 90 million ha of degraded land (Gibbs & Salmon 2015). If this is the case, then how are we to find enough funding to complete our goals?

The Policy Dialogue attempted to answer this question through productive discussions between relevant stakeholders. As Dr. Satrio Adi Wicaksono, the FLR programme manager for World Resource Institute (WRI) in Indonesia, noted, “Restoration partnerships are needed, but to have strong partnerships it is not that easy. You need to start by building trust.” Reflecting this sentiment, the participants collaboratively explored and assessed financing opportunities for forest landscape restoration. The end goal was twofold: (1) to create a solid understanding among stakeholders of the existing financial opportunities--and their corresponding challenges--for supporting FLR on landscape, and national levels; (2) develop an action plan to access finance for supporting FLR initiatives across ASEAN.

The work over the two days was conducted adhering to RECOFTC’s core principles of participatory discussion and engaged learning. In attendance was a host of representatives from the private sector, development agencies, and AMS. On day one, AMS representatives presented their specific restoration targets, challenges, and existing sources of funding to the participants. This was followed by a plenary session in which presentations were provided by different development organisations on FLR initiatives and approaches; participants were encouraged to ask questions that would link sessions together. Finally, pertinent financial institutions were provided with a platform to share what they expected from financing FLR and how their different models of financing related to these initiatives.

Day one provided the necessary conceptual framework for the interactive sessions conducted on day two. Following a brief review of day one’s content, the participants gathered into small groups to discuss the challenges and gaps found in financing FLR. This discussion subsequently set the stage for a thorough discussion on how AMS representatives development organizations and the private sector could collaborate to create innovative financial models that would ensure mutually beneficial outcomes for all. After a “speed networking’’ event, the group convened to conduct a stocktaking of action points for AMS. These final two activities were instrumental in streamlining the different perspectives and knowledge spheres brought to the dialogue, which, as Patsian Low of Asian Venture Philanthropy Network aptly recognized is important: “This kind of cross-sector engagement can only lead to better outcomes.”

Overall, the participants collectively surpassed the specific objectives of the events, including developing a concrete action plans for moving forward to mainstream FLR in their countries. Most importantly, however, was the creation of a common understanding of terminology. “There has been a  language barrier,” Dr. Wicaksono commented, adding that “the government speaks its own lingo … [and] the private sector has business language that is often alien to us in the CSO world. So this event has been really helpful in getting all of us together to understand each other’s language.” This common understanding was first useful in establishing the specific needs between stakeholders. “From the presentations in this event by the relevant private sectors, I now understand what the private sector needs in order to finance the FLR programmes,” reflected Ricky Martin, a member of the Sabah Forestry Department, Malaysia.  

Secondly, by establishing a common understanding, this event was able to set up potential partnerships. Phouthone Sophathilath, who works in the Department of Forestry Lao PDR, commented that, “Before coming here, we expected something else, and we didn’t know the different languages in the sectors. I think we need to understand the financial sector better to get support from them.” The event changed this: “During this workshop,” he noted, “we have talked to a number of financial organisations who are attending … we already have ideas in terms of how to engage them.”


FAO & UNCCD. 2015. Sustainable financing for forest and landscape restoration – Opportunities, challenges and the way forward. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) or of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Gibbs, H. K., & Salmon, J. M. (2015). Mapping the world's degraded lands. Applied Geography, 57, 12-21.