AFoCO: Asia forest cooperation hubKim Young-sun
*Former secretary general of the Korea-Asean Center
The Asia Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO), which is initiated by Korea, was officially established on April 27 as an international organization. The government proposed the establishment at the Korea-Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) special summit in 2009, and with the cooperation and support of 10 Asean members, it began activities in 2012. Until now, the AFoCO successfully promoted 22 forest cooperation projects in Asean countries.
As landmark projects, restoration of damaged forests in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are in progress, and cooperation projects, such as the climate change response capability enhancement program participated by all members, and income expansion pilot program through forest and ecology tourism in five Mekong area nations, reflect the demands of the member countries. In Myanmar, a regional education and training center opened last year, the first in Asia.
The headquarters is located in Korea, and Korea seeks a leading role in reinforcing international forest cooperation associated with UN’s SDGs, sustainable development goals, including climate change responses. The establishment of AFoCO as an international organization calls for Korea’s more active role and contribution.
Firstly, Korea’s forest restoration and afforestation technology and high-tech forest management skills should be shared with other members to make other success cases in Asia. As the most successful example of afforestation, Korea is highly acknowledged by UN organizations and the international community. Also, organism diversity from forest resources and international network in bioenergy will bring new growth engine for the future.
Secondly, the importance and role of forests in response to climate change are highlighted as forests absorb greenhouse gas, and AFoCO should be ready to raise Asia’s voice in the international discussion on climate change.
Thirdly, the organization needs to initiate joint response as a region on issues beyond borders, such as blight and insect damage, forest fires and fine dust.
Fourthly, forest services, such as retreat and recuperation, are garnering attention. Korea’s experience and technology level will contribute to improving quality of life in members in Asia.
On the day that AFoCO was officially established, the historic Panmunjom inter-Korean summit was held. As a feasible inter-Korean cooperation project, forest restoration in North Korea is considered. It would be especially meaningful if the program is not limited to being just an inter-Korean project but a cooperation project for the AFoCO.