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Most developing countries participating in the REDD+1] process and willing to access Result Based Payments (RBP) are now in transition from their readiness phase to implementation of specific actions and measures. Most of these countries have developed and/or strengthened their National Forest Monitoring Systems (NFMS) which are also moving towards the implementation phase and towards the monitoring of the results of mitigation actions. However, many countries still face multiple challenges in accessing the information and data they need to make their NFMS sustainable in the long term.

Although a single governmental institution is usually mandated by law as responsible party for maintaining and operating the NFMS, responsibilities for the different elements of the NFMS can often be scattered between various institutions or divisions and departments within an institution (from the data collection and management from Satellite Land Monitoring Systems (SLMS) and/or from National Forest Inventory (NFI), to the reporting of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and dissemination of information through the NFMS web-dissemination platforms for enhanced transparency and accessibility.

Stronger and more systemic coordination, and clear agreements across national technical related entities collecting and providing data, is necessary to ensure data accessibility and therefore, the success of REDD+. Such coordination and adequate legal arrangements also facilitate both national and international reporting processes, for example including preparation of BURs or National Communications to the UNFCCC. The clarification and inclusion in national institutional and legal arrangements of the responsibilities held by each organization/entity should be the first significant  step towards a solid consolidation of NFMS and reporting for REDD+ results.

The relevance of the institutional and legal frameworks associated with NFMS has also been  taken into consideration in the Governance Principles and Guidelines of the Voluntary Guidelines on National Forest Monitoring (, launched recently by FAO (, as they underline the relevance of the institutionalisation of NFMS by formally assigning, through legal instruments, clear mandates and responsibilities to the entities involved for the collection, management and analysis of data,  including  adequate coordination mechanisms.

 Forets inventory

(Forest inventory, Amazonas, Ecuador / © Serena Fortuna)

Latin-American countries, such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras and Paraguay, represent positive examples of advancing towards adopting appropriate legal instruments to clarify institutional mandates associated with NFMS; to define roles and responsibilities of relevant entities; and to establish platforms to facilitate data and information sharing. Since 2015, the UN-REDD Programme, with specific FAO technical assistance and advice,  has supported these countries in legal arrangements and in the institutionalization of their NFMSs, through the combined efforts of a multidisciplinary team of experts covering aspects from monitoring and measuring to legal and international conventions. Specific examples are provided in the following paragraphs.

The case of Colombia

The Colombian government – with the technical support of FAO – aimed to develop a decree to regulate and articulate the forest and carbon monitoring system (F&CMS), the National Forest Inventory (NFI) and the National Forest Information System (NFIS). These components are essential for the implementation of the national programme on monitoring of forest and forest ecosystems[2] (PMSB) formulated by the Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Study Institute (IDEAM) in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS), the Regional Environmental Authorities and the National Investigation Institutes. This work is at the base of preparations for reporting for domestic decision making and international communications to UNFCCC. One objective of the PMSB is adoption of forest carbon monitoring strategies to measure carbon stocks and the emissions released in the atmosphere by deforestation.

As a result of technical cooperation, in December 2016 Colombia drafted a first decree regulating the links between the F&CMS, NFI and NFIS, based on previous initiatives to regulate the F&CMS, taking into consideration each specificity and inter-institutional adequate mechanisms as well as the legal and institutional framework mandated by law. Accordingly, a road map has been developed to ensure the inclusion of relevant stakeholders and contributions from key technical and legal institutions, such as IDEAM and MADS. Following this road map, the country has now entered an inclusive participatory consultation on the draft decree. The final version of the decree is following the legal cycle of approval by the Ministry of Environment and is expected to enter into force by October 2017.

The case of Costa Rica      

Costa Rica has recently developed a national system for monitoring land cover, land use, and ecosystems (SIMOCUTE[3]). It is a decentralized system where different institutions and entities, such as the National Environmental Information System (SINIA[4]) and the National Territorial Information System (SNIT[5]) share their data and information, according to their mandates and roles, and on the basis of requirements and standards established. Technical and institutional elements have been identified to operationalize the SIMOCUTE, such as the monitoring components, reporting levels, satellite image selection, data collection protocols, as well as the participation mechanisms required or the institutional arrangements needed to strengthen the governance of the system. Costa Rica – supported by FAO – recently submitted for consultation a draft decree aiming to regulate the functioning of SIMOCUTE , and relevant environmental institutions, including FONAFIFO[6], CENIGA[7], SINAC/SIREFOR[8], have shared their suggestions to enrich the draft decree. It is foreseen that the Ministers of Environment (MINAE) and Agriculture (MAG) will both sign the final decree, after a second round of consultations before its final adoption, expected by October 2017.    


Ecuador, Honduras and Paraguay

Ecuador, Honduras and Paraguay are also advancing in similar directions and, with the technical support of FAO, are following two main steps: i) a legal assessment and ii) a participatory process for the improvement and/or creation of a decree regulating the NFMS.

Paraguay has already developed and validated a legal assessment of the NFMS related institutional framework at national level and carried out an inclusive and participatory process aiming to enrich the draft decree establishing the NFMS. The draft decree is under revision by the National Forest Institution (INFONA).

Ecuador and Honduras are undertaking assessments with outcomes and recommendations foreseen by end 2017.


Overall, it is well known that legal reforms and arrangements take time to advance and that are closely intertwined with the specific national context. The involvement of key stakeholders such as forest and environmental competent entities, sectoral related agencies and information systems is essential throughout the phases of establishing a NFMS, and solid progress has been realized on this front in Latin America. The results so far obtained by Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras and Paraguay represent important progresses towards solid and sustainable NFMS as well as towards ensuring countries’ capacities in reporting on the achievements of their REDD+ actions and RBP.   


For further information, please contact Francesca Felicani Robles, Legal Officer, FAO (E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

[1] Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, plus the sustainable management of forests, and the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+)

[2] Programa Nacional para el Monitoreo y Seguimiento de los Ecosistemas de Bosques (PMSB)

[3] Sistema de Monitoreo de La Cobertura y Uso de la Tierra y Ecosistemas (SIMOCUTE) – for info

[4] Sistema Nacional de Información Ambiental (SINIA) – for info:

[5] Sistema Nacional de Información Territorial (SNIT) – for info:

[6] National Forest Financial Fund

[7] National Geo-Environmental Information Center

[8] National Conservation Areas System/National Forest Information System

 [Mangrove Costa Rica

(Mangroves, Costa Rica / © Serena Fortuna)

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