The second pilot Forest Academy for EU Decision Makers will take place in Stockholm county, Sweden, from May 18th until May 20th, 2020. Like all Forest Academy’s, the three-day programme will bring together a diverse set of participants so that rich and multi-layered discussions can take place.
Over the last couple of years, the Finnish Forest Association has been working closely with our colleagues at the Swedish Forest Agency (Skogsstyrelsen) on a bilateral, Finnish-Swedish project, aimed at bringing the Forest Academy concept, to a EU level audience. This project is being championed and financed by the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation and the Finnish Forest Foundation.
The goal of the event is to generate a more active interest in the forest sector by increasing dialogue and building social capital so that decision makers are equipped with all the information they need to see how forests and the forest based sector provide a variety of solutions to many of society’s issues.
The project includes two pilot Forest Academy’s, one in each country. The first of these took place in Southern Finland in 2018 and was considered a great success by all those involved. The joint venture is based on the Finnish Forest Association’s Forest Academy programme which has been running successfully now for 23 years.
The Forest Academy has become an institution in Finland in its own right. It has built a network of over 1500 decision makers, representative of all parts of the society, only a third of whom come from the forest sector itself. This network continues to enable its membership to attend and support the various events held throughout the year. This has allowed Finland to build social capital around its forests and the forest-based value chain by fostering dialogue and understanding between the profession, policy makers and the research community. This has meant that policy makers working with the sector have been able to face challenges more effectively while also being able to take advantage of the opportunities that arise when there is a shared understanding.
Much like the EU Forest Academy that took place in Finland, the Swedish phase will have attendees including MEP’s, Attaché’s to the Permanent Representations to the EU, members of the EU Commission Directorates and Committees as well as representatives from the Forest sector, NGO’s and the media.
A joint Finnish-Swedish initiative aims to build a wider Forest Academy network
At this point in time, the project team are about to send out personal invitations to decision makers who are mainly based in Brussels.
As this is a bilateral collaboration, the organising committee has included representatives and specialists from various orgnisations and institutions such as the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation, the Confederation of European Forest Owners, the Swedish Forestry Association, the East and North Finland EU office, the Natural Resources Institute of Finland, the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden, The Swedish Forest Society Foundation, The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the Swedish state forest agency – Sveaskog, the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK), the Swedish Forest Industries’ Federation, The Federation of Swedish Family Forest Owners, WWF Sweden and of course the Finnish Forest Association and the Swedish Forest Agency.
The programme is already jam-packed full of inspiring and informed speakers and includes field trips to sustainably managed forests and innovative wood processing mills in the region close to the event venue. It has been designed to showcase the innovative and responsible Nordic thinking that is shaping the sector regionally and at a European level. EU decision makers will have the rare chance to see how their policy decisions affect people and operations in the field. They will see up close how research and development in the forest industries sector has lead to exciting new products which will help us pivot away from the use of fossil fuels. Furthermore, they will also have the chance to become part of the wider Forest Academy network.
When designing the programme, the organising committee have been aware of the developments that have been taking place at the EU and this has presented both opportunities and challenges. However, the steering of the project has benefitted from good relationships and a shared vision on both sides of the Bothnian sea. The programme and site visits are bound to provide valuable insights to those working with EU level policies affecting the whole forest sector.
In May 2020, we are looking forward to welcoming so many people from across the European Union to this unique opportunity to debate and discuss the future of Europe’s forests and their ability to help us achieve the aspirations being set out in the European Green Deal.