Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam are all in the process of establishing national REDD+ programs to address the impacts changes in land-use and forest management are having on climate change, biodiversity conservation, and the livelihoods of forest dependent communities. To better understand the contribution of REDD+ interventions on reductions in GHG emissions – and for reporting on the latter – these countries, as well as sub-national REDD+ programs are required to collect, process and analyze various datasets (satellite imagery, forest inventories, drivers of deforestation, mitigation activities, etc.) to establish their Reference Emission Levels (RELs) and Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) systems. Doing this, however, is hindered by the ability of governmental, non-governmental, multilateral and civil society organizations to produce, access and share existing and emerging REDD+ relevant information and datasets.
The European Commission, through the Joint Research Centre (JRC), has conducted the ReCaREDD project (Regional Capacities for REDD+) in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam since 2013. To support national capacity for REDD+ reporting, the ReCaREDD project has launched an initiative to establish a regional forest observatory to compile all relevant regional data on forestry and REDD+ for knowledge and data sharing. For this initial phase the geographical focus of the activity is on continental South-East Asia.
A similar regional observatory has been developed in Central Africa through the OFAC (Forest Observatory of Central Africa).
Funding for the development of the Regional Forest Observatory for South-East Asia (RFO-SEA) comes from the European Commission and its implementation is coordinated by EU Joint Research Centre (JRC). A consortium led by FCG International (Finnish Consulting Group), in partnership with kartECO and Forest Carbon, will develop the observatory in collaboration with the Vietnamese Academy of Forest Science (VAFS).
The RFO-SEA is intended to be a platform to share knowledge on the regional status of forests and REDD+. The database and the website will be initially hosted at the VAFS and will service the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
The RFO-SEA will act as a repository for maps, statistics, GIS layers, reports, and scientific papers stored in a database and accessible through a user-friendly website.
The data for the portal will be collected from governmental institutions, Non-governmental organizations, universities and other research institutes and from the private sector. By combining this data the GIS portal will offer unique opportunities to access regional data and take advantage of the regional approach.
The RFO-SEA’s data and information will be populated by government agencies, multilateral institutions, NGOs, projects and research institutes through the voluntary sharing of datasets and other information. As such, it will be a collaborative effort to impart knowledge and promote transparency for a wide range of stakeholders.
In return, stakeholders with an interest in forestry and REDD+ would benefit from the RFO-SEA through access to a wide range of resources that, among others, can help to: