GFMC and the UNECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire (1981-2014)

As a result of limited secretariat resources, countries members of the Joint FAO/ECE/ILO Committee on Forest Technology, Management and Training, have taken the challenge to undertake more work themselves, by entrusting to Teams of Specialists several of its activities, especially those where specific expertise is required. The Team of Specialists on Forest Fire was created in the early 1980s and reorganized in 1993-94.The Team’s main task is to provide a critical link in communication and cooperation between fire scientists, managers and policy makers. The main activities embrace (1) the production of International Forest Fire News (IFFN) through the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC); (2) organization of seminars; and (3) promotion of synergistic collaboration between governments, non-government institutions, and individuals, with emphasis on science and technology transfer, and support for developing fire management policies. The scope of the work of the Fire Team includes the countries belonging to the six Regional Wildland Fire Networks geographically located within the ECE region, as well as countries and Regional Wildland Fire Networks outside the ECE (for details on the UNISDR Global Wildland Fire Network and the six regional networks: see further down). Main emphasis of the work of the Team is in assisting countries of the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) region in building national capacity in fire management, development of national policies and addressing the specific problems in the region, including transboundary cooperation in fire management. With this regional focus it is intended not to overlap with the ongoing work of the European Commission in the Western European part of the UNECE region, notably in the Mediterranean space (in conjunction with the Silva Mediterranea Fire Group) and the “Fire Management Working Group” of the North American Forestry Commission. However, the GFMC acting as Secretariat of the Global Wildland Fire Network and chair of the ToS ensures the continuing dialogue and cooperation between all regional wildland fire networks globally and exchange of information and cooperation with UN agencies and programmes as well as other international organizations contributing to global vegetation fire research, monitoring, assessment and capacity building in fire management (see also: UN Inter-Agency Cooperation and Coordination in Wildland Fire Management Including Key International Organizations. A Review by the Global Fire Monitoring Center). The work of the ToS phased out by 31 July 2014 after it had successfully completed its mission. The Regional Wildland Fire Networks covering the UNECE Region (cf. further below) will continue to represent the interests of UNECE Member States in the Global Wildland Fire Network and the Wildland Fire Advisory Group and its associated bodies and activities.

The final phase of the Work of the ToS Forest Fire

In its final phase 2008-2014 the ToS was mandated, among other, to provide guidance to UNECE member States on forest fire management and forest fire policies, including on governance in bilateral and international cooperation. In cooperation with the UNECE-FAO Forestry and Timber Section, the GFMC prepared and facilitated the “UNECE/FAO Regional Forum on Cross-boundary Fire Management” (November, 2013), and followed-up on the recommendations of the Forum (January –to July 2014).

The Forum, which was sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BMEL), elaborated a number of recommendations addressing principles and envisaged international cooperation efforts in fire management.. Based on a UNECE-wide survey a, “Study on the contemporary and expected future forest fire issues in the UNECE region”, was developed as well as a “White Paper on the State of Wildfires and Fire Management in Forests and other Vegetation Resources in the UNECE Region”. In addition to recommendations, which addressed national and international governance in fire management, the GFMC supported by an international advisory group, prepared and recommended the international application of “International Fire Aviation Guidelines” and the “International Wildfire Preparedness Mechanism” (IWPM).

The 2013 Forum was prepared by the GFMC and an advisory group and elaborated the following studies:

The recommendations of the Forum were agreed on 29 November 2013 and finalized on 5 December 2013:

During the follow-up of the Forum between January and July 2014 the GFMC – supported by an international advisory group – prepared and recommended the international application of “International Fire Aviation Guidelines” and the “International Wildfire Preparedness Mechanism” (IWPM):

Participants of the UNECE/FAO Regional Forum on Cross-boundary Fire Management
Palais des Nations, Geneva, 28-29 November 2013

International Forest Fire News
(IFFN) is published bi-annually since 1988. It initiated a steadily increasing communication process in international fire matters. Since then, IFFN provides an international information platform on which advances in fire research, technology and policy development are reported and disseminated. Until 2007 the printed version of IFFN has been subscribed by more than 1000 agencies, research laboratories and individuals all over the world. Starting with its 19th issue (August 1998) IFFN is available on the website of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC):

The website includes all past issues since 1990 which are organized in 80 country folders and several other special files. After phasing out of the ToS Forest Fire, IFFN continues as an annual publication of the IWPM.

Forest Fire Statistics
Until 2001 one of the activities of the UNECE Forestry and Timber Section in the field of forest fires included the periodic collection and publication of fire statistics of the member states. The last data set covers the period 1999-2001. The statistics can be obtained at:

Regional Wildland Fire Networks within the ECE Region
Since 2002 – and especially since its official endorsement by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) – the Global Fire Monitoring Center has sucessfully facilitated the establishment of Regional Wildland Fire Networks. Within the UNECE region five new regional networks have been established since 2002:

Earlier existing regional networks:

Seminars and Conferences
Thematic seminars and conferences conducted by the UNECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire between 1981 and 2013:

Overviews of activities
Regional network meetings, conferences and capacity building within the three regional networks in the EECCA region:

ToS and GWFN / GFMC cooperation with the UN and Regional Organizations
The ToS has summarized the cooperation / coordination with UN agencies and programmes, and other international organizations in fire management:

The ToS maintains close relationships with regional organizations:

Forest Fire Exercises
In conjunction with and as a follow-up of the Antalya conference the Team of Specialists organized a forest fire exercise together with the host country Bulgaria in 2005. The next forest fire exercise was held in Armenia in 2011.

Team Members

UNECE Timber Committee and Fire Team Documents and Reports

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