Implementing multilateral agreements: The role of PEFC certification

Forest certification can provide a robust, tried and tested delivery mechanism to implement Multilateral Environmental Agreements on the ground.

Implementing multilateral agreements: The role of PEFC certification

4 March 2024 Driving innovation

With Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) providing a voluntary framework on particular environmental issues, forest certification can provide a robust, tried and tested delivery mechanism to implement these agreements on the ground, reflected Thorsten Arndt, Head of Advocacy at PEFC International at the 6th UNEP Environment Assembly (UNEA 6).

Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) are international agreements that are intended to promote international cooperation to address global environmental challenges that the world is facing today like climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution and waste.

There is a range of MEAs that are relevant for forest management, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), or the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

They are agreements between states which often take the form of “soft-law”, setting out non legally binding principles which parties are obligated to consider when taking actions to address a particular environmental issue.

PEFC certification has the potential to be a useful delivery mechanism for MEAs, as it can ensure the consistent and effective implementation of MEAs regardless of their legal status in individual countries. It could do so in five ways:

Transboundary solutions

Nature doesn’t know any boundaries, and the PEFC regional systems in the Balkans and the Congo Basin deliver on this. They enable neighbouring countries with closely related forest ecosystem features, legal and administrative frameworks, and socio-cultural contexts to improve their dialogue on sustainable forest management and to come together under one regional system towards the same environmental objectives.

Furthermore, PEFC group certification, which allows sometimes thousands of smallholders to become certified as one, ensures that sustainable forest management practices are implemented across property boundaries.

Landscape level solutions

PEFC certification looks beyond the strict limits of the forest boundaries and requires forest owners to consider the positive impact that they can bring at landscape level. PEFC also offers trees outside forests (TOF) certification. Trees outside forests include any trees found outside a traditional forest area. This includes trees used in agriculture, alongside fields and roads, and trees within urban areas and parks.

Collaboration & local adaptation

PEFC facilitates multi-stakeholder dialogues at national level that foster collaboration and partnerships, while at the same time provide the opportunity for stakeholders to consider country- or region-specific forest certification requirements that support the implementation on the ground.

Community involvement

MEAs by their very nature are high-level overarching international frameworks on environmental issues, far removed from the reality of forest owners, smallholders, and local communities. PEFC requires effective communication and consultation of forest owners with local communities, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders relating to sustainable forest management, thereby it could help to bring MEAs to life at local level.


PEFC could provide an effective mechanism to monitor the implementation of MEAs captured in the sustainable forest management standards of the national systems. It could do so through forest management planning and monitoring requirements as well as well-established third-party certification of management practices

“While PEFC already considers MEAs within its certification requirements, there are certainly opportunities to increase the value that PEFC can bring to MEAs as an effective delivery mechanism. We hope to be able to increase our collaboration with MEAs ahead of our next standard revision to identify potential areas of collaboration,” remarked Thorsten.

Thorsten made his comments following the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Day on 28 February 2024, which highlight the importance of cooperation with multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) to unite forces at all levels to address the impacts and drivers of environmental degradation more effectively. 

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 6) was held at the UNEP headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi from 26 February to 1 March 2024. With a focus on strengthening environmental multilateralism to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution, this year’s Assembly looking to negotiate resolutions on issues ranging from nature-based solutions and highly hazardous pesticides to land degradation and drought, and environmental aspects of minerals and metals. 


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PEFC contact

Thorsten Arndt

Head of Advocacy

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