SDG Partnership with Mongolia on Sustainable Forestry: Preventing illegal logging through innovative digital tools

August 31, 2023
UNDP Mongolia

UNDP Seoul Policy Centre (USPC) and UNDP Mongolia successfully concluded their SDG Partnership on Sustainable Forestry in August 2023. Launched in October 2021, this partnership, involving Mongolia’s Forest Agency as a local government partner, aimed to support the country’s efforts to strengthen the environment for forest protection and monitoring.

Forests play a critical role in rural livelihoods in Mongolia, especially given the extreme continental climate with long, dry and harsh winters, which heightens the importance of their ecosystem services. The primary workforce in Mongolia is engaged in the agricultural sector, with 30.5 percent of the working population employed in activities such as agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. Forests in Mongolia provide fuelwood, water, non-timber forest products, and other life-supporting resources. With a predominant boreal forest portion in the north accounting for approximately 14.2 million hectares, Mongolia's forests are slow in growth and are vulnerable to numerous disturbances. Mongolia’s Forest Reference Level (FRL) report states that wildfires, unsustainable land use, illegal logging, poor implementation of forestry and environmental laws, weak governance, and the funding gap for forest protection and restoration efforts are the main drivers of forest degradation and deforestation in Mongolia.

The SDG Partnership with Mongolia yielded several key achievements. The project developed an E-FOREST digital platform, which includes a website, a smartphone application, and an Open API, enabling the community to report and track cases of illegal logging and non-timber forest product harvesting. It also ensures transparency of issued licenses for harvesting timber and pine nuts, which facilitates data exchange with environmental databases. The project also undertook activities towards creating a legal environment that incentivizes reporting among communities. This involved organizing workshops, providing recommendations, and drafting revised bylaws. Such efforts created an enabling environment for operationalizing a digital tracking system and fostering community participation in forest protection.


Within this context, in March 2023, a joint learning exchange by USPC and UNDP Mongolia was held to discuss the adoption of innovative tools for forest monitoring and establishing a legal framework to encourage reporting of illegal logging and environmental crimes. The event showcased the prototype of the E-Forest system, which included a web system, mobile application, and an Open API, to facilitate e-monitoring and reporting of environmental crimes while exchanging information with databases. A Korean expert from the National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS) shared the ROK’s technical expertise on Forest Resource Monitoring system and Smart Forest Disaster Application, emphasizing the importance of incentivizing reporting and accurate monitoring of forest crimes for effective forest protection.

The accomplishments from the SDG Partnership with Mongolia on Sustainable Forestry reflect tangible progress towards advanced forest monitoring, effective reporting of environmental crimes, and enhanced environmental protection, by harnessing innovative technologies and fostering active local community participation in protecting forest resources. The sustainability of the project is further ensured through the establishment of structured financial incentives, funded by the Government, aimed at encouraging the reporting of illegal logging. Upon the launch of the E-Forest application, the operational responsibility is to be shifted to the Ecological Police, leading to mutual benefits for both the Government and communities while also strengthening surveillance capabilities to prevent illegal logging.