With over 300 million hectares burned annually, Landscape Fires are assuming increasingly extreme characteristics and causing more severe impacts on populations and ecosystems. They are a local problem with global consequences. Fires are a synthesis of the context, and as such, they arise from socio-economic dynamics mediated by public policies and economic incentives that determine land use and occupation, as well as our use of fire, and social dynamics. The diversity of causes, their systemic nature, and a growing number of stakeholders with different visions and solutions require that the simpler dichotomy of prevention and response gives way to a more robust framework capable of addressing complexity and uncertainty. To better prepare societies to achieve sustainable development goals and ensure lower losses in fires, the technical and scientific community at the 8th International Wildland Fire Conference in Porto, proposes a fire governance model (Landscape Fire Governance Framework) that brings governments, businesses, academia, and members of civil society together in balanced and technically supported solutions.
This framework presents the guidelines for the development of this model.
i. Unplanned and uncontrolled landscape fires are increasing, correlated with social, economic, and ecological changes. This creates both direct and indirect socio-economic impacts, such as loss of lives, property and livelihood, health, and safety issues, and negatively impacts sustainable development goals, as more than 300 million hectares are annually affected.
ii. The Landscape Fire Governance Framework (“framework”) is a legally non-binding, voluntary, set of guiding principles, goals, and governance proposals, for adjusting strategies, policies, and landscape fire management at a global level, answering to global challenges. The framework is aimed at policy makers and decision makers.
iii. Under the framework, integrated fire management is considered critical for sustainable landscape management, developing governance models that address risk and involve diferente stakeholders, bringing together the diversity of scientific and cultural knowledge, values, and political options. International guiding principles are proposed, as an orientation towards the management of the increasing risk of wildfires.
iv. The framework does not intend to supress or ignore national or local options and heritages, but rather to offer a view into a shared goal of a significant loss reduction from wildfires, adding expertise and the latest research and scientific knowledge, enhancing risk governance, and having a clear scope of action for all stakeholders.
v. Action is needed strengthening governance models, as responding to such a complex challenge requires the best coordination possible among all stakeholders. Similarly, valuing rural areas will help people getting a return from the land, which in turn allows them to better care and manage their land, reducing exposure and vulnerability to wildfires. Action is also needed changing behaviours, avoiding actions that result in unplanned and uncontrolled fires. Should these fail, response is needed, and to that end, training and qualification programes offer the best-qualified responders, suppressing fire, protecting people and their livelihoods.
vi. The proposed governance model calls for fire risk assessment and determining how communities and cultures perceive risk and accept fire impacts. That perception drives risk management and helps communicating clearly. Stakeholder engagement is crucial for governance, and having stakeholders involved in decision-making helps with monitoring and aiming at continuous improvement, measuring progress and planning for shorter periods under a context of uncertainty.
vii. The framework governance model recognizes that fires have a broader value chain than just prevention, suppression, and recovery, and as such proposes a value chain where all accountable actors have a role to play. This calls for integrated actions and good communication between all stakeholders, as they must understand what the challenges are and what deliberations are asked for.
viii. To better achieve integration of stakeholders and clear communication, overarching governance bodies are useful politically and technically empowered tools, facilitating domestic coordination as well as international cooperation.
ix. International cooperation benefits from qualification and training programmes, based on widely accepted standards, fostering effectiveness and efficiency of cross border cooperation, but also creating a good platform for the exchange of information on best practices at all stages of the wildfire value chain.
x. Moving forward, based on this framework, countries are invited to promote integrated landscape fire management by bridging existing gaps through governance options that foster cross-agency and cross-sectoral dialogue, and to join efforts to strengthen networks and thematic resource centres for domestic and international sharing of best practices and innovation. Under the United Nations, this framework could also be the base for further, binding agreements.
xi. An international mechanism, under the United Nations, is sought, to promote the implementation of a global integrated fire management programme, and to facilitate financing of integrated fire management actions, worldwide.
xii. Integrated fire management requires moving from management alone to solid governance models and stakeholder engagement with clearly set roles at all value chain stages, training and qualification programmes, and strengthened international cooperation.