FOPER - a story of hope, achievement, and peace.

The FOPER project (FOPER = forest policy and economics research and education) initiated cooperation to develop an international Masters of Science in Forest Policy and Economics, to provide professional training to forest managers and policy makers, and to undertake policy relevant research in the Western Balkan region. This area is known for its rich natural forests, but despite its long history of forest management, it lacked the capacity to tackle forestry issues outside the forest – in political agendas, market economics and civil society. While traditional forest science disciplines like entomology or forest technology were well understood, the aspects of forest policy and economics were not well developed.

The collapse of Yugoslavia and the intensity of the wars during the 1990s had divided researchers, teachers, students, forest administrations, universities and research institutes in what had previously been a strongly interconnected region. The forestry sector (both state and private organizations), was faced with the challenge of adjusting to the new democratic society, and a market economy. These challenges were complicated by the reforms needed to meet the legal requirements of the EU accession process.

To achieve its goals, FOPER I and FOPER II (now simply FOPER) designed several capacity building frameworks each filled with innovative approaches. During the first part of the project, the main goal was to strengthen human capacities. During this period, FOPER designed and implemented a brand new international Masters programme in Forest Policy and Economics (MSc FOPER), professional training in Forest Policy and Economics, and research focused on the science-policy interface. In the second phase, the project focused on consolidating these gains and the components included: the second generation of the international Masters programme in Forest Policy and Economics, increased training of university teachers, expanded training for regional researchers, the creation of six Collaborative Regional Research Teams, and a Doctoral College to support FOPER MSc students working on a doctoral degree.

As of this year, 45 students have passed through the MSc programme, and FOPER has become the largest and most vibrant regional research network in the Western Balkan countries.

Read the full FOPER story here.

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