Deputy Director General of Royal Forest Department
Director, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation
Distinguished experts and FAO colleagues
It is a great pleasure, on behalf of FAO, to welcome you all to this Enhancing the National Forest Programme Process of Thailand Workshop. And thank you for this opportunity to offer a few remarks as well. First of all, I am delighted to learn that so many of you from a variety of organizations here in Thailand have been able to participate in this workshop. Another important point I wish to draw is that this workshop is the result of active collaboration from a very large number of agencies both locally and abroad. They include the Royal Forest Department, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and several others from the private sector and NGOs. I must also point out that we consider this workshop pivotal – this is the first of such a series in the Asia-Pacific region. To ensure its success, The National Forest Programme Facility has invested heavily into the work – besides funding the activity, it has also engaged a professional Facilitator from Europe to help conduct the exercise. To further reemphasize its importance to FAO, we also have a Senior Officer from FAO Headquarters to provide additional expertise to the Proceedings. And of course, the Workshop has also received the full weight of my colleagues from the Forestry Group in the FAO Regional Office. This stands as testimony to how much importance FAO has placed on this critical event.
As we all well recognize, forests and trees play a vital role in the lives of the people in the Asia-Pacific region. They provide household resources, soil and water protection, buffer climatic perturbations, and provide employment and foreign exchange through a vibrant timber industry. However, the gradual loss and degradation of forests, forestlands and trees due to shifting agriculture, illegal encroachment, fires, and other factors are beginning to take the toll on the environment. A number of forestry initiatives, both from international and national efforts, are ongoing in the region. Yet their success in reversing forest loss and degradation has overall been limited.
It is increasingly becoming apparent that a major underlying problem behind this inertia is the poor linkage between policy formulation with other sectors and poor participation of civil society in decision making over the nation’s natural resources. Furthermore, within the forestry agencies, capacities for policy analysis and development are rather weak, and this has frequently translated into inappropriate policy and regulatory frameworks. The lack of recognition of the links between the forestry and other sectors as well as the poor understanding of the role of forestry and forests in poverty reduction strategies have further impeded the development of the forestry sector. Neither have the policies integrated many of the developmental and environmental issues that the countries have become signatories. In general, there is a need to take a broader view in forest policy and planning, improve policy decision-making and governance by facilitating the participation of all actors at all levels for effective policy implementation, incorporating economic and environmental accounting measures, and integrating development goals into the national forest policy, as specified in the target 9 of the Millennium Development Goal 7.
With the above in view, FAO together with the National Forest Programme Facility have launched the National Forest Programme Process. In general, the Programme works to first encourage countries to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate their own national forest programmes based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests concept. It is explicitly emphasized that the countries themselves are responsible for the design of the process, in accordance with the national legislation of the country. Countries are further encouraged to elaborate suitable criteria and indicators for forest management and to integrate them into the overall NFP process. Countries are also requested to develop forest management systems which guarantee the participation of indigenous populations, forest dwellers, forest owners and local communities in the decision with the management of forests. The idea behind this concept is to ensure policy formulation is democratized, and participatory processes and decentralization of activities are encouraged. The nfp concept however, recognizes that the national process may take a form most suitable for the country, asserts its own sovereignty, and is a product of consensus.
FAO, together with additional support from the NFP Facility, is endeavoring to promote such a concept. Therefore this review and training workshop has a significant role to play to improve and expedite the preparation of Thailand in its march to achieve sustainable forest management. I assure you, this process is not an easy one. But FAO and the NFP Facility are prepared to give Thailand all the support it can muster. Nut even more critical would be the energy and dynamism that this nation has. It has quickly risen from the difficult financial crisis of 1997 and has begun to exert its economic strength. It also witnessed dark days following the 2004 tsunami tragedy. Then too, Thailand showed its might – the people of the nation rose together to support each other and overcome that event. The same underlying strength, I am convinced, will be given to developing its national forest programme. FAO is indeed proud to be associated with such a process.
I wish you all the very best in your deliberations and discussions, and for a successful workshop.