Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific



Hiroyuki Konuma
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

delivered at the

Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Forestry

Seoul, Republic of Korea
30 August 2012


Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

First of all, I wish to express my gratitude to the ASEAN and the Korea Forestry Service for inviting FAO to this important historical gathering.  I also wish to express my warmest congratulations on the launching of the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization which is a significant step forward in strengthening forestry sector in this region.
 Over the past several years, FAO has undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the forestry sector in our region through the second Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study. While providing a regional outlook, the study also produced subregional reports including for Southeast Asia. A summary of this report is available to you.

In the course of the outlook study, it became very clear that the forestry sector in ASEAN – and indeed in the wider Asia-Pacific region – is faced with severe challenges. However, with commitment from the highest levels, these challenges can be translated into opportunities that will help develop resource efficient, low carbon economies.

It is this framework of challenges and opportunities that my talk centers on today.

Let us first take a quick look at the current status of forestry in the ASEAN region.

FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment shows that the ASEAN region is home to over 213 million hectares of forests, which provide livelihoods to millions of people, and support some of the most precious biodiversity on the planet. Forests cover 47 percent of ASEAN’s total land area and ASEAN forests account for 5.1 percent of the global forest area.
Among the region’s forest resources, 31 percent are classified as ‘primary’ forests – that are natural forests in which ecological processes have not been significantly disturbed. Other naturally regenerated forests – those with clearly visible indications of human activities – comprise 62 percent of the region’s forests, while planted forests account for 7 percent of the total.

During the past two decades, deforestation in the ASEAN region has been among the highest in the world, with a net loss of 33 million hectares of forests –comprising  13 percent of the region’s forest cover. In more recent times, however, positive signs have emerged. In Viet Nam, the Philippines and most recently Thailand, forest restoration and afforestation programmes have led to significant gains in those countries’ forest areas. Meanwhile, in countries such as Indonesia and Myanmar, rates of forest loss have slowed markedly since 2000.

However, much remains to be done. Several key issues lie at the core of the challenges that confront ASEAN’s forestry leadership. These are::

  1. Serious attention needs to be given to rebuilding the forest resource base;
  2. We need a focus on institutional capacity building and improving governance;
  3. Business regimes need to be developed to encourage and enable forestry investment;
  4. We need to work to ensure that our forest management complies with emerging legal frameworks;
  5. Biodiversity conservation remains an overarching challenge; and 
  6. Carbon emissions and climate change continue to take centre stage in forestry discussion and debate.

I now wish to provide you with more details of these six key issues.

As explained earlier, the ASEAN forest resource base has experienced significant losses in recent years. These losses may be attributed by multiple stressors including population growth, economic development, agricultural expansion, and timber utilization. However, given societies’ increasing demands on forests – and its expectations of markedly improved forest management – it is critical that these trends be reversed. We need to ensure the flow of ecosystem services from forests – including those contributing to employment generation and economic growth – are not compromised.

In some countries, the extent and implications of forest loss are obvious. Some previously timber-rich countries have seen forest cover and wood supplies severely reduced; forest industries have become sunset industries. In others, forests have become severely degraded as a result of poor management. In fact, over half of the forest area in ASEAN member countries is considered to be degraded. This has led to biodiversity loss, and has left the forests more vulnerable to factors such as forest fires, invasive species, and storm damage.

In many places, forest ecosystem services have been seriously affected. We have inadequate supplies of clean water. We have serious soil erosion, leaching and sedimentation problems. We have many endangered species and high rates of species extinction. Carbon emissions from forest lands have increased and carbon sequestration potential has declined. In simple terms, we have not done as well as we should have in managing our forests, and we now need to repair our mistakes.

On the other hand, in several ASEAN countries, forestry institutional capacities are weak and need to be enhanced. These weak capacities hinder the effective implementation of forest policies in the region, contribute to deficiencies in regulation and enforcement, and weaken overall forest governance and monitoring capacity.

In some countries forest policies are not well aligned with overall goals, institutional capacities or field level needs. An approach to policy setting that aims at improving this alignment – particularly focusing on field level activities – could be of considerable benefit.
The chart in this slide represents the effectiveness of ASEAN governments – according to their ranking against all countries – as rated by the World Bank’s Governance Indicators. It indicates a need to improve governance – both generally and within the forestry sector – in several ASEAN countries, including some with large forest resources.

In recent years, the competitiveness of ASEAN countries in forest product markets has diminished. For example, the relative share of ASEAN countries in global industrial roundwood production has fallen from 6.4 percent in 1990 to 4.7 percent in 2005. ASEAN’s share in important primary wood products markets including sawn timber and plywood has declined. To counter this and maintain the competitiveness of ASEAN countries in forestry, it is imperative to increase investment including in forest restoration, upgrading out-of-date technology, and investing in secondary processing and remanufacturing facilities.

Attracting investment remains a major challenge for forestry. More investment is needed to make progress towards sustainable forest management. More money is required to effectively manage conservation areas. Investment is required in planted forest establishment. Promoting domestic value-adding will require investment in wood-processing facilities. Generally, we need more investment in research, education and capacity building.

In ASEAN countries, where most forests are publicly owned and managed, government investment is likely to be the key driver of improved performance. In this case, increased financing will largely depend on political will and stronger advocacy for forestry.

However, an increasing trend towards private forest ownership and management can be observed in several ASEAN countries. In these countries, private investment in forestry will be an important component in increasing forest cover and restoring forests.  The key to mobilizing this investment is creation of an enabling investment environment for the private sector. An enabling investment environment includes such things as clear and secure tenure and property rights, consistent policies, strong governance, tackling corruption, reducing bureaucracy, developing infrastructure, and building an economy that reduces risk and encourages people to do business.

With growing concerns over environmental issues, new legal frameworks to tackle some of these pressing concerns such as climate change, illegal logging, biodiversity conservation etc. are emerging. Compliance with these emerging international frameworks could be a significant challenge to some ASEAN countries, and inability to comply may adversely affect the competitiveness of these countries.

For instance, significant international attention is being given to Forest Law Enforcement and Governance, or FLEG; and considerable progress has been made. In particular, measures such as the Lacey Act in the United States and the “due diligence” timber regulation of the European Union (due to enter into force in March 2013) are changing the landscape for forest products trade. The high profile prosecution of the iconic Gibson Guitar company for Lacey Act violations in relation to importation of ebony timber from Madagascar will serve as a warning to all U.S. timber importers – and, by extension, to their offshore suppliers.

The United Nations has declared 2011-2020 to be its “Decade of Biodiversity” and considerable international efforts are being made to tackle the pressing issue of biodiversity loss.

Biodiversity conservation is of huge relevance to ASEAN’s forests. The ASEAN countries are among the most biodiverse in the world, occupying only 3 percent of the earth’s surface, but supporting over 18 percent of all species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The ASEAN region contains 4 of the 25 global biodiversity hotspots, supporting some of the most threatened species in the world. Forecasts anticipate potential for extreme biodiversity loss in Southeast Asia, with between 13 and 42 percent of species projected to be lost by 2100, primarily on account of forest conversion.

During the past decade, climate change has been the vehicle that has returned forestry to the center-stage of international dialogue. And without doubt, in the coming decade, where climate change goes, forestry will follow.

Climate change offers immense opportunities for forestry. Carbon markets are evolving slowly in many ASEAN countries and we are right to be cautiously seeking opportunities to integrate forestry into these. For some countries, REDD+ potentially offers significant funding for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, implementing sustainable forest management and conserving and enhancing carbon stocks. For example, the Indonesia-Norway REDD+ partnership has earmarked up to one billion U.S. dollars to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from forests and peatlands.

However, with these opportunities also come challenges. Frequently we hear talk of carbon money being a “windfall” for forestry. But we must remember that people certainly want something in return for their money. That “something” is – in broad terms – forest conservation and sustainable forest management. And sustainable forest management is something that foresters have found extremely difficult to achieve in the past.  We have to be sure that any additional funds coming to forestry through REDD+ mechanisms are put to good use and produce tangible results.

I now wish to talk about future opportunities.  While some of the above mentioned key challenges may impair the ability of ASEAN countries to manage their forest resources, there are also opportunities.

Emerging from Rio+20 were several clear directions for the environment and for forestry.

The conference affirmed concepts of inclusive, people-centred sustainable development. Poverty eradication is given overall precedence as the greatest global challenge in the conference declaration. This provides strong guidance on a need for national forestry programs to incorporate a strong focus on poverty alleviation, especially where poverty is a key driver of unsustainable forestry practices.
There was also a clear call for renewed efforts on afforestation, reforestation and forest restoration, and an equally clear message aimed at curbing deforestation and forest degradation. These should provide some overarching guidance to foresters on political and societies’ priorities for forests.

Rio+20 also affirmed the concept of Green Economy as a broad framework for sustainable development  Critical to the concept of Green Economy is  investment in certain crucial sectors, including forestry, which will create new, resource efficient engines of growth and generate employment. Green Economy also includes increased emphasis on provision of ecosystems services, including compensation for providing such services through Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) models. These models include, for example, REDD+ payments for forest conservation, and can open new revenue streams for countries to more effectively manage their forests.


In 1997, ASEAN leaders pledged their commitment and determination to bringing the ASEAN Vision for the Year 2020 into reality.

Critical to the vision was an undertaking to:

“Enhance food security and international competitiveness of food, agricultural and forest products, to make ASEAN a leading producer of these products, and promote the forestry sector as a model in forest management, conservation and sustainable development.”

Today, 15 years since adoption of the vision, much work remains if the vision is to become reality. But with reaffirmed commitment to these objectives, and renewed thrust for effective implementation, the goal is not beyond our grasp. However we will need significant intensification of efforts including:

  • Accelerating afforestation and reforestation efforts;
  • Reducing agricultural encroachment into forest lands, and addressing unsustainable logging and other drivers of deforestation;
  • Improving forest governance and strengthening measures to curb illegal logging and its associated trade; and
  • Improving fire management, and reducing invasive species incursions and other ecosystem health issues.


Before concluding, I wish to express the importance of concerted efforts by all countries and all actors as the tasks can’t be accomplished by a single country nor a single organization.  Let’s work together  for our future generations and for our children. FAO is committed to take a part in this joint endeavor and assist ASEAN countries.

With the commitment evidenced by today’s unique meeting of the forestry leadership of ASEAN, I am confident that we will meet this challenge and I wish the Ministers every success in their deliberations. 

Thank you.