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Beyond Rio: the pursuit of sustainable development in the 1990s

Role of the APFC
Investment in forestry
Forestry statistics and outlook studies
UNCED and follow-up
Timber harvesting
Protected areas
Women in forestry

The Asia-Pacific region entered the 1990s in the challenging position of having the least forest area per capita and most rapid rate of deforestation of any region. More positively, the region led the world in the development of tropical forest plantations and temperate countries in the region were maintaining or increasing their forest cover. It was evident that many countries were undergoing significant structural shifts within the forestry sector as commercial log harvests were reduced; countries struggled with the transition from wood-surplus to wood-deficit conditions; industries adjusted from processing large-diameter, old-growth logs to smaller-diameter wood from plantations and secondary forests; and increased use was made of lesser-known species and non-traditional raw materials such as coconut timber, rubberwood and timber grown in agroforestry plantations.

These structural changes were creating considerable hardships in some areas of the region as foreign exchange earnings declined, government royalties were reduced, processing facilities were closed or relocated, workers were displaced and companies were forced to undergo costly re-tooling. In other areas, these changes offered new employment opportunities, the promise of improved resource utilization, greater downstream domestic processing and new marketing prospects.

Against this background, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), popularized as the "Earth Summit," was convened in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. It was the largest-ever international gathering. This event, and the binding and non-binding agreements that resulted, affirmed the dawn of a new era, the outlines of which had appeared on the horizon with the 1987 Brundtland Report. The Earth Summit rallied the world’s nations around the concept of "sustainable development," however intangible the term has proved. When the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission met at its Fifteenth Session in Colombo, Sri Lanka, just over a year after the Summit, the potential depth and breadth of its work program had assumed unprecedented dimensions.

Over the course of the APFC’s 50 years of existence, the post-Rio period bears much resemblance with the post-Mysore era. First, both conferences followed accelerating concerns about the state of the world’s forests: concerns over perceived wood deficits leading up to the Mysore conference and concerns over ecosystem degradation and disappearance leading up to the Rio conference. Second, both events manifested the culmination of international attempts to find common ground for appropriate action, summarized in the resulting Mysore Resolutions and the Forest Principles.6 Finally, both meetings ushered in a period of considerable APFC activity.

The differences between these two conferences are also significant. The first key difference is that even though the Mysore participants did not view forests as mere wood suppliers (their role in preventing water and soil erosion in many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, for instance, was clearly recognized), the range of goods and services provided by forests and trees explicitly acknowledged in UNCED documents was unparalleled ("sustained yield" versus "sustainable management").

The second major difference relates to the number, involvement and influence of stakeholders. At their first post-Rio session in 1993, APFC delegates agreed that "at no other time in the history of forestry development had there been such a surge of public interest in how forests were managed, which was matched by increasing demands of individuals and groups for a voice in forest management decision-making." By contrast, when the APFC came into being, forests were more or less the exclusive domain of foresters.

The Earth Summit reinforced a trend of mounting public criticism of logging in the tropics (starting during the 1970s) and growing worldwide concerns over tropical deforestation in the 1980s. This trend irreversibly transformed forest management decision making into a process in which trade-offs between sometimes contradictory goals and objectives, supported by increasingly powerful stakeholders (inside and outside the forest sector), became the norm rather than the exception. In the words of FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry C.H. Murray during his address to the Fifteenth APFC Session in 1993: "[At the Earth Summit,] forests ranked amongst the most important, sensitive and intractable of issues debated; forests became the arena where the conflict between conservation and development was most acute and where emerged the difference in perception between developed and developing countries on the role and value of the forest ecosystem."

The corollary of this is that the involvement in forest management of a larger number of interested parties is more in tune with the recognized diversity of forest goods and services, both in terms of stakeholders and of issues discussed. The APFC has not only acknowledged this evolution, but also promoted its advancement. On one hand, the Commission has ensured, based on its diverse membership and the region’s enormous range of different forest ecosystems, that all relevant topics are discussed at one time or another. During the 1990s, for instance, the role of women in forestry, ecotourism, and the role of forests in climate change emerged as new issues on the Commission’s agenda; non-wood forest products and forest fires reappeared after decades of relative negligence. On the other hand, the APFC encouraged the participation of various stakeholders at its open sessions, including the private sector, non-governmental organizations and donors, and lent strong support to the principle of FAO collaboration with other partners in carrying out activities in the region.

Increased concern over deforestation and forest degradation, the growing diversification of interested parties in forest management, the momentum created by UNCED and the request by FAO’s governing bodies to expand the role of regional forestry commissions combined to help maintain and increase the APFC’s momentum during the 1990s. The revival of subsidiary groups during the 1980s paved the way for a number of important regional achievements, such as FORSPA. During the 1990s, the APFC continued to initiate and coordinate substantial undertakings, including the Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study (APFSOS) and the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific. The frequency of sessions returned to every two years after a prolonged period characterized by longer intervals; membership increased with the addition of Bhutan, Mongolia, Maldives and Vanuatu; and participation rates at sessions have soared.

A key factor that has contributed to the APFC’s renewed dynamism is the changing relationship between the Commission and FAO. This change has two main aspects. The first was the decentralization of field project operations to the regional offices, including the transfer of staff at the end of 1996 and the devolution of most administrative authorities during 1997. The other was a more conscious and committed effort on the part of FAO to ensure active RFCs. After much emphasis had shifted from regional to international levels in the 1960s and 1970s, the FAO decentralization thrust now confers greater attention to the regions. To underscore this development, the APFC has stressed that FAO’s devolution of responsibilities should be accompanied by devolution of adequate financial resources.

The renewed calls for a greater role of the regional forestry commissions also translated into more effective follow-up to Commission recommendations. At all of the APFC’s sessions during the 1990s, FAO was commended for concentrating on issues of importance to the members of the Commission. At the 1993 Session in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for instance, the delegates noted with appreciation FAO’s activities in the following:

- implementation and finalization of the 1990 Global Forest Resources Assessment;

- support for tree improvement and improved plantation development;

- formulation of new watershed management projects and support to ongoing projects;

- strengthening of biological diversity conservation and protected area management;

- agroforestry research and information sharing;

- coordination and support of TFAP and Master Plan activities;

- training in environmentally sound forest harvesting;

- case studies on non-wood forest products;

- wood energy programme support;

- analysis of wood industries, trade and marketing;

- analysis of forestry policies in the region;

- case studies on community forestry and training in community forestry strategies and gender analysis; and

- coordination of forestry research and forestry education activities.

In return, the APFC has been able to provide FAO and other international organizations with more concise feedback. To cite one example, it may actually have been in light of the large number of FAO initiatives that the Commission stressed the need for the organization to focus on its areas of comparative advantage. The APFC suggested that these included forest resources assessment and monitoring, support to TFAP, and country capacity building.

A more immediate reason may have been that more and more countries in the region were making significant matching contributions to projects, which prompted the APFC to urge its members to carefully prioritize development assistance projects and avoid spreading scarce counterpart resources too thinly. Furthermore, the Commission observed the tendency of projects to compete with one another for time, attention and resources in developing countries, "undermining the basic principles of sound project implementation." It suggested that this highlighted the need for improved coordination and planning at the national level to ensure that limited resources could be allocated to the highest priority activities within each country’s forestry development strategies.

As the APFC approaches the turn of the century, the pursuit of sustainable forest management (SFM) in the context of UNCED follow-up has moved to the center stage of its activities and deliberations. It provides a rallying point for the Commission member governments and people to strengthen existing approaches or devise new ways, to balance the varying demands for forest goods and services. The following sections will show that the APFC, increasingly in collaboration with its partners, is up to the task and is making valuable contributions to the process.

Role of the APFC

In the 1990s, the Earth Summit and its far-reaching implications for forestry reminded the APFC that continued self-assessment was necessary. At its Fifteenth Session in 1993, the Commission agreed to follow-up on a COFO proposal and assume the important role of monitoring UNCED follow-up, initially through modified national progress reports. In 1995, FAO formed a task force to adapt the outline for national progress reporting for RFCs with a view to avoiding duplication with demands for similar information through other channels. It argued that "[these] reports should be seen as important vehicles for bottom-up communication primarily for countries to express their views and concerns, secondly between countries in the framework of analysis and discussion of regional forestry situations, and thirdly for FAO to improve its understanding of important developments of forestry in countries of the region."

At the same time, as the APFC took on this additional responsibility, however, the Commission expressed concern over the rather poor participation in the Fifteenth Session and noted the trend of declining participation since the Thirteenth Session in Beijing. It urged FAO to investigate the root causes of the decline in participation and to implement remedial action to enhance full and productive participation of all members. In this context, FAO’s process of decentralization in the mid-1990s helped streamline communications between the Secretariat and member countries, and agenda setting became a more participatory process. On the other hand, shifting the responsibility for the logistical aspects of the Commission sessions to the regional offices increased the workload of the regional forestry work groups and further highlighted the need for greater involvement of the APFC member countries.

In 1995, the FAO Committee on Forestry recommended that FAO stimulate inter-sessional activities of RFCs, including technical studies, as a way of enriching their work; seek ways to increase the participation of member countries in RFC meetings and activities, particularly those with severe financial constraints; and facilitate more interaction among RFCs and more joint activities. Similarly, the 1995 Rome Statement on Forestry, adopted at the Ministerial Meeting held in conjunction with COFO, urged greater utilization of RFCs, based on their unique position that enables them to contribute actively to the sustainable use of forest resources, and based on "the compelling obligation and decided commitment" to improve the efficiency of organizations at global and regional levels.

“Stronger RFCs will enable countries to (i) use their inside knowledge and access to first-hand information to determine strategic priorities and key problems on which regional efforts should concentrate; (ii) facilitate the coordination of technical and financial resources indispensable for increasing the efficiency of actions aimed at solving regional and national forestry problems; (iii) become authoritative fora and centres of excellence for the discussion of issues and policy orientation; and (iv) secure the flow of investments required for advancement towards the sustainable development of forest resources.”

Rome Statement on Forestry, 1995

In response to these suggestions, FAO undertook a review of RFC sessions and recommendations. The reviewers concluded that several needs and opportunities for strengthening RFCs existed. They suggested a number of ways and means for strengthening the roles of the RFCs. These were discussed by APFC delegates at their Sixteenth Session in 1996. Delegates agreed that there should be more active participation in its sessions by senior officials with major responsibility for policy development and program implementation; however, some delegates suggested that lack of funds were serious constraints to more active participation in APFC activities.

The Commission acknowledged that members themselves should take responsibility for ensuring that its activities were sufficiently important and interesting to attract involvement of all its member countries. To this end, the Commission resolved to pursue the following:

- development of substantive inter-sessional programs and, where appropriate, new funding arrangements to support such programs;

- greater exchange of information with other RFCs;

- interaction with other FAO committees and commissions in the region with responsibility for the closely-linked sector of agriculture;

- designation of national focal points to facilitate contacts on APFC business;

- clear advance planning for all APFC activities;

- promoting the use of new technologies, such as e-mail systems, to facilitate communication and information-sharing among members; and

- exchange of expertise among member countries of the APFC.

The continued dialogue on the role of the APFC stimulated the Commission to adopt measures needed to maintain it as an integral part of the region’s forest policy arena. The Commission recognized, for instance, that forestry has many stakeholders and that there are few mechanisms or fora where all interest groups have an opportunity to jointly address issues of common concern. It welcomed proposals to increase and enhance the involvement of other international organizations, NGOs, and the commercial private sector in its work. Considerable attention was given to inter-sessional activities and, as the following sections demonstrate, this resulted in substantial accomplishments during the 1990s.

Investment in forestry

During the late 1980s and early 1990s APFC delegates voiced concerns that follow-up to the Tropical Forestry Action Plan and Forestry Master Plans had been "rather meager." Similarly, several delegates pointed out that some components of a forest sector plan often got funded while others were left without support, resulting in gaps and lopsided development. To further examine these observations, the Commission held an in-session seminar on investment in forestry at its Fifteenth Session in 1993. The seminar offered the opportunity for recipient countries to share experiences in attracting funding for forestry, and for participants from donor countries to brief others on new developments influencing the availability of investment resources. It also permitted donors to communicate their priorities, procedures and criteria for assistance.

Numerous factors constraining investments in forestry development were identified. These included:

- weak, inconsistent or conflicting policies;
- lack of viable programs and projects;
- insufficient capabilities and institutional inadequacies;
- lack of incentives;
- weak economic conditions;
- cumbersome administrative controls and regulations;
- inadequate infrastructure;
- political or social instability;
- the restrictive policies of donors which are sometimes out of step with countries’ needs;
- failure to adequately consider market factors;
- lack of secure land tenure; and
- non-competitive wage and input costs.
The Commission also acknowledged that when projects were formulated by expatriate teams they often began work with pre-conceived notions of how projects should be designed and failed to adequately assess all reasonable project alternatives. Such pre-conceived biases could result in rigid project structures and modalities that discourage innovation and investment. It was also recognized that some donors’ insistence on conditionalities of assistance discouraged broader investment.

The Commission concluded that improved productivity and economic gains were the most important factors influencing investment flows. Accordingly, forestry projects undertaken to alleviate poverty were not meant to perpetuate subsistence, but rather to promote and support development. Toward this goal, the Commission felt that productivity had to be a major consideration. Furthermore, adherence to efficiency criteria was considered critical in order to attract investment, irrespective of whether programs are socially-oriented or production-driven, undertaken by private or public sectors, or whether loans or grants are involved. This was viewed especially crucial if private sector investment was desired. The Commission recommended that business management expertise should be included on project formulation teams to help ensure that competitive and attractive investment environments are created.

The renewed emphasis on productivity in some ways reflected a "coming to full circle" to the dominant approach to development during the 1950s and 1960s. An important distinction, however, was that this time around the private sector was encouraged to take the lead, rather than governments. Another key difference was that development assistance since UNCED emphasized the protective functions of forests. At their Sixteenth Session in 1996, the APFC delegates learned that about 70 percent of FAO’s total field programme budget went to support activities related to forest resources and environmental conservation, while 21 percent went to support forestry investment and institutions, consistent with current priorities of countries in the region. Only 9 percent of the total budget were supporting work related to forest products, reflecting a lack of donor enthusiasm for activities in this area.

The situation is changed to some extent as a result of developments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. More specifically, the Kyoto Protocol has raised expectations that so-called "joint implementation" projects could help developing countries secure funding for afforestation and reforestation activities. In light of the vast potential opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, the APFC recommended at its Seventeenth Session in 1998 that FAO and partner organizations prepare an appropriate study of these opportunities.

Forestry statistics and outlook studies

In 1996, exactly 20 years since FAO last carried out a regional forestry outlook study, the APFC approved a proposal for a new outlook study and agreed to assume the responsibility for overall guidance. Delegates argued that it was appropriate for the Commission to guide the study in view of the fact that the APFC has the largest and most inclusive membership of all regional forestry bodies in Asia and the Pacific. It was therefore acknowledged that the APFC had the potential to facilitate involvement of the largest proportion of countries. By taking the lead in implementing a study of "potentially great importance" for the future of forestry in the region, the Commission illustrated the more active role expected of regional forestry commissions.

Since the previous outlook study in 1976, APFC members had continuously improved their ability to gather and analyze statistics, and had contributed to FAO’s 1980 and 1990 Global Forest Resources Assessments. An undertaking of the proposed scope of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study (APFSOS), however, was unprecedented in the region. The Commission underlined the importance of addressing both utilization and conservation aspects of forestry and of analyzing the forestry sector in the context of the broader macro-economic and social environment. It requested that the study pay due attention to relationships with closely linked sectors such as agriculture and energy, and take into account such parameters as substitution and price developments.

Two years later, when the APFC met in Yogyakarta to discuss the preliminary outcome of the APFSOS, the delegates praised the active participation of member countries and the use of local expertise in carrying out the APFSOS. The Commission noted the "strong support extended by member governments" in contributing country reports, in many cases accompanied by the most recent documents on policies, strategies and actions. Designated focal points had also channeled country comments on selected papers that had statistics in need of verification. Indeed, the problem faced by the Secretariat had been how to adequately incorporate the rich supply of material and yet produce a report of manageable proportions.

Because the Yogyakarta meeting took place against the background of spreading economic turmoil in the Asia-Pacific region, the APFC members expressed concern about the consequences for the forestry sector in the region. While acknowledging the short-term negative impacts of the current regional economic downturn, Hosny El-Lakany, FAO’s Assistant Director-General of Forestry, ventured that "in the longer term, the current difficulties could lead to interesting opportunities and advantages for the Asia-Pacific forestry sector. This will be a time of reassessment, restructuring, reform and reorientation. Government policies will be adjusted to take a more efficient and sustainable posture. Complementary components to timber production - for example non-wood products and tourism - may find an increased niche."

Outlook for industrial roundwood to 2010

Source: FAO, 1998
The Commission concluded that notwithstanding the current economic turmoil, demands placed upon forests were expected to grow considerably. Despite this, and despite forests having gained prominence in recent international debates, delegates were concerned about the general decline in priority given to forests. They recognized that even a partial capture of some of the many benefits of the sector in financial terms could serve to increase appreciation of forests. They therefore recommended that member countries share their experiences in deriving revenue from water and watershed functions, forest-based ecotourism, biological diversity, wild animals and other services of forests. Governments and other partners were invited to report on these experiences at the millennial session, while FAO and member countries were asked to publicize credible quantitative and qualitative studies documenting the contributions of the forestry sector to society by way of environmental services and support for other sectors, especially agriculture and energy.

Like the previous forest sector outlook studies, the APFSOS highlighted significant gaps and weaknesses in data and information. In order to chart a course towards mitigating these shortcomings, the Commission held an in-session seminar on statistics and information. After reviewing the statistical work carried out by different organizations, delegates pointed out that numerous difficulties remained with regard to timeliness and reliability of data provided by countries, capacity to assess data and information properly, and overlapping data collection efforts.

Difficulties in collecting forestry statistics were said to include under-trained staff, misdirected correspondence, cumbersome reporting channels and inconsistent methods of recording and reporting data. The seminar participants noted that several agencies, and sometimes even more than one unit within the same agency, separately requested information from member countries. This resulted in confusion and unnecessary reporting burdens. In this context, the ongoing efforts by FAO and ITTO to develop a joint forestry statistics questionnaire for use by FAO, ECE, EUROSTAT and ITTO were commended. The Commission also endorsed proposals to strengthen the capacity of the FAO regional office in forestry statistics, information collection and reporting, and for decentralizing relevant FAO statistical activities.

Outlook for land use change to 2010

Source: FAO, 1998
At the end of the seminar, the participants formulated a number of recommendations aimed at FAO and other relevant agencies. First, they suggested that FAO and other organizations collecting statistics and information further work to avoid duplication and confusion in their requests for data and information. Second, noting the benefits that ITTO had gained from establishing a network of national correspondents for reporting forestry statistics, the delegates recommended that FAO establish a similar network of "national statistics correspondents." Third, they decided to establish the APFC Ad Hoc Working Group on Forestry Statistics and Information to assist member countries and other partners in improving data in the following areas: wood residues, trees outside forests, fuelwood and non-wood forest products with development potential. And fourth, the APFC recommended that FAO seek support for a regional project that would work to build and enhance the capacity for forestry data collection and analysis in the region.

UNCED and follow-up

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, constitutes one of the most significant events in the history of international cooperation in the area of forests. All of the resulting agreements - Agenda 21, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Forest Principles - have far-reaching implications for forest management around the world.

At its Fifteenth Session in 1993, the Commission recognized the numerous recommendations made at UNCED with particular reference to the Asia-Pacific region. These included the need for integrated land-use planning, intensified forest resource assessments, improved forest management, expanded support for community forestry, integrated mountain development, full development of the potential of non-wood forest products and intensified conservation of forest genetic resources. In view of the fact that FAO became the task manager for Chapter 11 (Deforestation) and Chapter 13 (Mountain Development) of Agenda 21, the Commission urged FAO not to spread its follow-up activities too widely and instead focus on its areas of comparative advantage.

By 1996, APFC members reported the overriding focus given to achieving sustainable forest management since UNCED. The Commission learned of a wide range of positive steps related to the development of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, reduced-impact logging, sub-regional and national codes of conduct for logging, tightened enforcement of forest concession regulations and more participatory forest management approaches. Many of the delegates argued that their countries were placing increased emphasis on social issues, especially in relation to communities in forest areas, in forest policies and programs, and in regard to social and economic benefits. Continued expansion of protected areas was also noted, as well as a shift away from timber harvesting in natural and old-growth forests, increased fire protection efforts and more attention on genetic resources conservation.

Following UNCED, numerous meetings, workshops and expert consultations related to the implementation of Agenda 21 Chapters 11 and 13 were held in the Asia-Pacific region, many at the suggestion of the APFC or its member countries. Some of the more important ones included regional expert consultations organized in partnership by FAO and other organizations on forestry policy development and research implications (October 1992 in Bangkok); on forestry sector reform towards a market orientation (March 1994 in Fuzhou, China); on non-wood forest products (November 1995 in Bangkok); on implementing sustainable forest management (December 1995 in Bangkok); on ecotourism for forest conservation and community development (in January 1997 in Chiang Mai, Thailand); and on decentralization and devolution of forest management (November 1998 in Davao, Philippines).

The recommendations these meetings produced were often referred to the APFC, where members discussed them further before passing them on to member countries and FAO. In this way, the APFC acted as an important link between regional policy and technical dialogues and the organizations and governments requested to pursue the UNCED agreements.

During the 1990s, the APFC also reviewed and discussed progress of other regional and international organizations, and mechanisms and initiatives in which many of its members were involved. These included the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and its successor, the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF); the ITTO’s "Year 2000 Objective" which calls for all internationally traded tropical timber to be sourced from sustainably managed forests by the year 2000; and the development of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.

An overarching set of recommendations concerning SFM emerged in 1997 from the Fourth IPF Session.7 In view of the complexity of the so-called "Proposals for Action," the Commission at its Seventeenth Session in 1998 recommended that members assess the relevance of each proposal and prioritize them giving due consideration to the specific conditions in their countries.

Timber harvesting

UNCED agreements and recommendations provided the background to one of the most significant recent achievements of the APFC. The IPF made a special call for the development of voluntary codes of practice for forest management activities, including timber harvesting. At a 1995 FAO/ITTO-organized expert consultation on implementing SFM in Asia and the Pacific, participants suggested that a regional working group be created to develop a comprehensive regional code of practice for forest harvesting.

The APFC established this working group at its Sixteenth Session in 1996 and mandated it to formulate a regional Code. The Commission noted the positive impact of the sub-regional harvesting code for the South Pacific and proposed that the regional code be based on, or complementary to existing sub-regional and various national logging codes. It recognized that the Code in itself would not ensure ecologically sustainable forest management, but argued that with effective implementation through reduced impact harvesting guidelines, participation in the planning process from all stakeholders, and integration with other sustainable forest management initiatives, the Code would assist in minimizing negative impacts of forest harvesting in production forests.

With this in mind, the members of the ad hoc Working Group on Sustainable Forest Management initiated their work under the coordination of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. They identified national focal points to coordinate members’ inputs, assessed forest codes from around the world for their applicability to the Asia-Pacific region and agreed on a framework, including purpose, coverage, scope and implementation. These preparations were followed by two Working Group meetings with intergovernmental, governmental, non-governmental and private sector representation, country visits to Myanmar, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vanuatu to obtain inputs for the Code, and the successive review of a number of drafts. The APFC considered the draft Code at its Seventeenth Session in 1998.

The Commission unanimously endorsed the draft and recognized its key value as a framework for the development of national codes of practice or their equivalents. The delegates acknowledged the importance of securing firm political and administrative support for the implementation of the Code and recommended that member countries seek opportunities to obtain regional, sub-regional and national political support for implementation by requesting appropriate fora to examine and endorse the Code.

The APFC also acknowledged that considerable efforts were needed to build awareness and understanding of the Code at policy, management and operational levels, and therefore recommended that FAO, working with other partners, develop and support training workshops and the development of implementation manuals and guidelines. In view of the success of the ad hoc Working Group, the Commission extended its mandate for an additional two years to support the implementation of the Code and the development and implementation of national codes. It was also recommended that the group support additional studies and initiatives related to SFM identified by the Asia-Pacific forest sector outlook study.

After its Seventeenth Session, the APFC gave considerable attention to supporting the implementation of the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific. Activities that were pursued, in collaboration with partner organizations, included the following:

Awareness raising

- A flier/brochure describing the Code and possible avenues by which organizations and individuals can support its implementation was developed and disseminated.

- A 4-day study tour to Sabah, Malaysia, was organized for 21 high-level officials in March 1999 to assess experiences with reduced impact logging consistent with the Code, and to build awareness of the potential for applying such practices in other areas.

- The Reduced Impact Logging Network ("RILNET") was established, with support from the USDA Forest Service and FAO, to exchange views and disseminate information on issues and experiences in applying reduced impact logging associated with Code implementation.

- A "Regional Consultation on Implementation of Codes of Logging Practice and Directions for the Future" was organized by the SPC/UNDP/AusAID/FAO Pacific Islands Forests and Trees Support Programme and the Vanuatu Department of Forests, 12-17 July 1999, in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

- With support from the Government of Australia, a "Regional Strategy for Implementing the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific" was drafted by the APFC ad hoc Working Group on Sustainable Forest Management.

Political and institutional support

In addition to the formal endorsement of the Code by the APFC at its Seventeenth Session, the following efforts were made to secure high-level political commitment to its implementation:

- Australia spearheaded efforts to have the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) take up consideration of the Code for possible endorsement.

- Indonesia led similar efforts to have the Code endorsed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

- Heads of state from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu endorsed the Code of Conduct for Logging of Indigenous Forests in Selected South Pacific Countries.

- The Australian Ministry of Environment (Environment Australia) and the APFC organized a 1-month "Training-of-Trainers" Workshop on Development and Implementation of the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific, in May 1999, in Sabah, Malaysia (18 participants from 5 countries).

- With support from JIFPRO and the USDA Forest Service, the APFC ad hoc Working Group on Sustainable Forest Management initiated the formulation of a "Training Strategy in Support of the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific" in 1999.

- The Pacific Islands Forests and Trees Support Programme (PIF&TSP) organized a series of training workshops for South Pacific countries to strengthen various aspects of implementation of national codes of logging practice (1998: training-of-trainers on silvicultural prescriptions and reduced impact logging techniques; 1997: implementation and monitoring of codes of practice; 1996: natural forest planning, harvesting, and management practices; 1995: natural forest management and logging practices.

Development of national codes of practice

The tremendous biophysical, social, political and economic diversity among the countries of the Asia-Pacific region generally require that countries develop national or even local codes of practice to guide forest harvesting activities. The APFC strongly supported this work through exchanges of experiences and documentation among countries. At least 13 APFC countries have now developed, or are in the process of developing, national codes of practice for forest harvesting.

In late 1999, the APFC successfully secured funding from the International Tropical Timber Organization for a pre-project that focused on training, awareness raising, and demonstration in support of Code implementation.

Overall, the framework provided by the APFC in developing and supporting the implementation of the regional Code and associated national codes was highly effective and successful. Member countries continue to support the effort vigorously and the future outlook for collaborative work of the Commission in this area is encouraging.

Protected areas

The Convention on Biological Diversity that emerged from the Earth Summit gave an enormous boost to the legitimacy of protected areas as a means for in situ conservation. Asia-Pacific countries had enlarged their areas under various forms of protection since the issue gained prominence in the early 1970s; however, the APFC acknowledged that there was still uncertainty and lack of consensus over the roles and objectives of protected areas in many countries.

Four years after UNCED, APFC members conceded that many so-called protected areas remained largely unprotected in reality. In spite of the substantial efforts made in the region the APFC highlighted three broad groups of problems: (i) inappropriate policy, legal and institutional frameworks, including inadequate recognition of intersectional linkages and weaknesses in training; (ii) inadequate arrangements for promoting local community participation with all its economic, social and cultural dimensions; and (iii) insufficient efforts to quantify and account for the multiple benefits from protected area management.

In this context, the Commission recommended that FAO give priority to the following:

- strengthening and nurturing indigenous knowledge of natural resource management;

- improving rural infrastructure;

- recognition of traditional local rights;

- management of ecotourism in ecologically sustainable and culturally acceptable ways;

- countering the threats to natural ecosystems from introduced pests, predators and other exotic influences; and

- promoting international collaboration, especially to deal with trans-boundary aspects of protected area management.

While reiterating the need to create income and employment opportunities for local communities and to bring them into the main decision-making processes, the APFC stressed the challenge of preventing over-exploitation of economically valuable products and services and the consequent degradation of forest ecosystems.

Women in forestry

The APFC recognized early on that community involvement is in most cases an imperative for the successful implementation of forestry policies, programs and projects. The special role of women, however, did not become an APFC concern until the 1990 Session in Manila. The Commission cited the dearth of women participants at APFC sessions as evidence of the failure of the forestry profession to effectively engage women at the highest levels of forestry decision-making. It challenged member countries to increase the number of women at future sessions. As a consequence, the role of women was designated a key agenda item for the Fifteenth Session in 1993 in Sri Lanka.

In her presentation to the APFC delegates in Sri Lanka, Professor Anoja Wickramasinghe from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, highlighted that the success of forestry activities often hinged on how well projects facilitated the participation of both women and men in the planning, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of activities. The Commission acknowledged numerous constraints that prevented women from fully participating in forestry development, including the lack of tenure rights to land and trees, institutional and cultural constraints, male-dominated community organizations, lack of access to credit and technology, and lack of access to training. The Commission urged forestry departments, project mangers and all forestry officials to work toward removing these constraints.

The Commission observed, however, that the tremendous variability of cultures and gender roles in the region made it dangerous to generalize about gender issues. It observed that some constraints to participation in forestry that first appear to be gender-related may actually be caused by non-gender related social, cultural, economic or caste barriers. Perhaps as a result of the absence of women who would have convinced their male counterparts of the true extent of the problem, the Commission encouraged forestry officials to avoid pre-conceived notions about gender issues and base planning and decision-making on "sound analysis of actual barriers." It further urged members to respect cultural variability and avoid "overly aggressive efforts to force one culture’s value system onto others."


The 1990s witnessed the flourishing of the Forestry Research Support Programme for the Asia-Pacific Region (FORSPA), one of the most significant initiatives emerging from the APFC’s ad hoc study group on forestry research. Already in 1993, the Commission delegates took note that FORSPA was funding more than two dozen research proposals, had organized three regional forestry research consultations, had produced and disseminated a large number of research-related documents, widely distributed a quarterly newsletter, and funded numerous researchers of the region to participate in research workshops and conferences. The Commission acknowledged the role FORSPA was playing in promoting collaboration among research institutions in the region and encouraged the further development of networking activities.

By the late 1990s, FORSPA support had evolved to focus on building and strengthening research capacity. The program supported a large number of training activities and worked to improve researchers’ access to information. FORSPA also assisted several countries in the region to develop realistic and pragmatic research strategies, prioritize research needs and focusing limited resources toward areas of greatest importance. Most notably, FORSPA and FAO established the Asia Pacific Association of Forestry Research Institutions (APAFRI), which has emerged as a key organization of support and exchange among researchers in the region.

6 The full name is “Non-Legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of all Types of Forests.”

7 The IPF was established in 1995 by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) to follow up the UNCED recommendations on sustainable forest management.

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