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Governments, the forest industry, private forest owners and other parties are today increasingly concerned about implementation of good forest management practices. This marks a positive move towards sustainability, with due attention being paid to the need to balance the economic, environmental and social roles which forests play.

Some 150 countries around the globe are presently involved in one of nine major inter-Governmental processes or initiatives on criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.

Criteria define the range of forest values to be addressed and the essential elements or principles of forest management against which the sustainability of forests may be assessed. Each criterion relates to a key element of sustainability, and may be described by one or more indicators. Indicators measure specific quantitative and qualitative attributes (and reflect forest values as seen by the interest group defining each criterion) and help monitor trends in the sustainability of forest management over time. Changes in the indicators between periods indicate whether a country is moving towards, or away from, sustainability. Criteria and indicators, at both national and forest management unit level, are tools for monitoring trends and effects of forest management interventions. The ultimate aim of these tools is to promote improved forest management practices over time, and to further the development of a healthier and more productive forest estate.

The present Working Paper summarises and briefly describes the various forestry criteria and indicators processes, and lists the criteria and indicators defined within each of these. The purpose is to facilitate information flow among the on-going processes and between these and possible new initiatives, and to make the information easily accessible also to those dealing with similar issues in other fields of forestry or related fields of sustainable development.

In compiling the list, FAO has worked in close collaboration with the secretariats of the on-going criteria and indicators processes covered in the present document and with individual participating countries. FAO has over the years also collaborated closely and coordinated action with that of its major international partners in this field, notably UNEP and ITTO.

Contacts and collaboration have, further, been pursued with secretariats of criteria and indicators processes covering a number of other, and at times partly overlapping, sectors, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (biological diversity indicators), the Ministerial Processes of European Ministers of Environment (indicators for biological and landscape diversity), and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD (environmental indicators for agriculture).

The development of criteria and indicators, and the testing and field level implementation of indicators, is a dynamic process. Thus, the lists in this document will no doubt change and evolve further over the coming years.

Rome, May 2001.

El Hadji Sène
Forest Resources Division
Forestry Department

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