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Defining and implementing sustainable forest management (SFM) is one of the most critical challenges facing countries of the Asia-Pacific region in the present era. Forest managers in the region are under increasing pressure to meet the growing demands for all types of forest products and services, while striving to maintain the ecological integrity of forests and enhance the livelihoods of people. As the region is a major producer of forest products and harbours a dazzling array of rich biological resources, forest harvesting practices and their related impacts are key concerns for forest managers, environmentalists and other stakeholders.

Recognising and responding to these challenges, the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) committed itself, in 1996, to develop a regional code of practice for forest harvesting. This Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific, which was endorsed by the APFC membership at its seventeenth session in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in February 1998, is a product of joint efforts of the APFC members and FAO. It is intended to identify and encourage environmentally sound forest harvesting practices throughout the region. The Code has been developed specifically to provide a basis for sub-regional or national codes in the region, and to guide forest harvesting practices in the absence of more localised codes. It outlines key principles of improved forest harvesting in Asia and the Pacific, particularly the harvesting of timber with reduced environmental and social impacts.

Most countries of the Asia-Pacific region have long ago established strong frameworks for sustainable forest management through their forestry and environmental legislation and forest policies. What is most lacking, however, is emphasis on field-level implementation of SFM. It is anticipated that by adopting the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific, and implementing the necessary measures for ensuring adherence to it, countries in the region will rapidly advance to more sustainable levels of forest management.

The development of this Code is fully consistent with the SFM approaches recommended by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, which has recognised the importance of comprehensive forest policies and national forest programs for the achievement of sustainable forest management.

FAO is pleased to have played a supporting role in the development of the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific and offers its sincere compliments and congratulations to the members of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission for preparing and adopting this important tool for forest management in the region.

Prem Nath
Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, FAO

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