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Contribution towards the work of UNFF and to the international initiatives on criteria and indicators related to sustainable development

Robert Hendricks1

International Conference on the Contribution of Criteria and Indicators
for Sustainable Forest Management: The Way Forward (CICI-2003)
Guatemala City, Guatemala,
3-7 February 2003


The views expressed in this paper are those of the author. They are drawn from experience and material available on the Internet and in publications. In addition to identifying successes and problems, it is hoped that the identified questions, challenges and recommendations will stimulate discussion and additional suggestions.

The outline provided in the author's terms of reference has been rearranged to facilitate an easier progression of thought. In addition, a few topics have been added. The topics addressed in the paper are:


Political leadership, and most forest managers, have endorsed sustainable development (SD) as a national goal [UNCED Forest Principles, UNIPF/IFF, FAO member countries' forest ministers, the Ministerial Conferences on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) and country participation in regional C&I processes]. It is recognized that there must be a marriage between economic, social and environment goals if forest management is to be successful. SFM is the forest management sector's response to SD. Swaziland has stated it nicely, "It is hoped that the guiding principles and instruments enshrined in the National Forest Policy will help in solving the socio-economic and environmental problems listed above through the application and achievement of sustainable management and development of the national forest resources" (Swaziland, 2001).

C&I are a tool available to forest managers, policy-makers and the public to assess progress towards SFM. C&I are a powerful tool because they are the product of wide stakeholder participation, consensus and acceptance. C&I were designed to help decision-makers, stakeholders and land managers understand the goal of sustainability and see the results, on a national scale, of forest management activities at the local level. Properly utilized, C&I are a tool to assess the effectiveness of government and non-government programmes. They constitute a way to monitor the success of national forest programmes or strategic plans. In other words, C&I amount to nothing more than basic management science. In addition, with acceptance and use, unforeseen applications of C&I have been thought of, developed and implemented, such as using C&I as guidelines for forest planning (i.e. Pan-European management guidelines). This paper partially describes a number of these C&I applications.

SFM is a part of SD. Neither one should be thought of as a state or condition. Furthermore, it is incorrect to maintain that sustainability has been defined or arrived at. The World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) stated in Our Common Future that SD is not a "fixed state of harmony, but rather a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investment, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are made consistent with future as well as present needs". In keeping with this notion, national C&I function to guide policy, investment programmes and local management activities by providing biological, social, economic or institutional conditions indicating a nation's progress towards SFM. Using C&I data, policy-makers have a means to navigate towards SFM. Such navigation must be a transparent and collaborative process in which stakeholders express their desires.

C&I are not a "model" for calculating a sustainability index. Progress towards SFM is the result of constant adjustments to policy, investments and management in response to indicator trends. There will be disagreements over the appropriate actions to take concerning whether sustainability has yet occurred. However, because the data are available to all stakeholders, the rationale for the decisions will become better reasoned. As C&I data are accepted, the focus of discussion can shift from the validity of the data to what must be done. Once periodically reported C&I data is accepted and can be appropriately used, the real questions for SFM can be addressed.


At the International Seminar on Criteria and Indicators (ISCI) in 1996, countries asked why C&I were needed. Why was it important to use C&I in formulating forest policy? In what way could local aggregated data, in the form of C&I, be used to develop policy? Many felt there was no immediate return for the C&I effort, and that they may not be worth the investment of time and money. Despite the documented practical benefits that have come from the use of C&I, over the last five years, some countries are still asking the same questions asked at ISCI. Here at CICI-2003 we can now list many actual applications, although we have to concede there are many obstacles to the full application of C&I.

In its grandest application, trends in C&I may be used to assess progress in SFM. They may be used for national decision-making in a similar way that economic indicators are used. Used in this way, C&I do not need thresholds (the point where acceptable or not acceptable or good versus bad is established) as some people maintain.

Is there a precedent for this use of C&I? The answer is yes. Prior to the development of the national income accounts, national policy-makers guided their nation's economies with limited or fragmented information. During the depression of the 1930s, countries were perplexed with what action to take to recreate prosperity, largely because of a lack of economic information. The need for information led to the creation of national economic statistics. Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson and co-author William Nordhaus (1995) state: "Without measures of economic aggregates like Gross Domestic Product (GDP), policy-makers would be adrift in a sea of unorganized data. The GDP (gross domestic product) and related data, therefore, are like beacons that help policy-makers steer the economy towards the key economic objectives." They state further that economic indicators "are truly among the great inventions of the twentieth century." Regarding the need and use of a set of indicators to help guide policy decision-making, Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Bank, has said, "What is not really readily understood, except by those of us who employ complex computer-based models for forecasting, is how much the total set - the national income and product accounts - reduce forecast error". Last, regarding the need for science-based data, John Maynard Keynes, the great British economist, once said that accuracy and conceptual rigour of our underlying data systems are more powerful and important than is commonly understood.

This "grand" application of C&I can provide the same service to national forest policy-makers as economic indicators do for the managers of national economies.

2.1 C&I applications to forest policy, forest strategic planning and national forest programmes, monitoring, evaluation and reporting

Forest managers and policy-makers should ask themselves whether they can articulate their role or contribution to sustainability. Do forest managers know if they have the tools to make a contribution towards sustainability? How should forest managers respond to the critics who suggest that forest management is unsustainable and that professional land managers are unsupportive of SD? The professional forest management community should not shy away from these strategic policy and planning questions. C&I provide a tool to help answer these questions.

Although land managers may have different resource objectives, all professional land managers believe in rational land management and management accountability. This means that a wide range of values should come from forests. Modern forest managers see their work as a service to many sectors of humanity. Laws, forest data systems, reporting and organizational mission statements developed over the last decade all verify this. Today's issue, therefore, should not be the intent or accomplishments of forestland managers. It is the inability of forest managers to clearly and compellingly report their accomplishments, failures, needs and relevance to the public, decision-makers and national sustainability goals. C&I have been designed as a tool to organize the forest management community and enable it to communicate this information to the public and decision-makers. This is the point from which the forest management community should be starting and from which future policy should be debated.

Many sets of national-level C&I have been developed in the last eight years. The dialogue that produced regional sets of C&I itself vastly improved global understanding of SFM. Before C&I, sustainability was a politically correct word used with little meaning. C&I helped clarify biological, social, economic and institutional aspects of SFM. The different responsibilities at each level of forest management and the differences between countries' desires and needs became clearer. Relevant management questions and policies, and how the needs at each management level relate to others, were also revealed.

The list of successful C&I applications is growing. C&I serve to co-ordinate resource data between agencies and different levels of government (USDA Forest Service, Federal Commitment). The challenge of measuring society's progress towards SFM has galvanized the research community into providing protocols for data collection (IUFRO - Australia and Malaysia). At the management unit level, national C&I are being used to develop local C&I for assessing sustainability and certification (American Forest and Products Association, Suoheimo, 2001).

In the past, and also today, forest managers have struggled with different and uncoordinated data sets to construct forest assessments, plans and policies (Hardjowitjitro, 2001; Bryant, 2001). Now, C&I provide a basis for co-ordinating data collection. This is of enormous strategic importance because it provides a basis for the higher levels of organizations to co-ordinate data collected by field units, other agencies or fora and thereby improves the efficiency by which data are collected (Biodiversity in Europe).

Although a number of processes include countries that are implementing C&I, there may be confusion regarding the proposed uses of national C&I (Ram Prasad and P.C. Kotwal, 2001). As an example, confusion starts with whether C&I developed collaboratively in an international forum are for national use or for international reporting. Is the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) emphasis on submission of national reports to ITTO implying C&I are for international reporting? This distinction is important. It points to where SFM decisions are made and responsibility resides. Most countries intend that C&I be for national policy-makers. Why produce expensive reports for international bodies? It is countries that implement forest management actions, not international fora. Some of the public have not supported C&I developed internationally because of a feared sovereignty issue. As another example regarding C&I confusion, what does it mean that the African Timber Organization's (ATO) national C&I look very much like administrative standards while C&I of other processes have no such standards?

A number of C&I processes, countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have developed C&I for the sub-national level. These have been developed for a number of reasons which are explained later. Two excellent publications by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the USDA Forest Service's Inventory and Monitoring Institute are valuable resources for understanding and applying indicators. Differences and similarities among sub-national C&I applications, however, have been another source of confusion in forest management circles. For example, the Malaysian management unit-level C&I "are intended to assess directly the sustainability of forest resource management, conservation and development at that level" (Chiew, 2001). C&I used in certification schemes monitor a unit's conformance to SFM standards. What is the significance of the difference and how does a person know which to choose for their application?

2.2 Uses of C&I as a tool for promoting SFM at all levels and various scales, and for demonstrating progress towards SFM

The use of national C&I at all levels of management is varied and powerful. C&I:

The practical application of national C&I at international, national and sub-national levels began to accrue before the first national SFM reports were produced for which C&I were designed. The international C&I processes themselves provided smaller countries with the opportunity to have more influence in evolving SFM concepts. An example is the developed world's response to the ITTO producer states calling for the developed countries to commit to and measure their progress towards SFM. Many nations found that developing C&I provided an opportunity to bring together otherwise disagreeing stakeholder groups to find what they had in common (Australian Montreal Process Implementing Group - MIG). The criteria alone proved to be a useful "framework" to describe forest agency goals and how those goals were relevant to national goals (SPRA).

C&I are now understood to provide a framework for inventory, assessment, reporting, strategic planning, co-ordination, partnering, policy and legal development. For decades, different agencies within government, field units and stakeholders collected data using different methods. The results were numerous, diverse and uncoordinated data with marginal utility. One problem with such data is the inability to aggregate it to higher levels. This, in turn, contributed to the difficulty of adjacent landowners, agencies and sub-national governments to collaborate since they have different data and do not see their problems and opportunities in similar ways. Today, however, there is greater pressure to co-ordinate programmes and activities at sub-national level because of more clearly understood goals.

Managers and owners at sub-national level are asking how they can demonstrate the sustainability of their work and how national C&I are relevant to their level of work. After all, it is practices at sub-national level, not policies at national level, which constitute SFM. National managers, in turn, have asked how data generated to guide management decisions at sub-national level can be used to monitor resource, social and economic trends at national level. To our benefit today, the relationships between national goals and monitoring, assessments, planning and management activities have been worked out. The relationship between national- and sub-national-level C&I, however, must be clear in order to defend their use and expense, ensure their support and design of efficient procedures to implement them.

In response to sub-national managers desire to demonstrate their contributions to SFM, national C&I provide context and purpose for sub-national goals and activities. In other words, C&I link local-level management to higher-level organizational goals. A well-known example is the International Model Forest Network. In Canada, national criteria have provided the "starting point" for defining SFM and a set of C&I for each model forest. A similar example of C&I used as a reference for sub-national or local applications is the Pan-European operational-level "guidelines for sustainable forest management (MCPFE)".

One way to destroy stakeholder support for C&I is to suggest that all SFM criteria should be used as goals at all levels of management. Equally destructive is to suggest that all criteria be given equal emphasis at all levels of forest management. Certain stakeholders may interpret that the use of C&I means that all lands should be managed in a similar manner for all forest values. Private landowners or the managers of public land units that feature a particular form of forest management (i.e. plantations or parks) are sensitive to these concerns.

2.3 The use of national C&I as a framework for developing sub-national C&I and certification and clarify differences between these instruments

Comparable and compatible criteria at sub-national level can be useful in assessing progress towards SFM at both local and national levels. It allows the sub-national (local level) managers to engage in the sustainability dialogue, know how their units contribute to SFM on a larger scale and address desired resource conditions. Traditionally, local managers have focused on production targets.

What constitutes the sub-national level?

The sub-national level is a complex array of political, ownership and management boundaries. It includes what is called the forest management unit (FMU) level. The areas vary widely in size and complexity. They are the areas for which goals and objectives are established, where people work, and where accountability rests. Each country will continue to make its own decisions on what constitutes a sub-national or FMU level.

How do sub-national management objectives relate to indicators at the national level?

The relative importance of a particular criterion or indicator at sub-national level may vary, in the long term, depending upon the unit's forest management objectives and size (Al Abee and Rob Hendricks, 1999). This statement recognizes the right or responsibility of private landowners and local managers to administer their tracts of land to meet their objectives. To the sub-national manager, the sustainability issue may be the aggregate results of his and other landowner management decisions revealed in national trends. On the other hand, for the land manager, sustainability may mean getting certified by demonstrating local unit compliance with a set of quality standards.

Forest managers will collect data relevant to their management objectives. Data collected to meet sub-national management objectives and the use of that data, therefore, differ from one manager to another. For example, biodiversity and wood production indicators would be used differently for the management of plantations than in conservation forests or private versus public forests.

Government agencies also make independent decisions regarding the data they will collect. Global Forest Watch has described this problem (Bryant, 2001). In the United States, federal, state and private agencies at national and sub-national levels, collectively, annually spend hundreds of millions of dollars for data that cannot be effectively aggregated to regional or national levels. The result is that many sub-national managers, who try to practise scientific and collaborative management, are frustrated by the lack of compatible data on adjacent lands to help them plan or collaborate.

Sub-national-level C&I have been developed for different purposes. Whereas C&I at national level are primarily for describing, assessing and evaluating a nation's progress towards SFM and policy development, sub-national-level C&I have been developed for a number of purposes:

Because the purposes of sub-national C&I differ, the strength of their linkage to national-level C&I, to date, also differs. The people who developed the sustainable forestry initiative (SFI) indicators also participated in the development of the Montreal process C&I but do not follow them directly. Future Finnish sub-national C&I will be designed, at least partially, to provide data to regional and national C&I. The ITTO sub-national and national C&I were developed concurrently and look very similar to each other.

National and sub-national C&I and certification are tools that complement each other. One can inform the other. Certifiers of wood products do not certify that a management unit is sustainable. They certify that certain management standards have been met. The ultimate purpose of certification, however, is the sustainable management of forests and access to markets. National C&I trend data can inform certifiers whether their programmes are producing the desired effect across the landscape, resulting in sustainability. On the flip side, if trends are unacceptable, management changes must be made on public and private lands. One vehicle to accomplish this might be to work with the certification community to change certification standards in order to create the desired results in biodiversity, social conditions, etc.

The aggregation of sub-national data for national use depends on the ability of national-level managers to convince sub-national managers to collect comparable, or at least compatible, data. Sub-national managers are being asked to collect more than minimal data for their use. The inability of national managers to coordinate local data collection may result in the need for a national inventory.

National data management plans, therefore, are beginning to address standards for collecting comparable and compatible data gathered at sub-national level. Such data would greatly enhance the efficiency and cost effectiveness of SFM assessments assembled nationally. Just as important, local managers will find such data useful in planning and in collaborating with their neighbours and local government.


3.1 The challenges in developing C&I

Since many sets of C&I have already been developed, this discussion is retrospective. Challenges to further development of C&I are both conceptual and technical. Conceptual confusion began with the forest management community's poor understanding of SD. Technical confusion partially sprang from identical C&I terms being used differently to explain processes with different objectives. Some additional challenges include:

As previously mentioned, there is a lack of common agreement on how to approach the assessment of sustainability at national level (Prasad and Kotwal, 2001). This stems, at least partially, from poor understanding of the purpose of C&I. A paper presented in Yokohama in 2001 (Tang, 2001) illustrates the point. It states that national C&I "must be supplemented by standards of performance and management prescriptions" and may be specific to particular forest types. This differs from the Montreal process, which states that trends are an adequate basis for assessing SFM at national level. The Montreal process does not advocate the use of standards for national C&I

The lack of a clear and accepted distinction between the purposes of national and sub-national or local C&I is another conceptual problem. The ability to clarify this distinction has been hampered by national political positions sensitive to the distinctions. For many years, addressing the possible links between C&I at sub-national level, certification and national C&I was strongly discouraged. Some feared that any mention of sub-national-level C&I was an endorsement of certification or a particular certification scheme.

Standards for indicators may be fundamental to the notion of certification but not national C&I. There are two reasons why standards are problematic at national level. As discussed earlier, economic indicators provide a model for the use of SFM indicators. Economic indicators do not have threshold values or standards which deserves an explanation. First, we do not have the science, and we may not have the political skill, to determine national standards for each criterion and indicator. Second, C&I are intended to be used to guide policy and management decisions over time. This is in keeping with the Brundtland notion of SD. For this purpose, it is just as useful to be aware of trends as to know a particular point at which an indicator is unacceptable. Aside from the direction of the trend, the rate of change and what is happening to other indicators is as meaningful as an indicator value.

Dr. Chiew Tang Hooi, a widely consulted expert in C&I, fosters an impression that countries have the freedom to select or emphasize criteria or indicators to measure SFM. He states, "not all indicators are equally important in all countries because of different forest conditions and economic and social priorities". The concept of long-term priorities for C&I based on economic priorities is a violation of the C&I concept. This is the equivalent of saying one criterion can be used to establish sustainability. The Montreal Process states that all C&I must be assessed as a set and that no one indicator can be used to determine sustainability. True, a country may choose to manage for a particular criterion or indicator; however, it does not make or mean the country's forest management is sustainable.

There is no common understanding, if not fundamental misunderstanding, of what indicators are to reveal to the user. To illustrate, Tang's paper states, "it is not clear why indicator values should stay within the range of natural variation" ("range of historic variation" is a concept built into Montreal process indicators).

National-level indicators are not designed as objectives. The wording of an indicator, however, may provide a basis for establishing a reference point for the significance of the data observed. The indicator referred to by Tang seeks to provide an insight into current ecosystem conditions. The significant question when interpreting this indicator is how current habitat conditions differ from those that provided the many forest benefits known to have once come from the forest. For example, in forests subject to natural fire, many species evolved to be heavily dependent on fire. Although society may choose to manage fire for a fire-dependent species at less than historic (natural) levels, the natural fire level is an important reference. The term "variation from historic levels" is often chosen rather than the term "natural levels" because it recognizes that forests have been historically modified by people. In addition, reference to "natural level" is known to generate concern among some stakeholders.

The FAO paper, Criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management of all types of forests and implications for certification and trade, provides another example of expert confusion. It is a disservice to C&I understanding to state "the main interest in certification has been for use as a tool for market promotion in contrast to national-level criteria and indicators developed primarily to support and monitor efforts to manage forests sustainably". It distorts the reader's appreciation for certification, national C&I and how they can relate to each other and SFM.

The Forest Stewardship Council's (FSC) stated goal for certification is to "promote environmentally responsible management of the world's forests" (FSC brochure). The goal of national C&I is to measure national progress towards SFM. These goals are identical. However, the activities and people that each is trying to influence are different. Certifiers have established standards for management at the production level. They are asking consumers to respond to voluntary producer conformance to those standards through their buying habits. Governments are fostering the accomplishment of SFM by providing policy-makers and managers at all levels (including certifiers) with national or regional condition trends resulting from management actions. Both systems can complement each other.

For good measure, here is one more example of confusion. ITTO presents its Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management of natural tropical forests as national C&I comparable to other national C&I. Natural forests, however, are a sub-set of a nation's forests so "natural forest" C&I are inconsistent with the notion of national C&I. It is unclear how decision-makers are to use such trends unless they are combined with those that describe the rest of a nation's forests.

The common usage of terms such as criterion or sustainability in different C&I applications is very confusing. Use of the word "sustainable", as one example, is used in certification schemes differently than with national C&I. The problem is that many people do not appear to understand how the meanings of the terms change in different applications. Putting an end to this confusion was one reason for initiating CIFOR's work on C&I. Although CIFOR's and other work have done much to fix this problem, the conceptual and terminology problems persist.

The challenges of engaging stakeholders, political leadership and researchers are described in another conference paper.


Country experience has demonstrated that understanding and benefiting from C&I cannot begin without effort from within a country. Country participation in C&I should not be regarded as a vehicle for international financial assistance. There is evidence, however, that countries thought to be seriously striving to implement C&I are perceived as exhibiting good governance. The donor community, such as ITTO, has begun to respond favourably by funding C&I implementation projects.

Implementation of C&I, at a minimum, means the organization of reports using C&I that document national progress towards SFM. In a larger sense, the greatest promise for C&I is the institutionalization of C&I into the way agencies and stakeholders organize the conduct of their work. There are, however, commonly recognized obstacles to institutionalizing C&I.

4.1 Common problems in implementation: data gaps, data sharing, etc.

Common problems in C&I implementation include previously mentioned technical difficulties such as data gaps, financial and institutional problems. These problems are the bases of many readily available C&I papers. Only a few of them will be reviewed, to save space and to concentrate on key factors in the successful implementation of C&I. A short list of C&I implementation problems includes:

The financial problem is a serious one. Systems for the periodic measurement of resource and social conditions require a substantial and long-term commitment. There are no easy solutions to having a lack of funds. This problem, however, should not be an excuse to take no action. Many of the following problems elude the inefficient use of already scarce resources. Some suggestions to address part of the financial problem are discussed under key factors of successful implementation.

Human and institutional capacity is the key to the solution of most of the other issues. It is a problem that includes an understanding of C&I, organizational initiative, training, political will and finance. The problem is well understood and there is no need to review it again here. Suggestions to mitigate the capacity problem are suggested in the next section.

Many countries are frustrated by their inability to aggregate sub-national data into national statistics. Most forest managers, however, agree that there is a great deal more data out there than is accessible for C&I use. The inability to use existing sub-national data for national assessments stems from a number of fixable causes such as:

The MCPFE and Montreal Processes have had to deal with the compatibility of data among countries as they have prepared multi-country reports. In the case of the Montreal Process, recognizing the difficulty of such an effort, only seven indicators were selected for a multi-country 2003 Overview Report that will be presented to the World Forestry Congress. To even accomplish this, a workshop was held to agree on exactly what data in what form would be presented. FAO has been dealing with this problem for years. To minimize the problem, the MCPFE and Montreal processes already use agreed-to UNECE/FAO FRA data and protocols whenever possible.

Data gaps, another problem, refer to the lack of national coverage for an indicator. Surveys to assess national data availability by country have been conducted by the MCPFE and Montreal processes. MCPFE has gone further by investigating the extent to which countries have corrected data gaps. Evidence indicates that more data are becoming more available to enable adequate reporting on the indicators. Examples include Argentina that has begun its first national forest inventory; Canada that is moving towards a national plot inventory and the United States that has entered into federal interagency agreements to co-ordinate data gathering, handling and storage. The scientific community, for example IUFRO, and countries have taken steps on how to collect or generate data traditionally not collected, i.e. fragmentation.

The storage of data and data accessibility are difficult institutional problems. Countries are the primary collectors and users of the data; therefore, it is their responsibility to store it. Because forest managers cannot and should not collect all information for C&I by themselves, successful implementation of C&I greatly depends on being able to access data from multiple agencies. Facilitating the sharing of data and storage among countries is potentially a productive activity for the international community.

Related but solvable difficulties are the ability to aggregate existing data from dissimilar sources, scales and forest types, and the poor use of existing data sets in the forest and other sectors. With forest data, the problem is the manner in which they are collected. All too often departments within or among different agencies or levels of government collect similar data using different protocols. The same can be said for the data collected by NGOs. The resulting inability to add data across or to a higher scale is one consequence of poor co-ordination among and within government agencies.

Reporting on C&I requires more data than what has been traditionally collected by forest managers. Traditionally forest managers have collected data on the extent of forests, tree form and growth. However, C&I require forest health, biodiversity, social and institutional data. Even the developed counties do not have national statistical data for all of the indicators. Many people, including many foresters, have questioned the need for so many indicators. Some indicators are said to be "redundant, ambiguous or too expensive", not important or of secondary importance. One observer has said expert panels that developed C&I seek to be perfectly correct but allow the indicators to be totally impractical. There is probably some truth in this; however, there is also probably a good deal of misunderstanding about why C&I have taken the form they have.

As experience is gained in the use of C&I, the number of indicators will be reduced. Experience demonstrates, however, that when stakeholders and resource specialists are involved, any reduction in the number of indicators to a "core set" is resisted.

Discussions of data gaps or the usefulness of some of the indicators has also resulted in calls to reduce the number of indicators (Braatz, 2001). Reviewing the purpose and need of an indicator, against the availability of data for an indicator, may confuse the issues involved. For example, one hears of the frustration of having no indicator data, which becomes reflected in the perceived usefulness of such data. The Pan-European Process on the other hand, has recently concluded an indicator review and found that socio-economic, biological diversity and protective functions were not adequately addressed by their present set of indicators. The implication is that there is pressure for more indicators some of which could be difficult to measure. The Montreal Process will begin a similar review of its indicators after the publication of its first national reports in 2003.

Although IUFRO is fostering a common understanding of the research needed, this author has observed that there is not much co-ordination between the scientists working in different processes. The problem that science can address is the lack of commonly understood and implemented data collection protocols. This is a good part of the message from the 2000 Kotka IV meeting. An example will help clarify. "Units of measure" is a problem related to the clarity or specificity of the indicator. Many indicators are easily defined, such as "area of forestland and net area of forestland available for timber production". Some C&I processes, such as that of the Near East, have been very good about developing such indicators with easily understood and specific units of measure. In many cases, however, the state of scientific understanding of an indicator makes it difficult to specify a unit of measure. At that time, it was thought acceptable not to specify a specific unit of measure because the alternative was dropping the indicator. The consequence would be eliminating an element thought to be important to understanding progress towards SFM. An example is the indicator "Changes in serious defoliation of forests". Without a specific unit of measure specified, the indicator will be reported on in any number of ways. Some countries say there are currently no available data. Hopefully, advances in scientific understanding of suitable units of measure will be available when regional C&I processes go through efforts to improve their indicators. The struggle to measure the indicators will produce better methods to reach that goal.

4.2 Key factors in successful implementation of C&I (capacity, data availability, political support, economic aspects, etc.)

Financial obstacles are usually the first institutional capacity implementation issue that countries raise. Although real, financial obstacles partially result from programme inefficiency and lack of political support. Funding for C&I could be generated, at least in part, through redirecting the inefficient and ineffectual way in which money is commonly spent on local, regional and national data collection. A recent article in The Economist (Vol. 364, 2002) stated that "waste is common" in government programmes and the results of simple and aggressive changes can be "stunning".

Fostering national and agency champions for SFM and C&I is critical to their success, within any country. Of all that might take place to implement C&I, forcing another country's solutions or complex technical fixes on another country, is not one of them. Each country has an array of unique social, political and economic conditions that require local ingenuity and will to solve. As with any new idea, society and institutions do not easily change unless a person or persons work relentlessly in pursuit of change. Successful champions for SFM and C&I will build stakeholder alliances to foster support for their cause. Problems unique to national situations must be dealt with in technical and political ways unique to that country. Leadership should encourage such champions. If they do not, individuals must come forward out of their own convictions to struggle for what needs to be done. The international community, and many nations, are willing to help, but can only facilitate progress.

The development of political commitment is important to the development of C&I. Political leadership, on the other hand, tends to focus on short-term projects, revenue or jobs. This is a reality. Low political commitment to long-term forest management has always been a challenge for forest managers. Selling C&I to the political establishment is selling clarity, relevance and accountability for forest management and verifying stakeholder support. In the end, the public, decision-makers and other sectors of the economy will see forest indicators as a necessity to understanding better how forests are influencing their interests.

The lack of political support stems, in part, from poor intra-agency understanding and stakeholder support for SFM as well as the usefulness of C&I to their immediate interest. The range of potential C&I applications is as broad as the interests of stakeholders themselves. It is, therefore, an important task of C&I advocates within each country to identify relevant and specific examples for each stakeholder group that should support C&I. Communication of a clear, simple and compelling (locally self-serving) rationale for sub-national participation in C&I work is key. In some countries, building stakeholder support may involve building social support for the protection and wise management of forests, an ambitious task. Environmental education can be a start; however, it requires long-term commitment.

The following list illustrates how C&I applications should engage the interest of stakeholders:

Engaging NGOs, communities, scientists and related government agencies is important in building political support. Experience in the development and implementation (Australia, Canada, MCPFE) of C&I and certification has demonstrated the need to involve stakeholders, if one expects political support. Successful efforts engaged stakeholders from the very start, seeking both their expertise and support. To this end, stakeholders have been invited to assist government delegations prepare for their nations' participation in the development of regional C&I. This includes participating in international C&I meetings and country initiatives to modify regional C&I that will better suit their countries' needs. In the absence of stakeholder participation, it would be difficult to present finalized C&I to stakeholders without there being confusion about their use, or whether the C&I reflect stakeholder concerns. Ultimately, stakeholders may not maintain their support for implementation. Therefore, establishment of permanent institutional mechanisms to maintain political support among agencies, professional societies, sub-national governments and NGOs etc. is needed. Examples are the United States' Roundtable on Sustainable Forests or the Australian Montreal Process Implementation Groups (MIGs).

Human and scientific capacity has also been regarded as an obstacle to the implementation of C&I. One solution is collective action. Regional processes, such as the technical committees of the Montreal Process and MCPFE or multi-lateral activities among the Southern Cone countries, are examples of collective action to tackle conceptual, technical and financial problems. Bilateral exchange of experience and methodologies on implementation issues is another way to overcome human science capacity problems. The following list, from the Model Forest Network, identifies ways in which simple networking builds capacity. Networking:

One aspect of the institutional capacity problem is that it is not uncommon for forest managers to admit they have never heard of SFM principles or C&I. There may be a good chance that the next generation of forest managers will be the first to feel comfortable with SFM and C&I. For this to happen, it is important that college and university curricula begin to instruct students in SFM terms, definitions, scale issues, protocols and their implications, etc. A new appreciation of the role foresters must play in new collaborative responsibilities, at the heart of SFM, must be generated. C&I, as has been seen, are a tool to help the forest management community to collaborate and communicate better. Schools are beginning to explore what curriculum changes might be needed (Rametsteiner, 2002; Sustainable Forestry Partnership, 2002).

Definitions, rationales and protocols focus and co-ordinate C&I progress. A number of C&I processes have developed sets of definitions to explain terms used and encourage their common application. These definitions build on the earlier and continuing work of FAO, ECE and other organizations. Although the regional processes look to FAO definitions as a common start for their own, those of the regional C&I process have yet to be co-ordinated. The use of terms common to sustainability issues such as indicator, principle and criteria are also used differently in different processes, and thus are a constant source of confusion. In addition, criteria, indicator and sustainability are used differently in national and sub-national-level C&I versus certification processes. Only the international community can resolve this problem. Each country or regional process should develop its own definitions or protocols, while co-ordinating with other processes. This will result in ensuring common understanding and fostering ownership.

Common protocols for the collection and assessment of data among countries are useful and have been developed. For years, FAO has worked to develop and implement protocols for collecting basic forest data. C&I are dependent on the use of much of this coordinated data. Other noteworthy products are those from a number of regional C&I processes (i.e. Montreal, Near East, MCPFE).

Reducing the cost of information usage is another suggested way to deal with the cost and capacity issue. The Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) approach focuses on a minimum, or core, set of essential indicators. The target is to identify the information required to set, implement and review forest policy and management goals. The expectation is to "help bridge the gap between current and improved practices in a step-by-step approach" in a practical manner to:

The FRA approach is being piloted in Cameroon, Philippines, Costa Rica and Guatemala and is being considered for implementation in several other countries.

Care should be exercised in identifying a "core set" of indicators, based only on the data currently available or by allowing only a few stakeholders to select them. For the C&I and national assessment reports based on them to be relevant, any "core set" must have wide management, stakeholder and scientist support. Each stakeholder group must see that the elements of SFM important to its interests are part of C&I. Scientists will push for a "systems" approach based on ecological or economic processes. Consequently, it will be a challenge to keep the number of indicators to fewer than 40.


1. SFM and C&I have made great strides in the last five years. Many of the possible C&I applications discussed at ISCI are now being implemented. These successes have been published and made available to those who wish to use them.

2. C&I for SFM could be used in the same manner as national economic indicators. As such, C&I do not require standards or thresholds to be useful.

3. There are many challenges that must be overcome before C&I are implemented globally. A long list of suggested international initiatives to solve every implementation issue, however, would not be appropriate.

4. Generating support for the application of C&I at all levels is the best means to generate political support for their use. International fora are one of the stakeholders that should be targeted.

5. National and agency champions for SFM and C&I are key to the success of any C&I programme. The wide array of unique social, political and economic conditions that exist in countries require local ingenuity to solve. Champions for SFM and C&I will build stakeholder alliances to generate support for and win their cause. Problems unique to national situations must be considered with techniques unique to that country. While examples from other countries provide a starting point, there are no universal solutions.

6. Experts voicing a common understanding regarding the purpose and use of C&I will facilitate national processes. The SFM and C&I concepts have been intensely explored for many years. The documentation of different definitions, protocols and applications and their implications would be useful. Continued confusion is destructive to common understanding, acceptance and implementation of C&I.

7. The accessibility of existing country data is a barrier to C&I reporting.

8. Sub-national forest managers are unaware of SFM principles and new tools that SFM provides, such as C&I.

9. There is a belief among many in the forest management community that the C&I sets developed so far contain too many indicators that are impractical to implement.


1. Encourage C&I champions within countries. There are ways of doing this. One is to provide opportunities to potential C&I champions to participate in international C&I meetings. Encouraging and enabling such champions are the responsibility of each country; however, the international community and several nations are willing to help in many ways.

2. Establish a technical advisory committee to provide common technical support for all C&I processes.

3. The work of the committee would include refining definitions, rationales and protocols and illustrating C&I application. An existing body such as FRA of FAO may be the best vehicle to accomplish this.

4. Harmonize criteria among C&I processes as a means to promote better understanding of all C&I processes. The harmonization of indicators is not recommended.

5. Promote sharing and common storage of data among some countries.

6. Improve access to data and institutional capacity by designing and implementing systems to easily access country data.

7. Develop common materials for educating forest stakeholders in how C&I can further their interests.

8. Develop curriculum proposals for university forest management programmes. Encourage academia to incorporate the latest understanding of SFM and its tools into its curriculum.

9. Regional C&I processes should continue to refine C&I in response to lessons learned, new scientific information and stakeholder participation.

10. Work to establish C&I as the basis for national reporting on forests required in other fora. These fora include the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Convention on International Trade in Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), World Heritage Convention (WHC), World Commission on SD (WSD) and the United Nations Forum on Forests.

11. Countries are encouraged to help other countries unilaterally with:

12. Maintain the visibility of C&I in other fora. This conference is part of that action. Other venues will present themselves such as WSSD, the World Forestry Congress, etc.


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3. Bryant, D., 2001. Potential NGO contributions to UNFF monitoring obligations: The example of Global Forest Watch. International expert meeting on monitoring, assessment and reporting on the progress toward sustainable forest management. Yokohama, Japan, 5-8 November 2001.

4. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2000. GDP: one of the great inventions of the 20th century, Survey of current business.

5. Canada's Model Forest Program, 2002.

6. Center for International Forestry Research, 1999. Criteria & indicators tool box series. Printed by AFTERHOURS +62 21 8306819.

7. Council of Europe, 2002. Second intergovernmental conference, Biodiversity in Europe, "Forest Biological Diversity", Budapest. .

8. Durst, P., 2002. E-mail communication.

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16. Ontario, Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994.

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23. State of Oregon, 2002. Oregon forest sustainability.

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25. Sustainable forestry partnership, 2001. Sustainable forest management graduate curriculum.

26. Sustainable Forestry Partnership, 2002. Sustainable forest management graduate curriculum.

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29. The Economist, August 17-23, 2002. For 80 cents more, Vol. 364 No8283, pg. 20-22.

30. USDA Forest Service Strategic Plan; 2000,

31. USDA Forest Service. Sustainable resource management, Federal commitment.

32. USDA Forest Service, 2002. Inventory and Monitoring Institute, Local unit criteria and indicators development project (LUCID).

33. USDA Forest Service Strategic Plan (2000),

34. World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987. Our Common Future. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

1 Senior Policy Analyst; International Programs; USDA Forest Service Program; 1099 14th street; NW, Suite; 5500W; Washington, DC. 20005, United States of America. Tel: 1202-273-4730; Fax: 1202- 273 4750;

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