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BACKGROUND PAPER No. 4

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

In support of Objective No. 4 of CICI-2003

KEY ISSUES IN THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVES ON FOREST-RELATED CRITERIA AND INDICATORS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

by
Ewald Rametsteiner and Don Wijewardana1

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

ACKNOWLEGEMENTS

The authors wish to thank Robert Hendricks, Bill Mankin, Marcela Ochoa, Stefanie Linser and Osamu Hashiramoto, as well as anonymous reviewers, for their valuable comments on a previous draft of the paper.

1 INTRODUCTION

The first concerted effort by the international community to address issues related to sustainable forest management (SFM) on a global level was the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in 1992. Following UNCED and the adoption of the "Forest Principles", a number of national, regional and international initiatives have been taken to develop criteria and indicators (C&I) for SFM. By early 2002 nine major C&I processes involving an estimated 150 countries were in operation. They covered most of the world's forest area.

At the same time a range of other initiatives involving indicators was taken by different bodies. The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), the follow-up of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as well as the UN Convention to Combat Deforestation (CCD) identified specific indicators as important information tools for decision-making and monitoring. Similarly, organizations such as OECD, IUFRO and CIFOR focused on elaborating and further developing indicator sets. While some of them were specific to forests, others covered broader sustainability issues.

UNFF mandated, inter alia, to promote the implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for action on the implementation of SFM and endorsed the role of C&I in assessing global progress towards SFM when it proposed their use in monitoring, assessment and reporting on progress by countries.

This paper deals with three main issues: 1. Consider options for co-ordination and collaboration between various forest C&I processes and those developed to further the sustainable development (SD) objectives of other international organizations and bodies. 2. Assess the use of C&I as a tool for monitoring, assessment and reporting by countries on SFM in relation to UNFF. 3. Discuss options for promoting more efficient use of C&I, including global approaches to C&I sets and closer collaboration between existing initiatives.

2 FOREST-RELATED C&I FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

C&I have been defined as a tool for assessing trends in forest conditions and forest management. C&I approach forests as complex and dynamic ecosystems that provide a wide array of environmental and socio-economic benefits to society. As such, they provide an implicit definition of what it means and a common framework for describing, monitoring and evaluating, over time, progress towards SFM, conceptually and on the ground.

2.1 International initiatives with forest-related indicators

Over the past decade the development of forest-related C&I at international level has taken two distinct paths. The first is C&I processes focused entirely on promoting, facilitating and documenting the status of forests and forest management largely at national level but also at forest management unit (FMU) level. Currently there are nine such international, regional and national processes involving 150 countries (FAO 2001b). The other route has been the development of forest-related indicators as part of broader SD objectives of different international organizations (SDI). The major ones among these SDI include the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD).

CSD, which was tasked to oversee the implementation of the outcomes of the Earth Summit, has developed indicators in the context of the implementation of Chapter 40 of Agenda 21 "information for decision-making and participation". Its work focuses on the elaboration of SD indicators. The objective is to make SD indicators available to decision-makers at national level. The follow-up process to the Millennium Declaration has also led to proposals for a set of key indicators.

CBD in the follow-up of Article 7 on "Identification and monitoring" of biological diversity identified, as one of four elements, the work on methodologies necessary to advance the elaboration and implementation of C&I for forest biological diversity. One important goal was to improve knowledge on and methods for the assessment of the status and trends of forest biological diversity, based on available information. The extended work programme of CBD on forest biological diversity, adopted in 2002, includes objectives and activities to that end by advancing the development and implementation of C&I within the framework of SFM.

OECD in 1991 developed a set of key environmental indicators for periodic reporting in order to draw public attention to key environmental issues of concern and to inform about progress made. UNEP has also initiated and supported work on sustainability indicators, e.g. the SCOPE project, the Dashboard of Sustainability and others. The World Bank included land use and deforestation in its 600 indicator-strong World Development Indicator set as well as in its environmental performance indicators, and collaborates with others, including the World Resources Institute, in its Millennium Assessment.

A range of other information needs or indicators on forests or single components on global level is related to various conventions and international agreements, including UNFCCC, CCD, CITES and others. These organizations collect data on specific aspects and set up databases and/or national and international reports (see FAO 2001b for an overview).

The main international organizations active in implementing indicator sets directly or indirectly through data collection for forest related variables (indicators) are FAO, UNECE/FAO and ITTO through periodic forest resources assessments (FRA) and the collection of data on wood and non-wood forest products. Likewise, UNEP-WCMC and other environmental international organizations collect forest-related information on forest biodiversity, its destruction and protection. On social aspects ILO and others are involved in collecting data.

A number of international NGOs and initiatives are also involved in compiling indicators relevant to SFM. They include IUCN (barometer of sustainability), Global Forest Watch, the World Resources Institute, the WWF Living Planet index, the IISD compendium of SDI indicator initiatives and the World Economic Forum.

2.2 Similarities and differences between forest-related C&I initiatives

The indicators developed as part of broader SD objectives as discussed above tend to differ from each other in terms of their conceptual approach, definition of terms, content and scope reflecting the different aims, priorities and users.

The different government-led initiatives on indicators covered here pursue different objectives in relation to SD and use different conceptual approaches to derive their indicator sets. One widely used is the so-called "Magic Triangle", comprising the ecological, economic and social dimensions. Another often-used and adapted framework is the Pressure-State-Response (PSR) model. Yet other initiatives are based on key issues or on system components and their interactions. Some initiatives on SD indicators address forests as one of many concerns and therefore allocate very few indicators to forests, identifying indicators relevant to their interest, e.g. biodiversity. The forest management-related C&I sets address many policy or system issues and therefore have more indicators.

Existing forest-related C&I sets define a set of key issues through criteria. While they are not strictly systems components-based, the range of aspects covered often shows important components and reveals some of their interactions. As against this, CSD uses a matrix that incorporates three types of indicator, namely, Driving Force-State-Response (DSR), as well as the environmental, economic and social dimensions of SD, including the institutional component. CBD is likely to use the Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) model and might organize the list of indicators in two levels: (a) a set of core indicators to be related to the thematic areas or policy instruments and initiatives; and (b) headline indicators to assess overall effectiveness of implementation of CBD. It also considers developing the list of indicators for each thematic area grouped as DPSIR. OECD countries have agreed to use the PSR model as a common harmonised framework. A further key difference is the geographical coverage of different sets. Some major similarities and differences are presented in Table 1.

Terms and definitions of key terms used by the different initiatives and their constituencies vary. International agreements include definitions or specifications to support agreements. Key aspects of the concept of SFM have been described in the UNCED "Forest Principles". CBD provides an extensive list of biodiversity-related definitions and further complementary definitions have been suggested by the ad hoc technical expert group on biological diversity (see Puustjärvi and Simula 2001 for a list of definitions). A range of intergovernmental organizations, including FAO, ITTO and others as well as international research organizations, such as IUFRO, have developed and refined forest-related definitions. Several of the international regional forest C&I processes, including those of the Near East, Montreal and MCPFE, have developed definitions related to their indicators. These draw largely from existing internationally recognized definitions.

Table 1: Similarities and differences of major international forest-related indicator sets

Process

Objective and scope

Conceptual approach

Geographical coverage

Number of forest-related indicators

Forest C&I processes

SFM

Issue-based, partly system approach

Geo-regional

27-67 indicators, depending on process

CSD

Sustainable development

DSR

Global

2 indicators on forests

CBD

Biodiversity

DPSIR

Global

6 indicators on forests (to date)

OECD

Environment

PSR

Regional

(OECD members)

3 indicators on forests

Concerning the content covered by indicator sets, a feature of the forest-related C&I sets is their use of a set of six to eight "criteria", which broadly identify the key component values of forests. A set of indicators then further defines each criterion (for a compendium see FAO 2001a). A comparison of the different indicator sets of the nine C&I processes shows considerable similarities in coverage of many of the criteria (for tables of indicators see, for example, FAO 2001b).

In the indicators for SD elaborated by CSD, forests are covered as a sub-theme under "land". Only two indicators, forest area as percentage of land area and wood harvesting intensity, are provided within that. The proposed core set of indicators of CBD combine the ecosystems and species level diversity under the main thematic areas (forest, marine/coastal, inland water, dry land, mountain and agro-biodiversity). A preliminary set lists six forest biodiversity indicators, completed by general indicators on protected areas. In the OECD set "forest resources" are covered by three indicators - the pressure indicator - intensity of forest resource use (actual harvest/productive capacity); the conditions/state indicator - area and volume distribution of forests; and the response indicator - forest area management and protection (e.g. percentage of protected forest area in total forest area; percentage of harvest area successfully regenerated or afforested).

Table 2: Contents and scope of major international forest-related indicator initiatives

Criterion

Forest C&I processes

CSD

CBD

OECD

Extent of forest resources

x

x

x

x

Forest health and vitality

x

 

x

 

Productive functions of forests

x

x

 

x

Biological diversity

x

 

x

x

Protective functions of forests

x

     

Socio-economic benefits and needs

x

     

Legal, policy and institutional framework

x

     

CCD, FCCC and organizations such as ILO and others have focused on single topics of specific concern. In the case of CCD these are environmental impact indicators related to drought and desertification and indicators for measuring progress in implementing the convention. FCCC requires, in the context of the Kyoto Protocol, data on carbon stocks and fluxes. ILO, on the other hand, is an organization that tries to collect relevant information on work force-related forest management issues. Table 2 provides a comparison of the content and scope of major forest C&I processes alongside the forest indicators of CSD, CBD and OECD.

The indicator initiatives also differ in their modes of development, implementation and use. The nine forest C&I processes were developed by forestry-related governmental representatives, agencies and institutions, in many cases involving NGOs. In contrast the indicator sets elaborated by CSD, CBD and others involved environment-related governmental representatives, agencies and institutions but in most instances without the input of other stakeholders.

The existing initiatives are at different stages of development. Forest C&I processes have initiated work on C&I sets at different points in time and are at very different stages of development. Most have already gone through a phase of testing the indicators initially chosen while CBD has yet to develop a first indicator set. Only a few initiatives, however, have already used their C&I sets for reporting. Even fewer have evaluated and improved their initial set of indicators on the basis of experience gained.

All of the sets were developed using an international-level top down rather than a local-level bottom up approach. To a large extent this is due to the fact that the international community has created a need to address the issue of SD raised at UNCED and that C&I have been a new concept promoted by scientists and policy analysts. Many of the initiatives for both national SFM, SD and local-level indicators have drawn upon expert groups or technical bodies for elaborating an initial set and subsequently opened up to wider groups. The range of stakeholders involved and the degree of participation in the different initiatives vary. While in some the emphasis is on political relevance of indicators, in others the focus is on conceptual integrity. The level of political commitment also varies. A few indicator sets have been adopted or endorsed by ministers of participating countries, such as those of MCPFE (Pan-European Forest Process), ATO or OECD.

Concerning implementation, i.e. data collection, storage and distribution, few forest C&I processes have made first-hand experience to date. MCPFE initiated data collection on the C&I set during its testing phase in 1994-95 and has issued related reports. It has subsequently designated UNECE/FAO for data collection and reporting in the course of TBFRA 2000. The Montreal process has gone through a number of steps to implement country reporting using C&I. Member countries are to issue their first report with data on a selection of common indicators in 2003. ITTO had initiated data collection on its indicators by 2001.

The indicator sets are developed for use in information and decision-making as well as for monitoring, assessment and reporting on progress towards SFM or SD. Many of the initiatives have developed their indicator sets to use them for international-level information sharing and reporting by governments. However, only MCPFE has to date explicitly used C&I for reporting, and others are preparing similar reports. Likewise, CSD and CBD have not yet fully used indicator sets for international reporting (although the WSSD report has, inter alia, the CSD indicator set as one background).

3 CO-ORDINATION AND COLLABORATION BETWEEN FOREST RELATED C&I INITIATIVES

Co-ordination and collaboration can cover three areas: (a) within regional forest C&I processes, (b) between regional forest C&I processes and (c) between regional forest C&I processes and other forest indicator initiatives. All three aspects are important in developing a cohesive and robust C&I process that could meet future needs in using this tool to promote SFM. The focus in this section is on co-ordination and collaboration between regional forest C&I processes and between these and other forest-related indicator initiatives.

Possible levels of co-ordination and collaboration are outlined in Fig. 1. Each of the three areas, C&I development, implementation and use, requires consistent improvement along with expansion of knowledge and information availability. Not all forest C&I processes have yet reached the implementation and use phases.

Figure 1: Areas for co-ordination and collaboration within and between forest C&I processes

3.1 Contribution of forest C&I to other indicator initiatives and vice versa

As noted in section 2 there are major differences between C&I processes and other indicator initiatives. Forest C&I processes are different from other initiatives in that these initiatives, mostly institutions with forest-related background, elaborate common national-level indicators in a region. Many SD indicator sets, on the other hand, are designed for the global level and developed by environmental institutions. In the early phase of forest-related indicator development, the different initiatives worked completely independently of each other. Increasingly, the initiatives became aware of other similar initiatives and developed informal links to learn from each other. In recent years communication between the forest C&I processes has improved considerably, inter alia, supported by FAO.

It is the co-ordination efforts at the time of development that have led to largely cohesive regionally adapted forest C&I sets. Likewise, the understanding of the terms used in the conceptual approach has converged over time. Some of the terms used have found wide global acceptance, such as C&I (IPF 1997, UNFF 2001, FAO 2001), while others are applied only by individual initiatives, such as principles or verifiers.

While co-ordination and collaboration between some forest-related C&I processes has been good, it has been less so between others partly due to the different stages of development of the perceived lack of opportunities, costs involved or the lack of mutual advantages of close collaboration. However, information sharing between processes has been taking place as necessary.

In relation to forest-related data collection, analysis and databases, a range of co-ordination activities is ongoing between the many institutions involved. The major international organizations involved in monitoring and assessment of forests and forest products are regularly convening related expert meetings. In the context of preparations for forest resources assessments, FAO has co-organized a series of expert meetings on the preparation of subsequent assessments, including the Kotka meetings I - IV 1987-2002. FAO and UNECE have established a team of specialists on TBFRA which holds regular meetings. ITTO, together with FAO, UNECE and OECD, established the Inter-secretariat Working Group on Forest Statistics to co-ordinate and harmonise data collection on forest products and trade through a joint questionnaire.

The international community also recognised the need to co-ordinate better the development of terms and definitions used for forest-related aspects by different conventions, especially if data collected are to meet each other's requirements. FAO, IPCC, CIFOR and IUFRO, held a joint meeting on forest-related definitions in January 2002. It is a first step in a process that should lead to better co-ordinated and harmonised definitions, something which, as this first meeting has shown, is feasible (FAO 2002).

But up to now no systematic information and experience exchange, not to speak of collaboration and co-ordination, has developed to enhance the contribution of forest C&I to SDI initiatives and vice versa. The differences in institutional backgrounds, scope and stage of development may all have contributed to this lack of transfer of knowledge and the exploitation of synergies. A lack of exchange of knowledge and experience at the level of scientists and technical experts is also evident. One reason for this is the lack of adequate funding for C&I work. This is equally the case with developing mechanisms related to the collection of data for key indicators that do not currently exist and coherent reporting through different mechanisms and to different fora.

3.2 Merits and approaches to enhanced coordination and collaboration

After almost a decade of experience related to C&I there is ample evidence to show the merits of enhanced co-ordination and collaboration between different initiatives. To begin with, few initiatives would exist today without international collaboration. It has also helped to avoid duplication of work and facilitated learning from each other's experience, thus saving costs and time. At a regional level co-operation has allowed regions to proceed much quicker in the development of their first sets of C&I.

Experience also shows that benefits occur in the use of jointly developed C&I, due to positive externalities through networking. National-level data collection, reporting and communication can all be streamlined through internationally-agreed C&I processes. Besides, multilaterally-adopted C&I processes carry greater international recognition than processes individually developed by countries. However, it is important that flexibility be maintained to allow for adjustment to new situations since forest management is a dynamic process.

In conclusion, the merits of enhanced co-ordination and collaboration between and within forest C&I processes depend on the relative advantages, such as reduced development costs, focus, use of common concepts and better co-ordination. Potentially, better collaboration or co-ordination could be large benefits. However, the full potential has not yet been realised. One result is less than optimal political and financial support and duplication of effort. Another is a reduced ability to profit from the synergies, especially in international forest policy implementation.

There are different possible approaches to enhanced co-ordination and collaboration between the various indicator initiatives (see Table 3).

All of the approaches listed in Table 3 are useful for different situations and at different times. For instance, co-ordination through periodic, instead of continuous, exchange involves far fewer resources and time than continuous collaboration on a joint solution. This has largely been the preferred approach during conceptual development and elaboration of regional forest C&I sets. Although information-sharing would in principle have been possible with other existing forest-related C&I initiatives, this has largely not occurred. Experts in the various processes often were not aware of other initiatives working in similar fields, or did not consider them relevant. This situation has improved, however, resulting in repeated calls for better information-sharing.

In recent years exchange of information between forest C&I initiatives has increased. Experts of several regional processes have participated in each other's meetings. However, no such exchange has taken place between regional forest C&I processes and the SDI processes of OECD, CSD or CBD. It has been partly addressed but remains a key area for improvement. The respective programme element of the extended work programme of CBD on forest biological diversity also calls for more active co-ordination by specifying that "existing work and processes on C&I for SFM" (i.e. the regional forest C&I processes) should be taken into account.

Co-ordination in the further development of C&I in the various initiatives is probably the most important immediate task for future work. Given the very different stages of development and adoption of regional forest C&I sets, it is highly desirable that the engagement of those processes and/or countries which have made greater progress in implementing C&I be enhanced so as to assist some of the regional processes that lag behind. It will also involve, among other things:

Furthermore, most of the other indicator initiatives covered here have proceeded to develop core or key indicator sets, including OECD. The CSD Statistical Commission has commissioned a technical review of all indicators and is working on proposals for a limited set of indicators. There are increasing calls for progress in this area.

The development and use of C&I (e.g. for reporting) require relatively less time compared with co-ordinating or collaborating on international data compilation, storage and distribution, where the time needed increases with each indicator added. In relation to international C&I, data collection and reporting on the nine processes are at different stages. The MCPFE experience has shown that it is resource intensive to establish yet another structure that compiles data from national sources at international level, thereby duplicating work done elsewhere. Much of this international data compilation from national sources, data storage and dissemination is and should be administered by international institutions with long-term experience in forest-related data handling, such as FAO, UNECE, ITTO and organizations like IUFRO and its Task Force on a Global Forest Information System (GFIS). Furthermore, there is a tendency towards shorter periodic update of main data within some of these institutions. It is therefore advisable to co-ordinate the work on C&I sets closely with such established data collection bodies and mechanisms and collaborate with related institutions. Concerning the development of common terms and definitions, the steps taken recently to improve co-ordination, e.g. between UNFF, FCCC and CBD, on key definitions should be strongly supported. Likewise, efforts should be strengthened to raise awareness of C&I for data collection by the various national institutions and the further development of data collection protocols (see Background Papers 1 and 3).

Co-operation and collaboration on uses, including reporting, in the long term could be organized via national websites where information is structured along similar C&I frameworks. Different interested bodies and institutions could then collect this information, thereby circumventing the need to request information. C&I provide a framework to bring together the uncoordinated data being collected in most countries. The framework would also provide protocols for the data local people chose to collect for their own proposes. The topic of reporting will again be taken up in section 4 of the paper. Concerning the use of indicators in different contexts of forest policy and management, it would be desirable that good examples of their practical application be made more widely available, e.g. through workshops, seminars or a compendium of the best possible C&I practices used in policy and management. Possible aspects to cover in the use of national-level C&I beyond reporting are the relation of C&I to national forest programmes or similar national or sub-national policy planning tools. Another area is guidance to forest management planning, implementation and evaluation, including operational-level guidelines, model forests or forest certification and its various potential uses for verification, e.g. for carbon fixation. These and further forest management-related tools are also taken up for discussion in other background papers.

In the end what needs to be noted is that in spite of the great importance of C&I in promoting SFM, that more than 150 countries are involved in them and that the advantages and possibilities of further development are clearly visible, crucial factors such as high-level political commitment, human and technical capacities as well as financial resources are often still lacking.

Table 3: Different approaches to enhanced co-ordination and collaboration

Approach to co-ordination/ collaboration

Mechanisms

Examples

Information sharing

Web sites, reports, etc.

Websites of regional forest C&I processes

Publications of FAO, OECD, CSD, CBD

Active exchange of information and experience

Continuous exchange: e-mail networks, meetings.

Periodic exchange: seminars, workshops, conferences, incl. Internet conferences etc.

CSCE2 seminar 1993, FAO/ITTO/UNEP expert consultations, ISCI3 1996, IUFRO conferences, active participation in each other's meetings of some of the regional forest C&I processes.

OECD expert participation in CSD indicator work.

Co-ordination of the further development of C&I sets between forest C&I processes as well as between these and other indicator initiatives, such as CBD

Expert groups, joint working groups, joint ad hoc panels, specified workshops, etc.

Not yet implemented

Collaboration on the development of common C&I sets (including core sets)

Expert groups, working groups, ad hoc panels, etc.

SCOPE/UNEP project on developing highly aggregated indicators; OECD key indicator set

Collaboration on data collection protocols, data collection tools, assessment methods, international data compilation from national data sources, etc.

or

Co-ordination of data collection between different data collection or data compilation institutions.

Expert groups, working groups, ad hoc panels, etc.

FAO meetings of FRA experts-Kotka I-IV; FAO collaboration on national inventory systems.

Intersecretariat Working Group on Forest Statistics ITTO/FAO/OECD - joint questionnaire.

Use of the data, including making international data widely available, reporting to international policy fora, etc.

 

IUFRO Task force on GFIS.

FAO Forest Resources Assessment and many other existing forest-related databases

Reporting to UNFF, CBD, CSD, etc.

4 MONITORING, ASSESSMENT AND REPORTING TO INTERNATIONAL FORA

Three of the key tasks of UNFF include monitoring, assessment and reporting (MAR) on (a) the implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for action and (b) progress towards SFM. Monitoring is understood to mean periodic quantitative or qualitative measurements or observations of a specific parameter. Assessment means the analysis and synthesis of the monitoring data and observations, and reporting means the dissemination of the results of assessments (UNFF 2001a).

The primary goal of forest-related MAR is to facilitate informed decision-making on forest policy and management. All these functions are addressed at different levels and by different bodies. First and foremost, MAR for policy-making is undertaken by countries, based on their national data. MAR is also done by international organizations, such as FAO, that compile data from national sources and write related reports for a wide range of users. And these functions are also covered by the secretariats of international fora, such as UNFF, CSD or CBD, based on reports by countries or other sources.

The principal objective of UNFF is to ensure the implementation of actions developed as follow-up to UNCED towards SFM. An integral part of this is MAR which has been required of UNFF. When ECOSOC established the UNFF in October 2000, it decided that the international arrangement on forests would, among other things, "monitor and assess progress at the national, regional and global levels through reporting by Governments, as well as by regional and international organizations, institutions and instruments, and on this basis consider future actions needed."

The MAR function of UNFF comprises the following three areas: Area 1: Progress in implementation of the proposals for action of IPF/IFF; Area 2: Progress towards sustainable management of all types of forests; and Area 3: Review of the effectiveness of the international arrangement on forests.

There is a distinction between MAR in the implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for action and MAR in progress towards sustainable management of all types of forests. Countries have committed themselves to implementing IPF/IFF proposals for action, which are aimed at giving guidance on how to further develop, implement and co-ordinate policy-related actions towards the sustainable management of all types of forests at national, regional and global levels. They are targeted mainly at governments, international organizations and private sector entities, as well as NGOs.

C&I for SFM have been developed as tools for MAR on progress towards sustainable management of all types of forests. Providing information for decision-making on aspects related to SFM is therefore a key function of C&I for SFM. C&I are also tools for promoting SFM. They are mainly used at national level, but also, increasingly, at field-unit level.

The following chapter will focus on MAR related to progress towards the sustainable management of all types of forests.

4.1 Current monitoring, assessment and reporting arrangements

National-level reporting related to forests is asked for under a number of international conventions, instruments and bodies (see FAO 2001b for a detailed overview). In addition, countries are asked to provide information or data on forests to various other international organizations and instruments.

Several conventions specifically ask for forest-specific thematic reports. In the case of CSD this is related to the implementation of the respective Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 and its follow-up, including IPF, IFF and UNFF. CBD requests a report on forest biodiversity. The periodicity and structure of these reports are, however, different and change over time. CSD has specified different structures for national reporting for COP5 in 1997 and for COP8 in 2000. The reporting structure to the thematic report on forest ecosystems of CBD is based on its work programme elements. Several other instruments and bodies cover some aspects related to forests in their reporting, e.g. CCD, UNFCCC, CITES. Further, some of the regional C&I processes, i.e. MCPFE, Montreal and ITTO, are or are about to report on progress towards SFM as a process, for their respective eco-regions, based on the respective C&I sets (see Table 4).

All conventions furthermore require parties to periodically submit national reports on the implementation of the convention, its specific follow-up decisions and work programmes. A number of extensive national reports are also requested in the context of the preparation of major conferences held since UNCED, including WSSD. Further, many countries are required to submit reports to other regional or international organizations, such as OECD, which uses its indicator set mainly for national environmental performance assessments. All these reports can contain information on forests, as relevant. Many of these national reports are available from a database run by the respective secretariats, e.g. the CSD database currently includes information on forests from 95 countries. Reporting on institutional progress towards implementing the tasks of conventions is not the same as reporting on C&I to which countries agreed. While the first is reporting on progress in the implementation of commitments, C&I should allow for measuring, assessing and reporting on the status of forests and forest management and progress towards SFM on the ground.

It is important to note that MAR in any process is not an end in itself, neither for progress in implementing commitments or for progress on the ground. Each of the conventions has in the recent past highlighted the need to streamline MAR at international fora, and the need to make data and information more easily and widely available. In addition, questions have been raised about the usefulness of the information as currently provided, both in terms of quality and quantity. One of the main purposes of reporting is to use country information as an integral part of the reports being provided to COPs at each session in the various fora. In fact, this has rarely been possible for a variety of reasons, and has led to a situation in which countries have been sharing information with UN secretariats but not with each other.

All conventions furthermore require parties to periodically submit national reports on the implementation of the convention, its specific follow-up decisions and work programmes. A number of extensive national reports are also requested in the context of the preparation of major conferences held since UNCED, including WSSD. Further, many countries are required to submit reports to other regional or international organizations, such as OECD, which uses its indicator set mainly for national environmental performance assessments. All these reports can contain information on forests, as relevant. Many of these national reports are available from a database run by the respective secretariats, e.g. the CSD database currently includes information on forests from 95 countries. Reporting on institutional progress towards implementing the tasks of conventions is not the same as reporting on C&I to which countries agreed. While the first is reporting on progress in the implementation of commitments, C&I should allow for measuring, assessing and reporting on the status of forests and forest management and progress towards SFM on the ground.

Table 4: Reporting on forests and implementation of commitments in major relevant international processes (FAO 2001b, own sources)

Process

Forest related reports and periodicity

Last report

Next report

National reports on implementation of commitments and periodicity

CSD

2-3 years, depending on the issues to be considered in depth at meetings of COP; substantive at COP5 (1997), updates for COP8 (2000) and WSSD (2002).

2000

2002

As decided by COP;

1997 (COP 5) and 2002 (WSSD).

CBD

Depending on the issues to be considered in depth at meetings of COP; first report in 2001 for COP6.

2001

2003

(volun-tary).

Every four years.

CCD

No thematic reports

   

Annually.

UNFCCC

No thematic reports.

   

Annually.

Forest C&I

(a) MCPFE

(b) Montreal

(c) ITTO

At Ministerial Conferences; reports: 1995, 1996, 1998 (currently ~ 5 years).

First report in 2003.

Review of progress towards the Year 2000 Objective.

1998

n.a.

2000

2003

2003

?

At Ministerial Conferences.

n.a.

n.a.

It is important to note that MAR in any process is not an end in itself, neither for progress in implementing commitments or for progress on the ground. Each of the conventions has in the recent past highlighted the need to streamline MAR at international fora, and the need to make data and information more easily and widely available. In addition, questions have been raised about the usefulness of the information as currently provided, both in terms of quality and quantity. One of the main purposes of reporting is to use country information as an integral part of the reports being provided to COPs at each session in the various fora. In fact, this has rarely been possible for a variety of reasons, and has led to a situation in which countries have been sharing information with UN secretariats but not with each other.

Different bodies, including CSD, have taken several initiatives to address the situation, especially in streamlining UN body reporting and dissemination of information electronically and via the web. The different commitments of countries and the range of topics covered by these commitments in relation to forests alone, as well as the range of other information needs regarding forests, has made progress on common reporting formats or data collection mechanisms difficult.

4.2 C&I for monitoring, assessment and reporting to UNFF and other international fora

As said before, C&I for SFM have been developed as tools which can be used in monitoring, assessing and reporting on progress towards the sustainable management of all types of forests. C&I can serve as the framework for MAR to UNFF on its activities in relation to forest management. This was discussed in an UNFF intersessional expert meeting held in Yokohama in November 2001. The key conclusions of that expert meeting were:

The general conclusion of the expert meeting was that C&I are the most commonly accepted tool for MAR. Country-level use of C&I, however, needed to be matched by conventions and organizations working together to streamline, co-ordinate and synchronise reporting requirements to the extent possible (e.g. the recent development by FAO, UNECE and ITTO of a joint questionnaire on forest products statistics). The meeting also found some limitations in the current C&I formats. These included:

- the monitoring and assessment of some indicators, in particular those on socio-economic functions, protective functions and biological diversity, have been found to be difficult;

- some specific issues (e.g., illegal trade and illegal logging) are not explicitly addressed in the indicators of some C&I processes.

However, some of the more difficult indicators, especially those on biological diversity and socio-economic functions, are fundamental to understanding the management of a nation's forests. Some others reflect "hot topics" that countries or processes can include in their indicator sets over time. Including or deleting indicators as appropriate is a decision each country or process has to make for the purposes of monitoring and assessment. When it comes to reporting to UNFF on progress made towards SFM the format depends entirely on the criteria to be reported on, which countries need to agree. In addition to the above, the meeting found that countries are at different stages of using C&I.

The third session of UNFF in May-June 2003 is to consider the appointment of an ad hoc expert group to provide scientific and technical advice to the Forum on approaches and mechanisms on its work on MAR. MAR activities can be significantly improved and simplified by co-ordinating definitions, protocols for data collection and reporting. For example, data from national reports on a number of indicators of MCPFE have been used in GFRA 2000.

Efforts towards reporting on progress towards SFM are ongoing in many of the international C&I processes. It is therefore suggested that countries employ these existing frameworks to report on progress towards SFM. Those processes (MCPFE, ITTO and Montreal) that already report, or plan to report, may be invited to submit their reports to UNFF 4.

Capacity building for national data collection, analysis and reporting is particularly needed in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. Considerably more effort is required from international fora and institutions to address capacity building for national data collection in these countries. Despite the large number of indicators, and decade-long efforts to compile data from national sources by FAO through its FRA, only a select few of these countries have a permanent national forest inventory. And only very few even of the most basic traditional forest data can be provided by these countries. This fact persists regardless of the number of indicators adopted in any process. After decades of concern over forests and their management many countries have made little or no progress in monitoring biological, social and economic conditions related to forests.

The FAO expert consultation at Kotka IV in 2002 emphasised the importance of action in this field in the run-up to FRA 2010 and has issued a range of recommendations (FAO, UNEP, and UNECE 2002). These include means to strengthen inventory and assessment capacity, in collaboration with countries and based on their national situation and needs. FAO is further able to support national forest inventories through the FAO national forest programme facility. The importance of these and other initiatives cannot be overemphasised. The opportunity at CICI-2003 should be taken to call upon countries and relevant international bodies, including those partaking in CPF and processes, to underline the essential nature of capacity building. This topic is also taken up in other background papers.

5 GLOBAL APPROACHES TO C&I FOR SFM

Since it is 10 years since the initial development of the C&I concept it is time to reassess the situation and evaluate whether the first phase of development and implementation of C&I is largely on track and whether improvements can be made in global co-ordination and collaboration related to C&I in order to add value to the ongoing work on regional, national and sub-national levels and make better use of achievements so far.

5.1 Global approaches to C&I for SFM: scope and options

Global approaches to C&I can relate to further development, implementation (i.e. data compilation, storage, distribution) or their use, e.g. reporting. There are different possible options and designs for a global approach, ranging from loose co-ordination on a global level (this is already done to a large degree) to more ambitious joint efforts on common achievements.

Global approaches to the further development of C&I could range from enhanced communication, co-ordination and collaboration among regional and other forest-related indicator processes to a common set of criteria and possibly a common set of indicators (see Table 5). A more cautious approach to further development would be to continue a loose co-ordination as was done during the last decade, with global seminars, say, about every five years (ISCI 1996, CICI-2003) and expert consultations at a similar frequency, as organized by FAO jointly with countries in 1995 and 2000. Additionally, regional C&I processes could be encouraged to increase the active exchange of information between them. Furthermore, it is important to actively exchange information with other indicator initiatives, especially CBD.

A more ambitious approach would be to aim at commonly agreed criteria for global use. It is important to note that these criteria would not substitute the regionally agreed criteria but complement them for use at global level. A list of such possible common criteria is given in Table 6. Such or other criteria could be discussed at CICI-2003 and, if agreed, communicated as a recommendation from this seminar, or such criteria could be elaborated in close collaboration with regional forest C&I processes through a joint workshop to be organized, as appropriate. They could also be decided upon independently of regional processes. For instance, UNFF could decide to call for reporting on progress towards SFM based on a set of elements, i.e. criteria.

Table 5: Global approaches for the further development, implementation and use of C&I for SFM - scope and options

 

Ambitious approach

Cautious Approach

Further development of C&I

Global set of criteria

or

Global set of C&I

and close co-ordination with other indicator initiatives.

Co-ordination as previously or more frequently and active information exchange with other indicator initiatives.

Data collection, storage, distribution

None; however, this area needs strongly enhanced efforts for capacity building and political awareness raising.

Global set of parameters, related to indicators, for global data compilation from national sources (e.g. through FAO FRA 2010).

Linkage to GFIS and other metadata-based services for distribution.

Use, including reporting

Global mechanism for streamlined reporting.

Global structure for international reporting based on the respective criteria of the regional processes.

A subsequent step in a global approach to C&I for SFM would be to consider the usefulness of the most important aspects within each of the above criteria. This would lead to either a list of the most important parameters that are used for global data compilation from national sources and for streamlining reporting requirements. Or it would mean the development of a list of key indicators for use at global level, following the example of other indicator initiatives to develop a core indicator set.

Table 6: Possible globally agreed common criteria

Possible list of globally agreed common criteria

    1. Forest resources and global carbon cycles

    2. Forest health and vitality

    3. Biological diversity

    4. Productive functions of forests

    5. Protective functions of forests

    6. Socio-economic functions

    7. Legal, policy and institutional framework

To develop a list of the most important parameters for data compilation would be most useful for institutions responsible for national data collection and institutions compiling data from national sources at international level. The expert consultation on GFRA, held in Kotka in 2002 and organized by FAO, UNEP and UNECE, specifically called upon CICI-2003 and the regional processes in this regard by stating "In defining the parameters to be collected, GFRA should take account of the reporting requirements of different processes and agreements, for instance any agreement on indicators that may emerge from the International Conference on Criteria and Indicators scheduled for 2002. It is expected that the international processes should support and promote GFRA as an important mechanism to facilitate data supply from countries, and as the major contributor of information on SFM at the global level." (FAO, UNEP, UNECE 2002).

The development of a list of possible common indicators for use at global level is certainly a more ambitious task, however potentially highly useful in further streamlining and focusing efforts on the most important aspects of SFM, at global level. Again, it is important to note that these indicators would not substitute the regionally agreed indicators but complement them for C&I use at global level. A list of possible common indicators as given in Table 7 could form a starting point for discussion. The indicators in this table were selected based on a comparison of the commonalities of indicators of the nine regional forest C&I processes. While some of these indicators, such as forest area, can be found in every regional set and data and are widely available and compiled by international organizations, some other crucial indicators for SFM, such as employment, are frequently listed as indicators but data are often not available. It is important to select indicators where there is a realistic feasibility to collect data by countries while not immediately discarding essential indicators just because these require further effort.

As with the development of jointly agreed criteria, different mechanisms are possible towards the development of a list of common indicators for use at global level. They could be elaborated in close collaboration between regional forest C&I processes, other indicator initiatives, international data compilation institutions such as FAO GFRA and global users, including CPF members, in a multi-stakeholder dialogue, e.g. through joint workshops. They could also be decided upon independently of regional processes. For instance, UNFF could decide to call for reporting on progress towards SFM based on a set of elements, for example criteria and related topics, i.e. indicators. CSD already uses a core set of indicators related to forests, the "adoption" and promotion of which would be the quickest global approach to indicators.

It is widely recognised that national goals defining what constitutes SFM will change over time to respond to shifts in values and increases in the understanding of forest ecosystems and their interaction with human communities and activities. It is therefore important to emphasise the evolving nature of the set of indicators defined at a certain point in time. It is also important that, whatever global set is agreed to by the international community, it be revisited regularly, maybe every five years. This is to allow for possible redefinition of the scope, taking into account experience gained and the availability of new or improved information. It will also provide the opportunity to take into account new issues and changing values of society.

If a core global C&I set is not seen appropriate at this point, an alternative option towards a commonly agreed core set of indicators across regions is a phased bilateral approach of those C&I processes willing to engage in a stepwise process to jointly agree on key parameters for data compilation (or indicators), e.g. through regional forest resources assessments such as

Table 7: Possible list of common global indicators related to criteria, and possible data sources

Criterion

Possible indicators

Possible data compilation mechanism 4

Forest resources and global carbon cycle

- Forest area

- Carbon stock

- FAO FRA

- FAO FRA

Forest health and vitality

- Forest area with damage, classified according to primary damaging agent (e.g. fire, air pollution)

- Partly FAO FRA (forest fires)

- Partly from national sources

Biological diversity

- Forest in protected areas

- Endangered forest species

- Forest area by ecological zones

- Forest plantation / "naturalness"

- FAO FRA

- FAO FRA

- FAO FRA

- FAO FRA

Productive functions of forests

- Balance between net annual increment and annual removals

- Volume / value of wood products (removals)

- Volume / value of non-wood products

- FAO FRA

- FAO FRA

- FAO FRA

Protective functions of forests

- Area of forests protected to maintain soil and water quantity and quality

- Directly from national sources

Socio-economic functions

- Share of forest sector in GDP

- Number of persons employed

- Directly from national sources

- Directly from national sources

Legal, policy and institutional framework

- Main legal basis for the areas above

- Main responsible institutions for the areas above

- Main policies for the areas above

- All directly from national sources

those administered by UNECE, and develop joint uses. Competitive pressure between different interests and approaches is often an important driver for the development, implementation and use of a common concept; however, not necessarily in any particular case.

In terms of procedures, the CICI-2003 conference could consider the usefulness of global parameters or indicators. If appropriate, it could propose a draft core set of such parameters or indicators to UNFF 3 and/or the expert group on MAR for further consideration and elaboration. A commitment at high political level towards elaborating a global set of criteria and possible indicators or parameters for SFM, based on and supporting regional C&I processes, seems crucial.

In approaching the development of a common set of criteria or indicators, what is essential for policy-makers to ensure is that the basic objective of C&I (of being able to meaningfully assess the progress a country is making towards SFM) is not compromised. A limited set, though this would make application easier, may not yield the required information. An alternative option is mutual recognition of processes that meet required criteria.

5.2 Global approaches to C&I for SFM: pros and cons

Basically, pros and cons of global approaches to C&I are different for the various regions or processes. What is important to note is that global approaches are useful if they add value to existing international, regional or national processes.

This would be the case if one or more of the following conditions should exist:

A judgement on the merits of global approaches to C&I would require a more detailed analysis of each of the areas and options listed in Table 5. An initial appraisal of the possible effects of following a more ambitious versus a more cautious approach, as outlined in Table 5, by using the criteria above is shown in Table 8. It shows that the political relevance and broad visibility could give C&I strong support if a more ambitious approach were chosen. That initial support would have to be used to speed up the further development and implementation of C&I especially at national level and to seek to streamline or build up national inventory systems in line with the indicators chosen. A more cautious approach risks missing a window of opportunity to gain broad recognition and support. Several of the C&I processes run the risk of running out of steam in such a scenario.

A more ambitious global approach to C&I for SFM has several potential merits if the timing, process and outcome are adequately managed. A global approach will help the healthy development of C&I as a useful tool in SFM in the long term. It will help to foster a common understanding of the goal to be achieved and the means used. What is important is to find the most efficient and effective ways to get all countries to implement C&I as speedily as possible. But the essential requirement is to ensure that any method selected include all essential indicators to enable countries to assess whether progress towards SFM is being made. A very favourable development towards developing a common approach for use at global level is the existence of a common set of criteria used by most of the current C&I processes.

A whole host of factors have contributed to the reluctance of countries to work towards more ambitious common global approaches in the past. Two factors seem essential for the focus on regional work rather than a global approach in the first phase: regional initiatives were able to develop a by then new concept more quickly and with better regard to regionally specific situations and conditions. Furthermore, the early phase was characterised by a need to identify the different perspectives on SFM of different stakeholders and the most essential commonly shared elements of SFM. Processes were also concerned that a harmonisation of C&I would reduce them to the lowest common denominator and render them unresponsive to national stakeholder concerns. All these and other concerns are still valid, as is the concern that global approaches could substitute work at regional level.

Table 8: Possible effects of ambitious versus cautious approaches to global C&I on SFM

 

Ambitious approach

Cautious approach

Political relevance

- Increases strongly

    - Remains at status quo or decreases over time

Broad visibility

- Increases strongly

    - Remains at status quo or decreases over time

Cost effectiveness

- Increases somewhat

    - No change

Technical feasibility of data compilation at international level

- No change or small improvement

    - No change

Reliability and validity of data

- No change

    - No change

Comprehensiveness

- Decline

    - No change

A more ambitious global approach, if undertaken, should therefore make sure that the emphasis of work on C&I is on national-level implementation, and that key principles are to be observed, including the need for stakeholder participation and continuous improvement of indicators. It is nevertheless important to note that a global approach will help the healthy development of C&I in the long term as a useful tool in SFM. It will help to foster a common understanding of the goal to be achieved and the means used.

6 DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

In the relatively short period of less than a decade, C&I as a tool for SFM have gained the endorsement of the international forest management community. At present countries are at different stages of developing, implementing and using C&I. A parallel development is a range of indicators promoted by other sectors, largely to determine progress in SD. Although the latter indicators cover a wider area than forests a number of them focus on aspects of forestry. A number of issues arising from these and other developments have been discussed in this paper. A stage has now been reached where the experience gained and lessons learnt over the past decade to find more efficient and effective ways to help all countries reach the goal of SFM need to be used.

6.1 Co-ordination and collaboration

There are a variety of processes and organizations promoting forest-related indicators. These include nine regional forest C&I processes, CSD, CBD and other international conventions, such as CCD, UNFCCC. These initiatives are at different stages of progress in developing, implementing and using indicators. Much work in developing national forest C&I has been done at regional level to reflect the unique characteristics pertaining to each region or group. Similarly, a lot of effort has been made by initiatives developing SD indicators. The resulting indicator sets are, however, often not co-ordinated to allow synergies and elimination of overlaps. They are based on different concepts and use terms, definitions and different mechanisms for implementation and for different purposes, including reporting. Synergies could be used to the benefit of all concerned.

6.2 Monitoring, assessment and reporting to UNFF and international fora

MAR in any process is not an end in itself. As recognised by UNCED, assessment and periodic evaluations are essential components of long-term planning, policy development and implementation. The primary goal of forest-related MAR is to facilitate informed decision-making on forest policy and management.

6.3 Global approaches to forest-related C&I

The principal advantage of developing a global set of C&I is that it will help to foster a common understanding of the SFM goal that everybody is seeking to achieve and the use of C&I as one means towards it. This is done recognising the dynamic nature of forest ecosystems, evolving values of society and emerging issues that affect forests, all of which require long-term flexibility in measures adopted to bring about SFM.

In the end what needs to be noted is that in spite of the great importance of C&I in promoting SFM and the fact that 150 countries are involved in them, crucial factors such as high-level political commitment, human and technical capacities, as well as financial resources, are often still lacking. Ten years after the initial introduction of C&I it is time to consolidate and streamline the application of this most innovative forest management tool to achieve global SFM.

A more ambitious global approach, if undertaken, should therefore make sure that the emphasis of work on C&I is on national-level implementation, and that key principles are to be observed, including the need for stakeholder participation and continuous improvement of indicators. It is nevertheless important to note that a global approach will help the healthy development of C&I in the long term as a useful tool in SFM. It will help to foster a common understanding of the goal to be achieved and the means used.

7 Literature cited

1. FAO, 2000. FRA 2000: On definitions on forests and forest change. Forest Resources Assessment Programme Working Paper No33. FAO, Rome.

2. FAO, 2001a). Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, a compendium. Working paper FM/5. FAO, Rome.

3. FAO, 2001b). Use of criteria and indicators for monitoring, assessment and reporting on progress toward sustainable forest management in the United Nations Forum on Forests. Report prepared for the International Expert Meeting on Monitoring, Assessment and Reporting on Progress toward Sustainable Forest Management, Yokohama, Japan, 5-8 November 2001. FAO, Rome.

4. FAO, 2002. Expert meeting on harmonizing forest-related definitions for use by various stakeholders, Rome, 22-25 January 2002. Proceedings, FAO, Rome

5. FAO, UNEP, UNECE (2002): Kotka IV. Expert consultation on Global Forest Resources Assessment - linking national and international efforts. Report of the meeting. Kotka, Finland, 1-5 July 2002.

6. IPF. 1997. Report of the ad hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests on its Fourth Session E/CN.17/1997/12. United Nations, New York.

7. Puustjärvi E. & Simula M. (2002): Forest-related definitions: issues and development needs. Discussion paper prepared for the expert meeting on harmonizing forest-related definitions for use by various stakeholders, Rome, 22-25 January 2002.

8. Report of the International Expert Meeting on Monitoring, Assessment and Reporting on Progress toward Sustainable Forest Management, Yokohama, Japan 5-8 November 2001.

9. Wijewardana, D., Stephanie Joyce Caswell, Christel Palmberg-Lerche, 1997. Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. Keynote paper to XI World Forestry Congress, Antalya, Turkey, 1997.

10. UNFF, 2001, Report of the Secretary General on monitoring, assessment and reporting, including concepts, terminology and definitions, 20 December 2001.

11. UNFF, 2001a, Monitoring, assessment and reporting function of UNFF. UNFF Secretariat preliminary discussion paper prepared for the International Expert Meeting on Monitoring, Assessment and Reporting on Progress toward Sustainable Forest Management, Yokohama, Japan, 5-8 November 2001.


1 Policy Advisor, Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, Liaison Unit Vienna, Marxerg. 2, 1030 Vienna, Austria. Tel: +43-1-710770216; Fax: +43-1-710770213; e-mail: e.rametsteiner@lu-vienna.at., and Director, International Forest Policy, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, P.O. Box 2526, Wellington, New Zealand, E-mail: don.wijewardana@maf.govt.nz, respectively.

2 Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe

3 International Seminar on Criteria and Indicators

4 International data compilation from national data sources.

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