Barely nine months ago, FAO, IPCC, IUFRO and CIFOR convened the first Expert Meeting on Harmonizing Forest-related Definitions for Use by Various Stakeholders. The objective of the process then started was to harmonize forest-related definitions taking into consideration not only the viewpoints of climate change and forest resources assessments, but also those of biodiversity conservation and forest management. It was hoped that harmonization would contribute to improved communication and facilitate data exchange on forest-related issues between countries and organizations, on one hand, and help reduce the reporting burden on countries, on the other.
In spite of this seemingly impossible undertaking, the participants realized during the first meeting that reaching a common understanding on some forest-related definitions and harmonizing others was not only feasible and highly useful, but also that they had barely been able to scratch the surface. Further painstaking work would be required in order to tackle the problems created by inconsistent definitions of terms and concepts, which are bound to multiply commensurate with the increased global role of forests (e.g. carbon-related terminology).
This effort of harmonizing forest-related definitions does not stand alone. It complements other related activities undertaken by varied organizations and bodies. Participation in this meeting of a number of experts from the other processes will strengthen the synergies between processes and help avoid overlapping.
After the first meeting, the United Nations Environment Programme joined as a partner organization, which is evidence of the growing recognition the process has gained. Also, reference to it was made in the recommendations of the SBSTA 16 of UNFCCC and UNFF 2.
Based on the results of the first expert meeting, an analytical framework was drafted and pre-screened by a small task group. During the second meeting this framework, with its definitions for forest-related core and supporting terms, was discussed and further elaborated.
The excellent and close collaboration between the convening organizations - FAO, IPCC, IUFRO, CIFOR and UNEP - was highly appreciated, as was the collaboration with the secretariats of UNFCCC, CBD and other organizations. FAO and its partner organizations are grateful for the experts' contributions and their continuing commitment.
Well aware of its technical nature, the Meeting undertook to suggest a number of recommendations to different organizations and bodies. These "clients" of the process will decide on the next steps.
Chairperson, Interdepartmental Working Group on Climate Change
Director, Forest Products Division