Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management are an important framework to assist countries collect, store and disseminate reliable science-based forest information needed to monitor and assess forest conditions. In turn, this information is a means to influence policies and decisions to achieve sustainable forest management.
Important advances in implementing sustainable forest management have been made since 1990 when work on criteria and indicators was first initiated. In the last decade, some 150 countries in association with one or more of the nine regional and international1processes, and the international community have endorsed criteria and indicators as an important tool for assessing and monitoring the state of and trends in countries' forest resources. Development and implementation of criteria and indicators are helping to build a common understanding of sustainable forest management.
There is currently a need to ensure that the momentum of the last several years is not lost and global recognition of criteria and indicators is achieved. Experience gained and lessons learned over the past decade should be used to enhance the implementation of criteria and indicators.
Progress in implementing criteria and indicators depends on country conditions, understanding of sustainable forest management concepts, technical and institutional capacities, resource availability and political commitment. While a number of countries have mobilized resources for criteria and indicators implementation, including with support of international organizations and donor countries, enhanced national commitment and international cooperation is needed to build national and local capacities in developing countries.
Sustainability is a dynamic and evolving concept. Development of criteria and indicators should be a continuous process at the regional and national levels based on accumulated knowledge and experience. Criteria and indicators should be reviewed periodically to reflect the political, economic and social and environmental conditions of countries as well as changing values of society, experience gained new scientific information and technological advancements in measuring indicators.
1. Criteria and indicators have many applications. They serve as a framework for setting goals, monitoring sustainable forest management and national forest programmes, certification, assisting strategic planning and communicating on progress made to policy makers and the public, among other uses. Criteria and indicators also help build bridges between stakeholders.
2. Mainstreaming and integration of criteria and indicators into NFPs or other policy processes can facilitate progress towards sustainable forest management. In this context criteria and indicators serve as a useful tool for monitoring the efficiency and effectiveness of these programmes and related projects. Criteria and indicators and NFPs are thus mutually beneficial and supportive instruments.
3.The contribution of sustainable forest management to poverty alleviation, water, energy, health, agriculture and biological diversity is insufficiently recognized by many governments, international organizations and other stakeholders. Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management should be used in public outreach and education as powerful tools to improve this recognition and coordination among sectors.
4. It is not sufficient that only foresters and forest-related institutions and organizations be involved in the processes oriented towards sustainable forest management, such as criteria and indicators. National coordination is needed to help ensure that sustainable forest management contribute to and benefit from developments and efforts in other sectors such as poverty alleviation, agriculture, food security, energy, water, mining, biological diversity and sustainable development overall.
5. Broadly-based participation of government and non-governmental stakeholders in the work on criteria and indicators advances:
a. understanding the benefits of criteria and indicators;
b. generation of political commitment for long-term and sustained action;
c. refinement, strengthening and making criteria and indicators more meaningful.
6. Effective stakeholder participation in developing and implementing criteria and indicators can be enhanced if their needs and interests are taken into account and if stakeholders are made aware of potential benefits that can be derived from criteria and indicators.
7.Community-based forest management can be enhanced through monitoring of criteria and indicators implementation.
8. There are a number of innovative mechanisms for promoting stakeholder participation and dialogue in the development and implementation of criteria and indicators, including roundtables, public opinion polls, joint forest management committees, etc.
9. Political commitment at all levels, especially at the national level, is essential to developing and implementing criteria and indicators. Participation of countries in criteria and indicator processes demonstrates political commitment. This should be further enhanced.
10. Political commitment at the regional level, especially at the ministerial level, can provide a powerful framework for national efforts and coordinated requests for external assistance, facilitate shared views and make best use of technical capabilities.
11. There is a need to strengthen collaboration and coordination among the criteria and indicator processes, and between the forest sector and other sectors and international initiatives dealing with indicators.
12. Innovative ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of forestry institutions need to be developed. This may include redefinition of roles and mandates of public, private and civil society stakeholders and outsourcing of some functions, such as monitoring and enforcement related to the implementation of criteria and indicators.
13. The full realization of the potential of criteria and indicators as tools for sustainable forest management is often constrained by insufficient capacity, especially in developing countries, including low forest cover countries, and at local levels.
14. Development assistance to the forest sector in many developing countries has declined over the past years. The donor community should continue to be guided by priorities set by national governments. There is therefore a need to raise the profile of the forest sector and the role of sustainable forest management and criteria and indicators in national and international policy agendas.
15. Though small, forests in low forest cover countries (LFCC) are of global and national significance for biodiversity. In this regard, their special needs and requirements in developing and implementing criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management should be considered appropriately in relevant regional and international forest fora.
16. There is also a need to attract and mobilize domestic and external financing, including from the private sector, and help ensure more efficient use of existing funding and institutional mechanisms to support the development and implementation of criteria and indicators.
17. National-level indicators developed in regional and international processes may require adaptation by countries to reflect specific country conditions.
18. Not all national-level indicators are relevant at sub-national levels of application, and priorities attached to them and for reporting, assessment and monitoring them may vary between levels.
19. Management objectives can determine the relevance of indicators at forest management unit level. In spite of differences in sub-national and forest management unit level indicators, the national-level status in progress towards sustainable forest management may be determined through aggregation of lower-level indicators if the sub-national or forest management units are representative of country-wide conditions.
20. Adoption and implementation of criteria and indicators at the national, sub-national and forest management unit levels can be facilitated by legislation and incentives (e.g. access to funding, tax policy and certification among others).
21. Criteria and indicators provide a framework for many current certification schemes. Certification can also serve in some cases as a tool supporting development and implementation of criteria and indicators.
22. There is a need for harmonization of concepts and terms related to criteria and indicators to improve common understanding of sustainable forest management and criteria and indicators.
23. The coverage and quality of available data at all levels is a major constraint for the effective implementation of criteria and indicators and sustainable forest management.
24. While national forest assessments and inventories are important for compiling national level information on criteria and indicators, other sources should be taken into account, such as census data, national economic data, national water quality data and climate change information.
25. National forest assessments and inventories constitute a basic source of information on indicators for use at the national level. They can enhance action at the national level and promote regional compatibility and comparability. There is a need to ensure that data collected is relevant to policy and institutional needs and environmental conditions. There is a potential to further develop national forest assessments and inventories to better respond to the needs expressed by national criteria and indicator processes.
26. Criteria and indicators are recognized as a useful contribution to the overall framework for the Global Forest Resources Assessment (GFRA) coordinated by FAO. Information generated by GFRA should facilitate the use of criteria and indicators in national and international fora, including UNFF and other relevant international agreements and processes.
27. Coordination and information exchange among international and national organizations collecting forest-related data needs to be improved.
28. Participants welcomed the establishment of the Task Force of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) on Streamlining Forest-related Reporting and its work towards harmonizing and reducing national reporting, including facilitating easy access to national forest-related information through a web-based portal.
29. Participants discussed the potential benefits of a common set of criteria based on existing sets of criteria elaborated by regional and international processes on criteria and indicators, for facilitating the sharing of information, and demonstrating progress towards sustainable forest management at the international level. Participants acknowledged the following thematic areas of sustainable forest management common to all regional and international criteria and indicator processes:
1. Extent of forest resources2
2. Biological diversity
3.Forest health and vitality
4. Productive functions of forest resources
5. Protective functions of forest resources
6. Socio-economic functions
7. Legal, policy and institutional framework
30. There is a need to effectively use UNFF as a global policy forum, which can enhance high-level commitment and action in support of sustainable forest management at the national and international levels. Furthermore, full support should be given to the coordination and harmonization efforts of the CPF, with a view to facilitate and rationalize national reporting.
In order to strengthen the elaboration and implementation of criteria and indicators, to promote political commitment for the use of criteria and indicators as tools for sustainable forest management, to strengthen institutional capacity and stakeholder partnerships for implementing criteria and indicators and facilitate exchange of information among all stakeholders, and to contribute to the work of UNFF and international initiatives on indicators related to sustainable development, the Conference recommended that:
1. Countries develop and integrate criteria and indicators into NFPs or similar policy frameworks and where relevant into other processes related to sustainable development. In this regard cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination is essential.
2. Countries and international organizations as well as UNFF, in their outreach and other activities on sustainable forest management and criteria and indicators, proactively engage related sectors such as water, energy, health, agriculture and biological diversity, to increase awareness of the forest sector's work on criteria and indicators and the potential application of this work to other sectors and maintain forests on international and national policy agendas.
3. Countries use nationally or regionally accepted indicators as a means to inform decision makers and the public on the status of, and important changes in, forests and their impacts on other related and non-related sectors.
4. Countries promote broad participation of all relevant stakeholders in a transparent, continuous iterative process for the development, implementation and monitoring of criteria and indicators, in order to strengthen political commitment, including the commitment of civil society, and develop capacity for such work, using innovative mechanisms as needed.
5. Countries use existing national and local-level fora as communication channels for criteria and indicators. Targeted messages should be used taking into account the perceptions, needs and capability of different stakeholder groups (forest owners, industry, forest dependent communities, urban dwellers, indigenous groups, etc.).
6. Countries identify or establish as needed national and sub-national bodies to promote and monitor implementation of criteria and indicators.
7. Countries with limited capacity consider starting with an easily measured and understood core set of indicators and expand gradually to cover other indicators of sustainable forest management. Local and forest management unit level indicators should address the specific needs of communities, small landowners and forest managers.
8. Universities and other educational institutions incorporate the latest information on sustainable forest management in their curricula and provide skills for developing and implementing criteria and indicators including stakeholder participation, conflict management and public outreach.
9. Developing countries create an enabling environment to attract domestic and foreign investment in the forest sector, including for implementation of criteria and indicators, and mobilize other domestic and external resources for this purpose, including through bi-lateral and international partnerships.
10. Countries and criteria and indicator processes seek support for their work on criteria and indicators through FAO, ITTO, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and other relevant organizations and mechanisms. In this regard, the donor community should support the efforts of developing countries, including by providing financial support, technology and know-how.
11.Criteria and indicator processes and their member countries strengthen cooperation, including South-South and North-South cooperation, by sharing of experiences and know-how, for example, through joint meetings, workshops, ministerial conferences, e-mail networks and other appropriate mechanisms.
12. Countries currently not members of any regional or international criteria and indicator process consider joining one.
13. Voluntary approaches, such as certification schemes are encouraged to use criteria and indicators as a useful reference in promotion of monitoring sustainable forest management.
14. Countries and processes use existing mechanisms and fora, such as Regional Forestry Commissions, the CPF Task Force and existing expert groups to enhance collaboration and coordination among the criteria and indicator processes, including to fostering capacity building.
15.Criteria and indicator processes and their member countries make use of existing forest expert groups and networks to support further elaboration and implementation of criteria and indicators.
16. National and international institutions should carry out research on criteria and indicators that are difficult to assess, including biological diversity, non-timber forest products, non-market values, soil and water conservation, carbon sequestration and social and cultural aspects and values. IUFRO, CGIAR centers, CBD, UNCCD and UNFCCC should facilitate such research relevant to their mandates.
17. FAO use the thematic areas based on existing sets of criteria that are common to regional and international criteria and indicator processes in the overall framework for the Global Forest Resources Assessment and help ensure that specific national or regional aspects are incorporated in the assessment process.
18. Countries, with the support of the members of CPF and the donor community, develop cost-efficient data collection strategies for criteria and indicators and incorporate and maintain elements of criteria and indicators in national forest assessments and inventories.
19. International and national organizations collecting forest-related data cooperate more effectively to extend the collection of data for criteria and indicators and improve compatibility of information from different sources.
20. The CPF Task Force take into account existing work
on criteria and indicators in its streamlining efforts, make specific
recommendations to governing bodies of respective CPF members to reduce national
reporting burdens, and invite representatives of criteria and indicator
processes with experience in reporting to participate in the work of the Task
Force. In this context, the Task Force should also promote the use of forest
criteria and indicators in other processes dealing with indicators.
21. FAO and ITTO, taking into consideration existing networks, mechanisms and fora, convene as soon as possible an international expert consultation to provide inputs to the work of UNFF between its third and fourth sessions, including representatives of the criteria and indicator processes, member countries and international organizations, to consider and make recommendations, including to UNFF, regarding:
a) Feasibility of a communication network among processes, countries and other relevant partners to provide a mechanism for exchange of information, building on existing networks.
b) Improving common understanding of concepts, terms and definitions related to criteria and indicators.
c) Identifying common approaches, methods and protocols for collecting, storing and sharing data.
d) Strengthening criteria and indicator processes and inter-process cooperation and sharing of information and know-how.
e) Merits of forming anad hocinternational technical advisory group to address technical issues related to the development and implementation of criteria and indicators.
22. Countries consider using criteria and indicators as an essential tool to report on progress towards sustainable forest management to UNFF. Those criteria and indicator processes and their member countries that already prepare reports, or plan to do so, are invited to submit their reports to UNFF. In this context, countries should help ensure that UNFF dialogue have a clear focus on sustainable forest management and recognize the contribution of criteria and indicators to sustainable forest management, as well as the contribution of sustainable forest management to other sectors and to sustainable development
23.The FAO Committee on Forestry should reaffirm implementation of criteria and indicators as a FAO programme priority, including technical assistance and capacity building, and through the National Forest Programme Facility based on requests by developing countries with specific needs and requirements. It also recommended a strengthened FAO role in facilitating collaboration among criteria and indicator processes.
24. The Government of Guatemala present the conclusions and recommendations of CICI-2003 to the Sixteenth Session of COFO (Rome, March 2003), the 3rd Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (Vienna, April 2003), the 34thsession of the International Tropical Timber Council (Panama, May 2003), the 3rdSession of UNFF (Geneva, May 2003), the 5thCentral America Forestry Congress (Panama, May 2003), the 6thConference of Parties of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (Havana, August 2003) and the 12thWorld Forestry Congress (Quebec City, September 2003), as well as other relevant fora, such meetings under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
1Throughout this report "international criteria and indicator processes" refer to the Montreal Process and ITTO.
2The Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) and Dry-Zone Africa Processes include forest contribution to the global carbon cycle in this criterion. The Montreal Process identifies forest contribution to the global carbon cycle in place of this criterion.