For much of the last two decades forestry discussions have been dominated by calls for sustainable management of forest resources. But practical solutions are few and far between. Among the few exceptions have been the development of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. Following United Nations Conference on Environment and Development's adoption of the Forest Principles, Agenda 21 (1992), the call was made for the formulation of scientifically sound criteria, indicators and guidelines for moving the management of forests towards sustainability. The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) pioneered the development of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management of tropical forests in 1992. Since then, several regional and eco-regional initiatives have evolved to assist countries in developing and implementing similar criteria and indicators. These forest management tools have assumed a prominent position in international forestry foras have helped raise awareness of the concept of sustainability, and have set in motion extensive policy debates related to forestry including monitoring, assessment and reporting.
Criteria and indicators provide a meaningful and practical means for countries to gauge periodic progress towards sustainable forest management. While these tools cannot be viewed as a panacea for the world's forest management problems, they can be important tools for promoting sustainable forest management and related activities where the underlying problems are correctly identified and addressed.
There are currently nine on-going international and/or regional criteria and indicators initiatives, involving approximately 150 countries. In 1999, with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the United Nations Environment Programme and in collaboration with the International Tropical Timber Organization, the Indian Institute of Forest Management and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, a workshop on "Development of National-Level Criteria and Indicators for the Sustainable Management of Dry Forests in Asia" was held in Bhopal, India, under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission. Now referred to as the "Dry Forest in Asia Process," ten Asian countries jointly developed a regionally applicable set of national-level criteria and indicators relevant for dry forests in the region. A preliminary report on the criteria and indicators was produced in 2001. However, to be relevant and useful, and to implement these tools in an efficient way, criteria and indicators must be translated into action. This requires the development of practical guidelines for the assessment and monitoring of criteria and indicators, and for reporting on progress.
This publication supports that need. It describes in a simple, straightforward manner: (a) the means for assessing and verifying each indicator, (b) periodicity of measurement and units of measurement and (c) the formats used in reporting the results and monitoring the changes. The assessment methodology is specially tailored for evaluating dry forests in all the countries in the Asian region but could be applicable to similar regions in the world as well. Overall, they can be used for accurately gauging the progress made by countries towards sustainable management of their dry forests. Now the task falls on the individual countries to develop the local standards of performance and begin the actual monitoring of their management. It is expected that the practical guidelines set forth in this publication will support and simplify these monitoring efforts.
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
25 June 2003