At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, countries across the world agreed to develop mechanisms for assessing progress towards sustainable management of their forests. Over the past decade, national and international initiatives concerned with the development and implementation of criteria and indicators (C&I) for sustainable forest management in Asian countries largely focused on boreal, temperate and tropical moist forests. Recognizing the need to develop criteria and indicators specifically oriented towards the unique demands and features of dry forest management, ten Asian countries started the "Regional Initiative for the Development and Implementation of National-level Criteria and Indicators for the Sustainable Management of Dry Forests in Asia" (also called the "Dry Zone Asia Process"). Within this initiative a "reference set" of criteria and indicators for dry forest management was developed. In their efforts to implement these criteria and indicators, participating countries commenced with an exchange of relevant information on methodologies, and cooperated with national institutions in conducting research and testing.
The practical guide for the assessment, monitoring and reporting on national-level criteria and indicators for dry forests in Asia, is a comprehensive instruction book on the process of collecting and assembling national level information and reporting. The guidelines provide tools or detailed information on (a) formulating aspects to be assessed for each individual indicator, (b) describing how to obtain, compile and process the relevant information, (c) identifying the means (e.g. documents, sources) used for data collection, and (d) periodicity of measurement and measurement units to be used. In addition, a format for (a) reporting on each individual assessment aspect, and (b) monitoring the indicators using the information collected in two or more subsequent assessments is also provided.
Following a brief introduction on dry forest management in Asia, the "reference set" of criteria and indicators developed by the regional initiative is presented. This set of eight criteria and 49 indicators provides the basis for the assessment system, subsequently described in terms of its components and formats used for reporting and monitoring. Some examples taken from the aforementioned set of criteria and indicators for dry forests are provided.
In the main part of the guidelines a comprehensive outline of the assessment system, including reporting and monitoring is presented. For each indicator the assessment procedures, means of verification, periodicity of measurement and units of measurements are outlined. In addition, a format for reporting the results for each indicator is proposed followed by a monitoring format to be used in identifying important aspects of the progress made towards sustainable forest management. The presentation of an individual indicator concludes with a paragraph on interpretation of results. Here, some ideas on positive trends towards sustainable forest management and/or levels to be achieved are given. These interpretations are intended to assist in drafting an overall synthesis on the progress made towards sustainable management for dry forests in a particular country.
The guidelines conclude with a chapter on some aspects of assessment implementation such as institutional arrangements, preparations for the assessment, training needs and further application of the system for the improvement of forest management.