The importance of timely and reliable information for strengthening sustainable forest management (SFM) and planning and policy formulation in the forestry sector is well recognized. All global, national and local initiatives to promote SFM indicate the need to strengthen the information system. The ongoing efforts of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) as well as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) and EUROSTAT are focused on establishing or reinforcing national correspondents for international sustainable networks on forest product statistics.
The purpose of this workshop was to strengthen collaboration between FAO and member countries; to enhance information flow; to enable countries to fulfil their commitments under various international agreements and processes (for example by completing the Joint Forest Sector Questionnaire [JFSQ] with reliable data from their respective countries); to discuss common issues; to share information management and techniques; to build national capacity (for example via training); and to strengthen the quality of national and regional statistics.
The workshop was based on reports on the status of national forest product statistics, which were prepared by the national correspondents. The participating countries in the Asia-Pacific region are: Australia, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, Japan, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
It was agreed that the participants would be the national statistical correspondents from member countries. The statistical correspondent should be the person who is responsible for completing the JFSQ.
1. Establish and reinforce the network/working group of statistical correspondents in the 16 member countries of FAO and ITTO.
2. Provide training on standardized international definitions and tabular formats for completing the JFSQ.
3. Review current forest product statistics at national and regional levels.
4. Identify the main weaknesses and constraints concerning forest statistics and further develop a set of alternative frameworks for improving national statistical processes.
5. Encourage information sharing at the country level, among countries and with international organizations.
The workshop was designed to achieve the following outcomes:
1. An established and reinforced network of national statistical correspondents.
2. Knowledge on international statistics and the JFSQ for the participants.
3. Enhanced national capacity on forest product statistics.
4. Discussion on information related to the status and constraints of current national and regional forestry statistics.
5. Agreement on sustainable cooperation among the participating countries, and between international organizations (FAO, ITTO) and their member countries via the network.
The workshop was organized and facilitated by FAO staff members (Mr Felice Padovani and Mr Aru Mathias) in cooperation with Mr Steve Johnson from ITTO and Mr Chris Perley, a contracted resource person. Considerable assistance was provided by Mr U.N. Bhati and Professor Peter Kanowski of the School of Resources, Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, and two students - Ms Emma Soraya and Mr Rob McWilliam.
The 22 participants included statistical forestry representatives from 13 member countries, forest policy officials, university staff, representatives from the private sector and resource persons (see Appendix 1).
Professor Kanowski and Mr Mathias, FAOs Sub-Regional Forest Resource Management Officer, welcomed the delegates. Mr Felice Padovani began the workshop with an outline of the workshops objectives and expected outcomes. Mr Perley delivered a thematic paper on the emerging trends in forestry within the Asia-Pacific region, emphasizing the changing nature of forests, especially the growth in plantations, as well as the emergence of environmental issues and social equity issues, all of which impact on the requirement for and changing needs of forest product statistics.
Presentations and group discussions
Each national correspondent for forest product statistics, who was present, was asked to report on the current status of collection, analysis and dissemination of forest product statistics; how the statistics are used in policy analysis at the country level; and the constraints in making them relevant to decision-makers. The reports are summarized in these proceedings.
In addition to the country reports, various thematic papers were presented on either specific case studies relating to data collection, analysis and dissemination, or particular perspectives on the need for forest product statistics, and the challenges encountered. Only some of the papers were written up for this proceedings.
The review of the global perspective of improving forest product information by Mr Rohan Nelson (ABARE) - presented by Professor Kanowski - underscored the contentions of diminishing and insecure resources; there is a variation in efforts focusing on forest statistics and a history of information being driven by the data, rather than by the needs of the parties who need and use the information. In addressing these issues, it was argued that: (1) the real needs of users should be reviewed continually; (2) there should be a focus on a core data set; (3) cost-efficient data collection methods should be devised; and (4) data should be made more readily available. Various challenges were highlighted, including the need to build more effective partnerships between and within public and private sector institutions, to build human capacity and to have realistic expectations.
Mr Richard Stanton (PTAA/APIC) talked about the driving forces that affect the Australian forestry industry. These number an increase in international exposure; a move from domestic protection to international competitiveness; increasing volumes of harvest, juxtaposed by a reduction in information availability due to political and economic constraints; and the increasing complexity of the commercial environment. He argued that the shift from a largely governmental role in forest production to a private sector role requires a core national framework for data collection. Currently, he considers there is duplication between state and federal levels, with a lack of consistency and continuity, and ongoing problems associated with the (un)certainty of funding. Mr Stanton also emphasized that information is fundamental to decision-making, whether for policy-makers, resource users or investors; however, resource constraints imply that there must be a focus on information that will make a difference, rather than on data-driven information collection by technical people who tend to gather as much as they can. He reiterated Mr Nelsons contention that data collection needs to be affordable. Of particular importance is that a voluntary response from the private sector will be abetted when data collection is efficient, effective and where confidentiality is assured and demonstrated.
Mr Padovani outlined the importance of forest product statistics; gave an introduction to the JFSQ; considered the role of the forestry statistical officer; and discussed the measurement, use and dissemination of forest statistics. Representatives from member countries attending the workshop supplied information on production, trade and consumption of forest products. Mr Johnson explained the International Trade Classification System, introducing the two main international systems for categorizing products: the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) and the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC).
Hands-on computer training focused on the retrieval of forest product data from the FAO Forest Products Statistics Database (FAOSTAT), using compact disks and the Internet and understanding file transfer protocols (FTPs). The participants also learned how to access the online FAOSTAT working system in order to complete the virtual questionnaire.
The group discussions involved delegates discussing set questions relating to their own forest product statistics environment, as well as the FAO data collection protocols (JFSQ), in order to identify particular issues and constraints, and potential solutions. These sessions were particularly useful, not only in identifying issues and clarifying potential approaches, but also in establishing contacts.
The participants were divided into two subgroups. The subgroups met for three separate workshops throughout the week, each focusing on a separate issue. The first subgroup included the smaller timber producers: the Cook Islands, Maldives, Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The second subgroup included the larger timber exporters of Australia, Fiji, China, Mongolia, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea.
The working groups were facilitated by Mr Mathias, Mr Padovani, Mr Johnson and Mr Perley.
The findings of each of the working group sessions are presented in Appendix 3.
The venue of the workshop, Canberra - the Australian federal capital, provided the opportunity to visit national centres for data collection. Site visits were organized to the Bureau of Rural Sciences and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia, where the National Forestry Inventory was demonstrated.
Optional visits were also arranged for the last day to Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Forests, and ACT Environment.
FAO offers its sincere thanks to the Australian National University School of Resources, Environment and Society, and particularly to Mr U.N. Bhati, Professor Peter Kanowski, Ms Emma Soraya and Mr Rob McWilliam for their warm hospitality and excellent assistance. FAO also appreciates the hospitality and site visits provided by the Bureau of Rural Sciences (BRS), Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry (AFFA), ACT Forests, and ACT Environment.
Finally, the workshop would not have been a success without the valuable participation of the various country delegates and presenters.