Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


Main findings and recommendations from the workshop

Chris Perley[1]

The objectives of the workshop

The main objectives of the workshop were to:

Each objective was achieved. The participants reinforced their personal networks, provided open and honest reviews of national’ forest statistics’ programmes and participated very constructively at the training exercises and in the working group discussions (see Appendix 2).

Two further objectives were set to:

These latter objectives are the focus of the main findings and recommendations.

What is meant by “‘effective forest statistics”’?

Before identifying constraints and recommendations concerning forest statistics, some idea of the context of forest statistics is required. The constraints relate to an overall goal of achieving “‘effective forest statistics”’, and the recommendations also relate to this desired end. This goal provided the context for much of the comment and analysis that was presented at the workshop.

A number of presentations defined effective forest product statistics as being:

The effective forest statistics’ system

A systems’ concept is the most useful context when evaluating forest statistics. There are many influences that impact on effectiveness. These influences not only relate to finance or human skills, but also to the socio-political environment, and many other factors. Importantly, a systems’ view focuses more on qualitative processes between inter-related entities, rather than the entities themselves. In other words, the trust and cooperation among and within key departments, key individuals and key private and public sector organizations may be more critical than a quantum of financial resources applied to the forest statistics’ environment.

A systems’ view also recognizes that there are multiple inter-relationships with no single chain of cause and effect. Therefore, parts of a system cannot be managed in isolation from another because the consequences of one action will have potentially compounding effects elsewhere, sometimes positive, and sometimes negative. For instance something as simple as good ethics may reinforce trust, thereby increasing political commitment and affecting financial resources positively; this will lead to positively reinforced feedback. Conversely, poor communication skills (as an example) could produce negatively reinforced feedback by reducing trust, political commitment and resourcing along the same chain.

The quality and effectiveness of forest statistics per se may provide the most important positive reinforcement by influencing other key elements necessary for maintaining such quality. That is, once the quality of statistics is high, and appreciated as such in the wider government and private sector community, then it may be easier to maintain this standard because of the private and public sector commitment it attracts.

A schematic of the forest statistics’ environment is provided in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The forest statistics’ system

The elements of the forest statistics’ system, identified by the workshop, include the following:

Figure 1 contains all of these elements, except for the final one. Each element is elaborated on hereunder, with associated recommendations that emerged from the workshop.

1. Political commitment

Political support depends on the relative importance of the forestry sector in each country - or the political perception of that importance. It is manifested particularly through forest policy and legislation that supports the gathering of statistics, and is also apparent through the dedication of resources to forestry statistics.


Political support varies throughout the Asia-Pacific region. To maintain and encourage political support, management and national correspondents (NCs) of forest product statistics are advised to:

2. Institutional stability

It is desirable for public institutions responsible for the collection, compilation and dissemination of forest product statistics to be stable for the following reasons:


Many Asia-Pacific countries have suffered from institutional instability, which has had adverse effects on achieving effective forest statistics. In order to maintain and enhance institutional stability, management and NCs are advised to:

3. Human resources

Staff “‘social capital”’ includes:


Human resources are a constraint in many Asia-Pacific countries, including those that are traditionally well supplied. To ensure that social capital is enhanced and maintained, management and NCs are advised to:

4. Financial resources

Lack of financial resources can severely constrain a department’s’ ability to collect statistics and maintain standards. However, finance is not a ‘silver bullet’ that solves all problems. Effective use of finance also requires:


Many countries face growing financial restrictions. To ensure that the effects of financial constraints are minimized, management and NCs are advised to:

5. Public sector commitment

Forest statistical information requires information flows within a departmental hierarchy, and between departments. Competition, lack of trust and lack of communication have a detrimental effect on the cost effectiveness of gathering forest statistics, and the quantity and quality of data.


Public sector commitment, trust and communication vary among Asia-Pacific countries. To ensure that public sector commitment is enhanced and maintained, governments and management are advised to:

6. Private sector commitment

Effective forest statistics require cooperation with the private sector in many countries. Without their support, data gaps and poorer quality in statistics’ collection and compilation can occur. The private sector is also a useful advocate to the government, as a major user of statistics. In addition, they provide a useful check for data relevance and usefulness. However, particular problems relate to maintaining confidentiality and control of illegal logging.


The commitment of the private sector varies in the Asia-Pacific region. To ensure that private sector commitment is enhanced and maintained, management and NCs are advised to:

7. Effective systems for data collection

The value of statistics depends on collection, compilation and dissemination. Major issues are standardization of units and data collection methods to ensure consistency and comparability. The availability of data varies. Effective forest data are targeted for the audience, and accessed by those who can benefit (governments, international organizations, forestry businesses, investors).


Some inconsistencies of approach exist in many Asia-Pacific countries - for example year ending (YE) reporting dates. To ensure that effective systems for data collection are maintained, governments and management are advised to:

8. Socio-economic environment

There is great diversity in the social and economic environment throughout the Asia-Pacific region, from wealthy and stable, to underdeveloped and unstable. As a result, Asia-Pacific countries have different capacities for collecting forestry statistics. Complicating the socio-economic environment is the development of political concern for community and environmental issues (such as SFM). This and other trends will continue to change the demand for types of forest product statistics.

Political changes and, in the case of some countries, political instability, have a negative impact on effective forest statistics. In addition, poorer countries may have social pressures that encourage illegal logging, and a lack of commitment from private firms towards either SFM, or effective forest statistics.


To ensure that the constraints relating to the socio-economic environment are minimized, management and NCs are advised to:

9. International commitment from FAO/ITTO

FAO and ITTO have important roles to play in standardization by providing a focus for national forest data collection, and support to meetings such as this one, which are useful in encouraging standardization and similarity in approaches. Such meetings are also particularly useful in reinforcing relationships, building trust and enhancing skills - especially in developing countries, or in countries where resources are experiencing a downturn.

These meetings also increase the likelihood of developing partnerships between countries, which may provide significant benefits, especially for those nations with less human and financial resources.


To ensure that these benefits continue, FAO/ITTO are recommended to conduct such events more often, and encourage communication among Asia-Pacific countries.

10. Conclusion and workshop follow up

The workshop was successful in achieving its objectives and realizing the outcomes sought. All the participants contributed to the discussions and enjoyed the company of other delegates and the exchange of information that the workshop generated. The contribution of the participants is reflected by the recommendations made above.

Of particular value were the informal interactions, especially the opportunity to relax and chat over refreshments. Professor Kanowski and Mr Bhati organized a meal at the ACT Botanic Gardens, which made the participants feel welcome and relaxed throughout the week. The importance of these informal relations was recognized by the delegates.

The workshop was instrumental in establishing the network of national statistical correspondents, and making it operational (Appendix 4). The participants constantly reiterated their support for further FAO/ITTO workshops, particularly with respect to the positive contributions such workshops make to fortifying national and international statistics on forest products.

[1] Chris Perley & Associates, PO Box 7116, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page