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2. Identification of priority themes for cooperative action in fire management

The priorities for action are based on the outcomes of a range of international consultations, notably:

These references highlight a lack of capacity in integrated fire management in many countries around the world – both in human and technical resources.

Table 1 summarizes the principles from Fire management: voluntary guidelines and outlines the priority actions for international cooperation. The priority themes relate to fire management from local, subnational, national and regional levels.


Priority principles with derived implications for action

Voluntary guidelines: principles –
relevant at all levels

Implications for international cooperation –
priorities for action

Principle 1: Appropriate use and management of fire will promote sustainable livelihoods; and

Principle 3: Traditional uses of fire on the lands of indigenous peoples and traditional rural communities should remain as a practice for those communities and be adapted to the current environment.

Promotion of and capacity-building in the use of traditional and advanced methods of prescribed burning for sustainable silviculture, agriculture and flora and fauna management, including fuel management and restoration of fire regimes

Principle 2: Human health and security will be improved by minimizing the adverse effects of fire.

Promotion of and capacity-building in firefighter and public safety; development and/or use of early warning systems by and for communities to reduce the health and security impacts of fires; conduction of community-based fire risk minimization activities during all stages of fire management activity (pre-fire, during fire events and post-fire)

Principle 4: Destructive impacts of unplanned fires on livelihoods, property and resources should be minimized, if not totally prevented.

Promotion of and capacity-building in minimizing risk through fire knowledge, training, participatory planning and preparation, and appropriate suppression systems

Principle 5: An effective and efficient fire management programme requires a balance between the benefits society receives from the use of fire and the costs, damages or undesirable impacts caused by unwanted fire.

Development of methodologies and standards to assess (a) benefits, costs, and economic outputs from the use of fire for resource management and the public good; (b) fire damages, including effects to non-economic or non-commodity values; and (c) benefits of mitigation of unwanted effects or damages to lands and resources. Development and use of early warning systems to provide seasonal severity predictions and inform citizens of mitigation measures and assist in the assessment of fire risk

Principle 6: Interactions of climate change with vegetation cover and fire regimes should be understood and appropriately considered in the planning and implementation of fire use.

Promotion of and capacity-building in integrated approaches to strategic fire management planning that include interactions between climate change and fire regimes, particularly the preparation of long-term fire management plans, land-use plans, silvicultural planning and management plans of protected areas that take into account: attributes of climate change, i.e. increasing occurrence and impacts of climate extremes (droughts, hurricanes, floods) on potential behaviour and severity of fire, fuel dynamics and shifting of vegetation zones; use of hazardous fuels for energy production,with the dual goal of reducing wildfire hazard and consumption of fossil fuels; and maximization of the storage of carbon in ecosystems – especially in restoration of degraded ecosystems – without increasing wildfire risk

Principle 7: Fire should be managed in an environmentally responsible manner to ensure properly functioning and sustainable ecosystems into the future.

Knowledge transfer and capacity-building in fire ecology and derived fire management practices, post-fire rehabilitation and management of invasive species

Principle 8: All fire management activities should be based on a legal framework and supported by clear policy and procedures.

Promotion of and capacity-building in enacting legislation and regulation at appropriate jurisdictional levels, e.g. to achieve goals ranging from those set by local communities to internationally agreed principles such as the Millennium Development Goals, notably those of eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, ensuring environmental sustainability and development of a global partnership for development

Principle 9: Successful fire management requires participatory approaches to leadership and management that are appropriately shared by public and private landholders, the fire services and communities of interest.

Promotion of and capacity-building in integrated planning approaches aiming at minimizing land tenure and boundary issues and involving community members at local, regional, state, national and international levels,by ensuring that processes are open and accessible to people of different backgrounds and cultures (especially indigenous communities)

Principle 10: Few nations and no single agencies or communities have the ability to manage every situation. As fires routinely affect multiple jurisdictions, agencies should develop cooperative arrangements to mitigate transboundary impacts.

Development and promotion of the use of common terminology, systems and standards to enhance international cooperation; promotion of exchange of knowledge, technology and resources to facilitate rapid international response to fires; participation in international organizations, networks, fora and activities to increase domestic agencies’ capacities to manage fire; and use of available guidelines and examples of successfully implemented agreements as a framework to facilitate the development of binding and non-binding international instruments

Principle 11: Access to and appropriate transfer of knowledge are essential in all fire management activities.

Promotion of and capacity-building in high-quality scientific research and confirmation of the utility of practical knowledge in the creation of policies, regulations, guidelines and practices; use of science and technology transfer in local fire activities, including community-based approaches

Table 2 summarizes priorities for internationally coordinated action as recommended in Fire management: global assessment 2006 and by international conferences and organizations.


Priorities for actiona

International priorities

Implications for action

Harmonization of terminology and definitions for better understanding

Development of a multilingual fire management terminology

Global fire monitoring, assessment and reporting standards, procedures for data collection and fire database management to provide a full picture of the occurrence and impacts of vegetation fires, including changes of fire regimes as a consequence of global change

Development of internationally agreed standards for fire monitoring, assessment and reporting of vegetation fires

Operational global fire early warning, detection and surveillance systems

Development of operational early warning and risk assessment systems (local to global) for decision support in fire management; development of a coordinated satellite-based system for operational detection and monitoring (surveillance) of fires

International fire disaster assistance

Enhancement and improvement of existing mechanisms of fire disaster support at the international level under an internationally agreed jurisdictional/legal framework; provision of appropriate funding and human and technical resources

Bilateral, multilateral and international cooperation: networking and agreements

Development (where not yet in place) of agreements to enhance international cooperation in fire management (capacity-building, sharing of fire management resources, development and joint implementation of policies addressing transnational issues in fire management

International cooperation in fire research

Development/enhancement of cooperative research projects and programmes, with a focus on the human and environmental implications of global change and changing fire regimes

International donor support

Creation of mechanisms for funding, e.g. an international partnership or a fire management programme facility, which would correspond to the National Forest Programme Facilityb

Technical support to fire management

Regular evaluation of in-country capabilities in fire management in order to define stop-gap measures to improve political, policy and public awareness building, and to develop:

    • community-based fire management

    • fire management planning, institutional jurisdictions in integrated approaches in the rural-urban and forestry-agriculture interfaces

    • strengthening knowledge creation and sharing

    • greater commitments to education and training at local, subnational, national and regional levels, and international fora, seminars, conferences, workshops, study tours to share knowledge

    • strengthening UN-ISDR Regional Wildland Fire Networks

a Background documents on international cooperation in wildland fire management are available at

b The National Forest Programme Facility is a funding mechanism and information unit created in response to recent intergovernmental meetings, which recognized the essential role of national forest programmes in addressing forest-sector issues. It is governed by a donor support group and a steering committee, which includes representatives of beneficiary countries, FAO, the World Bank, funding partners, research institutions, non-governmental organizations, foundations and the private sector. The facility is currently funded by the European Commission, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, and hosted by FAO.

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