Response to catastrophic events was one of the main issues on the agenda when FAO’s European Forestry Commission met at its thirty-third session in Zvolen, Slovakia from 23 to 26 May 2006. Representatives of 22 member countries considered case studies from France, Poland and Slovakia and discussed how policy-makers could reduce forests’ vulnerability to extreme climatic events, insects, fire, climate change and other threats. They proposed that risk analysis should be a stronger component of future forest sector outlook studies. Several countries have compiled or are compiling information on their experiences in responding to disasters as a basis for future emergency action.
Noting the strong energy demand and higher prices for woodfuels, delegates considered opportunities and challenges for wood energy. In keeping with their recommendation, this will
be a key subject on the agenda of the eighteenth session of the FAO Committee on Forestry in March 2007. Delegates requested FAO to continue collecting data and information on wood energy together with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
Climate change was also high on the agenda. Countries expressed concern about projected temperature and precipitation changes in the region and noted that it is vital to address the challenges and opportunities offered by the Kyoto Protocol within a cross-sectoral perspective. The commission urged member countries to include strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change in national forest plans.
At the seventeenth session of the Near East Forestry Commission, countries underscored the lack of valuation of forest and tree products and services and the low priority accorded to forestry in national policies despite forests’ vital contribution to combating land degradation and desertification. The delegates noted that in many countries the political status of forestry is declining and forestry administrations are being downsized. The commission recommended that countries endeavour to undertake a proper evaluation of the goods and services offered by forests and trees in order to raise the awareness of decision-makers about their socio-economic and environmental roles.
Delegates agreed that capacity building, including education, research, training and extension, is urgently needed to enhance the ability of the sector to meet emerging societal needs. Furthermore, considering the strong linkages between forests, rangelands and agriculture, delegates underscored the importance of integrated approaches to resource management.
The commission also recognized the deficiencies in country data on forest and tree resources and the need to improve the information base with support from FAO and donors.
In response to presentations on best practices for planted forests and for fire management currently being developed by FAO, the commission recommended that FAO consider elaborating a specific code of practice for arid and semi-arid zone forestry.
Delegates recommended that member countries and FAO strengthen efforts to raise region-specific issues in the international dialogue, building on the Tehran Process on Low Forest Cover Countries.
Thirty-eight representatives from 12 member countries attended the session, which was held in Larnaca, Cyprus from 5 to 8 June 2006.
Delegates from 22 countries met at the twenty-fourth session of the Latin American and Caribbean Forestry Commission in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic from 26 to 30 June 2006. They emphasized the commission’s role in supporting sustainable forest management and other global strategic forest objectives at the regional level, and highlighted its potential to play a more active part in the collaboration and dialogue between the United Nations Forum on Forests and regional processes.
The commission also proposed a more active involvement in decisions related to FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010, for example by involving a group of regional experts in defining methodologies and criteria for the selection of case studies. FAO support was requested for identifying and mobilizing funds to strengthen the technical capacity of countries to participate in the assessment.
The commission urged countries to strengthen the structures and activities of their national forest programmes and to establish mechanisms for fostering regional and subregional dialogue under those programmes.
A special seminar organized in collaboration with the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), the Central American Commission on Environment and Development (CCAD) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) addressed practical approaches for conserving biological diversity in forests. In addition, FAO cosponsored two regional conferences prior to the commission meeting, one on national forest programmes (the “Puembo II” process), organized jointly with CCAD, the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, Germany and the Netherlands; and one on regional cooperation on wildland fire management, held with the World Conservation Union (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy and the Global Fire Monitoring Center.
FAO, together with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), periodically organizes international expert consultations to provide technical guidance for its Global Forest Resources Assessments (FRA). The first consultation was held in 1987 and subsequent ones took place in 1993, 1996 and 2002. The most recent consultation, the fifth, was held from 12 to 16 June 2006. Like the others, it was hosted by the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) and held in Kotka, Finland, and is thus referred to as Kotka V. A total of 87 specialists from 45 countries and 17 international and regional organizations participated.
The primary objective of Kotka V was to provide guidance for the next assessment, FRA 2010, based on an in-depth evaluation of FRA 2005. It also focused on enhancing collaboration with other forest-related reporting processes and organizations, with a view to pooling resources and streamlining reporting.
The participants noted that increased country involvement and the network of national correspondents were key factors in the success of FRA 2005. National correspondents attending the meeting affirmed that the FRA reporting process offers
countries an incentive to gather and analyse information that is valuable to national policy-making processes. Accordingly, participants recommended that country reporting should continue to form the basis for FRA, and that the system of national correspondents should be maintained and strengthened, including through regional networks. The experts proposed, however, that country-provided data be supplemented by special studies on specific issues and by a remote-sensing component providing complementary information on the spatial distribution of forests and on forest cover and land use change dynamics at the regional and global levels.
The experts felt that FRA 2010 should cover as a minimum the same topics as FRA 2005 and use the same basic reporting framework, based on the thematic elements of sustainable forest management. Building on FRA 2005, they suggested that FRA 2010 also cover the seventh thematic element (legal, policy and institutional framework, which was not included in FRA 2005), and they proposed changes to some of the tables used for reporting.
It was also recommended that FRA 2010 should provide forest-related information needed for the assessment of progress towards the 2010 biodiversity target of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The meeting recommended that collaboration with other forest-related organizations should be enhanced, with a view to pooling resources and expertise and reducing the reporting burden on countries. Participating organizations confirmed their willingness to contribute information to future FRA work and to indicate their specific needs in order to streamline reporting.
It was further recommended that a longer-term strategy for FRA be developed, including an analysis of the potential role of regional reporting and regional networks, a long-term reporting schedule and options for the further streamlining of reporting on forests at the international level. The next session of the FAO Committee on Forestry, to be held in March 2007, is expected to provide further guidance.
International experts assembled at the International Conference on Managing Forests for Poverty Reduction, held in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam from 3 to 6 October 2006, called for forestry policy-makers, forest-related development organizations, donors, the private sector and local communities to work together in ensuring that forests are managed for the benefit of the poor.
The conference emphasized timber harvesting and wood processing, which were recognized as providing the greatest income opportunities in most forest areas. Giving poor people rights and access to valuable timber resources is thus a logical choice for poverty reduction in such areas.
New and rediscovered technologies for timber harvesting, transport and processing are increasing the economic viability of small-scale wood production. New trends in wood marketing and institutional development also offer opportunities for generating income and livelihoods in rural areas.
In their conference statement, the participants called on policy-makers to improve access rights to forest resources and to simplify forest laws and regulations to make it easier for local people to capture economic benefits from forests through sustainable small-scale operations. At the same time, they called on international development organizations and donors to help set up comprehensive support systems for wood-based enterprises in rural communities. They also urged the private sector to facilitate partnerships with local communities, households and forest associations.
FAO organized the conference jointly with the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the Department of Forestry of Viet Nam, the Tropical Forest Trust (TFT), the Regional Community Forestry Training Center (RECOFTC) and the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC).
At the request of the Liberian Government, FAO, together with the World Bank, helped to draft the first forest policy for Liberia, which came into force with the signing of the new forestry law on 4 October 2006. The signature marks the beginning of a new era in which forests will be used to benefit the country’s people and alleviate poverty.
Between 1989 and 2003, forest revenue was used to fund armed conflict in Liberia, prompting the United Nations Security Council to impose three years of sanctions on Liberian timber exports starting in July 2003. During the years of civil war, indiscriminate logging and widespread illegal trade of forest products, carried out under the protection of private armed militias, destroyed much of the country’s forest resources. When international agencies began to provide support for better forest management in June 2004, the country’s leadership had no experience, weak understanding of good governance and no ability to enforce rules and regulations.
The new forest policy attempts to bring the Liberian forest sector back in line with international commitments and standards. The policy balances the social, conservation and commercial uses of Liberia’s forests to produce a range of goods and services for the benefit of all Liberians. It recognizes the importance of community involvement in forestry, which did not exist before. It also emphasizes the importance of good governance. Its objective is to provide more equitable access to forest resources to reduce the potential of future conflict. The policy is expected to maximize forestry’s contribution to income, employment, trade and the national development of Liberia.
FAO is also working with numerous international partners, through the Liberia Forest Initiative, to equip the Liberian Forestry Development Authority – the agency overseeing the management of the country’s forest resources – with the staff, skills and means to regain control over forest resources.
In this regard, FAO is supporting the collection, analysis and dissemination of information to assist with policy-making and good governance. It will also train future forest operators in good forest harvesting practices, together with the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. FAO is also assisting in the development of a national forest harvesting code based on the FAO model code for Africa (Regional code of practice for reduced-impact forest harvesting in tropical moist forests of West and Central Africa).
Wildlife is among the most valuable natural resources in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), with potential to generate income and improve the livelihoods of rural populations as well as to contribute to national economies. Many animal species of great interest can be valorized through activities such as sustainable trophy hunting and ecotourism and can be conserved if managed properly.
To promote sustainable wildlife management, FAO, the Czech Forest and Wildlife Management Research Institute and the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) held a workshop for CIS countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia from 11 to 15 September 2006. Government officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations gathered in Prague, Czech Republic, to discuss the main problems and issues to be addressed in the wildlife sector in their countries. Through facilitated workshop sessions, the participants identified three main problem areas:
For these problems the participants worked out possible solutions and activities needed to address them, as well as the stakeholders to be involved.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the participants drew up a short outline of projects that could address the most urgent needs and raise awareness among national decision-makers and the international community for possible support to the development of wildlife conservation programmes and projects at the country and subregional levels.
The workshop was funded by the Czech Government. More information is available at: www.fao.org/forestry/site/35813/en