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UNFCCC, UNCCD, CBD and UNFF recognize the critical role of fire – on the one hand, in maintaining fire dependent ecosystems, but on the other, in causing deforestation, forest degradation and destruction of livelihoods, biodiversity and infrastructure. Following the recommendations of the 3rd International Wildland Fire Summit, Sydney, Australia, October 2003; the Ministerial Meeting on Sustainable Forest Management, March 2005; and the Committee on Forestry, also March 2005, FAO has been coordinating a multistakeholder process to prepare a global strategy to enhance international cooperation in fire management, including: voluntary guidelines; global assessment of fire management; and review of international cooperation in fire management.

These non-binding, voluntary guidelines set out a framework of priority principles that will aid in the formulation of policy, legal, regulatory and other enabling conditions and strategic actions for more holistic approaches to fire management. They have been tailored primarily for land-use policy makers, planners and managers in fire management, including states, the private sector and non-governmental organizations. The guidelines for fire management cover the positive and negative social, cultural, environmental and economic impacts of natural and planned fires in forests, woodlands, rangelands, grasslands, agricultural and rural/urban landscapes. The fire management scope includes early warning, prevention, preparedness (international, national, subnational and community), safe and effective initial attack on incidences of fire and landscape restoration following it.

The voluntary guidelines provide an international framework, outline cross-sectoral issues, detail the principles and attributes needed to balance the social, cultural, environmental and economic dimensions of fire management and to prescribe key actions for the planning and management of fires. This framework supports achievement of the Millennium Development Goals: particularly Goal 1 to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; Goal 7 to ensure environmental sustainability; and Goal 8 to develop a global partnership for development.

Preparation of the guidelines involved a core technical group and expert consultations with selected Member Governments, the private sector and non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations. The voluntary guidelines (formerly known as the fire management code) were presented and discussed at the Regional Forestry Commissions and regional wildland fire management meetings in 2006. The draft has been available on the Internet since July 2006 and invitations were made to all countries to consider the contents and format and provide feedback. This final draft of the voluntary guidelines has been prepared in view of their feedback and recommendations.

The present voluntary guidelines represent a final draft for consideration and appropriate action by the Eighteenth Session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO) in March 2007 and the 4th International Wildland Fire Conference, May 2007. It is anticipated that further international collaboration and partnerships will be necessary in order to strengthen country capacity to translate the principles and strategic actions into policies and practices.

FAO encourages Member Countries and organizations involved in the various aspects of fire management to commit to implementation of the principles and strategic actions as outlined in these voluntary guidelines. FAO is available to provide technical support to assist countries in these more holistic approaches to fire management.

Peter Holmgren

Jim Carle
Senior Forestry Officer

Forest Resources Development Service

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