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The quest for sustainable forest management has received considerable attention in international negotiations. The Rio Declaration, United Nations conventions – the Framework Convention on Climate Change, Convention on Biological Diversity and Convention to Combat Desertification – the United Nations Forum on Forests and other international processes, meetings and key publications have recognized the critical role of forestry in achieving sustainable development.

Planted forests, established through afforestation or reforestation, have a particularly important role to play in providing a wide range of goods and services. There is increasing public awareness that wood products have advantages over competing products made of other materials (cement, plastics and metal) in that wood is renewable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly if managed responsibly.

In the past, planted forests have not always lived up to their potential. Lack of knowledge, capacity and capability in providing enabling policies, laws, regulations, plans and technical support systems has rendered support for responsible planted forest management difficult. As a result, some planted forest investments have created land-use, social and environmental conflicts, as well as suboptimal performance in the areas of health, vitality, productivity and return on investment.

FAO was asked to coordinate a process to strengthen country capacity to balance the social, cultural, environmental and economic dimensions of planted forest management and to increase their contributions towards sustainable livelihoods and land use. The two-year multistakeholder process involved experts in planted forests from governments, the private sector (corporate and smallholder), non-governmental (social and environmental) and intergovernmental organizations and academics. The process identified critical niches for a set of voluntary guidelines, not legally binding, for key decision-makers for planted forests in order to link international, national and local enabling environments.

Earlier versions of the guidelines have been available on the Internet since March 2006 and a wide range of stakeholders have provided feedback. Extensive dialogue has taken place through FAO invitations to governmental forest authorities, private-sector associations, networks of non-governmental organizations and statutory bodies of FAO. The draft guidelines were discussed at meetings of the FAO Regional Forestry Commissions, the Forest Dialogue (Gland, 2005; China, 2006), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (Sustainable Forest Industries Working Group) (Beijing, 2006), the International Council for Forest and Paper Associations (Rome, 2006) and the Advisory Committee for Paper and Wood Products (Australia, 2004; Rome, 2005 and 2006). Thus there is a strong sense of ownership among the many stakeholders that have worked closely with FAO and its partners in the preparation of the voluntary guidelines.

I look forward to continuing the process of collaboration on the guidelines with partners and stakeholders in the future. I also look forward to continued cooperation with governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and other civil society groups in implementing the guidelines.

Peter Holmgren

Jim Carle
Senior Forestry Officer

Forest Resources Development Service

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