Forests play a critical and positive role in sustainable forest management and in wood and fibre supply. Planted forests provide multiple economic, social, cultural and environmental services and benefits. The area of planted forests has thus increased sharply in the past 15 years.
Although planted forests are becoming increasingly important at global and regional levels and in the public and private sectors, performance in the past has not always been successful. Furthermore, there have been some instances of adverse environmental, social and economic effects from public and private planted forest programmes, often related to badly conceived policies, short-sighted planning or poor management practices. These have led to some negative perceptions of planted forests by some decision-makers and the general public.
An authoritative reference has been needed to set out a framework of principles and guidelines in support of the preparation of enabling conditions (institutional and technical) for sound planted forest investment and management.
The concept of voluntary guidelines had emerged from the Expert Meeting on the Role of Planted Forests (New Zealand, 2003) and the Forty-Fifth Session of the FAO Advisory Committee on Paper and Wood Products (Australia, 2004). In line with its mandate and in response to requests from Member Countries,6 FAO undertook to coordinate the process of preparing draft voluntary guidelines with collaborating partners and through a multistakeholder process. Core group meetings were held in January and September 2005 and an expert consultation in December 2005 to agree on the scope, target users, content, guiding principles and process.
It was agreed that the objectives of the voluntary guidelines would be to:
• provide an overarching framework of principles;
• balance the economic, cultural, social and environmental dimensions of planted forests in the supply of wood, fibre, non-wood products and services; and
• contribute positively to sustainable forest management, integrated land use and livelihoods.
It was agreed that the scope of the voluntary guidelines would include forest plantation and the planted component of semi-natural forests (see Annex 2), and would cover the full spectrum of planning, management and monitoring activities for both productive and protective functions.
It was further agreed that the voluntary guidelines be non-legally binding, adapted primarily to the needs of governments and investors (both public and private), policy-makers, planners and managers. They would complement the various forest certification schemes in existence without detracting from these schemes. Thus it was decided by the stakeholders that the core should be the principles and guidelines, with less emphasis on the technical guidelines for implementation practices.
It was agreed that the voluntary guidelines be authoritative, positive and prescriptive in style and language, while avoiding detail.
From late 2004 through 2006, the multistakeholder process has involved experts in planted forests from governments, private-sector associations (corporate and smallholder), non-governmental (social and environmental) and intergovernmental organizations and academics. Drafts of the guidelines were posted on the Internet from March 2006. Governments, private-sector associations, non-governmental organization networks and other stakeholder groups were asked to hold meetings and provide feedback on the guidelines. FAO formally invited feedback by countries through the governmental forest authorities of all countries. The guidelines were introduced and discussed within the six FAO Regional Forestry Commissions as inputs to the Committee on Forestry (Rome, 2007). They were also discussed in the Forest Dialogue (Gland, 2005; China, 2006), World Business Council for Sustainable Development – Sustainable Forest Industries Working Group (Beijing, 2006), International Council for Forest and Paper Associations (Rome, 2006) and the Advisory Committee for Paper and Wood Products (Australia, 2004; Rome, 2005 and 2006).
The extensive dialogue and feedback from these stakeholder groups was used to revise the voluntary guidelines. With the collaboration of the multistakeholder groups, further refinements and strengthening of the guidelines are proposed to continue in the future.
6 For example, the Report of the 2005 Session of FAO’s Committee on Forestry states (paragraph 54): “The Committee strongly supported the continued focus of FAO on technical advice, capacity-building and knowledge dissemination on best practices, including on such topics as planted forests....”