The roles of forests in Asia and the Pacific are changing their focus from wood production towards an orientation encompassing much broader social, environmental, economic, and cultural dimensions. In parallel with changes in the forest landscape, forestry stakeholders have also changed significantly whilst their range of interests has expanded and diversified. Forestry stakeholders are now recognized to include impoverished, forest-dependent locals, sophisticated global carbon market investors, and a vast array of parties and individuals in between.
Society’s burgeoning expectations for forests and the associated need to engage and involve these “new foresters” places enormous new demands on traditional forestry institutions. In the Asia– Pacific region, state agencies with long legacies and rich histories continue to dominate the sector. However, many suffer severe criticism for failing to meet expectations in delivering the services demanded of them by modern society. If these agencies are to remain relevant, there is an urgent need for most to re-invent themselves into more flexible, responsive, and dynamic entities.
To effectively respond to changing needs, forest agencies must ask themselves: What are the objectives of re-invention? How can others’ experiences be used? Is re-invention through a gradual, evolutionary approach preferable to “big bang” reform? Can fundamental and superfluous institutional changes be distinguished? Can hijacking of “re-invention” by vested interests be avoided? These and many other questions appear essential for re-invention to have a significant chance of success and much effort is also required in retaining momentum once the process is underway.
This publication is a compilation of nine case studies of forestry re-inventing processes in countries and institutions around the Asia–Pacific region. Analysis reveals some clear factors determining the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of forestry institutions, and outlines commonalities and differences in the trajectories followed by different countries in responding to calls for change. The analysis further identifies major trends related to forest management including the devolution of powers and responsibilities to a range of actors and recognition of the multiple functions of forests and the conflicts that may arise between these functions. A trend towards separation of regulatory and strategic roles from implementation functions — and corresponding restructuring of agencies and redirection of funds — is clearly evidenced.
This publication is intended to offer insights into the approaches and rationales that have supported restructuring and re-invention of forestry agencies. Through comparative analysis, the publication offers recommendations on national forestry institutional structures, functions, and strategies that appropriately respond to the rapidly changing environment surrounding forests and forestry.
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations