23. A special Asia-Pacific Forestry Week plenary session entitled, “People, forests and human well-being: managing forests for a period of rapid change,” addressed the question of whether the twin goals of achieving sustainable forest management and improving human well-being can be met. Several examples in which forestry contributed to livelihoods were described. However, it was recognized that forestry activities cannot always alleviate poverty effectively, nor benefit all impoverished groups.
24. The following points emerged from the special session: (a) there is a crucial need to clearly identify and understand the poor (i.e. differentiate socially, spatially and by resource base); (b) solutions should target specific groups and arise from the standpoint of the target group; (c) rights-based approaches may be even more effective than participatory approaches or consultative processes; (d) risk management should be a component of forests and poverty alleviation efforts; and (e) support for small-scale forest enterprises and value-adding activities at village levels can be effective in reducing poverty. The importance of effective governance structures, conducive to equitable sharing of benefits, was stressed.
25. On the basis of Secretariat Note FO:APFC/2008/4 and presentations from a panel of experts, the Commission considered the challenges and opportunities confronting forestry in the region, in the context of people and forests.
26. The Commission recognized that people-centred development is increasingly the focus of forestry policies. The Commission further noted that many countries are creating institutional structures that emphasize decentralization, participatory decision making, benefit-sharing mechanisms and empowerment of people who live in and around forests. The Commission requested FAO to continue efforts to enhance community-based forest management and forestry initiatives that help reduce poverty.
27. The Commission acknowledged the importance of appropriate definitions of poverty in targeting the most vulnerable people. Delegates shared experiences in substituting simple GNP-based measures of poverty with more complex “quality of life” assessments and “well-being” indices. The Commission requested FAO to develop guidelines to assist countries in developing policies and practices relating to social aspects of sustainable forest management and poverty alleviation.
28. The Commission recognized the need to balance economic development and conservation imperatives and acknowledged the sovereign right of countries to manage forest resources in accordance with national development objectives. The Commission urged countries to be cognizant of complex ecological factors and risks attendant to forest land-use change.
29. The Commission emphasized that forestry can provide a springboard for development as well as contributing to poverty alleviation. The importance of forestry activities contributing to the Millennium Development Goals was highlighted. Delegates noted that forests may variously provide for subsistence needs, income and employment, cultural values and other social benefits. Delegates also recognized that development can lead to forest degradation, especially if planning is inadequate and development is uncontrolled. The Commission stressed the role of national forest programmes in ensuring planned development in forestry and requested FAO to continue providing support for effective implementation of national forest programmes.
30. Delegates recognized that secure and clearly-defined resource tenure is a crucial factor in motivating sustainable forest management and reducing forest-based poverty. The Commission urged member countries to ensure secure forest tenure and provide other enabling factors that facilitate improvements in livelihoods for forest-dependent people.
31. The Commission noted that emerging funding mechanisms for forestry, especially those relating to climate change and payments for environmental services, are difficult for community-based forest managers to access under existing arrangements. Delegates expressed concern that emerging climate change mechanisms may favour intensive forest protection and discriminate against sustainable forest production. The Commission requested FAO to assist countries in developing effective mechanisms, as appropriate, to collect and distribute payments for environmental services.
32. The Commission expressed appreciation for the close collaboration among APFC, FAO and other regional and international organizations, and noted expressions of interest from several such institutions to collaborate more closely with APFC. The Commission encouraged FAO and APFC to strengthen partnerships with relevant organizations, and continue to participate in and inform international forestry processes.
33. The Commission noted a proposal by the Regional Community Forestry Training Center for Asia and the Pacific (RECOFTC) to establish closer collaborative links with APFC to support issues related to sustainable forest management and improved livelihoods. The Commission requested the APFC Secretariat to explore modalities to establish such an arrangement.