Twenty-Sixth FAO Regional Conference for the Near East

Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, 9 - 13 March 2002

Tehran Process for Low Cover Forest Countries

Table of Contents


1. Since UN Summit on Environment and Development, the international debate on forest issues has captured the world's attention and has focused international political interest on the state of the world forests. While particular concerns of the well-forested countries have been in the forefront of deliberations in international fora, the concerns of low forest cover countries, the overwhelming majority of which are developing countries, have been inadequately addressed so far. In these countries, the lack of forests and wooded lands is negatively impacting the welfare of rural populations relating to economic, social, cultural, and environmental aspects of rural life.

2. Forests play a recognizable role in contributing to food security and to the protection of watersheds and eco-systems. Yet, in the Near East Region, which is mostly arid with low forest cover, forests are disappearing faster than in most parts of the world. This is caused by an amalgam of reasons, chief among which is the inability and failure of most national forest and land use policies to effectively address the burgeoning and competing demand on forests and tree resources. Therefore, there has long been a felt need to rectify this situation through coherent and deliberate action plans and programmes. The Tehran Process (1999), which emanated from the initiative of Islamic Republic of Iran, identified the needs of Low Forest Cover Countries (LFCCs) and those with unique types of forests. The purpose of this document is to brief the Conference on the developments of actions implemented in response to the Tehran Declaration of 1999, particularly action plans and programmes at national and regional levels for sustainable management, conservation and development of the forest and tree resources in the Region.


3. The international meeting of experts on Special Needs and Requirements of Developing Countries with Low Forest Cover and Unique Types of Forest, a government-led initiative in support of the programme of work of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF), was held in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, from 4 to 8 October 1999. The meeting was sponsored by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the support of the governments of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Norway. It was organized with the collaboration of the governments of Egypt and Sudan, and in cooperation with international organizations, including FAO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Attendance of this meeting was made open for whoever was interested to participate. Seventy-seven participants from 39 countries and 6 international and bilateral organizations and NGOs attended the meeting.

4. The meeting was the first of its kind to address issues specifically concerning developing countries with low forest cover (LFCCs) and unique types of forest, including the special needs and requirements of millions of people that live in and around them.

5. The long-term objectives of the meeting were to:


6. The Tehran Expert Meeting noted that there were more than 70 developing countries affected by low forest cover, involving perhaps 300 to 400 million people. Yet, these countries lack a forum to address common issues and needs. Despite the importance of tree, forest and woodland resources to the environment and economies of these countries, particularly the rural economies, little data and information exist on the extent and condition of the forest and tree resources and on processes and factors affecting them. Many of the benefits derived from these resources are unquantified and hence, not reflected in national accounts. Furthermore, although there is a wealth of traditional forest-related knowledge on the management of trees, forests and woodlands, it is largely inaccessible.

7. The meeting noted that existing definitions of low forest cover countries, notably those provisionally used by FAO for the purpose of this meeting, i.e. countries with less than 10 percent of their land area covered by forests (which was adopted pro tempore by the meeting), do not reflect the range of conditions and needs of low forest cover countries; however, they may be defined. The meeting concluded that a working definition should take into account both low forest cover in a country as a whole, and low forest conditions in locations in certain parts of a country.

8. The meeting appreciated the work carried out by UNEP in collaboration with the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) on the subject of new definitions to identify countries with low forest cover. The meeting concluded that this work should be further developed to take into account both LFCCs and low forest conditions within countries.


9. The meeting formulated the Tehran Declaration (Annex 1) and proposed a new Process (to be known as the Tehran Process) which would bring together low forest cover countries (including small island states with low forest cover) to address their common issues and needs. Further details on the Tehran Process are provided in Annex 2.


10. Shortly after the international meeting of experts, a Secretariat was established by the Islamic Republic of Iran to lead and coordinate regional and international efforts in terms of follow-up, namely to:

11. In November 2000, FAO, at the request of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, provided the services of two international consultants to assist in the formulation of terms of reference and action plan for the LFCC Secretariat over the next five years.

12. The Consultants noted inter alia that all proposed activities were deemed relevant to accomplishing the tasks identified by LFCCs during their deliberations. However, the extent to which they could be carried out would depend, in large measure, on available funding. Much of the success of the Tehran Process would also be related to the level of commitment of LFCCs, individually and as a group.

13. It was noted with appreciation that the Islamic Republic of Iran had already invested significant resources for the cause of LFCCs and for the Tehran Process, in addition to those already expended to host the international meeting of experts. It had also undertaken several initiatives to raise the profile of LFCC issues in Iran and to increase collaboration and team work among its relevant ministries and organizations.


14. The Tehran Process through its Secretariat is intended to serve as a focal point to address a range of issues relating to information, data experiences; policy, planning and institutions; participatory processes; funding and investment; technical matters; and future international arrangements and mechanisms. Some recommendations arising from the meeting of experts of LFCCs are addressed to governments while others are addressed to international and regional organizations, urging to provide the needed assistance. Where primary responsibility and authority to implement initiatives rest with Governments, the Secretariat should generally limit its involvement to facilitating the exchange of information among member countries. Where proposed actions are broader in scope and extend beyond country borders, the Secretariat has a key role to play in fostering collaboration and in coordinating efforts.

15. As a matter of priority, the Secretariat recognizes the urgency of placing the issues facing LFCCs on the political and policy agenda during international deliberations. It also stresses the importance of securing stable sources of funding for the implementation of national forest programmes. The need for information and data collection, analysis and dissemination; capacity building, including training; and research and education figure prominently as well. In particular the Secretariat should promote or work towards the following:


16. LFCCs are currently seeking funds from a number of sources to support their efforts to improve sustainable forest management on a bilateral basis. The sought funding sources include existing provisions in UN Conventions and partners such as the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Asian Development Bank (AsDB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB). Given the importance of securing stable funding sources for LFCCs, additional funding opportunities should be sought through the following possibilities:


17. Compared to other Regions, the Near East has the highest number of LFCCs. Most of these LFCCs were represented in the Tehran meeting of experts. The majority of member states in the Near East Region may be considered LFCCs irrespective of the definition applied.

18. FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO), at its 15th Session in March 2001, welcomed the establishment of the Tehran Process on Low Forest Cover Countries, and requested FAO to continue its support to Tehran Process.

19. The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), at its first session in June 2001, in its deliberations on the development of a plan of action for the implementation of the proposals for action of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests/Intergovernmental Forum on Forests decided inter alia that "initiatives are encouraged which address the special concerns and needs of least developed countries as well as low forest cover countries and other countries with fragile ecosystem, for example, through follow-up to the Tehran process and the third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries".

20. The UNFF also decided to include in its multi-year programme of work a topic on "rehabilitation and conservation strategies for countries with low forest cover." This will be on the agenda of the second session of the UNFF to take place in Costa Rica in March 2002.

21. The Conference(NERC 26th) may wish to recognize the importance and role of forest and tree resources in most countries of the Region and especially relating to the conservation of the resource base for food production and food security and recommend sustained action for their conservation, management and sustainable development.

22. The Conference may wish to recognize the relevance and support to the IPF/IFF proposals for action related to LFCCs. In particular, the Conference might want to recommend and support the preparation and implementation of national forest programmes in Near East Region countries to build capacity, improve institutional setting and policies for sustainable management of forest and tree resources.

23. The Conference may also wish to consider the relevance of the Tehran Process to its member countries and discuss ways and means by which mutually supportive actions may be undertaken.




Experts from countries with low forest cover met for the first time in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, from 4 to 8 October 1999, and discussed their common concerns. The meeting was supported by the governments of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Norway, and organized with the collaboration of the governments of Egypt and Sudan and in cooperation with international organizations, including FAO, UNEP, UNDP and IFAD. During the five-day International Meeting of Experts on the Special Needs and Requirements of Developing Countries with Low Forest Cover and Unique Types of Forests, a government-led initiative in support of the programme of work of Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF), participants from 39 countries and 6 international and bilateral organizations addressed a wide range of issues. The experts noted that several hundred million people, in over 70 developing countries with low forest cover, live in and around forests and depend on them for their subsistence. The participants recognized that increased population pressure and widespread poverty are resulting in an alarming rate of deforestation and forest degradation. The consequent loss of productivity and biological diversity is affecting human well-being. The meeting underscored the urgent need to undertake corrective actions to reverse this negative trend.

The experts reviewed the existing literature and instruments, and relevant international/ intergovernmental deliberations on forests, including the IPF/IFF process, in the context of meeting the special human needs and requirements of developing low forest cover countries. In addressing the objectives of the expert meeting, the participants adopted a report containing a set of conclusions and a number of short- and long-term concrete and practical recommendations. These recommendations will be presented to the fourth session of the IFF (New York, 31 January- 11 February 2000).

Within the overall framework of global collective endeavours for management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, the participants emphasized the long-term objectives including, inter alia, placing the issue of low forest cover countries on the political and policy agenda of future international deliberations on forests and other development issues, including combating desertification, and formulating long-term approaches and strategies. Priority should be given to the enhancement of cooperation among LFCCs, partnerships with multilateral organizations and instruments, as well as with the donor community.

The meeting endorsed the proposal to launch a process, hereafter called the "Tehran Process", in order to achieve these collective objectives and to pursue the implementation. Further development of the outcome of the Tehran meeting was further emphasized by the participants. The participants reaffirmed their commitment to the objectives of the "Tehran Process" and reiterated the necessity of active, cooperative and consistent follow-up of the final outcome of the Tehran meeting aimed at fulfilling critical human needs in low forest cover countries. They also expressed their appreciation to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the initiative and for holding the successful meeting and expressed their full support to the prospective Iranian endeavours towards continuing the "Process". They further agreed to hold the first follow-up meeting of the "Tehran Process" at the sidelines of the fourth session of the IFF in New York, early February 2000.




The Process would provide a forum to address the specific needs of developing countries with low forest cover and to place the issue of LFCCs on the political and policy agenda of future international deliberations. The process should be action-oriented, should secure political support and guidance, and serve as the focus for:

Policy, Planning and Institutions

It was recommended that forest policy in many LFCCs needed to be reviewed, taking into account broader perspectives and the wide variety of needs and demands from society, which can be fulfilled by the forest sector. There is a need to facilitate the building of partnerships to reduce conflicts with other sectors, but also taking into account the environmental, social and human aspects of forest and rangelands to secure the livelihoods of people in rural areas.

Increased emphasis is required in developing new policies for the forest sector in the following fields:

In meeting these new challenges from society, the forest and rangeland sectors should re-define their missions and integrate forest and rangeland policies with other sectors. Institutions concerned with forest and rangelands should be restructured and strengthened in accordance with the newly defined objectives to serve people's needs. Institutional capacity in rural areas needs to be strengthened to support the implementation of policies.

National forest programmes could be used as appropriate tools to secure broad participation, noting a special need to secure the participation of women in the management of forest and rangeland resources and in decision-making processes.

The meeting also recommended that the report of this meeting be submitted to the COP3 of the CCD to raise the profile of forest and rangeland in NAPs.

Participatory Processes

Rehabilitation of forest, woodland, tree and rangeland resources will require the active participation of rural communities.

Programmes aiming at reversing deforestation and forest degradation must be formulated and implemented with the effective participation of the concerned population, including local as well as indigenous communities.

Participatory approaches should generate income and employment and should be based on existing cultures. They should involve local as well as indigenous communities, with special consideration given to nomadic and transhumant peoples, to forest dwellers and to the role of women and youth. Full use should be made of traditional forest-related knowledge (TFRK).

LFCCs should support and facilitate an increased role for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including providing assistance to:

Funding and Investment

Governments should create an enabling environment for investments by individuals, communities and the private sector. Creation of this environment would include offering secure land tenure arrangements and devolution of decision-making power, as well as establishing incentives and removing disincentives, and providing for the sharing of costs and benefits, and for generating income and employment opportunities.

LFCCs that are in a position to do so are invited to establish a special fund to assist LFCCs in their efforts to improve sustainable forest management at the regional level.

LFCCs are also encouraged to seek funds from the existing provisions of the UN Conventions to meet the needs clearly defined in national forest programmes and in regional strategies. Donor countries are encouraged to increase their ODA to LFCCs for these purposes, with due consideration to avoiding the fragmentation of funding efforts.

LFCCs, with the assistance of relevant partners such as the World Bank, FAO, UNEP, IFAD and UNDP, are invited to explore opportunities for further investment in the forest sector, including making the fullest use of possible investment opportunities in forest-related areas arising from multilateral environmental agreements, such as the CCD. The UNFCCC, with particular reference to the Kyoto Protocol and its Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), should accommodate, in future, a forestation and rehabilitation of degraded lands in LFCCs, taking into account the UNCED decisions on Sustainable Forest Management.

Technical Matters

Measures should be put in place by LFCC governments to apply or develop suitable technologies related to:

Governments should seek, and donors should provide, assistance for the transfer of appropriate technology and backup support services.

Future international arrangements and mechanisms

The special needs and requirements of LFCCs should receive due attention in any new arrangements and mechanisms dealing with forests, including technical and financial assistance related to developing and implementing national forest programmes.


1 In Proceedings of the International Meeting on Special Needs and Requirements of Developing Countries with Low Forest Cover and Unique Types of Forests, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, October 1999. Forest and Range Organization, Tehran.

2 In Proceedings of the International Meeting on Special Needs and Requirements of Developing Countries with Low Forest Cover and Unique Types of Forests, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, October 1999. Forest and Range Organization, Tehran.