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Panel Members reported on forest genetic resources activities which had taken place in countries and regions covered by each of them since the previous, 11th Session (September 1999). The continued expansion in technical coverage, the increase in the number of institutes and agencies involved, and new developments at the policy, institutional, scientific and technical levels and their implications for the forest genetic resources work of FAO and its Member Countries, were discussed. In summary, the Panel noted that forest genetic resources and forest biological diversity were receiving increased levels of attention and that they were increasingly at the forefront of development work.

The Panel reviewed recent global and international developments and the work of FAO. It stressed the need to ensure links and synergies among international and national partners, and noted useful mechanisms such as the Collaborative Partnership on Forests which underpinned inter-Agency cooperation in support of the work programme of the UN Forum on Forests.

The Panel welcomed the recent approval by the 31st Session of the FAO Conference of the International Treaty on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture; it called on Members to actively help encourage countries to ratify the agreement soonest.

The Panel noted the deliberations of the 7th Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD, held in November 2001, in which forest biological diversity had been among the main issues on the agenda. It stressed the need to ensure that the work programme of the CBD in forest biological diversity and forest genetic resources build upon action already underway in existing technical agencies with mandates in these fields; conversely, specialized agencies and concerned institutions were in a position to help implement CBD's programme, as applicable and within the limits of their respective mandates.

The Panel noted the compliance with its earlier recommendations regarding activities and general focus of FAO's forest genetic resources work2. Efforts made over the past years by FAO to use scarce resources efficiently, share information and experience, maintain close collaboration with national and international agencies and actors and thus avoid duplication of efforts, were welcomed.

The Panel recognized FAO's international role and functions in supporting, advising and collaborating with national institutes in in situ and ex situ conservation, and in the enhancement and sustainable use of forest genetic resources.

The Panel welcomed FAO's inter-Departmental activities in biological diversity, biotechnology and biosafety, and discussed the place and role of new biotechnological tools which could have considerable potential, provided that due attention and adequate resources were allocated to conservation and conventional breeding programmes underpinning their application and safe use. In this regard, the Panel stressed the need to publicize in a balanced and factual manner both the potential positive and negative effects of these new technologies. It noted that at times the knowledge produced at scientific and conceptual levels was more advanced than what the operational level was able to absorb and implement. There was a need to adequately address this gap.

The Panel noted action taken by FAO in collaboration with other national, regional and international agencies in follow-up to the recommendations of the 13th Session of the Committee on Forestry (1997) and the recommendations of the 10th and 11th Sessions of the Panel, related to support to countries in the organization of country-driven and action-oriented workshops on the management of forest genetic resources (including priority setting, conservation, and sustainable resource use).

The Panel reviewed the outcome of the workshops organized to date: dry-zone sub-Saharan Africa, Sept 1998; the South Pacific, March 1999; Southern and Eastern Africa, June 2000. It noted that additional workshops were planned for 2002/2003 in Central Africa and Central America. Panel Members offered their support in planning, execution and follow-up to the workshops, as required.

The Panel took note of the expressed wish of countries in South/South-East Asia; Northern and Eastern Asia; and South America, with special reference to the "Southern Cone Countries", to receive assistance in the organization of similar workshops in the near future, resources permitting.

To ensure timely implementation of recommended action, the Panel stressed the importance of ensuring presence in these workshops of participants with both technical and policy responsibilities and, when possible, including also representatives of the donor community.

The Panel up-dated the lists of priority tree species in need of attention, by region and by operational activity, regularly prepared at its Sessions, drawing on information and expertise in the countries, regions and sub-regions covered by each Member. It noted that the Panel lists complemented, and built upon, national and local lists of priority species; they also complemented sub-sectoral lists and lists of e.g. endangered forest tree species, elaborated by other (national and international) institutions and organizations.

The Panel drew attention to a limited number of specific species and genera in which it recommended that FAO help strengthen on-going and planned international and national level activities of importance to a range of countries. These genera included mahoganies and neem.

2 Discussions were based on Information Notes: FORGEN 01/ 3; FORGEN 01/4; FORGEN 01/5; FORGEN 01/6;- FORGEN 01/7. See list of Information Notes in Appendix 3

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