Recommendations at Policy Level
1. The Panel stressed the importance of fostering collaboration and forging partnerships with national and international agencies, institutes and mechanisms in the forest genetic resources field, and to promote cross-sectoral linkages and encourage donor coordination. It reconfirmed its support to the main thrust and focus of programmed activities in the planned FAO work programme for the coming biennium and the Medium Term Plan. It recommended that balanced attention continue to be given to activities in the various geographical and eco-regional zones, and among forest genetic resources activities.
2. Noting the increasing attention that issues in forest biological diversity were receiving world-wide, the Panel recommended that FAO continue to make full use of already existing action frameworks in the implementation of forest genetic resources activities, such as national forest programmes and programmes underpinning sustainable forest management. It stressed the need to incorporate genetic principles in activities aimed at the conservation of biological diversity, and as an integral component of natural forest management.
3. In order to allow activities to continue in line with recommendations by concerned Statutory and Governing Bodies of the Organization, which reflected expectations of Member Countries and the international community, the Panel recommended that efforts be made to sustain present levels of resources allocated to FAO's forest genetic resources programme.
Recommendations on Overall Focus
4. The Panel highlighted the role of FAO in raising of awareness of the potentials, and the place and role, of forest biotechnologies in genetic studies and in selection and breeding programmes, and the role of the Organization in providing ethical direction and guidance in the managed use of new technologies. The Panel recommended that FAO continue to provide timely, up-to-date, technically sound information to countries and international organizations on issues related to the use of such technologies, and that it continue to serve as "honest broker of quality science-based information on biotechnologies"3.
5. The Panel noted the increased need to promote application of conventional and new genetic technologies which had proven useful in industrial forestry also in the management of trees grown outside the forest, in agroforestry systems and land rehabilitation programmes, desertification control and for the capture of atmospheric carbon.
6. The Panel stressed the need to continue to raise awareness of the social, economic and environmental benefits of conservation and wise use of forest genetic resources, and of the direct and indirect contributions which such action made to national and rural development. It stressed the need to further emphasise the compatibility of genetic conservation and genetic management with the managed use of forest resources to meet present-day as well as future needs.
7. The Panel welcomed the continued attention given by FAO to the genetic management of species providing a range of wood and non-wood products and environmental services, and the attention paid to the health and vitality of the ecosystems of which they formed part. The Panel noted that action taken in regard to Prunus africana could provide useful guidance on risk assessment and conservation strategies and methodologies.
8. The Panel recommended that FAO continue to support countries and national institutions in the preparation of regional and eco-regional forest genetic resources status and action plans, based on priorities and needs of individual countries, and endorsed for action under a regional umbrella in related workshops. The final aim was to develop, step by step, a country-driven, participatory, global assessment and action framework for the conservation and sustainable use of forest genetic resources.
9. The Panel recommended that activities related to the dissemination of information and exchange of germplasm for evaluation and conservation purposes, be continued. Noting new developments in legal aspects related to collection, transfer, exchange and trade in reproductive materials, the Panel re-confirmed its view that such exchange should be based on mutually agreed terms and agreements. FAO was encouraged to further gather and disseminate relevant information on international and regional seed certification systems, access and benefit-sharing, material transfer agreements (MTAs) and biosafety aspects in germplasm exchange, including issues related to potentially invasive species and threats to forest genetic resources posed by pests and diseases.
10. The Panel recommended that FAO continue to catalyze and support the development of practical, technical guidelines for the management of forest genetic resources. The Panel expressed its support to the further development of methodologies and pilot activities on in situ and ex situ conservation coupled with forest management and sustainable resource use. It welcomed plans for focused attention to a limited number of species-specific networks, including neem and mahogany species, and encouraged further support to institutional networking and twinning.
11. The Panel recommended that special attention be paid to forest tree species threatened by genetic erosion caused by unsustainable use, and by factors such as fire, drought and other adverse environmental factors, which were often aggravated by insufficient biological and genetic knowledge of the species concerned and the ecosystems in which they occurred. Due attention should be paid to genetic resources in areas with low forest cover countries.
Recommendations related to targeted actions and Areas of Activity
The Panel passed a number of specific technical recommendations complementing the recommendations above, stressing the need for continued and increased attention to information management, definitions and evaluation, including:
i. Well-targeted information dissemination, ensuring stratification of information materials according to targeted users; and information management, using traditional and new methods. Special mention was made of the annual bulletin, "Forest Genetic Resources", and the Forest Genetic Resources Homepage, both available in three languages, which were considered particularly useful vehicles for information dissemination and exchange.
ii. Provision of up-to-date information on the state of the world's forest genetic resources, notably through continued development and regular up-dating of information lodged in the FAO World-Wide Information System on Forest Genetic Resources (REFORGEN).
iii. The harmonization of concepts and terms, with special reference to on-going collaboration with IUFRO in the development of reference glossaries on terms frequently used in the forest genetic resources field.
iv. Raising of awareness of the social, economic and environmental benefits of conservation and wise use of forest genetic resources, and of the direct and indirect contributions which such action made to national and rural development.
3 116th Session of the FAO Council. Document CL 116/Rep. June 1999, para 25.