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9. The Commission considered agenda item 3 on the basis of national reports and Secretariat Note FO:APFC/2002/2, which presented an overview of forestry conditions and developments since the last session of the Commission. Several country delegates provided useful summaries of recent developments and issues in their countries.

10. Delegates cited several common threats to the region’s forests, including continued deforestation and degradation of natural forests, competition from alternative land uses, poor timber harvesting practices, pests and diseases, forest fires and illegal logging. The Commission noted that Governments were tackling these problems through a variety of measures, but were sometimes constrained by the lack of skilled staff, budgetary resources, appropriate technology and political will.

11. Common efforts were cited in developing and implementing criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. It was recognised that some countries have progressed much further in implementing criteria and indicators than others. The Commission urged member countries to share knowledge and experiences related to developing and implementing criteria and indicators, with support from FAO and other international organisations.

12. Forest protection remained a common concern among the Commission’s members. Progress was noted in preventing and managing forest fires, at community, national and multinational levels. The Commission recommended that member countries, FAO and other international organisations continue their efforts to address the pressing issues related to forest fire management.

13. The Commission recognised a trend toward greater appreciation of the environmental, social and cultural benefits of forests in influencing forest management decisions. This was reflected in policy shifts in several countries away from timber production toward greater protection of natural forests, increased attention to the conservation of biodiversity, a focus on the linkages between forests and water, institutional restructuring of government natural resources agencies, enhanced public participation in conservation efforts, and a continued expansion in the number and area of protected areas.

14. Delegates emphasised the roles of forest plantations and trees outside forests in partially satisfying the growing demands for wood and fiber, and shifting pressure from natural forests. While appreciating that Asia and the Pacific already leads the world in plantation development, the Commission noted opportunities for more efficient use of incentives and reforestation funds, improved practices and technologies, and greater investment of the private sector in plantation establishment.

15. The rapid growth of forest-based ecotourism was highlighted by several delegates. Ecotourism was recognised as offering potential new livelihood opportunities for rural communities, but required new skills and orientation of forest department staff and careful management to avoid damage to fragile ecosystems.

16. Many countries reported on initiatives to accelerate decentralisation and devolution of forest management and increase participation of relevant stakeholders in forest management decision making.

17. Several countries described recent efforts to update and revise forest policies and legislation in line with efforts to enhance sustainable management of forests, accommodate new modalities in participatory forest management, enhance the multiple benefits of forests, increase linkages with related sectors, encourage private-sector investment in forest plantation development, and improve overall efficiency in the sector.

18. Several countries reported progress in implementing priority initiatives under their respective national forest programmes and similar integrated programmes. Delegates recognised the value of national forest programmes of addressing forestry issues in a holistic, comprehensive and cross-sectoral manner.

19. Delegates stressed that important challenges remain in reforming forestry institutions, strengthening capacities to cope with new roles and expectations, balancing timber supply and demand, promoting forest law enforcement and good governance, supporting sustainable use of non-wood forest products, developing viable livelihoods for forest-dependent people and improving market access. The Commission requested FAO to support member countries’ efforts in addressing these challenges.

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