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20. On the basis of Secretariat Note FO:APFC/2002/3, the Commission reviewed APFC and FAO-supported forestry activities carried out during the past two years and considered priorities for future work.

21. The Secretariat clarified that many regional activities were carried out within the framework of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission to take advantage of the Commission’s positive opportunities for multi-country and multi-organisation collaboration. The close co-operation among the staff of the FAO headquarters, the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and the Sub-regional Office for the Pacific in supporting forestry work in the region was also highlighted.

22. Activities had generally concentrated on four areas: (a) ensuring sustainable supplies of wood and fiber; (b) continuous improvement in forest management; (c) devolution of forest management responsibilities; and (d) cross-cutting initiatives. Delegates noted the synergy between FAO’s Regular Programme and Field Programme activities, and efforts to work in partnership with other organisations in the region.

23. The Commission generally approved of recent APFC and FAO-supported activities in the region. It also noted with appreciation the follow-up actions that had been taken on the recommendations of the eighteenth session.

24. The Commission recognised deforestation, forest degradation and desertification as major continuing problems in the region. The close links between poverty, food insecurity and land degradation were acknowledged. The Commission requested FAO to assist in building capacities for monitoring forest degradation and desertification trends, and to help countries in their afforestation and reforestation efforts. The Commission welcomed information on the upcoming international conference on forest rehabilitation being organised jointly by FAO, FORSPA, APAFRI, FRIM and IUFRO.

25. Delegates were informed of ongoing efforts by FAO to improve the availability of information and data related to trees outside forests. The Commission urged FAO to work with member countries to develop appropriate techniques for assessing, monitoring and managing tree resources outside forests.

26. The Commission expressed strong support for the continuing work of FAO in assisting countries in implementing the regional and national codes of practice for forest harvesting. It requested FAO to continue active support for the development and implementation of national codes of practice, including capacity building for effective implementation. It also requested FAO to continue providing timely and appropriate information on sustainable forest management, particularly on reduced impact logging and improved forest management practices.

27. The Commission recalled the initial progress made under the Regional Initiative for the Development and Implementation of National-Level Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Management of Dry Forests in Asia, launched in 1999, and related efforts through other international and national initiatives. Appreciating the value of sharing expertise and experiences in implementing criteria and indicators under diverse conditions, the Commission recommended that FAO strengthen international co-operation on this issue.

28. Recognising the intense interest in forest certification and the growing number of certification systems and approaches, the Commission requested FAO to raise awareness and increase understanding related to forest certification, identify commonalities among the various approaches, and encourage the development of minimum standards for certification systems. The Commission urged FAO to organise an expert meeting to discuss these issues.

29. Delegates highlighted the important functions of forests in conserving the rich biodiversity of the region, but acknowledged difficulties in monitoring biodiversity and effectively managing protected forest areas. The Commission was informed that FAO was currently developing a strategy for increasing its support for forest conservation in the region in collaboration with other partner organisations.

30. The availability of reliable supplies of fresh water and the relationship between forests and water were underscored as important emerging concerns. The Commission urged FAO to promote greater understanding and awareness of the linkages between forests and water, and to provide continuing support for effective watershed management. It also encouraged member countries to improve intra-regional co-operation in managing watersheds and water resources.

31. The Commission applauded the progress that many countries had made in devolving forest management responsibilities and benefits to local people. It recognised, however, the significant difficulties in restructuring and re-orienting forestry institutions to effectively deal with decentralised and devolved forest management. The Commission recommended that member countries share information on different approaches and their impacts. FAO was requested to give increased attention to the issues of decentralisation and devolution of forest management.

32. Delegates stressed that strong political commitment from the highest levels of leadership was required to effectively address forestry issues. The Commission urged FAO and other international organisations to continue efforts to develop and strengthen the political will needed to achieve sustainable forest management.

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