COMMITTEE ON FORESTRY
Rome, Italy, 10-14 March 2003
REPORT OF THE THIRD MEETING OF THE HIGH LEVEL PANEL OF EXTERNAL EXPERTS ON FORESTRY TO THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF FAO
1. The High-Level Panel of External Experts on Forestry met at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy on 13 – 14 February 2003.
2. The following members, participating in their personal capacities, attended the meeting: Ms C. Amoako-Nuama (Ghana), Ms M.S. Arwidson (Sweden), Mr A. Bennett (UK), Mr J.C. Carvalho (Brazil), Mr H. Coetzee (South Africa), Mr Y. Hardy (Canada), Mr M.N. Salleh (Malaysia). Mr Salleh was elected Chairperson of the Panel and Mr R.M. Martin, Chief, Forestry Information and Liaison Unit, Forestry Department, acted as Rapporteur.
3. On behalf of Mr Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO, Mr David Harcharik, Deputy Director-General of FAO, addressed the Panel and thanked the Members for having accepted the invitation to discuss FAO’s forestry programme in terms of its priorities and activities over the next few years, and ways to enhance the role of the Regional Forestry Commissions in assisting countries to implement sustainable forest management. He invited the Panel members to provide their independent views in the context of the changing world and forest sector since Rio, and in light of the forest sector’s contribution to food security, poverty eradication and livelihoods, especially of the rural poor.
4. Mr M. Hosny El-Lakany, Assistant Director-General of the Forestry Department, welcomed Panel Members and provided an overview of the work of FAO in forestry.
5. The Panel reviewed the recommendations of the previous Panel held in 1998 and applauded FAO for incorporating many of those recommendations into the Organization’s programmes and activities. The Panel recognized that many of the recommendations are still valid today and emphasized the need to revisit them periodically. There were a few areas that FAO had not taken action upon that need to be addressed, notably the one that referred to the involvement of youth in forestry.
6. The Panel highly commended the FAO Forestry Department for its significant achievements in recent years. In particular, the Panel noted the overall improvement in the image, credibility, openness and quality of work of FAO’s work on forests. The Panel praised the new ways that the Department is engaging in partnerships and involving stakeholders, including civil society and industry, in its activities and deliberations. This positive tendency should be continued and further strengthened.
7. The Panel emphasized the opportunities for forestry offered by decisions at UNCED and WSSD, with respect to the role of forestry in poverty eradication, agriculture improvement and environmental enhancement. However, the continued low priority accorded to forestry is due in part to the long-term nature of forestry, the lack of awareness and recognition, and the absence of a committed leadership. The Panel suggested that FAO can play that leadership role at the highest level, including by continually emphasizing the interdependence between forestry and other disciplines, especially agriculture, environment and sustainable development overall.
8. The Panel also applauded FAO’s work at national, regional and global levels, noting specifically the well-established and worldwide recognized role of FAO in convening expert consultations. This respected convening ability is a strong asset of the Organization that should be factored into efforts to reinvigorate a leading role for FAO in forestry worldwide. Specifically, the Panel recommended that FAO strengthen its leadership role as a high-level technical venue for focused international dialogue on priority issues on forests that are relevant to support policy and political decision-making.
9. The Panel encouraged FAO to focus on its strengths with an emphasis on sharing information and knowledge, providing trend analyses and delivering authoritative, impartial information on key forestry issues.
10. FAO was also praised for its support to and active involvement in the international forest policy dialogue such as the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) and forest-related conventions. The Panel underscored the importance of having FAO continue to chair the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) and strengthen its activities.
11. To provide FAO with an external feedback loop, it was recommended that the Panel meet every 2-3 years.
12. On the basis of reviewing and discussing the specific agenda issues, the Panel reached the following conclusions and recommendations:
13. The Panel endorsed the Medium Term Plan 2004-09 (MTP 2004-09) emphasizing the importance of working in partnerships to achieve this set of objectives. FAO’s particular role as a technical advisor and convener, working together with countries, especially at the regional level should be highlighted.
14. The Panel underscored the need for FAO to recognize its limited resources in confronting the serious challenges facing forest sector worldwide. The MTP 2004-09 contains a wide breadth of objectives and programmes. Service to all countries in all of these areas will not be possible given the limited resources available to the Organization. The Panel suggested that FAO use its Regional Forestry Commissions and other regional consultative mechanisms to strengthen the geographic focus in its work. An example could be the regional forest sector outlook studies which are taken up in sequence, one region following another, rather than trying to conduct the studies simultaneously in all regions of the world.
15. Looking beyond the current planning horizon, the Panel suggested that the following issues be taken into account in the preparation of the MTP for 2006-2011:
16. The Panel also endorsed the new areas of emphasis outlined in the MTP 2004-09, noting the following:
17. In future MTP’s, major outputs should be clarified with explicit examples.
18. The Panel reviewed the proposed forestry activities described in the Programme of Work and Budget 2004-05, and confirmed that the priorities set out in the MTP 2004-09 are adequately reinforced in the programme. It also welcomed the increase of eight percent foreseen in the Organization’s proposed budget for forestry and recommended that such a trend should continue.
19. Future technical assistance to countries should better respond to the needs of the countries and to the priorities set in the MTP 2004-09. The Panel urged that FAO speed the processing of projects and initiatives, to be able to respond quickly to national priorities.
20. In addition to the new areas of forestry emphasis identified in the MTP 2004-09, the Panel identified a number of specific actions that should remain in FAO’s work on forests:
21. Recognizing that FAO must leverage its investments to have maximum impact, the Panel recommended that FAO issue press releases on major forest-related achievements and events of FAO; and that the Organization promote “forestry networks of excellence”, “ambassadors” of forestry, “world forest day/week” etc., in order to raise the profile of forests around the world and to obtain visibility in media.
22. The Panel noted the significance of FAO’s six Regional Forestry Commissions (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Near East and North America) and recognized that these bodies have not yet been used to the fullest extent possible.
23. Regional Forestry Commissions (RFCs) have long been recognized as important players in promoting and facilitating sustainable forest management at national and regional levels. This active involvement places them in a good position to foster the exchange of experiences, build networks to enhance regional cooperation, and provide countries with information, knowledge and expertise to guide efforts.
24. Equally, FAO should recognize regional perspectives and priority issues in its forestry programmes and strengthen the inputs of the Regional Forestry Commissions (RFCs) to COFO. The RFC’s could be reinforced by longer terms for the bureaux and intersessional work, in order to analyse in-depth the complex issues in this rapidly changing world.
25. The Panel suggested that FAO undertake a review of the system of RFCs with the objective of increasing their influence and effectiveness. In particular, the Panel noted the need to broaden the base of stakeholder participation in the RFCs and strengthen their identity as a venue for regional forest policy dialogue. The Panel suggested a review of the RFCs looking specifically at:
26. International processes, from Rio to WSSD have strengthened the role of forests on the international agenda. These processes focus increasingly on poverty alleviation through sustainable development with recognition that forest and forest management can and must make a substantive contribution. FAO’s programmes and activities have contributed to a wide appreciation of the significance of forestry as an important factor in sustainable development. Furthermore, FAO activities have promoted an atmosphere where forest policy formulation and implementation is based on involving a wide range of stakeholders, deepening the involvement of civil society in forest management. The Panel recognized these achievements and recommended that this trend and future programmes on forestry continue in this direction.
27. The cross sectoral aspects, especially the bridging and contributing role of forests between agricultural productivity for food security, poverty alleviation, preventing land degradation and enhancing environmental services of forests need to be fully recognized and integrated in the Organization’s activities. In this regard, FAO is uniquely positioned to capitalize on its in-house expertise and capacity in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and sustainable development.
28. The Panel lamented the global decline in funding for forestry research in the face of pressing demands for science-based solutions to allow for the needed contribution of forests to poverty alleviation, mitigation of climate change, prevention of land degradation and maintenance of biological diversity. The absence of forestry research in much of the developing world was highlighted. A growing gap is emerging where corporate research in product development is intensifying while research on the provision of the public good aspects of forests and forestry is weakening.
29. Although it is positive that many fora and conventions deal with forests, there is a need for a strong leadership to keep and raise the profile of forests in the international policy dialogue. The Panel recommended that FAO strengthen its leadership role on forests in the UN system and facilitate the movement from processes and meetings to action on the ground, publishing and disseminating experiences, good practices and lessons learned. Alongside of raising the profile of forests globally, the FAO Forestry Programme’s profile in FAO itself must continue to rise.
30. In order to confront these challenges in a timely way, the Panel recommended that FAO maintain a strategic view, watchful for new and emerging issues, where the Organization will be compelled to play a major role. In this regard, FAO should set up a specific high-level think tank to explore the emerging forestry-related issues and position FAO to address them strategically.
31. The Panel concluded by recommending that the Director-General convene, where appropriate, ministers responsible for forests when selected priority issues warrant high-level attention and guidance at the global level, taking into account developments in other processes.
32. The Panel ended with a vote of thanks to the Director-General of FAO for the opportunity to meet and present their views, and to the Assistant Director-General of the Forestry Department and his staff for the strong support to the Panel.
Medium Term Plan 2004-09
Preliminary Information on Programme of Work Proposals for 2004-05 Regarding Major Programme 2.4: FORESTRY
Improving the Effectiveness and Impact of the FAO Regional Forestry Commissions
Follow-up to the Recommendations of the Second High-Level Panel of Forestry Experts Meeting
Report to the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Major Programme 2.4: FORESTRY
Ms Christina Amoako-Nuama
Mr Hennie Coetzee
Ms Marie S. Arwidson
Mr Yvan Hardy
Mr Andrew Bennett
Mr Mohammed Nor Salleh