International organizations have major roles to play in fostering the protection and wise management of the world's forests and related natural resources. The forestry mission of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is to enhance the contribution of trees and forests to global human well-being.
This mission is carried out through three medium-term objectives, each of which are equally important and are simultaneously pursued, as follows: (i) the environmental objective is the maintenance of the biological diversity, health and other environmental services of forest ecosystems and wooded lands; (ii) the economic objective is the realization of the full economic potential of the multiple goods and services of forests and wooded lands, without impairing their productive or protective capacities; (iii) the social objective is the increase of public participation in decision-making and the sharing of costs and benefits of trees and forests while facilitating the resolution of conflicts and promoting collaboration among interest groups.
The FAO forestry programme constitutes among the largest bodies of international forestry and related natural resources expertise available in the world. It includes some 80 full-time professional staff with a diverse range of skills in forestry, wildlife resources, watershed management, agroforestry, non-wood forest products, genetics, economics, forest products utilization and engineering. This broad skills-base allows the Organization to address the full environmental-economic-social spectrum of sustainable forest management. Also, linkages of the forestry programme to the agriculture, economics, fisheries and sustainable development programmes in FAO give it a multi-disciplinary, cross-sectoral strength that facilitates consideration of forestry's role in food security, rural development and land use. At the operational level, the forestry programme is supported by up to 200 contracted project professionals responsible for providing on-site technical assistance to developing countries.
In common with other UN agencies, FAO provides: a neutral forum for policy and, technical dialogue; information and knowledge; and technical assistance. Since its founding in 1945, FAO has grown to include 174 member countries. This broad membership allows FAO to address issues facing all the world's forests - boreal, temperate, subtropical and tropical; forests in developed and developing countries; dry forests and humid ones; high altitude forests and mangroves; even trees on farms and in cities.
The programme "Promotion and Development of Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP)" at the Forest Products Division of FAO's Forestry Department, aims to enhance the value of non-wood forest products and services through improved harvesting, utilization, trade and marketing. The sustainable utilization of NWFP, combined with an equitable distribution of the benefits obtained by closely involving local people, contributes significantly to the wise management of the world's forests, to the conservation of their biodiversity and to a precise appraisal of their socio-economic values. Income generation and the contribution of NWFP to poverty alleviation and food security are important elements. The programme further includes data collection, information dissemination, technology transfer, networking and strengthening of partnerships on NWFP development, training and policy advice.