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Trends in national forest planning

Changing perspectives in forest planning
Forest sector planning in developing countries
Forest sector planning in industrialized countries
Improved forestry planning directions: the concept of national forests programmes (NFPS)

Changing perspectives in forest planning

Until recently, the primary emphasis in forestry sector planning was on assessing forest timber resources and formulating strategies, primarily in relation to forest industries. Its scope has expanded more recently to address causes of deforestation, needs for reforestation, contributions of forests to food security and rural energy, and building the capacity of national forestry administrations. The approach of forestry sector planning has been further modified by recent calls for 'sustainable development' and 'sustainable forestry'. Forest planning efforts will focus increasingly on means to translate evolving ideas on sustainability into operational guidelines.

The evolution of forestry perspectives from a century ago until today is illustrated in Table 1.

It is becoming widely accepted that planning needs to be redefined in most countries to make it a more iterative process rather than a blueprint of activities, and to involve participation, consultation and dialogue between various concerned groups. Sound planning is based on a good knowledge of actual land uses and of various options for future land use. Such information is currently far from satisfactory in many developing countries. Better knowledge is needed on land use at national and sub-national level, and on priorities and conditions which affect resource management at the local level and which will influence participatory planning.

Table 1
Historical perspective on forests and forestry in developed countries1

1 Adapted from Laarman, J.G. 1995. Forestry planning: new challenges after two centuries. In Proceedings of a meeting held 18-22 September 1994, Anchorage, Alaska. Minister of Supply and Services, Ottawa, Canada.

19th century viewpoint

viewpoint today

forest outputs are timber, game, fuelwood, and water

outputs are many, including various goods but also complex ecosystem services and social values

the natural world can be managed and controlled

the effects of human interventions on the natural world can be difficult to predict and control

forest-dependent communities are local villages and farms

local, national, regional and global 'communities' demand goods and services from forests

management aims to produce commodities through sustained harvest yields

management treats the forest as a complex ecosystem and seeks to maintain its productive, protective and social values, and to preserve future options

the forester is an expert and a decision-maker.

the 'public' is the decision-maker through democratic processes; the forester is a technical advisor and facilitator

Forest sector planning in developing countries

Forestry has been addressed in several sectoral planning frameworks, many of which have international backing (see Box 1).

These planning exercises have much in common, e.g., each framework:

· emphasizes the integration of sectoral planning with overall national-level planning;

· aims to strengthen planning and policy-making systems and institutional arrangements;

· promotes multisectoral and multidisciplinary planning to improve the formulation of coordinated programmes and projects;

· aims to use planning as a means to build national consensus on broad goals and programme directions; and

· stresses the need for public participation and the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the planning process.

Box 1
Planning frameworks for forestry and related sectors

Master Plans for Forestry Development (MPFD)

MPFDs date from the Finnish experience in the 19 60s followed by similar planning in Chile, Nigeria, and other countries in the 19 70s. The early forestry master plans were heavily industrial in outlook. Recent master planning in Asian countries is sponsored by the Asian Development Bank together with Finnish bilateral assistance (Finnish International Development Agency - FINNIDA), and has attempted to become broader in scope and philosophy. Since 1992, MPFD has followed the TFAP (see below) basic principles and operational guidelines.

Tropical Forests Action Programme (TFAP)

Launched in 1985, the initial goal of TFAP was to curb tropical deforestation while meeting local and national needs with respect to forests. Since revision in 1991, TFAP has become essentially a framework for strategic planning in forestry through the launching of National Forestry Action Programmes (NFAPs), and an entry point for raising awareness of issues related to tropical forests, preparing or updating forest policies, preparing specific action programmes and projects, and stimulating financial and political support to implement these initiatives. TFAP, as such, has been recently abandoned as an internationally-coordinated programme, but planning efforts continue through national programmes.

As of December 1996, a total of 54 MPFDs/NFAPs have been formulated (16 in Africa, 14 in Asia and the Pacific and 24 in Latin America and the Caribbean).

World Bank Forestry Sector Reviews (FSR)

Similar to the Forestry Master Plan approach in the 19 70s, the FSR were considered part of TFAP from 1985 to 1990. Today, they are often integrated into rural development strategies.

National Environmental Action Plans (NEAPs)

Introduced in 1987 by the World Bank, NEAPs focused initially on African countries. The scope of NEAPs covers all environmental fields, not just forestry. The intent is to lay out a comprehensive strategy to deal with environmental management and to provide a specific plan for action. NEAPs do not generally include all aspects of forests and forestry. In many countries, the NFAP is considered to be the forestry element of the NEAP.

Other planning frameworks

First proposed in 1980, National Conservation Strategies have been put forward through joint efforts of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (World Conservation Union - IUCN), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In addition, UNCED has called for the preparation of National Sustainable Development Strategies. The development of National Plans to Combat Desertification has been supported by UNEP and UNSO and, more recently, National Action Programmes against Desertification are being promoted by the Convention to Combat Desertification.

The differences that remain are mainly those of scope and nature of institutional participation.

Tangible and intangible benefits are apparent in those countries which have already undergone planning processes including:

· adoption of new legislation;
· institutional reorganization;
· redefinition of the role of the state;
· decentralization of forest management responsibilities;
· transfer of responsibility to communities and local groups;
· transparency of debates and participation in the decision-making process; and
· coordination and harmonization of actions within coherent, holistic and intersectoral strategic frameworks.

Regional efforts (e.g., the Central America Forest Action Programme) have resulted in increased exchange of information, and have strengthened cooperation between countries.

The experience provided by strategic planning processes in relation to the participation of different actors is unprecedented in the forestry sector. Although there is certainly scope for improvement, a flexible methodological model has been developed which involves different interest groups in discussions and decision making on forest and natural resource management. The degree of participation of private citizens, institutions and organizations has increased significantly in many countries. Consultations with community groups, work meetings with various institutions, and round-tables with many partners have been important components of most planning processes. This does not mean that all the objectives have been fully achieved. A bias still exists towards agencies of the public sector, with limited participation of the private sector and varying degrees of participation by NGOs. There are also serious physical, financial, logistical and even linguistic constraints.

Forest sector planning in industrialized countries

In many industrialized countries, higher priority is being given to an ecosystems approach, nature conservation and recreation, and maintenance of biological diversity. Questions are also being raised regarding the use of public lands and public controls over private forests. Perceptions about forests and forestry have been changing rapidly, as have concepts of planning and decision-making processes involving forest management. In principle, planning for publicly-owned forests takes place in a 'shared-power' setting of various interest groups who claim and defend different interests. Planning is expected to mediate among these diverse interests and choose between different forest management options taking into consideration these various interests. Although considerable efforts have been made to achieve this, many have not been as successful as had been hoped. In some countries there has been sharp criticism of forest management plans, despite substantial technical effort devoted to planning. Further development of planning methodologies based on consensus building is needed in many countries.

Improved forestry planning directions: the concept of national forests programmes (NFPS)

A unifying concept of basic principles for forest sector planning was developed by FAO in collaboration with numerous partners, on the basis of past experience with National Forestry Action Programmes and other planning frameworks. These basic principles, which are the foundations for strategic planning processes called 'National Forests Programmes', have been endorsed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF). The basic principles of NFPs are:

· national sovereignty and country leadership;
· consistency with national policies and international commitments;
· integration with the country's sustainable development strategies;
· partnership and participation; and
· holistic and intersectoral approaches.

NFPs are defined as 'a generic expression for a wide range of approaches to the process of planning, programming and implementation of forest activities in a country; they comprise both the planning of forest sector activities - including the formulation of policies, strategies and action plans - as well as their implementation, including monitoring and evaluation'.

The purpose of NFPs is to establish a workable social and political framework for effective conservation, sound management and sustainable development of forests. The NFPs represent processes by which decisions are the outcome of debates, negotiations and commitments on the part of all interested actors. NFPs link together strategic and operational planning, and they are specifically designed to increase effectiveness and efficiency in sustainable forest development at the country level, leading potentially to increased commitments by potential sources of both domestic and external funds.

The IPF recommended countries to develop and implement NFPs as an effective mechanism for them to address sustainable forest management to balance increasing and competing demands for forest goods and services. The IPF emphasized a number of specific elements needing consideration when implementing NFPs, notably:

· the need for appropriate participatory mechanisms to involve all interested parties;

· decentralization where applicable and empowerment of regional and local government structures;

· recognition and respect for customary and traditional rights of special groups such as indigenous peoples, local communities and other forest dwellers, and forest owners;

· secure land tenure arrangements; and

· establishment of effective coordination mechanisms and conflict resolution schemes.

The IPF emphasized the need to adopt a flexible approach to NFPs, recognizing that some countries prefer to pursue their policy goals by means other than formal plans, and that NFPs should be implemented in the context of each country's socio-economic, cultural, political and environmental situation.

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