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National forest programmes provide a global framework for addressing forestry issues within the context of sustainable development. This concept of sustainability, one of the major challenges for the future of humanity, has been widely discussed during recent United Nations international conferences (UNCED, Rio 1992; Nutrition, Rome 1992; Population, Cairo 1993; Social Development, Copenhagen 1994; Women, Beijing 1995; Food Security, Rome 1996) and in other international and national fora. Regarding forests, sustainability is closely related to a rational, efficient and fair exploitation of natural resources, for the benefit of present and future generations.

In order to meet the imperatives of sustainability, efficiency and equality activities related to forests, particularly those carried out in the framework of national forest programmes, have increasingly put the accent on a series of principles guiding the planning, development and implementation of forest programmes and plans. Among these, partnership between all interest groups and the participation of all actors in forestry processes occupy a leading position.

It has been shown that the success of national forest programmes is heavily dependent on the creation of a context that favours the involvement of all parties, actors and partners concerned to ensure participatory planning and decision-making. In fact, by creating real participation of the range of actors concerned, all groups and individuals will be able to offer a direct or indirect contribution to programmes and their efficiency will improve.

Nevertheless, the widening of participation to all stakeholders - rural men and women, NGOs, local organisations, women's groups, the private sector, government, university circles - calls for certain mechanisms and conditions. It can only come about if there is a free exchange of information, open dialogue and the possibility for debate.

In this context, a fundamental characteristic of the participatory process is the availability of the most detailed information possible. This is the base element for the forest planning process. One can see the importance of calling on participatory planning tools capable of revealing various types of information (social, technical, economic and environmental), and this draws attention to another basic principle of forest programmes: multi-disciplinarity.

The reference document entitled 'Basic Principles and Operational Guidelines for National Forest Programmes' (FAO, 1996) stresses that in many cases particular attention should be given to the participation of local and regional level organisations, women and local communities and populations. Further, this document notes that:

"Women play a vital role in many aspects of forestry development. Gender issues should be given due consideration throughout the process and specific actions should be identified to facilitate the participation of women as fully integrated partners in all phases (planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation) of the process."

Other important social characteristics which need to be taken into account during planning and development include ethnicity, caste, socio-economic level, age and occupation. However, gender deserves special attention since it cuts across all sectors and organisational levels of society, from micro to macro level. Regardless of class or race, women and men have roles, responsibilities, resources, constraints and opportunities which differ according to gender.

It is therefore important for the planner to raise a series of questions such as:

• What development objectives will address the needs and priorities of the women and men concerned?
• Who will be directly involved in the planning and implementation of each activity women, men, or both?
• What resources do the women and men involved need to have to contribute to development activities?
• What constraints block the participation of women, of men?

Answers to such questions help improve planning because facts concerning the participants are available: who they are; what they do; where or how they live; how they perceive their needs, their constraints and their possibilities.

This Technical Note aims to present a concrete and systematic mechanism through which gender considerations can be taken fully into account during the planning, implementation and review of national forest programmes. It highlights the importance of taking the female dimension into account in such programmes in order to strengthen the success of forest planning and development activities. The approach recommended for this integration in planning is firmly centred on participation.

The first section of this document provides a rapid overview of "gender specificities", of the roles, responsibilities, needs, constraints and opportunities which can be specific to men and to women, in particular in forestry. Also outlined are the reasons explaining why these gender considerations should be taken into account in programmes and projects.

The second section is a step-by-step review of the different phases of the formulation of national forest programmes, as described in the reference document: 'National Forest Programmes. Basic Principles and Operational Guidelines' (FAO, 1996). This section should be read in the light of integrating gender in processes and programmes. Also briefly outlined are the participatory tools which can be used in each phase of the various processes to build up an appropriate data base on what men and women do and why.

As with other technical notes published by FAO (for example, on watershed management, nutrition or ecoturism-tourism), this document is intended to help planners and decision-makers improve planning in the forest and forestry sectors, by integrating considerations based on gender. It is also meant to enable anyone interested to better understand the multi-disciplinary aspects of forest planning.

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