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At the Sixteenth Session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC), held in Yangon, Myanmar, in January 1996, the Commission decided to launch a regional forestry sector outlook study. This major initiative was to consider status, trends and prospects for the sector to the year 2010. In making the decision to implement the study, the Commission felt that it was necessary to analyse developments and factors both within and outside forestry. It called for presentation of possible paths for future changes and of the implications for policy and action. In endorsing the regional study, the Commission recognised that many developments are beyond the scope of any one country; it also recognised the value of a collaborative exercise involving all members of the APFC as a means of strengthening its own role in forestry development.

As Chairmen of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Sessions of the APFC, we are pleased to present the report of the study to member countries and to the broader international community. We believe it can serve the interests of policy-makers in both the public and private arenas. The study has been a major undertaking and, if it has taught us anything, it is that the region and the sector are highly dynamic. We, therefore, consider this report as the beginning of an ongoing process that will hopefully be repeated and updated in the future. We believe it should also serve as the basis for even greater attention to the main issues and opportunities that it exposes, both within and outside the forestry sector itself. We encourage all interested policy-makers dealing with forestry in the region to make use, not only of this summary report, but also of the vast amount of valuable information contained in the supporting working papers.

The success of this study must be attributed to the excellent contributions and spirit of partnership demonstrated by member governments, regional and international organisations, donor agencies and individual contributors. On behalf of all members of the Commission, we also express our appreciation to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which co-ordinated the study and provided secretariat support through its regional office in Bangkok and headquarters in Rome. The study also benefited substantially from inputs provided by nongovernmental organisations and the private sector, although we would have preferred more involvement from these partners and we appeal to them to become more actively engaged in future APFC initiatives.

Conducting a study of this nature in a region as diverse as Asia and the Pacific is not easy; the challenges of drawing together the vast range of information, experiences, policies, prospects and perspectives are daunting. Nonetheless, when the Seventeenth Session of the Commission convened in February 1998, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, to review the results of the study, the wealth of information that had been compiled was clearly evident. Participants were particularly struck by the large number of common themes and problems running throughout the countries of the region. Clearly, many countries in the region have faced, or are facing, similar challenges in forestry. Perhaps for the first time some of these linkages have been clearly specified, providing countries in the region with an excellent opportunity to more fully understand how others are dealing with similar problems - and setting the stage for greater co-operation in the coming decades.

It has been our privilege and pleasure to serve as Chairmen of the APFC during the course of this study and to oversee its completion. It is difficult for us to imagine a better catalyst for advancing one of the key objectives of the APFC - that is, to promote regional dialogue and co-operation on forestry issues.

U Kyaw Tint
Chairman of the Sixteenth Session Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (Director-General, Forest Department, Myanmar)

Toga Silitonga
Chairman of the Seventeenth Session Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (Director General, Forestry Research and Development Agency, Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops, Indonesia)

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