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FAO welcomed the decision by the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, in 1996, to undertake a comprehensive regional forestry sector outlook study. For some time, FAO had been concerned that, while the forestry situations in selected countries were well documented and global analyses regularly assessed the forestry situation at macro levels, many of the complex relationships at regional levels were being overlooked and under-appreciated. Consequently, understanding of many of the more subtle - though no less important - dynamics of the sector was being affected.

It is evident that countries can no longer develop forestry policies in isolation. Policies often have major repercussions not only in the country in which they are promulgated, but also in other countries, sometimes far away. Thus, an understanding of regional and sub-regional dynamics is crucial to understanding particular country situations, but also in building a more accurate global picture. At a time when increasing attention is being paid to global forest issues and decisions are being made that will affect the forest legacy of several generations, better information is vital. Therefore, we are pleased that the Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study (APFSOS) has made substantial and critical contributions toward improving the understanding of the forestry sector in Asia and the Pacific and the rest of the world.

Perhaps the most significant outcome of this regional outlook study, however, has been the spirit of collaboration and sharing it has engendered. Not only have the countries of the region shown enormous commitment to the study, but so too have the region's forestry institutions and organisations in related sectors. Numerous organisations and individuals have given freely of their time and resources in contributing to the success of this study. Through their partnership and commitment, they have demonstrated the power and value of regional and international co-operation in achieving common objectives.

The APFSOS is the first in what we hope will be an ongoing series of outlook studies carried out under the auspices of the various regional forestry commissions. In providing the link between national and global analyses, these studies will provide the basis for better decision-making at all levels. The obvious success of this study provides both a benchmark and a model for furthering this process. We trust, therefore, that in addition to fulfilling its primary role of informing and generating discussion in Asia and the Pacific, the APFSOS will serve as an inspiration and a challenge to people in other regions.

M. Hosny El-Lakany
Assistant Director-General Forestry Department Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Prem Nath
Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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