The policy environment
Institutions for forestry
The Asia-Pacific region presents a complex forestry situation with tremendous diversity in social, economic, cultural, political and ecological conditions. This diversity is reflected in the area of policies and institutions. It is, therefore, extremely difficult to summarise the major policy issues and institutions affecting forestry across a vast and populous region such as this. Even within the main Asia-Pacific regional institutions, member countries have different perspectives and prospects, which affect the policies they pursue. There are, however, some general policy-related themes that recur throughout all the countries in the region.
A time of change
Factors influencing policy changes
Policy reform in the forestry sector
Major policy challenges
The international environment within which countries manage their forestry sectors has changed greatly in the last two to three decades, and continues to change very rapidly. for example, privatisation, globalisation of economies and trade liberalisation were simply not on the agenda 20 years ago. international interest in the forests of Asia and the pacific has increased dramatically in recent decades. the current economic turmoil notwithstanding, the economic strength of the region has expanded tremendously. socially and politically, there have been subtle changes in the non-state sector (private sector and NGOs). inter-sectoral linkages have become pivotal in all development activities.
During colonial times, many of the declared national forestry policies of countries in the Asia-Pacific region were instigated largely by technical foresters striving to protect and manage forests for the national good and driven largely by a "custodial" mentality. In some cases, they tried to balance social and economic considerations along with biophysical and production concerns, but generally they gave more consideration to the forests than did the people who used them. They rarely thought of the potential implications of global economic and institutional reforms on their national forestry sectors.
Forestry has always had a diverse group of stakeholders at national, regional and global levels. These groups, however, have become more vocal and visible, and now demand a significant role in shaping the sector's agenda. A wide range of interests, for example, have played important roles in the international policy dialogue associated with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) which is greatly influencing policies in the region (Box 7.1). Key among the post-UNCED changes are:70
70 Source: Document APFSOS/WP/14. Some countries have made policy changes that are clearly direct follow-ups to UNCED. For example, not long after the UNCED Rio Summit, the Chinese government put forward the Ten Major Policy Measures to promote environmental protection and development and then formulated China's Agenda 21, the Implementation Plan for the Priority Programmes of China's Agenda 21, The Forestry Action Plan for China's Agenda 21, Outline of China's Programme for Environmental Development, China Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan, China Wetland Conservation Action Plan, and China National Action Plan to Implement the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
· confirmation of trends already initiated toward people-centred development (including concern for the particular needs of forest-dependent indigenous peoples); and
· greater environmental responsibility in forestry development.
UNCED has also created challenges for governments to reconcile the priorities of national or local significance with global ones, of industry demands with community needs, of preservation with diversified management and use of forests.
Box 7.1: THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT (UNCED) INTERNATIONAL POLICY DIALOGUE ON FORESTS AND THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION
UNCED and the world of forestry: The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, gave forests a prominent position on the international environmental agenda. It led to two main agreements on forests: Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 "Combating Deforestation," and the "Non-legally binding authoritative statement of principles for a global consensus on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests" (the "Forest Principles"). Strong forestry elements were also incorporated into the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention to Combat Desertification.
The UNCED-related debate on forests has gained momentum since the Earth Summit. Outstanding issues in implementation of the UNCED agreements led to subsequent establishment of an Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) which concluded in 1997 and to its successor, the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) which will report in year 2000. Currently, although the basic philosophies regarding balance among economic, environmental and social functions of forests are enshrined in the Forest Principles, issues remain when it comes to implementation. In brief, the issues that justified the launching of the IPF fell under five main headings:
· progress in implementing UNCED decisions related to forests, including examination of sectoral and cross-sectoral linkages;
· international co-operation in financial assistance and technology transfer;
· scientific research, forest assessment and development of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management (SFM);
· trade and environment relating to forest products and services; and
· international organisations and multilateral institutions and instruments, including appropriate legal mechanisms.
UNCED and the Asia-Pacific region: Like other regions, Asia and the Pacific has been heavily influenced by the UNCED-related dialogue and has, in turn, played a leading part in facilitating global debate. For example, India (with Britain) sponsored a meeting to agree on UNCED reporting arrangements for forestry; Malaysia (with Canada) sponsored a review process three years after Rio; Indonesia sponsored the Bandung Global Forestry Forum to promote global consensus; Japan (with Canada) sponsored work on criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management and an expanded programme of model forests; Japan also recently hosted the Conference of the parties of the UNFCCC; Australia has supported post-UNCED review of forest products certification and trade; the People's Republic of China has supported global consultations on combating desertification.
Asia-Pacific countries are working to mainstream the principles of UNCED. The region's countries have adopted several voluntary codes of responsible practice, for example. The South Pacific code on logging and trade in products from natural forests pioneered this approach, and was followed by the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific and various national codes. Some countries (Indonesia and Malaysia, in particular) are voluntarily introducing sustainability certification of their exports; and many more are adopting the ITTO year 2000 target to achieve trade in only sustainably produced timber products. Policies are in place or being adopted to maintain or increase conservation of biological diversity, partly through keeping a permanent forest estate. The speed of achieving all this is variable, according to country capacities.
A development with potentially tremendous implications for future investment is the planting of trees (or forest conservation beyond what may have been originally intended) as carbon sinks. In the South Pacific, such plantations have been created on a small scale so far, with costs being met by utilities in polluting countries which thereby "buy" the right to release greenhouse gases. A formal basis has recently been created for tradable pollution rights (under Article 6 of the December 1997 Kyoto agreement of the UNFCCC). This opens a door to a potentially major surge in development funding for afforestation of wastelands, desert margins, Imperata grasslands and even peri-urban lands in return for "carbon" funds. Market mechanisms for trading in carbon-storage/pollution exchange rights are yet to be concluded but they may offer opportunities from which the region can only gain.
The very rapid spread of the market economy since the 1970s is another important and significant trend that affects the forestry sector. The globalisation of product markets has been fostered by trade liberalisation and, to a lesser extent, by declining international transport costs. Integration and greater international mobility of capital in global markets has been facilitated by technological innovations in information flows. These changes have affected the Asia-Pacific region as much as anywhere. They have resulted in a rapid expansion of industry, financial and communication services and agribusiness.
Throughout the region there has been a greater emphasis on trade and industrialisation, to maximise domestic employment generation and value added, especially for exports of primary products. Liquidation and depletion of natural forests to finance investments in other sectors has occurred in many of the developing countries, while plantation investments have expanded the available resources in others. The need to increase production and decrease unit costs stimulates plantation development in the higher income countries with relatively cheap land, or developing countries with cheap land and labour.
Accompanying these economic changes, there has also been increased environmental awareness of issues such as biodiversity conservation and the threat of global climate change, and an increase in green consumerism -sometimes with emphasis on social issues. Internal and external pressures for environmental protection and conservation are increasing and forests are now increasingly seen as much more than just "wood-producing factories" or "tree-farms." Environmental concerns are expressed differently in countries at different stages of development. The advanced industrial societies (and the more affluent and educated urban groups even in poorer countries) have adopted major global environmental agendas. Meanwhile, in the poorer countries, interest is focused more on survival issues and local environmental matters.
There have also been noticeable changes in the political environment, including deregulation, smaller governments, the expanding role of the private sector and civil society, privatisation and devolution. This has been accompanied by increased regional co-ordination and collaboration, most notably within the APEC forum, but also within the expanded ASEAN (particularly the preparations for abolition of internal tariffs by 2005) and to a lesser extent, SAARC and SPC/SPF. Governments thus find themselves increasingly keeping track of, and meeting obligations to international commitments, many of which have possibly unintended implications for the forestry sector. At a time when they are expected to liberalise and deregulate, governments also find themselves required to meet international obligations such as ensuring responsible forest management, much of which is undertaken by the commercial private sector and free citizens with no direct involvement by governments.
At local levels, political changes have arisen as a result of more widespread recognition of the significance of forests to local people's livelihoods throughout the region. Conversely, the influence and importance of local people has increased with respect to the success of forest protection and management. The combination of these two considerations, especially in conjunction with the more general trends summarised above, has led to numerous policy experiments with devolving more management responsibility to local communities. This is widely believed to be compatible with the environmental trend above. However, a feeling is emerging that involving people and devolving management responsibilities may also need a commercial dimension if it is to be successful. For example, in New Zealand, a Korean company has established a commercial forestry joint venture with Maori people. In New Zealand, and increasingly elsewhere, the role of the State in forestry is changing from active direct management of forests for commercial production, to policy making, regulating, supervising and stimulating private sector, civil society and NGO activities.
Recognition of macro-economic impacts and effects from other sectors
Because forest activities are affected indirectly by a variety of other policies outside the sector, it is important to monitor changes in these policies and recognise their likely implications for forestry. Foresters now generally accept that the sector cannot operate in isolation. Consequently, forestry has become multi-disciplinary in nature. In particular, forests can be affected by the following sorts of changes outside the forest sector:
· changes in the general macro-economic environment such as significant and prolonged exchange rate shifts;
· opening up of large-scale agricultural and land settlement projects - this invariably leads to forest lands being cleared to accommodate settler families (as in the case of transmigration programmes in Indonesia and the Mahaweli settlement programme in Sri Lanka);
· developments in the agricultural regulatory environment and incentives for agricultural development, especially those influencing productivity;
· increases in rural infrastructure to open up rural markets to outside suppliers and improve access to outside markets;
· adoption of fanning practices that integrate trees outside forests as parts of the agricultural landscape or near rural settlements;
· changing demands on the availability of household labour as a result of changes in agricultural technology;
· rapid industrialisation (which can have both positive and negative impacts on forestry; it will tend to accelerate the extraction of raw materials from the forests, but it will also move rural people out of the villages to work in urban industry; and
· changes in environmental policies (which usually have the most direct impact on lands controlled by the state).
Some of the changes in other sectors tend to be associated with Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) initiated in the process of adopting more market-driven economies. Under SAPs, many countries have restructured their economies, including devaluation, lifting of subsidies and contraction of government establishments. A recent review71 of the impacts of SAPs on forests, including those in Indonesia, concluded that devaluations and export promotion policies generally increase pressure on forests. The study found that spending on roads near forested areas was maintained or increased under SAPs, or fell only briefly; subsidies for frontier agriculture and colonisation programmes rose in some cases, but declined in others. Overall, it was concluded that SAPs did not significantly weaken public capacity to promote sustainable forest management for the simple reason that capacity was minimal even before SAPs began.
71 Kaimowitz, D., Erwidodo, O. Ndoye, P. Pacheco, and W. Sunderlin (1997). Forests under (structural) adjustment in Bolivia, Cameroon and Indonesia. Draft Paper. CIFOR, Bogor, Indonesia.
Only a few of the trends identified within forestry in the region can be directly attributed to policies or actions taken within the sector. On the contrary, the forestry sector in many Asia-Pacific countries seems to react (often belatedly) to much more powerful and widespread forces outside the sector. Research completed for this study suggests that developments in other sectors may have had negative effects on forests in the region in the short-term. However, the general, widespread consequences of economic development and consequent prosperity probably hold the key to improved forestry sector outcomes, including conservation in the region, over the next one to two decades.
Urbanisation and social differentiation
In cities and towns, industries and the service sector are booming, creating prosperous enclaves throughout the region. This new prosperity rarely reaches people living in or close to the forest, however. Poor rural people have mostly been unable to participate in the booming economies of the region unless they have migrated (at least temporarily) to the cities and ports, contributing to rapid urbanisation. Those remaining in the villages and forests often feel economically and socially deprived. One of the few assets that they can draw upon for income is the forest, which also serves as their land bank. The low rural incomes continue to condemn millions to practising low-input, low-yield, extensive agriculture for which production increases are mostly achieved by clearing more land and forests for farming.
Accompanying these commercial pressures is the weakening (or even collapse) of traditional management and regulatory systems, customary laws, taboos and social controls. This leads to the erosion of traditional social structures that often had a (successful) forest management component.
Traditional forest management practices
The emphasis on timber harvesting has tended to obscure the value of traditional forest management systems, which have been practised in many areas. These systems tend to be sophisticated and widespread, both short-term and long-term in perspective, and capable of integrating agriculture and forestry temporally and spatially. Despite this, they are generally poorly known outside their specific areas. For example, there has been little research into smallholder forest management systems (most has only covered the first few years of swidden-fallow management). Some argue that such systems are no longer in the mainstream and that to support them perpetuates a subsistence livelihood that leaves rural people with few options. Yet the numbers who will continue to derive livelihoods in this fashion is, in some countries, so large that a deeper understanding of them is necessary, if only to prepare for appropriate progression into the modern era.
In some cases, forests are of great cultural significance to indigenous communities (exemplified by the sacred groves of India, Nepal and Bhutan). Many cultural minorities, including the indigenous populations of Yunnan, the Philippines, Borneo and Melanesia, follow very conservative management practices. In many other areas, the watershed protection functions and amenity values of forests are explicitly recognised by societies and governments.
The cultural importance, critical environmental-protection functions and subsistence and commercial importance of collecting, growing, processing and marketing of NWFPs from local forests, all provide an ethical basis for local users to have a strong voice in the management of such forests (including protected areas). That long-standing indigenous management systems still exist after centuries of practice in many countries, is evidence that local community management can indeed be "sustainable, productive and equitable" under certain conditions.
Overall policy and its reform
Existing forestry policies, focusing on wood production and the management of forests by governments have, until recently, tended to neglect traditional forest users and the need for more land for agricultural production. Growth of agriculture, commerce and industry has led to land-use changes (i.e. losses of natural forest) despite forest policy efforts at resource conservation. Thailand is often cited as an example of agriculture and trade policy leading to rapid conversion of forests for farming (in this case export-oriented cassava and rice production). Admittedly, these policies have brought tremendous social gains to Thailand, but it remains to be seen whether such lands will remain productive.
Even though forestry policies are changing in the aftermath of UNCED, most current forestry policy still divides natural forest areas into "production" and "protection" forests, each with separate management. In production forests, logging companies commonly operate, but rarely with adequate controls, particularly in countries with weak government institutions (Box 7.2). Nonetheless, existing policies and regulations would be of considerable benefit in protecting forest resources if they were adequately enforced.
NWFPs tend to remain a secondary consideration in policy. In a few cases, efforts have been made to bring them into the mainstream. In the process, however, local people have often subsequently lost control of the formal production and marketing systems.
Considerable evidence indicates that resource degradation has been made worse by restricting indigenous people's secure rights to land and neglecting their customary uses and their capacities to preserve forests. As part of addressing all these issues, policy reform in the forestry sector should examine current policies toward the control of land use and the development of forest industries.
Box 7.2: POSTPONING THE INEVITABLE? - ASIAN MULTINATIONALS IN OVERSEAS LOGGING
In a world with a liberal, free-trade environment, the Asia-Pacific region's needs for wood are easily met through imports. In addition to the major inflow of processed forest products, the Asia-Pacific region is now importing increasing volumes of industrial roundwood from outside the region,
For many decades, Japan and the Republic of Korea were major importers of tropical roundwood (mostly from tropical Asia but also further afield) until log-export bans in much of Asia cut off supplies. A more recent phenomenon is the harvesting of timber in tropical developing countries by transnational corporations from developing Asian countries. For example, today the largest foreign logging companies in the Amazon basin are from Malaysia, Indonesia, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea. Logging ventures have been started in the Pacific Islands (especially in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands), the forested countries of the Mekong basin (Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar), Africa, and South America. There are particularly large areas under concession in Cambodia (more than 4.2 million hectares) and in Suriname (almost 3.5 million hectares).
The general perception is that the investors are operating in environments where institutions are weak and that they are taking advantage of this to get away with more lax environmental stewardship. If this is the case, access to substantial sources of foreign log supply under these conditions is buffering the region's private industry from reality. The reality is the need for urgent and energetic adoption of new, sustainable management practices and for heavy investment in forest plantations. The operation of concessions under low environmental standards, if true, may be doing a major disservice to Asia-Pacific forestry in the long run.
The phenomenon is likely to be short-lived. Just as the main tropical Asian timber countries resented exporting their unprocessed raw logs to the rest of the world, the new suppliers, whether in the Mekong basin, the South Pacific or Africa and Latin America, are likely to also soon press for local processing.
Criticism has also begun to mount over the apparently limited respect for environmental standards of the companies. More than one of these companies has been described as a "transnational predator." Such hostile reactions may, at a minimum, lead to closer supervision. The impacts of this growing perception are already being felt in the wider sphere. In January 1998, the Amazonas State Government (Brazil) put on hold investment projects by logging companies from the People's Republic of China and Malaysia worth millions of dollars. The authorities in Amazonas have reportedly acted on the grounds that Asian companies already operating in their state are failing to comply with forestry laws, and are refusing to pay fines. In 1997, a Brazilian federal congressional committee issued a report highlighting the continuing destruction of the rainforest by these companies.
Questions have been raised also within the region. Probably the most controversial issue in South Pacific forestry is the influence of overseas interests in forestry, particularly in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Apart from claims that logging is beyond sustainable limits, there are two main thrusts to the criticism: (a) that the concession holders do not pay a fair price for the timber; and (b) that they do not invest in further processing in-country. Allegations of physical dissuasion, bribery and corruption in the allocation of timber concessions have also been made. A basic problem is the pervasive poverty and general state of under-development, which creates conditions conducive to exploitation.
Sources: Enters (1977): Document APFSOS/WP/25. Byoung II Yoo (1977): Document APFSOS/WP/06. World-wide Forest/Biodiversity Campaign News (various bulletins - 1997/98) http://forests.org/.
Commercial timber exploitation and related land use policies are the focus of considerable attention. Studies find that logging is likely to lead to increased forest conversion by an influx of migrants, if the following conditions all apply:
· roads are built that open up new areas, especially if they remain open after harvesting is completed;
· there is very poor enforcement of forest boundaries by government agencies;
· there is an institutional or legal context in which people believe that land which they occupy, claim or "stake out," will eventually be recognised or even legalised as theirs by the government (regularisation of encroachments); and
· there exists a large pool of unemployed or landless people, with relatively low incomes and poor economic prospects, who could expect to earn a lot more money by colonising forest areas.
All the widely known instances of rapid forest clearance by "squatters" in Asia appear to be consistent with this scenario. Conversely, where these conditions do not apply, forests can be logged without much risk of uncontrolled future deforestation or forest degradation (e.g. Peninsular Malaysia). This suggests that part of the answer to the deforestation problem is not to stop logging, or to stop logging in all new areas, but rather to reform those policies, institutions, and economic circumstances that at present make forest colonisation seem more attractive than potential migrants' current options. The evidence from the rapid economic growth of the NIEs of the region is that as employment and income prospects outside the agriculture sector improve, fewer people want to undertake the dangerous, difficult, sometimes unprofitable and often illegal work of clearing forests for agriculture.
Industrial forestry policy
To be sustainable, forest industries need policies that ensure renewal or addition of forest resources. Policies should establish appropriate incentives, disincentives and regulatory mechanisms to achieve sustainable and efficient results. One risk is that in the drive to promote forestry, industries are favoured excessively thus undermining incentives for efficiency (Box 7.3).
Box 7.3: PRIVILEGED ACCESS TO RAW MATERIALS BY INDUSTRY
In a significant number of countries, the desire to support forest industry is reflected in privileged access to raw materials and other advantages. The most obvious case is banning exports to favour domestic processing. Another insidious problem is that of government-controlled prices. The experience of India provides an example. Indian policies in fact give mixed signals. They attempt to favour industry (such as through supply of raw materials at below market prices), but at the same time they encourage wasteful use of forest resources and forest degradation and fail to encourage private producers to plant trees for industrial uses. As a result, the government has had to fund reforestation to supply industry. Industry efficiency has additionally been undermined by government protection from foreign competition.
By providing subsidised seedlings under social forestry schemes, the government has unwittingly encouraged the planting of inferior stock by farmers and has subsequently brought low returns to them. It has also discouraged private nurseries which could supply good planting material at reasonable and realistic prices. Furthermore, free or subsidised seedlings have encouraged wastage and planting of too many trees per hectare.
India has recently moved to remedy these problems. The policy of supplying wood materials to industries at concessional prices has been changed, for example. Industries are now required to use alternative raw materials and to produce wood for their requirements in direct nexus with farmers. Since 1991-1992, industrial policy has allowed the liberalised import of forest raw materials without special permits. Preference has also been given to small-scale industries and industries using alternative raw materials like bagasse, rice straw, grasses or any other non-woody vegetation and wastepaper. Farmers are now growing trees and selling their produce freely, with no support price for their produce except in some states wishing to promote agroforestry.
Earlier, privileged access to government raw materials left India's forest industries ill-prepared for the environment-oriented policy decision to ban felling in natural forests. Recent policy reforms are changing the situation, but it will take some time for supplies from farms to fill the gap.
Source: Adapted from M.F. Ahmed. Document APFSOS/WP/26.
Most forests in the Asia-Pacific region are managed day to day by the private sector. Forest policies, however, guide the activities of private companies in managing government or communal forests, with regard to the scale of operations, the duration of licences, harvesting methods used, grades and sizes of timber to be removed, intensity of harvests, etc.
A common criticism of current forest policies (or rather their implementation) is that they tend to be exploitative (i.e. natural forests in particular are harvested with little emphasis on regeneration or care of residual forest resources). Other concerns are high-grading, the failure to harvest less commercially desirable species, illicit removal of under-sized logs, and damage to residual trees. On the positive side, policies have successfully promoted plantations (for example, in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the People's Republic of China and India). An emerging trend is policies promoting greater use of residues, recycling, and other activities designed to reduce the need for timber harvesting. More important, however, is the trend to favour value-added secondary processing that enables countries to earn the same or even more income from smaller volumes of forest products. Value-added products such as furniture or components also use small-dimension wood that is otherwise wasted.
Governments have a tendency to try to devise and enforce rules for every situation. Unfortunately, they are rarely capable of enforcing them. A few countries (e.g. Australia and New Zealand) are changing from a prescriptive approach to an "outcome-orientated" approach. This requires adoption of a framework that specifies the required results but leaves it open to individual operators to devise the most efficient means to meet those standards, subject to the law being respected.
Policies related to fees charged and collected for forest harvesting are also major tools for forest management. In particular, the following are important:
· Extremely low stumpage fees and charges: Low fees may be justified to attract new investment or for other reasons, but their continuation may encourage high grading and wastefulness and reduce incentives for efficiency and tree planting;
· Transferability or sale of cutting licences and rights: In many countries, the fact that logging rights are not transferable reduces the incentives to manage a forest to maintain a high residual value;
· Use of performance bonds: Performance bonds designed to induce reforestation have had mixed results in the region, often because they are set so low many companies find it cheaper to forfeit the reforestation deposit than to replant. Suggestions have been made that bonds might be more useful if targeted at encouraging better harvesting practices, rehabilitating harvest sites, and (controversially) closing off roads to discourage settlement;72
· Linking fees and cutting rights to domestic processing: Charging lower fees for logs used for local processing than for those exported has accelerated industrialisation in Indonesia and Malaysia, but additional incentives related to investment, trade and tariffs, taxes, log-export restrictions, and worker-training programmes were also important. And while accelerated forest industrialisation has succeeded in Indonesia and Malaysia, the same cannot be said of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and several other log-producing countries.72 The creation of roads may, however, be considered a benefit by planners looking at overall development given that it is an investment in infrastructure upgrading with benefits beyond the forestry sector. The issue may be to ensure that settlement is orderly and productive.
Improved forest harvesting practices is an important objective, but if the greater threats to the continued existence of most tropical forests come from any source other than legal, export-oriented, large-scale, industrial logging, a wider view is required. The pace of other technological changes, and social, demographic, political and economic changes outside the sector are likely to dwarf initiatives from within. Of particular importance is the need to find ways to reduce incentives for forest land conversion. One option is to increase agricultural productivity and so reduce the need for extensive farming.
Of the factors within forestry, technological upgrading of the sector could contribute most in the long term to more sustainable forest management. By giving low priority to technology development and adoption, the forestry sector institutions in Asia-Pacific as elsewhere are perhaps doing the greatest disservice of all to the sector's capacity to successfully face the future.
Each country in the region seeks to achieve an appropriate balance among the economic, environmental and social contributions of forests to meet its particular national needs. The policy challenges facing the countries, therefore, cover as wide a spectrum as their levels of resource endowment and socio-economic development. In the richer countries, societies can better afford to conserve much of their remaining natural forests for environmental, recreational and aesthetic values. The remaining natural forests are considered far too valuable for their environmental and social roles to be logged. In the poorer countries, harvesting and exploitation is more necessary to support economic and subsistence needs. Most societies would like more of all types of forest benefits, but realism demands that choices are made; no country has an unlimited budget. The challenge is to increase all types of benefits simultaneously, perhaps through greater skills, technology and efficiency. In all these efforts, effective institutional arrangements and policies are crucial.
With regard to economic contributions, the challenge is to maintain strong commitment to forestry and forest industries. Even in countries where forestry is very important, it rarely represents the main force for development. Indeed, its relative significance is generally decreasing as other sectors expand much more rapidly. Furthermore, the land occupied by forests is already in many cases more valuable in alternative uses. The pressure for forest conversion may not abate until countries achieve greater economic stability and food security. In general, forests will be permitted to remain when the people deciding the forests' fate conclude that the continued existence of forests generates higher incomes (or cultural or social values) than their removal.
73 Space constraints make it impossible to explore institutional issues in-depth here; detailed analysis has, however, been undertaken for this outlook study and is presented primarily in the reports of Banerjee (APFSOS/WP/21, 1997) and Muttiah (APFSOS/WP/36, 1997). Institutional matters in specific contexts also feature prominently in the reports of: Hammond (APFSOS/WP/22, 1997); Byron (APFSOS/WP/09, 1997) (in the context of policy options for the forestry sector); Balsiger (APFSOS/WP/37, 1997) (environmental civil society organisations) and Fisher et al. (APFSOS/WP/27, 1997) (with a "people and forests" perspective).
Relevance of a wide range of institutions
Current government roles in forestry
The commercial private sector
Institutions for community-level popular participation
Major institutional challenges
Historically, analyses of forestry institutions have concentrated on government forestry departments and agencies. The fact that developments within the forestry sector are often determined externally to the sector suggests that it might be best to examine institutions from a broad perspective since many agencies and groups external to forestry have a significant impact on the sector's development. While keeping this broad perspective in mind, this study focuses on internal institutions in the belief that the sector's own institutions generally have the greatest vested interest in drawing attention to the sector's needs and potentials.
Effects of ownership
Given the great diversity of forest ownership patterns in the Asia-Pacific region, there can be no single "correct" system nor can any approach remain permanently valid over time. Numerous possible institutional arrangements exist in the Asian region for forest management and use (e.g. ownership of forests, responsibility for their management, responsibility for harvesting, and responsibility for processing and utilisation can all be assigned to the State, private sector entities or communal groups). In terms of official forestry administrations, in many federal countries (e.g. India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Australia), responsibility for forestry rests with the provinces or states with the central government agency being concerned with national policy, planning and strategy. In other countries, central forestry ministries are directly involved in operational matters, sometimes through government corporations (e.g. in Indonesia, Myanmar and the People's Republic of China).
Forestry institutions are expected to: (a) establish conditions conducive to forestry development and to ensure appropriate policies, laws and regulations; (b) anticipate, identify and prioritise goals and promote their achievement; and (c) provide or develop support services such as training, extension, education and research as a basis for increasing or maintaining productivity and competitiveness of the forestry sector. Many also play an important public information role by helping to create awareness, interest and consensus. Proper institutional arrangements are also needed for ensuring adequate funding for forestry development.
As policies and priorities change, the focus of forestry institutions also changes and adapts. At present, many countries are making a conscious effort to achieve balance among economic, environmental and social goals of forestry. The changes that have affected policy making in the forestry sector in recent years have also affected the way forestry institutions work. In the public sector, planning has taken on a much more prominent role than previously with the preparation of National Forest Action Plans or Forestry Sector Master Plans. The orientation of planning has, however, moved away from being prescriptive and the process itself has grown more consultative.
Public forestry institutions in many countries of the region are inadequately staffed and have very limited budgets. There is also a widespread tendency to draw more value out of the sector than is put in. In India, for example, monetised and non-monetised forest products worth Rs300 billion are withdrawn annually but investment at present is only Rs8 billion annually, or only about 2.7 percent of total estimated withdrawal, and less than 1 percent of total development outlay of the country.74 The shortage of domestic allocations in a number of developing countries has led to undue reliance on external aid, threatening the sustainability and continuity of efforts.
74 M.F. Ahmed (1997). Document APFSOS/WP/26.
In the private sector a number of policy challenges exist. Forestry companies have started to complement their reliance on natural-forest concessions with establishment of industrial plantations, but there is still far to go in most countries. Where concession holders have moved into remote tribal areas in countries such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, mechanisms for amicable and effective co-operation have proved inadequate. Concession holders have sometimes succumbed to the temptation of exploitative practices, taking advantage of weak traditional institutions. Often, the local people's resentment has led to complex disputes over land tenure and the distribution of benefits, which governments are ill-prepared to resolve. Under these circumstances, environmental NGOs and human rights organisations have moved into the perceived institutional vacuum. They have become involved in a wide spectrum of forestry activities from advocacy to extension and education. Some (for example in the Philippines) have even become sub-contractors to governments or donors in implementing participatory development projects.
Governmental roles and responsibilities
Forestry enjoys only a modest institutional profile in most countries. Government responsibility for forestry is assigned to the Ministry of Agriculture (e.g. Bhutan, Viet Nam and Japan) or Ministry of Environment (e.g. Bangladesh) in several countries. It is unusual to have a separate Ministry of Forestry, although many governments have separate Forestry Departments (or their equivalents), sometimes linked with wildlife management and national park authorities. In general, central government institutions tend only to consider forestry when it is part of a wider issue (e.g. land-use planning, rural development or environment), leaving regional or lower-tier government agencies to focus on the sector.
A common feature of many forest services in the region is their maintenance of a "custodial" approach to forest conservation. For many, this is a legacy of colonial times under which forests were set aside and protected. Given that many Asian countries are crowded, and that people already live and farm in national parks and forests, this model of forests and national parks is often inappropriate and unworkable.
Most logging and processing industries throughout the region are in the private sector. Several countries, however, still have at least one government corporation involved in these activities (e.g. the Forest Industry Organisation in Thailand, the Forest Industries Development Corporation (FIDC) in Bangladesh, the Forest Development Corporation in Bhutan, Perum Perhutani and the Inhutanis in Indonesia, Sabah Forest Industries in Malaysia, and the Nepal Timber Corporation). Nepal also has several boards and state companies to produce and process rosin and turpentine as well as herbs. The number of these corporations that earn a profit is very limited in spite of the fact that many of them enjoy privileged access to raw materials or even price subsidies for raw materials. Nor are many of them any more environmentally responsible than their private-sector counterparts. With so few advantages to show, there is pressure for government corporations to achieve profitability or be privatised.
In most countries, government forestry institutions have tried to retain control over a wide range of functions. The capacity of many has not kept pace with the growing complexity and increasing inter-sectoral nature of issues, however. As governments are streamlined in the age of liberalised economies, many government forest services find themselves overburdened and under-budgeted. Some hold onto traditional structures and mandates even when conditions clearly require that they now plan without being prescriptive, that they regulate without stifling the initiative of private firms and NGOs, and that they encourage all interest groups to have a stake in the way forests are managed. Many will have to change more radically in the way they operate.75
75 There may not be consensus regarding whether decentralisation should lead to reduction in the overall size of government forestry agencies. Some may argue that the increase in forestry activity, the very dispersal of efforts, and the interest in forests which this decentralisation is intended to respond to would seem to require the opposite. This is particularly true considering the range of interests which government agencies are now expected to involve and consult with about the management of forests.
A general concern is the weakening capacity of government forestry agencies to enforce laws, except in a few countries. The adoption of participatory measures passes some responsibility for enforcing public behaviour to communities but there are still many forests where these arrangements do not apply.
Forestry research and education
Forestry research and training (particularly lower-level or specialised training) are two functions which central government forestry institutions carry out in nearly all countries of the region. Increasingly, however, these functions are being assumed by private institutions or non-governmental organisations.
For both research and education, there is considerable evidence that support is inadequate. Only a few forestry research institutions in the region can claim a major international reputation (e.g. selected institutes in the three industrialised countries and in Malaysia, Indonesia, the People's Republic of China and India).
Major breakthroughs like the successful development of technologies for the utilisation of rubberwood by the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) may provide incentives for better support. A second breakthrough on oil palm (at the same Malaysian institute) illustrates the powerful incentive that earlier success may generate (Box 7.4).
The relevance of forestry education and research, and the effectiveness of their delivery to users, are frequently called into question in Asia and the Pacific. Critics point to the fact that industry rarely helps to fund research (with notable exceptions such as in New Zealand and Malaysia) as evidence of the irrelevancy of forestry research in Asia and the Pacific. There appears to be considerable opportunity for making Asia-Pacific research more client-driven.
Another issue is the lack of boldness in the forestry sector's research community. In a region that paved the way to the green revolution in rice production, there have been no apparent comparable breakthroughs in forestry.
Box 7.4: MALAYSIAN FOREST RESEARCH BREAKTHROUGH AT THE FORESTRY/AGRICULTURAL INTERFACE
On November 8, 1997, the Malaysian Minister of Primary Industry, presided over the signing of an agreement between a Malaysian firm and a partner from the People's Republic of China to set up the first medium-density fibreboard (MDF) mill to use fibre strands from the empty fruit bunches of oil palms.
The two companies will use technology developed from research by the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), reflecting the benefits of close co-operation between FRIM and the private sector.
The medium-density fibreboard will be based entirely on fibre strands of the oil palm's empty fruit bunches which are a residue from the processing of the fruits. The characteristics of the fibre strands are comparable to those of local timber and can be converted to quality panel products.
Source: Adapted from FRIM Press Release.
In general, research capacity tends to be linked to countries' overall institutional and economic capacity. For this reason, several networking efforts have been initiated in Asia and the Pacific. These networks function with a view toward improving the efficiency of research and development, and helping less capable countries benefit from the skills and experiences of others in the region (Box 7.5).
Box 7.5: FORESTRY NETWORKS WORK IN ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
The long-term nature of forestry projects necessitates long time periods before new technologies derived from research can be translated into proven production systems that enhance economic, ecological and social benefits to people and nations. This situation is further aggravated by extreme limitations in forestry research capabilities due to lack of trained manpower, research facilities and funding among developing countries. Thus, a number of these countries are unable to take advantage of the full potential of their land and forest resources to contribute maximally to socio-economic uplifting and environmental stabilisation.
One effective remedy is the establishment of networks among countries in the Asia-Pacific region to hasten the sharing of knowledge and information about forestry-related technologies, and the exchange of experiences and lessons learned from the application of such technologies. Such sharing promotes co-operation and complementation, minimises wasteful duplication, avoids "re-invention of the wheel" and provides opportunities for the less endowed nations to rise up to par with the others in the arena of forest management.
Such regional networks now exist, and their impacts on forestry development have been impressive. The Bangkok-based Forestry Research Support Programme for Asia and the Pacific (FORSPA) has been effective in stimulating forestry research and in establishing avenues for rapid dissemination of new information among network members. FORSPA has also helped organise the Asia-Pacific Association of Forest Research Institutes (APAFRI). The Forest Tree Improvement Programme (FORTIP), based in the Philippines, has succeeded in focusing collective research efforts to increase productivity of forest plantations to meet rising needs of expanding populations. TEAKNET based in Yangon, Myanmar, focuses on teak research and utilisation. The Asia-Pacific Agroforestry Network (APAN) has brought together the collective efforts of member countries in promoting agroforestry as a viable production system in the ecologically fragile uplands. The Regional wood Energy Development Programme for Asia and the Pacific (RWEDP) addresses the problems of sufficiency and sustainability of low-cost and renewable energy derived from wood. The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), recently established in the People's Republic of China after preparatory years of operation in Delhi, facilitates the exchange of information and promotes sustainable management and use of these important non-wood resources.
Source: Adapted from Vergara, N.T. (Networks - Personal communication, November 1997).
Early forestry education institutions in the region were established in India (Dehra Dun), the Philippines (Los Banos) and Burma (Rangoon) during the colonial era. After the Second World War, other forestry schools were established in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea and other countries to meet expanding demand for professional tropical foresters. Forestry education in the region has since grown by leaps and bounds.
State-of-the-art facilities for instruction and research have been established throughout the region; staffs have been strengthened through graduate training; and curricula have been updated to focus on ecological stability, biodiversity conservation and social equity. The region's education institutions are increasingly training experts from Africa and other regions, as well as from Asia-Pacific, in tropical forest management, agroforestry and social forestry.
The establishment of the Regional Community Forestry Training Centre (RECOFTC) in Bangkok exemplifies the spirit of responsiveness in forestry education to changing needs. In other ways, however, the universities in the tropical countries of the region have not been particularly bold. The situation is improving, as some universities are taking on training in cutting-edge topics such as forest recreation and ecotourism, intensive plantation management and environmental impact assessment.
The Asia-Pacific region offers a full range of forestry education institutions that cover ecosystems from the humid tropics to temperate and boreal regions. The region thus has the opportunity to provide specialised training and for institutions to develop complementary programmes and curricula. Fields with growth potential include sustainable management and utilisation of biological diversity, re-greening of wastelands, non-wood forest products, and technologies for efficient processing of non-forest fibres which complement or compete with forest fibre. The whole area of mainstreaming medicinal plants requires expertise and basic research which universities can contribute to or lead. Strengthening of the universities as a regional "system" could come from better networking among universities.
Government co-operation with the commercial private sector
Around the world, privatisation and deregulation of economies are the orders of the day. It is now commonly accepted that most economic activities are run more efficiently by the private sector and that removal of government intervention from commercial activities can unleash the productive power of businesses driven by profit motives. Indeed, Asia's booming economies largely exemplify private-sector capacities and market orientations.
The commercial private sector, however, is not generally interested in producing socially oriented, non-revenue generating goods and services, which often dominate forestry. Consequently, except where central planning remains significant, the private sector leads in the production of marketed forest products, while the state or its parastatal enterprises and agencies concentrate on more socially and environmentally oriented outputs. Increasingly, governments are being exhorted to confine themselves to policy making, regulatory and monitoring roles. Even some of these roles could be contracted out.
Despite the push for private-sector implementation of forest management, several potential symbiotic opportunities exist for governments and the commercial sector to work together. Businesses depend on governments to establish and implement policies that offer stability, create atmospheres for free and fair competition, and break down trade and market barriers. Recent experience in Sabah highlights the prospects for innovative collaboration between government and the commercial private sector (Box 7.6).
By preferentially directing human and other resources at target sectors, governments in several high-performance Asian economies have built up comparative advantage in sectors as diverse as electronics and general manufacturing - even where no particular comparative strengths existed before. Such an approach has also been successfully applied in the forestry sector (e.g. the development of Indonesia's plywood industry).
Before the recent economic turmoil, some analysts were suggesting that such a strategy was on the horizon for the pulp and paper industry of Southeast Asia.
Box 7.6: SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT BY THE PRIVATE SECTOR -THE SABAH, MALAYSIA INITIATIVE
New opportunities for joint activities between government and the commercial private sector have been made possible through a recent initiative of the State Government of Sabah Malaysia. In September 1997, the government established 27 Forest Management Units (FMUs) with the objective of ensuring sustainable forest management (SFM) in the state. Each FMU is about 100,000 hectares in size and management agreements with private companies will offer secure tenure for 100 years. The FMUs are generally logged-over areas or forests currently under logging.
The private sector is invited to participate in the management of these FMUs using long-term SFM principles, including development of conservation, natural forest management and tree-crop plantations. Forest management plans must be prepared and approved by the Forestry Department. Similarly, other plans for harvesting, reforestation and other activities have to be prepared for approval by the Forestry Department before being implemented.
This scheme is unique and innovative in that the private sector is being invited to participate not just for logging but for sustainable resources management under certain terms and incentives provided by the government.
Source: Salleh Mohd Nor (Personal communication, October 1997).
Private-sector co-operation with governments is often co-ordinated and channelled through industry and trade associations. The roles of such associations are perhaps not adequately appreciated. They provide opportunities for sharing costs in implementing programmes of mutual benefit that individual firms operating independently could not afford. Benefits go beyond financial aspects, however, in that associations facilitate information exchange, adoption and harmonisation of voluntary standards, promotion and policing of self-imposed codes of conduct, diffusion of best-management practices and training. Joint policy dialogue with governments and other interest groups, and lobbying, are other important roles.
A perception exists that private-sector opportunities in forestry exist mainly in the high-forest countries of Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea, or the plantations and native temperate forests of Oceania and North Asia. This need not be true. Even in countries where forests serve mostly environmental and social functions, opportunities for private-sector entities to discharge forest management can be created if governments are creative. Management of recreation and nature-based tourism sites, for example, are increasingly being assigned to the private sector under contract or lease arrangements. Even where operations are not commercially viable (such as the management of watershed-protection forests), the state need not directly undertake the management but can meet the full cost and contract private firms to carry out the management.
Roles of associations of private forest owners
In many countries, numerous individuals and small forest owners practise forestry on private lands. Many cases exist, particularly in Japan and the Republic of Korea, where these small forest owners form cooperatives or other associations for mutual support in promoting their interests. In the case of the Republic of Korea, the associations are a third pillar in forestry development, alongside government and commercial firms (Box 7.7).
In many developing countries, associations of tree farmers have also been established. In India and Thailand, in particular, such associations help groups of tree farmers learn about new management practices and marketing options.
Box 7.7: FOREST ASSOCIATIONS IN THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA
In the Republic of Korea, the government, private sector and forestry associations all have traditionally carried out forestry activities. Forestry associations in Korea were based on "Sanrimgae," the rural people's self-regulated organisations dating back to the 15th century. The Sanrimgae were reorganised into modern forestry associations to supervise forestry-related business affairs, including execution by proxy of government forest projects, establishment of the foundation for self-supporting operation, systematic organisation and structural adjustment. Membership included all forest owners and village residents in mountain areas. The government provided technical and economic information to the associations, but financial constraints hampered the effectiveness of the forestry associations.
In 1993, the "Forestry Co-operatives Law" replaced the "Forestry Association Law" and forestry associations were reorganised into forestry co-operatives, which have become an important force in Korean forestry. Membership in the cooperatives is voluntary. Co-operatives are non-governmental organisations established to manage the forests of owners rationally by enlarging the management scale. The co-operatives help pool the land, labour and capital resources of small-scale private forest owners. The co-operatives also focus on improving the socio-economic position of the members.
The forestry co-operatives plan reforestation; manage forests; harvest, collect, store, and sell forest products; and provide loans for forestry. Under the co-operatives, silvicultural activities for members doubled between 1993 and 1995, and marketing of NWFPs such as mushrooms increased 1.8 times. Federal forestry co-operatives are also considering supplying drinking water to urban people from mountain sources. Income from this activity would go toward increasing the efficiency of member's forest management practices.
Source: Adapted from the In-depth Country Study- The Republic of Korea: Status, trends and prospects to 2010: Document APFSOS/WP/06.
Toward the end of the 1970s, two international gatherings had a seminal role in shaping the future institutional approaches to managing forests. The first was the World Forestry Congress of 1978, held in Indonesia under the theme "Forests for People." The second was the FAO World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) in 1979 which adopted a "peasant's charter." A central perception which drove the new philosophies of development was that people work best when they have a stake in the outcome and when they can help set the agenda for their own lives. The two events ushered in the age of people's participation in rural development.
Since these two milestone meetings, the focus of institutional change to support involvement of people has been on getting closer to people, encouraging greater consultation, ensuring gender equity, and empowering people. There has been greater decentralisation and devolution of responsibilities to lower levels of government, in partnership with non-governmental institutions (including rural communities' own institutions) and with NGOs. Bilateral and multi-faceted partnerships, including those with the commercial private sector, are also increasingly recognised as relevant in bringing stronger income and employment dimensions to participation.
Experiences with institutional devolution for participatory forestry
Two decades after the Jakarta Congress and WCARRD, it would seem reasonable to expect that local people's institutions would be in place to take responsibility for forest management. Unfortunately, however, success has not been achieved on a significant scale.
Nepal is frequently mentioned as a success story, but while the mechanisms of participation appear well developed, the success is not well documented in terms of physical achievements. India is another country that has implemented participatory forest management on a significant scale. A recent assessment76 estimated that 50 percent of India's plantations established since 1980 (around 10 to 12 million hectares) have been developed through participatory approaches. This is an impressive feat, but even after many years of effort, India can claim only about 2 percent of its forests under Joint Forest Management.
76 Chandrasekharan (1997).
Some common problems encountered with participatory forest management include:
· forest department staff often do not accept rural communities as full partners in forest management and harbour doubts as to the competence of rural people in forest management;
· there is a tendency to allocate degraded land or forests, with limited value, for participatory programmes;
· schemes often operate with insufficient resources, with consequent dependence on government or other external funding;
· government officials continue to exercise excessive domination in participatory programmes;
· there is a tendency for collusion between the traditional elite and government staff; where forest resources are rich (e.g. in some South Pacific countries), local people face particular danger of being exploited.
A number of these problems are reflected by the experiences in the Philippines (Box 7.8),
Box 7.8: DEVOLUTION OF FORESTRY FUNCTIONS - THE PHILIPPINES EXPERIENCE
The Philippines Local Government Code of 1991 conferred certain government powers and authorities on local government units (LGUs). In forestry, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) devolved some of its conservation, management, and protection functions to LGUs and reassigned some 1,000 staff members to capacitate local authorities.
It is also planned that DENR will transfer budgets, assets, and records that correspond to the Department's devolved functions and programmes but there has been only limited progress in this. Many LGUs are attempting to defer the devolution citing, inter alia, lack of clarity in defining the new responsibilities of local authorities, lack of financial capability, inadequate office space to accommodate new staff, and complexities in administrative arrangements.
Source: P. Dugan (Personal communication, 1997).
In India, communities often fear that they will lose control of land if it is planted with trees. This fear has constrained the development of community forestry in some areas. Large-scale grazing is another cause of poor success of community land plantations: so is excessive government regulation that discourages farm-forestry practices. For example, in most Indian states, the harvest and transport of privately grown wood requires cumbersome permits.
There are also promising developments in the region. For example, Laos and the Philippines are initiating participatory joint management programmes for well-endowed forests that hold promise of financial viability. Indonesia has also recently granted new recognition to traditional forest management regimes practised by communities in dense forests and agroforests.
There is a common tendency to assume that any efforts to involve people in forest management is a "good" thing, and will necessarily succeed. In fact, this is not the case. In India, for example, there are reports of some of the state governments using Joint Forest Management to bypass the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, and distributing benefits to people for short-term political advantage. Also, in the northeastern states of India, where most of the forests are under the control of local people, degradation and deforestation rates are the highest in the country.
Partnerships among non-governmental institutions, such as between private firms and local community institutions, are emerging in which government merely sets the policy framework or (as in the Pacific) serves as guarantor/protector of the people's rights. In the Philippines, Nepal, Laos, India, Pakistan and Thailand increasing private-sector demand for wood has stimulated smallholders to boost tree growing for sale to industry. In Indonesia, large-scale corporate investments in wood production have led to the establishment of joint ventures with many small-scale landowners in the forest plantation sector. Farmer/industry co-operation could also increase through subcontractor roles for raw materials harvesting and transport. As industries are increasingly forced to use small-diameter logs, there may also be new opportunities to engage local farmers in growing and delivering raw materials.
Balancing the needs of forest-dependent people and of the private sector
It is common for conflicts to arise from differing perceptions of private commercial firms and local communities. Forest-dependent people77 often need the very same resources that are also attractive to private commercial firms. Many cases exist where lands that are required to maintain traditional livelihoods are leased under concession arrangements, resulting in restricted community access. Local people have then sometimes protested and reacted violently to central control over their forests. Conflicts over resources place governments in the difficult position of having to weigh the worth of traditional needs for perhaps a very small number of people against the larger prosperity achievable through commercialisation of forests.
77 The current population of the forest dependent is unknown but estimates by Fisher et al. (1997) suggest 481-579 million. With the 1995 Asia-Pacific population at some 3.15 billion, the forest-dependent would appear to be about 15 to 18 percent of the regional population. This share is quite significant but is thought to include those with fairly loose dependence. True hunter and gatherer populations with almost total forest dependence are more likely to be around 3 percent of the population.
To a large extent, power relationships explain the private sector's upper hand over local communities in access to forest resources. Commercial corporations are large, wealthy, and can lobby effectively, given their access to the centres of decision-making. Large companies involved in the international timber trade earn foreign exchange and have far more to offer governments and administrators than marginalised people. By contrast, forest-dependent people are usually poor members of ethnic minorities, isolated geographically from the sources of power and almost always politically marginal. They have little capacity to influence national governments in their favour. Such people can participate meaningfully only if the problem of marginalisation is addressed. NGOs seek to do this by playing an advocacy role or serving as mouthpieces of local people, offering a bridge to government institutions that would otherwise not exist.
Involvement of NGOs
To more effectively involve people in forest management, governments have in some instances formed alliances with local, national or international NGOs. Sometimes NGOs or local community organisations have themselves taken the initiative to carry out forest management. The importance of NGOs varies by country according to traditions, culture and political systems.
Increasingly, donor funds are being directed to NGOs. Globally, the amount of international donor funds channelled through NGOs rose from US$3.6 billion in 1983 to about US$7 billion in 1990 (i.e. the equivalent of 16 percent of total bilateral aid flows).
The lobbying skills of NGOs often influence policies in industrialised countries. For example, NGOs have played major roles in pushing for boycotts of tropical timber, and certification of timber. As in the rest of the world, Asia-Pacific environmental NGOs advocate better deals for forest-dependent peoples, more environmental sensitive forest harvesting and industrial processing, use and trade of sustainably-produced forest products, and greater recycling of forest products.
Some NGOs in the region are strongly development- and field-oriented. For example, in the Philippines a number of social forestry and protected area projects are co-managed by NGOs and the government.
The choice of institutional arrangements is, just like decisions on policies, a prerogative of individual countries. Lessons from elsewhere in the region or the world may, however, provide options that may be applicable and beneficial. The indications at present are that central government authorities responsible for forestry will remain important and relevant to forestry development in the region, notwithstanding the weaknesses they may have. They continue to be needed to play all roles that require "official" status. Perhaps just as important, however, they are needed to rally the cause of forestry, and promote consensus, joint action and unity of purpose.
Forestry institutions of today need to work across sectors and to use forestry's external linkages to advantage. They also need to maintain forestry on the development agenda and provide an effective channel for society's diverse groups to contribute toward sustainable forestry according to their capacities, attributes and comparative advantages.
Currently, most forestry agencies cannot claim to be meeting these objectives. Challenges that require particular improvement and adaptation appear to be:
· Ability to promote better co-ordination, consensus and co-operation in forest management'. The challenge is to facilitate on board the growing number of interest groups, all with diverse agendas and interests and differing capacities to participate.
· Better capacity to operate in a cross-sectoral setting: The importance of this comes from the fact that decisions in certain other sectors greatly affect forestry (e.g. agriculture competes with forestry for land, the energy sector links to woodfuels). Also many sources of wood or wood substitutes are from other sectors (e.g. trees on farms or tree crops such as rubberwood, oil palm, coconut).
· Establishing new or improved mechanisms for dealing with emerging areas of forestry activity'. Particular emerging aspects of importance for Asia and the Pacific are urban forestry, commercialisation of biological diversity, and exploitation of forest-based ecotourism.
· Enhancing international co-operation: Key opportunities for Asia-Pacific countries include emerging trade conditions and agreements, meeting obligations under international agreements relevant to forestry and capturing gains from new international mechanisms for co-operation (e.g. investments from carbon offsets under the UNFCCC agreement). Good opportunities also exist for participating in networks and other mechanisms established to diffuse "best-management practices" (e.g. the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission's ad hoc Working Group on Sustainable Forest Management, which recently developed the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific). Many of these mechanisms provide avenues for securing international funding, investment and new technology.