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FAO Regional Forestry Commissions

Dialogue at the international level is an essential complement to the efforts of individual countries to develop appropriate forest policies, institutions and practices. FAO supports a number of statutory bodies specifically designed to provide neutral fora for discussion in the field of forestry. Among these are six regional forestry commissions, which meet every second year to advise on the formulation of forest policy and to review and coordinate its implementation at the regional level; to exchange information and, generally through special subsidiary bodies, advise on suitable practices and action with regard to technical problems; and to make appropriate recommendations to FAO and other organizations and institutions.

Thus far in 2000, sessions have been held for four of the regional commissions: the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (Lusaka, Zambia, 22 to 24 March), the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (Noosaville, Queensland, Australia, 15 to 19 May), the North American Forestry Commission (Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, 12 to 16 June) and the Near East Forestry Commission (Teheran, Islamic Republic of Iran, 1 to 4 July). Short summaries of commission decisions and recommendations follow. Full reports of the commission sessions may be obtained through the Meetings Officer, Forestry Department, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100, Rome, Italy (e-mail:

Africa. The participants from 21 countries and international and national non-governmental organizations identified the problems of forest and bush fires as urgent and compelling and recognized the need for better sharing of the diversity of experience in dealing with this challenge. The commission affirmed the importance of the ongoing Forestry Outlook Study for Africa being conducted by FAO and highlighted the importance of linking the outputs of the study with efforts to develop national forest programmes in the region. The commission endorsed the report of its Working Party on Wildlife Management and National Parks and the working party's recommendations that increased support be given to training on management of wildlife and protected areas, and that the reports of the working party be widely circulated, including at the field level.

Asia and the Pacific. Participation at the session (delegates from 25 member countries, plus representatives from eight organizations) was the highest ever. The commission extended the mandate of its ad hoc Working Group on Sustainable Forest Management and recommended that the group give priority to three areas: support to the implementation of the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific; support to the development and implementation of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management in the region; and assistance to member countries for the promotion of forest conservation in general and management of protected areas in particular. The commission endorsed a regional strategy for implementation of the regional harvesting code of practice, and endorsed a proposal to hold an international conference on reduced impact logging in Malaysia in January 2001. The commission endorsed a regional initiative for the development of criteria and indicators for the sustainable management of dry forests in Asia, and encouraged FAO to convene a workshop on this initiative in 2001. The commission considered a paper on the efficacy of removing natural forests from timber production as a strategy for conserving forests (see "FAO Forestry" section in Unasylva 202) and urged FAO to distribute the results of the study widely. The commission also supported efforts to ensure a greater degree of mutual recognition among certification schemes, and recommended that FAO provide increased information on this subject.

North America. The commission, attended by 26 participants from the three member countries and two observers, reviewed the activities of the commission's eight study groups (which engage actively in research and exchange activities between sessions); discussed in depth urban forestry, alien species harmful to North American forests, carbon sequestration in the North American context, and criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management at the field level.

Near East. The discussion of the delegates from 11 member countries of the commission centred mainly on the following items:

Biotechnology and the forestry sector

The area of biotechnology in agriculture has created many questions about the role of humans in modifying the basic structure of organisms in relation to food supplies and impacts on agricultural and wild-land ecosystems.

Developments in biotechnology in forestry are somewhat behind those in agriculture, but major advances are being made.

In collaboration with other partners, FAO recently organized an electronic forum on biotechnology in forestry, one of a series of two-month e-mail conferences being held to consider biotechnology in the crop, fisheries, forestry and animal sectors. These fora were designed to enable a wide range of parties, including governmental and non-governmental organizations, policy-makers and the general public, to discuss and exchange views and experiences about specific issues concerning biotechnologies in food and agriculture (including fisheries and forestry).

The forum "How appropriate are currently available biotechnologies for the forestry sector in developing countries" was held from 25 April to 29 June 2000. There were 34 contributions to the forestry e-mail forum. Ideas ranged from general comments to very detailed suppositions on the use of the new techniques, especially on genetically modified trees being developed for forestry. Several well-known foresters, biotechnologists, tree breeders and geneticists contributed. The following are some of the main points and conclusions that emerged from the exchanges:

A final report of the e-mail conference is being prepared and will be posted on line at the conference site. Background documents, texts of individual contributions and links to references are available at 

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