The Regional Workshop on Implementing IPF/IFF Proposals for Action through National Forest Programmes: Strategies, Initiatives and Tools was organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and hosted by the Government of Fiji from 16 to 17 April in Nadi, Fiji. It was held in conjunction with the Twentieth session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission. The workshop was co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of State/USDA Forest Service, the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) projects in Fiji and Indonesia, and the National Forest Programme Facility.
The workshop brought together 67 experts, from countries, members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) and other international, regional and sub-regional organizations, including non-governmental organizations.
Messrs. Jiko Laikini (Fiji), Romeo T. Acosta (Philippines), Livo Mele (Vanuatu) and Bashir Ahmed Wani (Pakistan) co-chaired the workshop. The work was conducted in three working groups: (i) stakeholder participation, (ii) cross-sectoral cooperation and (iii) forests and poverty reduction; chaired by Messrs. Sami Lemalu (Samoa), Peter Lawrence (Australia) and Sim Heok-Choh (IUFRO) respectively. Mr. Thang Hooi Chiew (Malaysia) gave the keynote presentation. He emphasized the importance of each country to design its own national approach to assess the proposals for action of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) and subsequently integrate the relevant actions into the national forest programme process or similar country policy frameworks and approaches. This would help address forest development in an integrated, holistic and participatory manner.
The workshop was organized to strengthen country and regional action towards sustainable forest management, especially through the development and implementation of national forest programmes and implementation of the IPF/IFF proposals for action. This was in direct response to the Sixteenth session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO) held in March 2003, which recommended that FAO facilitate the implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for action and the flow of information between the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) and countries.
Participants described increasing efforts in the implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for action in the region, despite the limited capacity in many countries. Several countries, including Australia, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand and Vanuatu, shared their experiences, providing a range of approaches to categorize, assess, prioritize and implement the relevant proposals. The workshop also provided an opportunity to inform countries about developments in the international forest dialogue. This was particularly important considering the upcoming UNFF decisions in 2005, on future international arrangements for forests. Furthermore, the workshop helped clarify the cross-sectoral linkages, effective stakeholder participation in the implementation of national forest programmes, and the role of forests and forestry in poverty alleviation.
The report was endorsed by the Twentieth session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission.
2. OBSERVATIONS AND LESSONS LEARNED
1. In numerous countries, many of the relevant proposals for action are already integrated in the national forest programmes as defined by the IPF, and countries are using them to measure the compatibility of national activities with international guidance and to identify gaps. A major constraint is the limited capacity to implement the proposals for action and to report on progress, partially due to overwhelming reporting requests by international processes.
2. Political will and commitment are required to implement the national forest programme, which should take into account the Millennium Development Goals and other international commitments.
3. Collection of information for a national report to UNFF is difficult. There is a lot of useful information at the local level, but untapped, due to lack of resources.
4. Categorization of the individual IPF/IFF proposals for action (undertaken, for example, by Australia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia and New Zealand) helps clarify their meaning and relevance for individual countries.
5. Existing summaries of IPF/IFF proposals for action, such as the Australia-PROFOR document, are very helpful. However, countries would benefit from their own assessment and clarification of the proposals, under their own specific conditions.
6. Collaborative initiatives, such as between Australia and Vanuatu, could help advance implementation of the proposals, facilitate effective national forest policy planning, identify progress against internationally agreed actions, raise awareness and improve understanding of sustainable forest management and international processes, increase donor interest, as well as facilitate reporting to UNFF.
7. Effective stakeholder participation is crucial at all stages of decision-making, including implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for action and national forest programmes. Building an effective participatory process takes time and requires involvement of all relevant stakeholders and long-term commitment from all involved parties.
8. There are positive steps in increasing participation in decision-making, for example in the national forest programmes and model forests. However, the forestry departments in many countries are not fully aware of all the stakeholders or lack the skills to engage with them constructively. Skills need to be strengthened and suitable tools provided to identify the relevant agencies and stakeholders and involve them in the decision-making process.
9. Effective flows of information are essential at all stages of decision-making, especially to increase awareness of policy makers, land-owners, communities and representatives outside the forestry sector.
10. In many countries, ministries and departments fall short in coordinating their activities with other sectors. Forestry departments often have difficulties in influencing the land-use decision-making because of the over-riding need for achieving economic development. This is aggravated by lack of proper valuation of forest goods and services.
11. The effects of poverty on deforestation and forest degradation differ among countries and locations within countries. Also, in many countries external factors lead to environmental impoverishment, with subsequent negative effects on livelihoods and human well-being.
12. A necessary condition for forestry to contribute to poverty reduction is that forest policies and national forest programmes address basic needs of local communities, especially poor people.
13. The importance of social capital (organizational strength and capacity of the poor) needs to be recognized, developed and strengthened so that the poor can contribute to and benefit more from forestry.
14. An important approach to addressing poverty reduction is community-based forest management and similar initiatives that devolve forest management responsibilities and authority to local levels.
15. Attitudes of forest agency staff and other related policy makers and planners need to change for effective participatory forest management to occur.
16. Payments for providing environmental services are viewed as a potential means of transferring financial resources to poor communities. It is also important to provide more opportunities for rural communities to benefit from non-wood forest products processing and marketing and ecotourism.
17. Countries that have not yet done so, should integrate implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for action into their national forest programme and other relevant policy processes. This should include:
i. assessing the IPF/IFF proposals for action against existing national forest-related frameworks in terms of their relevance to the national priorities;
ii. prioritizing the relevant action proposals;
iii. identifying measures already taken and future actions;
iv. assessing the resources needed to address the impediments to implementation; and
v. using criteria and indicators or related tools to monitor progress towards sustainable forest management.
18. Countries that have not yet done so should urgently identify a national focal point for UNFF, who should also ensure that the national report is being prepared on time.
19. Considering the numerous positive examples in the region in implementing the IPF/IFF proposals for action, countries should actively share these experiences, especially at UNFF.
20. Forestry experts should make efforts to influence their Government’s preparations for UNFF and other international meetings. Experts that participate in these processes should disseminate information after they return from meetings and engage others in the preparations.
21. The various international processes should coordinate their reporting requirements and use existing information better. In this context, participants welcomed the efforts by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests to initiate an information service to streamline forest-related reporting and to reduce the reporting burden on countries.
22. Countries should develop procedures and modalities for effective stakeholder participation and create mechanisms to:
i. clarify the roles of and expectations of all stakeholders;
ii. identify ways and means to account for their inputs and contributions; and
iii. enable reflection of realities from local to national levels.
23. Countries should establish domestic working groups consisting of the representatives from the forestry department, local communities and other stakeholders, to mitigate on-going conflicts that affect livelihoods and long-term participation in decision-making.
24. In order to enhance linkages between forestry and other sectors (e.g. agriculture, fisheries, energy, tourism, health, education, culture, finance) through national forest programme processes, countries should:
i. Establish effective high-level, cross-ministerial collaboration mechanisms that facilitate political endorsement, giving rise to a shared vision for sustainable forest management, enhanced coordination and effective communication across sectors. This in turn will lead to greater support and commitment by stakeholders to share costs and benefits equitably, particularly in relation to poverty reduction and food security;
ii. Identify and involve key actors, including civil society and the private sector, as early as possible in policy formulation and planning to foster support at all levels;
iii. Identify and/or further develop tools and processes to enable a participatory and adaptive approach to planning and implementation of sustainable forest management (e.g. participatory land-use planning and national forest programmes);
iv. Experiment with different integration models at the local level and use lessons learned to upscale to higher levels.
25. Countries should consider extending devolution of forest management from degraded forest areas to production forest areas to provide more equitable opportunities to generate incomes through harvesting and marketing of timber and other forest products.
26. Countries should not focus exclusively on generating cash incomes but should consider also other goods, services and processes that contribute to human well-being.
27. Methods of valuing forest goods and services should be reviewed and high priority given to broaden application of promising approaches and systems. FAO should facilitate such a review, including methodologies to assess the value of forest goods and services to the society.
28. Countries should promote organizational strength of the poor for developing social capital so that they can more effectively contribute to and benefit from the forestry sector.
29. Countries should give increased support to research and development and consider research results in developing forest programmes and projects.
30. The Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission should provide a forum for sharing information and lessons learned on mechanisms for linking different sectors within national forest programme processes and provide information on the relationship between forestry and poverty. FAO should facilitate such activities.
31. The Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission should form a working group or other mechanism to assess the impacts of bureaucratic procedures, taxation policies, regulations and restrictions in forest management, which may cause market distortions, and in turn, constrain severely forestry’s potential to contribute to poverty reduction.
32. FAO and other CPF members should continue to facilitate the implementation of the IPF/IFF proposals for action and assist countries in sharing experiences.
33. FAO and other CPF members should help build capacity of countries to effectively participate and negotiate in international fora and follow their progress.