Rome, Italy, 1-5 March 1999




1. The High-Level Panel of External Experts on Forestry met at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy on 26 and 27 January 1998.

2. The following members, participating in their personal capacities, attended the meetings: Mr. W. Gröbl (Germany), Mr. Y. Hardy (Canada), Mr. B. Hägglund (Sweden), Mr. M.N. Salleh (Malaysia), Mr. J. Tohá (Chile) and Mr. M. Goumandakoye (Niger). Mrs. Y. Ntiamao-Baidu (Ghana), who had also been invited to attend, was unable to do so. Mr. Gröbl chaired the Panel and Mr. D. McGuire, Community Forestry Officer, Forestry Policy and Planning Division, acted as Rapporteur.

3. Mr. M. Hosny El-Lakany, Assistant Director-General of the Forestry Department, welcomed Panel Members and addressed the meeting, giving a description of the Forestry Department and a brief overview of the subject areas covered by each division and unit.

4. Mr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO, addressed the Panel and thanked the Members for having accepted the invitation to provide the Organization with the benefit of their experience and expertise with regard to the role of FAO in confronting the challenges facing the world's forests and the forestry sector.

5. The Panel congratulated the Director-General of FAO for appointing a forester as Deputy Director-General of the Organization, and the prompt appointment of the new Assistant Director-General, Forestry Department. Such decisive and quick action gave excellent signals to the global forestry community.

6. The Panel agreed on the following agenda for its meeting. (The documents submitted as background to Panel members are listed in Annex A.)

1. Adoption of agenda and introduction of participants

2. Follow-up to the recommendations of the First Meeting of the High-Level Panel of External Experts on Forestry (19-21 October 1994)

3. Strategy and comparative advantages of FAO for sustainable forest management

4. Role of FAO in following up the decisions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and the Special Session of the UN General Assembly

5. Partnership and funding opportunities with other international organizations and donors

6. Vision for the next ten years in forestry

7. After reviewing and discussing the specific issues on the agenda, the Panel reached the following conclusions and recommendations.


8. The Panel noted that, in general, the recommendations made by the High-Level Panel of External Experts on Forestry in 1994 (doc. CL 107/6-Sup.1) were still valid.

9. Of the recommendations which were proposed to the Director-General in 1994, the Panel noted that, according to FAO's follow-up report, either no action or only partial action was taken on recommendations 3, 4 and 5. Given the continued relevance and importance of these to FAO's role as a leader in global forestry, the Panel proposed that the Director-General:

(a) In addition to the policy and strategic advice given to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) on global forestry matters, expand FAO's advice to other international organizations and the international community as a whole.

(b) Make an annual, highly publicized statement on the progress made in sustainable forestry, highlighting accomplishments and challenges ahead on a few selected forest-related issues; this should include FAO's response strategies and actions, as well as recommendations to the other actors in the field. Greater attention should be drawn to FAO's publication State of the World's Forests and to the Organization's work in Global Forest Resources Assessment, in terms of quality and dissemination.

(c) Lead a highly publicized symbolic initiative concerned with the conservation, restoration and rehabilitation of a rare or endangered tree species or forest type (e.g. Prunus africana, Araucaria angostifolia, Santalum album).

(d) Recognize annually, in a highly publicized event, perhaps a World Forest Day, which should focus on more than only tree planting, a very small number of persons who have made outstanding contributions to forests and forestry and have advanced some aspect of the local, national, regional or global forest agenda (Forestry's Nobel Prize). Also, develop an award for specific forestry achievement to be awarded at every World Forestry Congress, in order to give forestry more visibility world-wide.

10. In addition, the Panel proposed the following:

a) Given the need for FAO to strengthen its profile in forest-related topics and to be more visible, the Panel also recommended that FAO be proactive in responding to important current forestry issues, regional disasters related to forestry and other important events related to forestry, such as the forest fires in Indonesia and global impacts of El Niño on forestry.

b) The Panel recommended that FAO strive to be independent and timely in reporting, analyzing and commenting on factual information.

c) The Panel recognized the importance of research and education and supported the current programmes of FAO in these fields. However, it recommended that FAO play a more important role in promoting research and providing advice in strategic areas related to policy and global forestry.

d) There is need for a new type of assistance from FAO in support of forestry in developing countries, especially as a result of the increase in country-level technical capacity that has occurred in many developing countries in recent years. Assistance should focus more on improving technological know-how, especially through the exchange of knowledge and experience between countries. As the only international organization active in a broad range of forestry activities throughout the world, FAO is well placed to provide this type of service.

e) FAO and the Forestry Department, following their organizational mandates, should focus activities in promoting the establishment/creation of methodologies and providing technical support to member countries in the formulation and evaluation of forest policies as well as increasing their institutional capacity for developing forestry in general and implementing their sectoral policies.

f) Special attention should be devoted to advising countries in developing forestry policies, laws and institutional mechanisms which, taking into due consideration the sustainable management of their natural resources, could actively contribute to their socio-economic and environmental development.

g) Given the growing importance of global forestry issues, the urgency required to address them and the limited financial resources currently available compared to the scale of the problem, FAO should be active in identifying sources of funding and financing for forestry activities, particularly for countries with low forest cover.

h) The Panel recommended that FAO continuously evaluate its in-house activities, in particular the type and frequency of meetings held, so as to ensure that the Organization remain focused on its main mission and objectives.

i) The Panel recommended that FAO examine the following issues and suggest strategies to address them in the context of the role of forestry:


11. FAO is mandated to address a broad range of forestry issues globally. However, given its limited human and financial resources, the Organization should focus mainly on providing policy guidance and information. It should concentrate more effort in analyzing the underlying forces which are creating changes in global forests' status and forestry.

12. FAO should further strengthen its ability to give policy advice with proposals for aims, strategies and concepts in the field of forest management and conservation as well as sustainable forest development, including possible elements of a forest convention.

13. Advice from FAO concerning global forestry issues should be directed not only to national governments, but also to all actors in the forestry sector and related fields, at national and international level. The Organization should also ensure that such advice is shared and harmonized with the work of all concerned departments within FAO.

14. FAO, in its continuing role as UN Task Manager for Chapter 11 of Agenda 21, should assume leadership in strengthening the international dialogue in the field of forest policy and step up activities relating to policy strategy.

15. FAO should also be more involved in regional and sub-regional initiatives dealing with forestry and related sectors to promote sustainable forest management.

16. FAO should carry out its work in forestry in a broader context, considering other global issues and current trends such as food security, globalization, poverty alleviation, etc. The Organization should provide strategic advice on the balance of global land use in view of global needs for food security and environmental stability, such as advice on the minimum area of forests needed in the world. The multiple benefits of forests and trees should be emphasized in FAO's work in the forestry sector.

17. In the global forestry context, FAO should take a proactive leadership role in harnessing the common thread of forestry and forestry-related issues in the Conventions on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Combating Desertification, as forestry issues are important aspects in these conventions. At the same time, the Panel recommended that FAO take a leadership role in addressing reforestation of the vast areas of degraded lands in the world. This could take the form of assessing the extent of degraded lands as part of the Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) programme, as well as providing advice on areas available for reforestation, appropriate species and other related technical information.

18. FAO's vision in its Strategy should be to stop forest degradation, not simply to slow it down. Expressed goals should be defined as being achieved within a given time frame.

19. In view of the important and increasing role of the private sector in the management of forestry, the Panel strongly recommended that FAO develop proactive programmes to strengthen links with the private sector.

20. FAO should develop a less cumbersome institutional framework and bureaucratic structure that would allow the Organization to address problems in the forestry sector in a more creative and innovative manner, including new consultative mechanisms, dialogue and collaboration with NGOs and the private sector. Bi- and multi-lateral trust fund arrangements may provide opportunities to bypass traditional bureaucratic constraints, as well as to increase financial resources needed to carry out some of the Organization's work that could not be adequately covered by current Regular Programme budget levels.

21. The Panel encouraged FAO to continue to place high priority on its work in FRA, as reliable and easily accessible information was needed to promote sustainable forest management.

22. FAO's work in global forest resources assessment should pay more attention to monitoring changes in the resource base, not simply the state of the resource.

23. The results of FRA 2000 should be made available in a timely manner and presented in a more user-friendly way.

24. The Panel emphasized the rapid development of Information Technology and the need for FAO to lead forestry into the age of Information Technology.


25. Building on the positive results achieved since Rio, FAO, in its role as Task Manager of Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 and Chair of the ad hoc Interagency Task Force on Forests (ITFF), should assume the technical leadership in implementing the recommendations of the IPF and take strong leadership in promoting and facilitating concrete action toward sustainable forest management.

26. FAO should lend greater support to the world-wide implementation of the NFP concept by promoting the conceptual adjustment to the respective national/regional conditions through wider dissemination and international exchange of information. FAO National Committees should be strengthened and should focus more on forestry issues and their integration into other sectors.

27. The Panel recognized the importance and relevance of the work on criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management and recommended that FAO be more proactive in their harmonization, improvement, linkages and applications.

28. The Panel urged FAO to facilitate the discussion process on the need for a Forest Convention and to provide intellectual input toward the development of the elements of such a convention.

29. The Panel recommended that FAO be proactive in seeking greater political support for forestry and forestry programmes from the worldwide institutions involved in the CSD process.

30. The role of the Committee on Forestry (COFO) should be strengthened, especially in monitoring, implementing and further developing the Forest Principles and the IPF recommendations. The Panel encouraged FAO to continue its efforts to review the COFO process and to make recommendations on how to improve the content, structure and process of the Committee.

31. There should be greater attention to and analytical evaluation of country reports within the framework of the UNCED follow-up process regarding the implementation of the Rio Forest Principles, the fulfillment of criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management (SFM) and compliance with the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification.

32. The Panel supported the efforts of FAO to review the organization, structure and contents of the World Forestry Congress with a view to making this global forestry forum more effective and efficient.


33. The Panel recognized the importance of FAO in developing strategic alliances and smart partnerships with other relevant organizations, including those in the private sector and NGOs, at the global, regional and subregional levels, and to seek innovative ways to fund such partnerships; they should be based upon mutually benefiting programmes.

34. Recognizing the importance of future generations in the protection and sustainable use of forests, the Panel recommended that FAO develop specific programmes to involve youth in forestry and to develop close links with youth organizations in the world.

35. The Panel recognized the serious effort and improvement in recent years in the transparency of FAO's work in global forestry and urges the Organization to continue in this direction, both within the UN system and in terms of relations with other collaborating organizations and partners.

36. The duplication of a large number of intergovernmental organizations with activities in the forest sector should be checked as a matter of urgency to avoid a dissipation and an overtaxing of the international community. The new conventions under international law offer renewed opportunites to achieve this. Furthermore, their secretariats frequently cooperate with UNEP regarding forestry issues, but to a much lesser extent with FAO. FAO should, therefore, in its capacity as Task Manager of Chapter 11 of Agenda 21, develop a plan of cooperation aimed at making the activities of the UN and other international organizations in the forestry sector transparent and to enable effective division of labour in the future.

37. The proven work of the Interagency Task Force on Forests, under the leadership of FAO, should be actively continued.


38. Deforestation and degradation of forest land continues to be a significant problem at a global level. Although the annual rate of forest loss has slowed in recent years, the latest estimates indicate that more than 13 million hectares of natural forest continue to disappear each year, primarily from developing countries. In particular, tropical rainforests and moist tropical forests are undergoing rapid changes. This has local as well as global consequences, given the importance of these forests in terms of their social and economic value, and their significance for the conservation of biological diversity and climate regulation.

39. Pressures on the world's forests continue to mount and exacerbate the problems of forest loss and degradation. These include increasing demand worldwide for both wood and non-wood forest products (both at subsistence and commercial levels), and the expansion of agricultural land through forest conversion. Other causes of forest degradation include overgrazing, fire, overharvesting of timber and poor harvesting practices. Increasing population growth rates, especially in many developing countries, and other economic, political and social trends will continue to have major impacts on forest cover and condition.

40. In light of this situation, the Panel observed the need for a clear vision for the future of forests globally, and the role of FAO as a world leader in this sector. Accordingly, it offered the following vision for the world's forests:

41. In terms of the role for FAO in this future vision, the Panel concurs with the mission and vision already proposed by FAO in its draft Strategic Plan for Forestry and supports FAO's efforts to be recognized for leadership and partnership to:


- List of Panel Members

- Provisional Agenda (FO:HLP/98/1/REV.)

- Provisional Timetable (FO:HLP/98/INF.1/REV.)

- List of documents (FO:HLP/98/INF.2)

- Summary of Forestry Department activities (FO:HLP/98/INF.3)

- Report of the First High-Level Panel of External Experts on Forestry (Rome,             19-21 October 1994)

- Draft FAO Strategic Plan for Forestry

- Declaration and recommendations of the XI World Forestry Congress (Antalya, Turkey, 13-22 October 1997)

- Report of the 13th Session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO) (Rome, 10-13 March 1997)

- Final Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF)

- Programme of Work of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF)

- Interagency (ITFF) plan for the implementation of IPF recommendations

- Follow-up to the recommendations of the First High-Level Panel of External Experts on Forestry

- Recent development of the international dialogue and existing instruments and initiatives on forests

- Forestry Information Notes

- State of the World's Forests 1997