Item 11 of the Provisional Agenda




Rome, Italy, 1-5 March 1999




Secretariat Note


At its second session in 1974, the Committee requested that the agenda of regional forestry commission sessions include as a standing item "Matters to be referred to the attention of the Committee on Forestry" and that the corresponding section of the report of each session be submitted to the subsequent session of the Committee. This note summarizes the main points of interest to COFO made by the regional commissions, as well as other FAO statutory bodies in forestry, at meetings held since the previous session of COFO in 1997.



1. The Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) held its 17th session in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, from 23 to 27 February 1997. Recognizing COFO's earlier desire to see the regional forestry commissions strengthened, the APFC wished to bring to the attention of COFO its vibrant inter-sessional activities during the past two years. The Commission felt it was especially noteworthy that these activities were largely achieved because of the commitment and contributions of member countries themselves, with determined support from the FAO Regional Office. In particular, it wished to highlight the activities of the ad hoc Working Group on Sustainable Forest Management, which had successfully developed the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific, and the extensive work carried out under the Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study. The Commission wished to reiterate to COFO the importance of such timely and relevant inter-sessional activities, well supported by FAO, as the key to the success and usefulness of the regional forestry commissions. In this regard, the concept of decentralizing activities, authorities, and resources to the Regional Office was endorsed.

2. The Commission wished to draw to the attention of COFO its decisions to: (i) extend the mandate of the ad hoc Working Group on Sustainable Forest Management; (ii) create a new APFC ad hoc Working Group on Forestry Statistics and Information; (iii) continue regional dialogue on ways of effectively implementing the IPF/CSD Proposals for Action; and (iv) vigorously pursue implementation of the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific.

3. The Commission made specific recommendations related to forestry statistics collection and analysis which are relevant for consideration by COFO. These include: (i) the establishment of regional networks of national statistics correspondents, or focal points; (ii) direct communication with designated correspondents; (iii) development of joint statistics questionnaires with other international forestry organizations; (iv) potential transmission of statistics questionnaires electronically; (v) additional training to strengthen capacity for collecting, analyzing, and reporting forestry statistics; and (vi) enhancement of the capacity of Regional Offices for statistics and information collection and reporting, including the possible production of regional forest products yearbooks.

4. The APFC requested FAO and COFO to note its suggestions that the FAO Strategic Plan for Forestry include additional emphasis on: (i) the need to increase awareness of decision makers regarding the value of forests; (ii) plantation development and tree breeding technologies; (iii) land use planning and land tenure issues; and (iv) the role of forests in climate change mitigation.


5. The African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (AFWC) met for its 11th session in Dakar, Senegal, from 14 to 17 April 1998. It requested that a certain number of recommendations be submitted to COFO, including the following:

a) Wildlife cannot be dissociated from forestry in the region and should be considered among FAO's priorities for the Africa region.

(b) The Working Party on Wildlife Management and National Parks should be maintained as a statutory meeting linked to the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission.

(c) The documentation on follow-up activities to UNCED, particularly the IPF and IFF reports, should be more widely disseminated in Africa, and in a format more accessible to member countries.

(d) The problem of country attendance in the Statutory Meetings of the FAO (COFO, AFWC) should be carefully reviewed with a view to finding a satisfactory solution which would secure sustainability of these meetings.

(e) FAO should give particular attention to the coordinated implementation of proposals and decisions for action formulated by the follow-up processes to UNCED, particularly IPF, IFF and the international conventions. The Commission recommended that COFO study suitable ways and means of providing methodological, technical and financial support for African countries in their efforts to internalize the proposals and decisions for action in the context of the revision and updating of their national forestry programmes.

(f) The Commission strongly urged COFO to pay particular attention to technical capacity building and institutional strengthening of the forestry sector in countries recovering from socio-political crisis. Special assistance should be proposed to address the problems of accessibility to forests and protected areas which have been mined and damaged.


6. The 20th session of the Latin American and Caribbean Forestry Commission (LACFC) was held in Havana, Cuba, from 10 to 14 September 1998. The Commission requested that the following items be drawn to the attention of COFO:

a) The need to reinforce the Field Programme, including FAO support to countries in project formulation and negotiation to attract more funds from donors to this end.

b) The importance of conducting studies into the causes of deforestation to help resolve this major problem and raise people's awareness of this issue.

c) Because of the lack of know-how regarding available practical tools for forest valuation and the shortage of trained personnel in this field, the Commission requested related support from FAO and the international community.

d) In view of the importance attributed by the LACFC to its subregional groups, the Commission requested that FAO and other bodies provide support for implementation of the intersessional programmes of work that had been drawn up at the 20th Session.

e) The need for the national forestry programmes to be supported at top national policy-making level.


7. The 29th session of the European Forestry Commission (EFC) was held in Lahti, Finland, from 19 to 23 October 1998. Its main recommendations addressed to COFO were:

a) It welcomed the sharing by FAO of its forest strategy, and urged that forests receive attention in their own right in the FAO strategic framework, reflecting on the one hand the major contribution forests make to human well being, and on the other the urgent problems arising from deforestation and forest degradation.

b) It stressed the importance of maintaining the balance between the three pillars of sustainable forest management (environmental, economic and social) and their interrelationships. FAO's forestry activities should take account of this balance and a balance between normative and operational activities, as well as building on its strengths.

c) It drew the attention of COFO to the detailed comments on FAO's forestry strategy contained in the report of the 29th session of the EFC, particularly as regards the importance of policy analysis and advice.

d) It welcomed the partnerships forged by the Forestry Department, based on the strength of each of the partners, in particular the leadership role it plays in the Inter-agency Task Force on Forests.

e) COFO and the regional forestry commissions should provide an opportunity for an exchange of experiences on forest policy issues at the global and regional levels. The results of these discussions should be input in formulating FAO's programmes.

f) COFO should review the objectives, scope and themes of future World Forestry Congresses.


8. The North American Forest Commission (NAFC) held its 19th session in Villahermosa, Mexico, from 16 to 20 November 1998. It recommended that the following matters be brought to the attention of COFO:

a) that FAO recognize the critical role forests play in achieving its goals and give added importance to the forestry component in its strategic framework.

b) that FAO better integrate activities by emphasizing the forestry linkages with agriculture, fisheries, food security and sustainable development and by collaborating in such cross-sectoral issues as water.

c) that FAO increase its support to the NAFC consistent with that provided to the other regional forestry commissions.

d) that the FAO Forestry Department support the exchange of information among the study groups as well as among the other regional forestry commissions, in particular the LACFC, including the distribution of reports of the study groups to the other regional forestry commissions.

e) that FAO continue to emphasize working closely with research organizations to promote policy decisions based on good science at the national and international levels.

f) that FAO look for opportunities to integrate recreation and urban forestry in its programme of work, given that these issues are becoming increasingly important.


9. The Near East Forestry Commission (NEFC) held its 13th session in Damascus, Syria, from 6 to 9 December 1998. The Commission recommended that the following items be brought to the attention of COFO:

a) recognizing the importance of NEFC sessions for forestry development in the region, member countries were encouraged to find ways and means to ensure appropriate high-level participation in the sessions.

b) that the FAO Forestry Department should further support the exchange of information between countries in the region both on technical and forest-related policy issues at the national, regional and international levels.

c) in recognizing FAO's leading role as a neutral forum in world forestry issues and welcoming its initiative to develop its proposed strategic plan, it recommended the allocation of appropriate resources to facilitate its implementation and recommended to member countries that they support the process.

d) in recognizing FAO Forestry Department's contribution to institutional strengthening, it recommended that special efforts be directed to the region in particular by support to forestry research, education and training.


Advisory Committee on Paper and Wood Products

10. The Advisory Committee on Paper and Wood Products (ACPWP) held its 38th session in Rome, Italy, from 23 to 25 April 1997. Pertinent recommendations of the meeting were the following:

· The ACPWP should continue to be actively involved in the FAO Global and Regional Forestry Sector Outlook Studies.

· FAO to continue publishing "Projected Paper Mills in the World" and "Recovered Paper Data".

· FAO to promote forest inventory projects in countries such as Brazil and the Congo.

· Assistance should be provided to developing countries in forest plantation establishment and in wood utilization.

· FAO to investigate the social and economic costs of sustainable forest management.

· The ACPWP should act as a facilitator to the forest industry, to enable the sector to take a more visible part in the international forestry debate.

11. The following are the results of the 39th session of the Advisory Committee on Paper and Wood Products, held in Rome, Italy, on 23 and 24 April 1998.

· The Committee recommended that other regions be invited to present their position on production and trade flows at the next meeting. A special invitation was extended to Latin America, who offered to host the next session.

· The Committee commended the work done on the Global Fibre Supply Study, and recommended presenting it at the next COFO meeting in 1999. Furthermore, the Committee proposed that a Technical Working Committee be established to finalize the study.

Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources

12. The Tenth Session of the FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources was held in Rome, Italy, from 9 to 11 September 1997. The results and recommendations of the meeting of particular interest to COFO were the following:

· The Panel stressed the need for FAO to continue to provide a point of reference for the world community in the field of forest genetic resources, and to further strengthen efforts to catalyze and help coordinate action at national, regional and international levels.

· The Panel stressed the need for the forest genetic resources community and FAO, as applicable, to help ensure that technically and scientifically reliable information was available to relevant forestry and non-forestry fora, and thus help promote sound action towards the integration of conservation and development of forest genetic resources in programmes aimed at forest management and the sustainable utilization of forest resources.

· The Panel took note of activities which had followed the recent broadening of the mandate of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and action taken within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity to discuss biological diversity in forest ecosystems, through the establishment of a Forestry Liaison Group. With regard to the Fourth International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Leipzig, Germany, June 1996), the Panel expressed its disappointment at the decision to exclude consideration of forest genetic resources from the first Global Plan of Action on the Conservation and Use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, approved by the Conference.

· The Panel noted with satisfaction action taken by FAO to draw the issue of forest genetic resources to the attention of the 14th Session of the Committee on Forestry by introducing an item on the agenda. It welcomed the recommendations of COFO regarding assistance by FAO to a series of country-driven, action-oriented regional/sub-regional forest genetic resources workshops, and supported the suggestions by the Forestry Department to organize, in collaboration with concerned national, sub-regional and international agencies, the first of these workshops in the Sahelian Zone of Sub-Saharan Africa in 1998, followed by other similar workshops, according to a preliminary plan elaborated by the Forest Resources Division. It noted that outside assistance in funding and in-kind support to the planned workshops was being sought. Members offered their full support in planning, execution and follow-up action, as required.

· The Panel recognized the compliance of the Secretariat with its earlier recommendations regarding general focus of FAO's forest genetic resources activities. It recommended that balanced attention continue to be given to activities in the various eco-regional zones and stressed the need for continued links and close synergy between FAO's normative work and its field programme.

· The Panel passed a number of specific technical recommendations related to the exploration, collection, testing and evaluation, exchange, conservation in and ex situ, management and utilization of forest genetic resources (including breeding and the use of new biotechnologies in forest tree improvement).

· The Panel up-dated the lists of priority species by region and by operational activity regularly prepared by it, (i) with special attention to priorities in the work of FAO; and (ii) for attention of other international and/or national organizations and institutes.

· The Panel recognized FAO's international leadership role in the forest genetic resources field, and its important role in advising and collaborating with national institutes in the conservation, management and enhancement of genetic resources underpinning sustainable agricultural and forestry development.

· The Panel stressed the need to further raise awareness, at all levels, of the social, economic and environmental benefits of genetic management in forestry, and the direct and indirect contributions of forest genetic resources to food security.

· The Panel noted the increasing importance in national development plans of genetic conservation. In order to allow activities to continue in line with recommendations by concerned Statutory and Governing Bodies of the Organization which reflected increased national and international awareness of this importance, the Panel requested that efforts be made to sustain present levels of funding for FAO's forest genetic resources programme.

International Poplar Commission

13. The International Poplar Commission (IPC) held its Thirty-ninth session in Rome, Italy, on 17 September 1998. The main results and recommendations of the meeting were the following:

· The need for periodic review and revision of the titles and responsibilities of the Working Parties and consideration of the inclusion of newly-emerging issues connected with the growth and use of the Salicaceae which should be incorporated in the scope of existing or new Working Parties.

· The establishment of an Internet site (homepage) of the IPC in order to improve the exchange of information according to the functions of the IPC and to incorporate the many publications already prepared or planned.

· The importance of continuing assistance to developing countries and improving the coverage of activities to poplar species not widely known at present.

· The need to give more prominence to the growing and use of the willows was once again emphasised.

· There was broad discussion on the need to stimulate the activities of national poplar commissions.