Item 9 of the Provisional Agenda


Rome, Italy, 1-5 March 1999


Secretariat Note


The sustainable management of the world's forests remains one of the major challenges facing FAO member nations. This paper proposes a medium-term strategic response by FAO to this challenge in the forestry sector, based on recent global developments, the deliberations of COFO and the recommendations of the Second Meeting of the High-Level Panel of External Experts on Forestry to the Director-General of FAO. Details are given of the scope of the proposed programme, with priority activities in global forestry statistics and information, the development of technologies for the conservation and sustainable management of trees and forests, institution strengthening, and support to international processes.


1. The fourteenth session of COFO is being held at a time when FAO is undertaking a major strategic planning exercise. A draft of the FAO Strategic Framework (COFO-99/6/Supp.1) is before the Committee for review concerning forestry issues; this key policy document will be amended in the light of reactions from FAO's Technical Committees (COFO, COFI and COAG) and from other sources, before being presented for approval to the thirtieth session of the FAO Conference in November 1999.

2. The Organization is also introducing a new methodology for programme planning, which aims to sharpen the formulation and presentation of programme proposals as part of the strategic planning exercise. Detailed proposals for the Programme of Work and Budget, 2000-2001 for the Major Programme 2.4 are, however, still being developed and are not yet available.

3. The thirteenth session of COFO (March 1997) considered the medium-term strategy for forestry (1998-2003) and priorities for the Programme of Work and Budget, 1998-99. The Committee recommended that the Assistant Director-General of the Forestry Department should prepare a broad strategic framework for the forestry programme in FAO and further recommended that the Regional Forestry Commissions should be involved in the process. The Committee suggested that note be taken of the document by the Conference in November 1997 and that it be submitted to the present session of COFO. The requested framework was subsequently drafted in English, French and Spanish, under the title "FAO's Strategic Plan for Forestry" (September 1997) and distributed to the bureaux of the regional forestry commissions and to member countries of COFO. It was presented at a side meeting at the World Forestry Congress (Antalya, Turkey, October 1997), among other fora, and has been reviewed at each session of the six Regional Forestry Commissions held in 1998.

4. The 1997 draft Strategic Plan for Forestry has been modified in the light of comments received from the regional forestry commissions, eleven member countries, five institutions, five NGOs or individuals, other FAO Departments and the Programme Committee. It has also been brought into line with the draft FAO Strategic Framework. It is available to delegates as COFO-99/6/Supp. 2.

5. The purpose of this paper, consistent with the recommendation of the thirteenth session of COFO, is to outline the amended Strategic Plan for Forestry (second draft) within the proposed FAO Strategic Framework, and to summarise their implications for Major Programme 2.4, Forestry in the six-year period 2000-2005.


6. The forests and forestry sector is in rapid evolution. International concern over continued forest degradation and loss continues. Rapid and complex political, institutional and technological changes are occurring. There is unprecedented public commitment to forest conservation and increasing public involvement in forest management decisions. Many forestry issues are and will continue to be viewed regionally or globally, and there are a growing number of organizations involved in global forestry matters.

7. Almost everywhere there is a need to balance conflicting demands on forests for goods (both wood and non-wood products) and a wide range of services: environmental; economic; social, cultural, recreational and amenity services; tourism and infrastructure. A concerted effort to reconcile competing claims, underpinned by a comprehensive policy framework, is required to resolve this conflict.

8. Substantially improved information on the forest and other sectors is required to facilitate the balancing of demands on forests. In particular, this is essential for information regarding forest resources.

9. Sustainable management is the fundamental means for forestry development. There is, however, a lack of practical experience in the successful development or implementation of systems for sustainable forest management in the broad sense in many countries - in all regions. The proposed legally-binding international instrument for all types of forests could be a possible means for improved implementation and enforcement of policies and legislation established by sovereign nations.

10. The prevailing system of prices for wood raw material in the form of stumpage and concession fees established by government decrees is leading in many cases to grossly under-priced wood resources. A system where the prices are established through market forces would, in most cases, dramatically increase revenues to the forest owners. The higher value of the raw material would also stimulate its better utilization.

11. The sustainable management of the world's trees and forests in the broad sense will thus depend on a combination of factors:


12. Taking account of comments received and of the current and future issues and opportunities facing the world's forests, the Mission of FAO in forestry has been amended as:

To enhance human well-being through support to member countries in the sustainable management of the world's trees and forests

13. The Forestry Goals of FAO have been redefined since the 1997 draft Strategic Plan for Forestry as:

FO Goal 1 The contribution of trees and forests to sustainable land use, food security and to economic and social development and cultural values at national, regional and global levels maximised;

FO Goal 2 The conservation, sustainable management and improved utilisation of trees and forest systems and their genetic resources;

FO Goal 3 Increased world-wide access to reliable and timely forestry information.


14. Consistent with the proposed FAO Strategic Framework and linked to the amended Mission and Goals (above), the following medium-term objectives, programmes and priorities have been developed.

15. It is proposed to maintain a broad and comprehensive programme in Forestry, to address a range of technical areas related to forest development and sustainable management. This will enable the Organization to respond to the broad variety of requests from its members and will give it the flexibility to build new areas of emphasis as future needs and opportunities arise. This is consistent with FAO's commitment to remaining both comprehensive and flexible enough to address emerging priorities. It will also ensure that FAO will (i) remain aware of the work of other organizations and (ii) a source of expertise in a wide range of technical areas. FAOs Forestry Department will, however, focus on certain activities which are grouped in priority clusters described below.

16. Eight Medium-term Objectives have been identified in support of the Goals, based on the review of evolving prospects (above) and also derived from Reports of COFO in 1995 and 1997 and the Report of the Second Meeting of the High-Level Panel of External Experts on Forestry to the Director-General of FAO (COFO-99/Inf.3). They are listed below, with a description of the programme associated with each objective. In most cases the indicators of success or the measurable output of the activity is apparent but in others the identification of indicators or measurable outputs will be done during the detailed medium-term planning process.

(a) Strengthen the information and databases on forest and tree resources

17. The function of the Organization to "...collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information relating to food, nutrition and agriculture" (Article I of the Basic Texts of FAO), remains one of the core competences of FAO. In the forestry sector, statistics and information will continue to be collected on:

18. The FAO Forest Programme website, already significantly revised and expanded as presented to this session of COFO, will be further developed to provide even better access to external and internal users. Existing on-line databases will be expanded, and an increasing proportion of FAO's forestry information, both textual and statistical, will be incorporated into new databases. A harmonious structure for these databases will ensure compatibility of data.

19. Training and institutional strengthening will continue to be an important feature of this medium-term objective.

(b) Strengthen national forestry policies

20. Analyses of country- and regional-level forest and trade policy will continue, as will work on better understanding institutional issues and the fiscal requisites of sustainable forest management.

21. FAO will continue to coordinate action to facilitate national forest programmes (nfps) including assistance in policy development and strategic planning, and in cross-sectoral and land-useplanning. Special emphasis will be given to assisting developing countries and countries with economies in transition in developing policy and planning capacity, with particular reference to integrated land-use planning and the role of forestry in food security and in creating an investment climate that will attract the necessary financial resources to implement nfps.

(c) Strengthen the technical foundation for sustainable forest resources conservation and development and forest product development and utilisation

22. This medium-term objective covers technical aspects of best practices for sustainable forest management and use. One of its principal components will continue to be support to the implementation of criteria and indicators for the sustainable management of forests through regional and eco-regional processes.

23. Measures for the conservation and management of forest genetic resources, wildlife and forest ecosystems will be reviewed in all types of forests, while studies on management systems and improved logging practices will focus largely on (a) the tropical humid zones, and (b) arid and semi-arid zones.

24. Support will continue to be given in the field of tree improvement, and studies will be carried out on the environmental, social and economic impacts of plantations. Studies will be carried out related to trees outside forests, especially the emerging issues of recreation and urban and peri-urban forestry, as well as agro-forestry.

25. Work on the utilisation of forest products will focus on appropriate processing techniques, employment opportunities and infrastructure development, forest products marketing and the assessment of the contribution of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) to food security.

(d) Improve or maintain the health and condition of forests

26. This medium-term objective covers assistance to countries in safeguarding the health and vitality of forest ecosystems and plantations from insects, diseases and other harmful biotic and abiotic agents.

27. Technical assistance will be provided to member countries in forest fire management and on aspects of pollution and climate change as they relate to the health of forests and trees.

28. The establishment of forest pest management networks will be supported and the furthering of cooperation among countries in the management of forest pests of regional importance.

(e) Strengthen countries' institutional, legal and financial frameworks for the forestry sector

29. This medium-term objective will comprise advice to member countries on legislation and institutional reform related to the forestry sector. It will support sustainable forest management through extension and the development of methodologies for the accommodation of multiple interests, as well as forest research and education.

30. Forest research will be assisted in Africa through the establishment of a forest research network for Africa (FORNESSA).

(f) Improve regional and international discussion and collaboration on forest policy and technical issues

31. Major Programme 2.4, Forestry will continue to serve as Task Manager for Agenda 21, Chapters 11 and 13, and FAO will be lead agency for the International Year of Mountains in 20021  It will continue to give administrative support and technical inputs to the Inter-governmental Forum on Forests (IFF) as well as to the Inter-agency Task Force on Forests (ITFF). It will also continue to provide technical support to the International Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN Framework Convention on Global Climate Change (including the Kyoto Protocol). If requested, it will provide technical inputs or advice to proposals for a possible forest convention.

32. The six Regional Forestry Commissions, the five Statutory Bodies and two Panels of Experts will continue to be serviced under this medium-term objective.

(g) Strengthen partnerships with other groups working in forestry

33. The medium-term objective will seek to enhance partnerships and collaboration with all actual and potential partners in the quest for sustainable forest development.

34. Collaboration will be sought with international and regional forestry research organizations in efforts to strengthen national research systems and reinforce links between research and development.

35. Links will be strengthened with the private sector in work related to industrial forest operations, processing and trade. Partnerships with NGOs which are active in sector studies, field programmes, and international policy initiatives will be further developed.

36. Networking and meetings (FAO's role as a neutral forum) will facilitate consultation and collaboration between governments, the private sector, NGOs and civil society.

37. Relationships with regional and international development banks, development agencies, and trade groups, both for promotion of investment and exchange of information will be further strengthened.

(h) Increase social and economic equity and improve human well-being through support to participatory forestry and sustainable management of forests and trees in marginal areas

38. Through the Community Forestry Programme, FAO will work to improve the capacity of institutions involved in forestry to develop and promote participatory approaches which enable local people and other stakeholders (particularly the disadvantaged) to be involved in forest planning and management, and to derive adequate benefits from this involvement. Emphasis will be put on developing an enabling policy and institutional environment for effective locally-based management. Continued effort will be made to encourage equity in benefits and decision-making, especially as related to gender.

Cross-organizational strategies

39. The medium-term objectives described above will be implemented through cross-organizational strategies adopted in the FAO Strategic Framework, especially: ensuring excellence, enhancing multi-disciplinarity, and broadening partnerships and alliances.

40. Decentralization to the regional and sub-regional offices and support at Headquarters and through the decentralized offices to the field programme will be continued.


41. Four priority clusters have been identified for the medium term from the medium-term objectives and programmes described above.

- Global forestry statistics and information

- Technologies and methodologies for the conservation and use of trees and forests

- Institution strengthening

- Support to international processes


42. The Committee is invited to review and comment on the amended Strategic Plan for Forestry (second draft). In particular, the Committee's views are sought on the mission statement, goals and priorities.


UN General Assembly Resolution A/53/L.24 and Report of the 115th Session of the FAO Council, paras. 103-105.