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Mexico 1985: The Ninth World Forestry Congress

A World Forestry Congress is a relatively rare event. The Congress hosted by Mexico City this year from 1 to 12 July will be only the ninth: the first Congress was held as long ago as 1926, in Rome. Ten years elapsed before the second, held in Budapest in 1936. The third Congress, delayed by the Second World War, took place in Helsinki in 1949. Since then. Congresses have occurred very nearly once every six years: in Dehra Dun in 1954, in Seattle in 1960, in Madrid in 1966, in Buenos Aires in 1972, in Jakarta in 1978 and now in Mexico City in 1985.

The long interlude between one World Forestry Congress and the next has given the event a character and an importance it would not have if it were held every year or every two years. It permits time for reflection and time to implement and evaluate the recommendations emanating from the previous Congress.

An interlude of six or seven years also brings, inevitably, significant changes in the outside world which affect the world forestry picture. The 2000 participants from 104 countries and 17 international organizations who assembled in Jakarta seven years ago held their discussions in a context of high oil prices, energy shortages and a major international banking crisis over how to recycle petrodollars. Now, only seven years later the situation has very nearly reversed itself. Oil prices have fallen, the energy supply picture - with the notable exception of fuelwood - has stabilized, and the successful recycling of petrodollars through international loans has brought a new banking crisis: the possibility that several heavily indebted nations may go bankrupt.

The theme of the Ninth World Forestry Congress - "Forest Resources in the Integral Development of Society" - emphasizes the need for foresters to look beyond their own resource base to consider how forest policies can be formulated in the light of such global events as an international banking crisis. The purpose of the Congress is to develop clear lines of action that can serve as guidelines for (a) formulating national policies; (b) providing incentives and guidance to the private and government sectors; and (c) promoting international cooperation in forestry.

Toward this end, the Government of Mexico has put together an impressive programme for the 2500 participants expected at the Congress. In addition to the general sessions, plenary sessions and meetings of the technical commissions, the Mexican Government will be sponsoring secondary meetings, expositions, demonstrations and contests. There will also be study tours to Central America, Cuba and the United States. The Government and the Organizing Committee deserve great thanks for literally years of work put into planning and preparation.

The present issue of Unasylva is intended as a preview to the Congress. It does not contain papers that will be presented in Mexico City. Instead, it includes an interview with FAO Director-General Edouard Saouma, and five articles which, it is hoped, will provide a backdrop for Congress activities. The subjects covered by these articles - forestry beyond 2000, shifting cultivation, agroforestry, community forestry and the social dimension of forest concession agreements - do not by any means represent all of the many topics that will be covered in Mexico City. Rather, they are intended to bring forward a body of objective, state-of-the-art information on certain critical topics.

The next issue of Unasylva (Vol. 37, No. 148) will feature FAO's fortieth anniversary and will include an interview with Mr Eduardo Pesqueira Olea, Mexico's Secretary of Agriculture and Hydrological Resources. Unasylva will also, in future issues, be reporting on what happened at the Congress.

In the preparation and planning for the World Forestry Congress, FAO has played an advisory role to the Government of Mexico. The event thus has great importance for FAO. It is the only truly international forestry event which brings together individuals, companies, NGOs and governments in one place to discuss and debate forestry questions of international significance. The impact of the Congress will be a long-lasting one.

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