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The future of the forests: implementing the Tropical Forestry Action Plan

Statement on TFAP
by E. Saouma

The Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP) was adopted in 1985 by the FAO Committee on Forest Development in the Tropics. In 1986 the action plan was endorsed by the FAO Committee on Forestry and the Council of FAO. Important international meetings such as the Ninth World Forestry Congress and the International Conference on Forests and Trees (SILVA) also gave their full backing to the plan. Today it enjoys the firm support of the developing countries concerned and of the international development cooperation community as a framework for strengthening and harmonizing their joint development efforts in the field of forestry.

Largely based on the lessons drawn from past successes and failures, the TFAP presents a wealth of proven technical solutions to the problems of the tropical forests. But other features of the plan are still more important than this. First, I would point to the strong emphasis it places on strategies that fully recognize the role of forestry in national and rural development, the contribution of forests and trees to food security and the function of the forest cover in the conservation of genetic resources and the maintenance of environmental stability. Second, the plan conveys a persuasive plea to add a new ingredient to these strategies, an ingredient without which they could hardly be translated into action: a high-level political commitment to back them up with sufficient human and financial resources and with the required institutional reforms.

Therefore, to implement the Tropical Forestry Action Plan implies, in the first place, living up to the challenge of generating that missing commitment from developing country governments, from governments and non-governmental organizations involved in development assistance, and from the international agencies engaged in forestry. Such a commitment must in turn be based on well-informed governments' responding to well-prepared plans and projects for forestry development at the national level consistent with the national objectives and priorities of the countries concerned.

This is why the mounting of a concerted course of action to implement the TFAP at the country level soon became the highest priority. Considering the relatively short time that has elapsed, encouraging progress has been made, which I wish to share briefly with you.

The first step was to inform all governments about the opportunities offered by the TFAP. Copies of it were sent to relevant ministries, heads of forest services and forestry research facilities. In many cases the response was a request from governments for direct consultation. These requests were followed up by senior FAO technical staff and by our sister development assistance organizations.

In the next phase, a number of multidonor forestry sector review missions were mounted to lay the groundwork for the preparation of national tropical forestry action plans. In other cases, sufficient information already existed to prepare immediately the national plans within the framework of the TFAP.

The following step was to identify and prepare project proposals based on the national plans. This stage has already begun in several countries with assistance offered under the TFAP.

To carry out all these activities, increased human and financial resources have been committed by both the recipient countries and the development assistance organizations.

Edouard Saouma, FAO Director-General

For its part, FAO is playing two key roles in this process. First, it serves as a source of information to governments and as a clearinghouse to coordinate activities. Second, it is mobilizing its technical expertise to lead or participate in TFAP missions and related activities in accordance with its role as the agency responsible for forestry matters within the United Nations system.

The plan is also opening up new avenues of cooperation between interested organizations. For example, one of the earliest actions taken within the TFAP framework was the wide circulation of a report "Tropical forests: a call for action" under the joint sponsorship of the World Resources Institute, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme. These same three organizations have recently joined with FAO in publishing an information booklet on the TFAP designed to reach the widest possible audience of decision-makers. In addition, the World Resources Institute, in collaboration with the Environment Liaison Centre, has held three regional workshops - in Africa, Asia and Latin America - to stimulate the involvement of non-governmental organizations in TFAP activities.

Another cooperative venture of great promise has been the recent Bellagio Meeting on Tropical Forestry, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation in cooperation with the World Resources Institute, UNDP, the World Bank and FAO, a report of which appears on pages 48 of this issue of Unasylva.

The implementation of the TFAP is a new and complex process and much has been learned during its initial phase. Concepts have been refined, procedures have been tested and flexibility of approach has been maintained as one of the main strengths of the whole exercise.

But although the TFAP process is flexible, the participating governments and organizations work together to achieve a common objective: that of bringing to bear the required human and financial resources to control deforestation over the coming decade and to ensure the sustainable development of tropical forest resources.

It is no exaggeration to say that the future of the forests is the future of mankind. FAO remains committed to its leadership role in the implementation of the TFAP and invites all those who share our concern for human development to join in this effort.

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