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Editorial: Tenth World Forestry Congress

17-26 September 1991, Paris, France

The First World Forestry Congress was held in 1926; since the end of the Second World War, a Congress has been held roughly every six years. These gatherings provide a unique opportunity for professionals from all levels of forestry and forest industry to discuss matters of concern on an equal footing. Thus, the overall objective of a World Forestry Congress is - through the exchange of views and experiences - to advance the knowledge and understanding of new developments in forestry, and to formulate broad recommendations for appropriate responses on a regional or worldwide basis.

World Forestry Congresses have always been landmarks in the global forestry picture, but the rapidly accelerating pace of world developments in general, and particularly those in the forestry sector, has led to the progressive complexity and increasing importance of the more recent sessions. The Fourth World Forestry Congress, held in Dehra Dun, India, in 1954, was attended by 362 foresters from 47 countries. By the Eighth World Forestry Congress, held in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1978, the number of participants had risen to more than 2 000 from 104 countries. In Paris, as many as 3 000 participants are expected.

The Tenth World Forestry Congress will be convened against a background of unprecedented challenges and opportunities. The threats to world forest resources have never been more serious. According to the latest FAO estimates, in the ten days of the Congress alone nearly 500 000 ha of tropical forest resources will have been destroyed. At the same time, concern for the conservation and wise use of world forestry resources - among technicians, policymakers and the public at large - has never been greater. In Paris, under the overall theme of "Forests, a heritage for the future", Congress members will confront the difficult task of reconciling conservation of the resource base with the need for its rational use in sustainable development, both today and in the future.

This broad concern has implications for all aspects of forestry, as evidenced in the six main discussion areas of the Congress:

· the forest, a protective heritage;
· conservation and protection of the forest heritage;
· trees and forests in rural and urban land management;
· management of the forest heritage;
· the forest heritage, an economic resource:
· policy and institutions.

Under these main headings, the Congress will present a programme composed of 25 themes and an unprecedented 104 topics. To enable participants to prepare more adequately for their mammoth mission, for the first time the organizers have agreed to the preparation and distribution of Congress papers (both official and voluntary) before the actual event.

In addition to seven full days of general assemblies and technical meetings, the Congress will be highlighted by a series of satellite meetings, excursions and expositions. Of particular note are: a one-day excursion to the state forests of Normandy on 21 September; a day of forestry-related films on 25 September; and an exhibition on forests and wood, to be on display for the duration of the Congress. Afterwards, there will be study tours to France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, in Europe; to Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon and the Niger, in Africa; and to French Guyana, in Latin America. The work of the host Government and the Organizing Committee (in France and at FAO in Rome) merits appreciation for the years of preparation required.

As in the past, the Unasylva issue immediately preceding the World Forestry Congress examines a number of the broad challenges facing forestry. In an interview, FAO Director General Edouard Saouma considers the world forestry situation and highlights the Organization's priorities for work in forestry over the coming decade. The cutting edge of FAO's forestry activities is exemplified in the assistance provided to member countries; M.K. Muthoo, Director of the FAO Forestry Operations Service, describes the recent evolution of the department's field programme. M.R. de Montalembert, Chief of the FAO Forestry Planning and Institutions Service, analyses some of the major issues underlying the need for forest policy reforms in the 1990s. J. Sayer of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) offers an NGO perspective on the conservation and protection of the tropical rain forests.

The increased attention dedicated to forestry in the media, although well-meaning, has brought with it a number of basic misconceptions. L.S. Hamilton of the East-West Center sets the record straight on eight forestry issues that are currently making headlines. J. Gadant, Secretary-General of the Organizing Committee of the Tenth World Forestry Congress paints a portrait of the French forestry situation, which will serve as a backdrop to the Congress. Finally, a special separate of forestry statistics is included with this issue.

The functions of the World Forestry Congress are advisory, not executive. The implementation of its recommendations is the exclusive concern of those to whom they are addressed: governments, international organizations, research organizations, owners and/or users of forest resources. However, it behoves all those who attend the Tenth World Forestry Congress to come with an open mind and a willingness to accept as well as offer suggestions. For in the end, the forest heritage can only be conserved through harmonized individual efforts, carried out in a context of true international collaboration.

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