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Editorial - Funding sustainable forestry

At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, world leaders made a commitment to work towards the sustainable management and conservation of all types of forests. UNCED's Agenda 21, Chapter 11 and the "Forest Principles" all underline the urgent need and importance of providing new and additional financial resources for forestry development and management. In fact, the issue of financing cuts across all aspects of the quest for sustainable forest management.

Midway between the UNCED and the end of the century - the target date set for achieving the goals set by the so-called Earth Summit - progress is clearly being hampered by the inadequacy of financial as well as technological resources.

The net annual forestry investment of US$31.25 billion, which is the sum envisaged by UNCED during the period 1993-2000, is far from being realized. Developing countries are attracting a total investment to forestry of about US$20 billion per year from domestic and foreign sources. At the same time, however, they are suffering a reduction of forest capital as a result of annual deforestation which is estimated to be about 16 million ha.

This issue of Unasylva looks at various aspects of the overall financing situation in forestry and highlights areas where additional progress could and should be made. The issue draws heavily on material prepared for the June 1996 Workshop on Financial Mechanisms and Sources of Finance for Sustainable Forestry, held in Pretoria, South Africa. The workshop was an initiative of the Governments of South Africa and Denmark, together with the United Nations Development Programme, within the ambit of the activities organized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, established by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

On the page opposite is the Pretoria Declaration which was issued by the participants at the above-mentioned workshop. Immediately following this, M.E. Chipeta of the FAO Forestry Department presents perceptions of the main opportunities and constraints to funding forestry development in the developing regions, based on a series of regional studies carried out by FAO. The next article, by J.-L. Blanchez and Y.C. Dubé, also of the FAO Forestry Department, examines the situation in Africa in greater depth and concludes with a summary of proposals to boost forestry funding for the region. Both articles stress the need to respond to the perceptions of those who provide funds (whether domestic or external, public or private) with those of the intended beneficiaries or users.

"Innovative financing" for forestry may encompass the creation and development of entirely new financing mechanisms, or the adaptation and application of well-established financial vehicles to the special needs of sustainable forest management. The article by a four-person team from Environmental Advantage, a New York-based non-governmental organization, focuses on financial mechanisms (primarily in the private sector) that could promote the transition to, and growth of, sustainable forest management.

A particularly innovative approach to financing natural resource conservation has been the debt-for-nature swap, the first of which was launched in 1987. J.P. Resor of the World Wildlife Fund-United States discusses the experience of debt-for-nature swaps over a decade and possible new directions for the future.

In the following short article, D. Gaviria, formerly of the Colombian National Planning Office and now with the Ministry of the Environment, analyses economic and financial instruments for sustainable forestry in her country, with a focus on the impacts of Law 99, promulgated in 1993, which created the Ministry of Environment and set the groundwork for the national forest policy.

M. Morell presents the findings of an FAO study on financing mechanisms for community forestry in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The article focuses on lessons learned that have a potential application at a wider level, particularly the positive response of small-scale users to economic incentives and market signals.

One of the underlying constraints to adequate investment and financing for forestry is that forests are often assigned a very low or no market value. The article by S. Kengen, with the Brazilian Institute for Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, explores the link between forest valuation and the financing of forestry projects and programmes.

In the final article related to the main theme of this issue, K. Keipi of the Inter-American Development Bank considers the desirability and role of government incentives for plantation forestry in Latin America. The article considers both industrial and non-industrial plantations, including agroforestry systems.

Financial resources alone are not sufficient to ensure sustainable forestry but, without appropriate financing, the goal of economically efficient, socially balanced and environmentally sound forest management will never be achieved.

This issue of Unasylva also includes a provocative analysis of the state and development of Russian forest resources. The authors, A. Shvidenko and S. Nilsson (with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) assert that the popular perspective of "disappearing" Russian forests is inaccurate and that, in spite of shortcomings in forest management, the stability and regenerative capacity of the resource, and particularly of the boreal forests, is high.

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