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Editorial: Eleventh World Forestry Congress

13-22 October 1997, Antalya, Turkey

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 are the premier vehicle for forestry professionals from around the globe to meet face to face and to discuss matters of concern in an open and unbiased forum. The Eleventh World Forestry Congress was held in Antalya, Turkey from 13 to 22 October (this issue of Unasylva was prepared less than one month before the Congress itself).

As the last of these gatherings this century, the Eleventh World Forestry Congress carried with it the special responsibility of summing up what we have achieved and of looking ahead to the challenges of the third millennium. Against this background, the general theme selected for the Congress was "Forestry for sustainable development: towards the twenty-first century", clear recognition of the importance of viewing forestry not as an isolated technical discipline, but rather as an important component of overall socio-economic development. The theme amply reflects the unique opportunity offered to the Congress to undertake initiatives in the follow-up to the discussion of global forest issues at the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, the fifth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development and the special session of the United Nations General Assembly, a process which concluded in June 1997. This is the opportunity for the forestry sector at large to provide technical responses to the political issues raised in these fore, and to identify action to be taken at the interregional, regional and national levels to respond to the challenges facing world forestry, and to consider new directions necessary to help orient forestry towards overall sustainable development.

The Technical Programme of the Congress comprised eight major technical discussion areas:

· forests and tree resources;
· forests, biological diversity and the maintenance of the natural heritage;
· protective and environmental functions of forests;
· productive functions of forests;
· the economic contribution of forestry to sustainable development;
· social dimensions of forestry's contribution to sustainable development;
· policies, institutions and means for sustainable forestry development; and
· ecoregional review.

Under these main headings, the Congress programme presented some 38 themes for discussion, each supported by a special paper and, comprehensively, some 1200 voluntary papers. Following the practice initiated at the Tenth World Forestry Congress, held in Paris in 1991, to facilitate the work of the participants in adequately preparing for their discussions, the Congress organizers committed themselves to the preparation and distribution of Congress papers before the actual event. In addition, the technical documentation contained in the printed Congress documentation has been made available over the Internet, hosted on the FAO forestry site: WAICENT/FAOINFO/FORESTRY/WFORCONG/PUBLI/ default.htm#TOP. In addition, the complete proceedings of the Congress will be available on CD-ROM.

Given the special status of this Congress as the last in the twentieth century, unlike Unasylva issues associated with previous World Forestry Congresses (which offered articles on related topics), this issue of the journal presents its readers with material taken directly from the Congress proceedings. The delay in publication of this issue of the journal is due to this decision to include this time-bound material. Nonetheless, we apologize to our readers who are accustomed to receiving their Unasylva issues at regular intervals.

The issue opens with the opening keynote speech to the technical sessions of the Congress by FAO Assistant Director-General and head of the Forestry Department, David A. Harcharik. The speech clearly and convincingly sets out sustainable forest management (with its environmental, economic and social elements) as the conceptual framework to help the world forestry community ensure that forests and trees can be sustained and deliver their full development, for current and future generations.

Following Mr Harcharik's speech are adaptations of the position papers of the seven main Congress headings (for the ecoregional review, no general position paper was commissioned by the Congress organizers). The adaptations of these papers, written by recognized global experts in their respective fields, were undertaken primarily to respond to a need to shorten the papers from their approximately 10 000-word full length, to a size more appropriate to Unasylva. The complete versions of the position papers may be consulted at the above Internet address. Taken as a whole, the articles present a panoramic perspective on the current status of the world's forests and the challenges that will need to be addressed by those concerned with forest development for the future.

Complementing the articles based on the Congress position papers is an analytical summary, by Professor Emeritus Lawrence Roche, of a selection of the voluntary papers submitted to the Congress. Through Mr Roche's vision, these papers collectively provide a worldwide view of forestry as it is actually practiced and provide the context within which the position and special papers find their relevance and significance.

The names of several of the authors of the position papers (and of many of the special papers) will be familiar to the readers of Unasylva. In fact, in some cases the material presented may also be familiar to our readers, who enjoy a privileged position in terms of access to top forestry authors writing on key topics. Nonetheless, these papers as a whole represent a valid record of the state of understanding on world forestry at the close of the twentieth century.

The next issue of Unasylva will present readers with the full text of the Antalya Declaration which will reflect the conclusions and recommendations of the Congress participants (anticipated to be more than 3 000). Although the functions of the World Forestry Congress are advisory rather than executive, the messages that will emerge from this Congress will be of significant importance in shaping the future of world forestry.

Future issues of Unasylva will continue to draw heavily on the wealth of information produced for the Congress, particularly the voluntary papers that might otherwise not receive the attention they merit.

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