In memoriam - Hans W.O. Röbbel
Hans W.O. Röbbel, a career staff member of FAO who dedicated nearly his whole life to forestry, died in Brussels, Belgium on 13 October 1999. He was 59.
RÖBBEL FAMILY photo
A native of Germany, Mr Röbbel obtained a master's degree and a Ph.D. in forestry (wildlife management) from the University of Göttingen, Germany. After working briefly as a Lecturer at the Universities of Göttingen and Hanover and as a Senior Nature Conservation Officer in Cape Town, South Africa, Röbbel joined FAO in 1969 as Wildlife Officer in Botswana. His initial posting was through the Associate Professional Officer (then called Associate Expert) programme, under which young professionals join FAO for a limited term to gain experience and expertise, and then generally return to their home countries. For Röbbel, however, the APO post was the start of an uninterrupted career with FAO lasting 30 years, the majority of which was dedicated to forestry.
Röbbel was transferred to FAO headquarters in 1970 and successively held positions as Wildlife Officer, Project Operations Officer (Wildlife Management) and Operations Officer (Africa Desk) in the Operations Service, Forestry Department. He became Senior Operations Officer in 1983 and assumed the post of Deputy to the Director, Forestry Operations Service in 1985. Röbbel was nominated Assistant to the Assistant Director-General, Forestry Department in 1992, a post he held until a general FAO restructuring at the end of 1994. From the beginning of his career, Röbbel consistently integrated technical, social and environmental considerations in his approach to forestry - a perspective that became the norm for most foresters only much later.
Notwithstanding his long service in the Forestry Department, Röbbel had a keen commitment to the overall mandate of the Organization, and in 1995 the Director-General appointed him to the post of Director, Conference, Council and Protocol Affairs Division. In 1996 he became Director of the Field Operations Division of the Technical Cooperation Department. This was something of a homecoming for Röbbel, as the Technical Cooperation Department had assumed overall responsibility for FAO's project activities, including those in forestry. Known for his dedication, hard work and an astounding capacity to absorb and retain detailed information, Röbbel was a vibrant man whose physical presence increased in parallel with his rise within the Organization. He jokingly claimed that his weight had increased one kilo for each year of service at FAO. His sharp wit and plainspokenness were tempered by a keen sense of the political realities of the international development environment. He was equally at home with and respected by forest ministers and other government counterparts, colleagues at work and field-level foresters. In his indifference to rank, sex and colour he exemplified the ideals of international civil service.
Complementing his efficiency and political sense was his conviviality. He was a great teller of jokes and stories, and "his" table at the café across the street from FAO headquarters was always the after-hours venue for hilarious and often outrageous tales about his experiences.
Mr Röbbel is survived by his wife and daughter.
Eleventh Session of the FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources
The eleventh session of the FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources was held from 29 September to
1 October 1999 at FAO headquarters. Its objectives were to review work carried out in the field of forest genetic resources since the previous session of the panel (September 1997); to discuss priorities for action at the national, regional, ecoregional and global levels; and to make recommendations on priorities and the future focus of FAO's activities in the field.
The Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources was established in 1968 with a mandate to "help plan and coordinate FAO's efforts to explore, utilize and conserve the gene resources of forest trees and, in particular, help prepare detailed short- and long-term programmes of action, and to provide information to Member Governments". The 15 members of the Panel, appointed by the Director-General of FAO, represent various regions of the world and provide a broad range of technical and scientific expertise.
The work of the Panel is supported by a network of national institutions which provide the Panel and its Secretariat with information on activities and priorities on a continuing basis. The recommendations of the Panel are widely used by national and international institutions and donor agencies to guide action in this field.
After reviewing forest genetic resources activities within the regions, global developments and FAO's recent work, the Panel discussed new developments at the policy, institutional and scientific or technical levels and their implications for the Organization's work in forest genetic resources. The Panel took note of the debate that had taken place in other international fora, notably within the framework of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Convention on Biological Diversity, with regard to intellectual property rights, access to genetic resources, the use of genetically modified organisms and biosafety. It acknowledged that biotechnologies could have considerable potential, provided that due attention and resources be allocated to the conservation and breeding work underpinning their use. The Panel urged FAO to continue to provide timely information to countries and international organizations on issues related to the wise use of biotechnologies in forestry.
The Panel noted action taken by FAO, in collaboration with other bodies, to support the organization of country-driven, action-oriented workshops on the management of forest genetic resources. The meeting reviewed the outcome of the first two workshops (dry-zone sub-Saharan Africa, September 1998; South Pacific, March 1999) and noted that the next workshop would be held for southern and eastern Africa. It was noted that countries in northern and eastern Asia and Central America would like to receive assistance in the organization of similar workshops.
The Panel stressed the need for continued and increased attention to:
- support to national institutes in the development and implementation of forest genetic resources programmes within the framework of regional and subregional workshops and strategies, and support to networking and twinning;
- further development of methodologies and activities on in situ conservation of forest genetic resources coupled with forest management and sustainable resource utilization;
- facilitation of exchange of information, technologies and forest reproductive materials for evaluation and conservation, and dissemination of information on access, benefit-sharing and biosafety;
- assistance to national institutes in review of seed diffusion pathways to help ensure that a wide range of germplasm users is reached;
- provision of up-to-date information on the state of the world's forest genetic resources, notably through continued development of the FAO World-Wide Information System on Forest Genetic Resources (REFORGEN);
- raising of awareness of forest genetic resources issues using traditional and new methods of information dissemination, including the annual FAO bulletin Forest Genetic Resources, and continued collaboration with the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) on harmonization of concepts and terms.
The Panel updated its lists of priority species by region and by operational activity, drawing attention to a limited number of specific species and genera (including mahoganies and neem) for which it recommended that FAO help strengthen international and national activities of importance to a range of countries.
The Panel stressed the need to continue to raise awareness of the social, economic and environmental benefits of conservation and wise utilization of forest genetic resources, and of the direct and indirect contributions of such action to food security. It stressed the need to further emphasize the compatibility of resource conservation and genetic management with the managed utilization of forest resources to meet present needs. The Panel agreed on the importance of continued FAO assistance in the elaboration of dynamic regional and/or subregional action plans, based on priorities and needs identified by the countries concerned, with a view to eventual development of a country-driven, participatory, global action framework for the conservation and sustainable utilization of forest genetic resources.
Forestry colleagues receive FAO awards
B.R. Sen Award
The B.R. Sen Award is conferred yearly to an FAO field officer who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the country or countries to which he or she was assigned. The 1998 award was presented to Eduardo Seminario Martin of Peru in recognition of his achievement in developing and utilizing participatory approaches to integrated watershed management and environmental policy and planning in Burundi.
Eduardo Seminario (right) receives the 1998 B.R. Sen Award from FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf
- FAO/11877-D14/L. SPAVENTA
From 1992 to 1997, Mr Seminario managed a project to create a pilot scheme for participatory and integrated watershed management in the Vugizo area of Makamba Province, Burundi. The project also aimed to facilitate the incorporation of the participatory and integrated watershed management approach into national policies for rural development and natural resource conservation and into decentralized planning systems; to disseminate information on the methods, techniques and tools validated in the field throughout the country and the region; and to replicate the pilot experience of Vugizo in other areas.
In 1994, when ongoing turmoil in the country had begun increasingly to hinder field activities, Mr Seminario was particularly active in trying to smooth the social and ethnic strains mounting in Vugizo, by continuously promoting a constructive dialogue in the framework of the collaborative management forum established by the project. When for security reasons Mr Seminario was asked to leave the project area, he continued to work for peacekeeping in Bujumbura.
Based on the very positive results of the Vugizo project, Mr Seminario was made responsible for the formulation of a project to extend the approach to the rest of the country, and served as its Chief Technical Adviser from February 1998 until his transfer to Haiti in mid-1999. In this capacity, he made an outstanding contribution to the development of a national environmental policy that responds to people's needs and aspirations and is well integrated into the multiethnic social setting of the country.
The awards for both 1998 and 1999 were presented at the biennial Conference of FAO in November 1999. Abdelouahhab Zaid of Morocco received the 1999 award for his work with the Date Production Support Programme in Namibia.
Edouard Saouma Award goes to forest legislation project in Cuba
The Forest Department, Ministry of Agriculture of Cuba has been awarded the 1998-1999 Edouard Saouma Award, presented biennially to an institution that has implemented a project funded by FAO's Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) with particular efficiency. Cuba's Forest Department formulated legislation on forestry intended to improve sustainable forest management within the country and to ensure people's participation in forestry activities. The project, TCP/CUB/5612, was overseen jointly by the FAO Forestry Department and the FAO Legal Office.
Former FAO Director-General Edouard Saouma (left) with Elias Linares Landa, Director of Cuba's Forestry Department
- FAO/11877-D30/L. SPAVENTA
The new Forest Law offers an improved framework for sustainable forest management, providing for people's involvement in forest activities as well as incentives for private forestry. Following enactment of the law, Cuba's Forestry Department began drafting implementing regulations (a process which is now completed, with the official adoption of the Forest Regulations). In addition, it undertook a review of existing wildlife legislation with a view to reforming it.
The Cuban institution shares this year's award with the General Department of Plant Protection of Yemen, recognized for a fruiticultural pest control project.