Common Information Framework for forest-related reporting

Introduction

National forest-related reporting is requested by several conventions, agreements, intergovernmental agencies and non-legally binding processes. Reporting varies in scope, periodicity, as well as the nature of the information.

The forest-related information reported to these instruments and organizations falls into two broad categories:

  1. actions taken to implement international commitments; and
  2. situation and trends in ecological, social and economic aspects of forests.

Information framework is defined here as a set of principles and methods that international bodies can apply to organize and store information. Easy access to information that is organized in a systematic way would help organizations and instruments design information requests, prepare reporting schedules, and use information. Similarly, such access would assist countries to compile and manage information for reporting purposes. Reporting is defined here as official country reports submitted to international bodies, normally conventions or intergovernmental agencies.

The purpose of a common information framework for forest-related reporting is to create an environment for sharing information on forests that minimizes reporting burden and maximizes the reusability of information provided. It is long-term effort to facilitate access to information and its use.

Benefits

  • conformity and cross-references between information requests, including terms and definitions, will increase consistency and comparability of information submitted to various international instruments, organizations and processes;
  • better coordination between reporting processes will reduce inconsistencies between reports;
  • information can be used for several purposes and across different processes thereby reducing repetitive requests;
  • information management and documentation increase transparency and quality in reported information, and make it easier to reuse information, retrieve and verify data for further analyses;
  • better information management reduces errors, and improves reporting and provision of trends over time;
  • specifying more clearly how the requested information will be used in analyses and reports to help the requesting international body achieve its objectives may increase the usefulness of the reported information, and the motivation to submit reports;
  • improved prospects for synchronized information requests;
  • enhancement of coordination among focal points.
How to organize information - Common thematic areas of sustainable forest management

Forest information is categorized according to seven thematic areas of sustainable forest management (SFM). These areas express key ambitions and challenges for forestry. They are a result of international discussions and agreements following the Earth Summit in Rio 1992, and therefore express a broad consensus of what sustainable forest management aims at.

The thematic areas are based on the criteria of the nine on-going regional/international processes on criteria and indicators for SFM, and were acknowledged by the International Conference on Criteria and Indicators in Guatemala in February 2003 (CICI 2003) and by the FAO Committee on Forestry in 2003. In February 2004, the FAO/ITTO Expert Consultation on Criteria and Indicators recognized that these areas are important for facilitating international communication on forest-related issues.

The seven thematic areas are:

  1. Extent of forest resources
  2. Biological diversity
  3. Forest health and vitality
  4. Productive functions of forest resources
  5. Protective functions of forest resources
  6. Socio-economic functions
  7. Legal, policy and institutional framework

The seven themes also provide a structure to which forestry information can be organized. Consequently, the CPF information framework on forest-related reporting has adopted the seven themes to categorize information.

For the purpose of the information framework prototype, the following draft descriptions of the seven themes are used:

1. Extent of forest resources

The theme expresses an overall desire to have significant forest cover and stocking, including trees outside forests, to support the social, economic and environmental dimensions of forestry. For example, the existence and extent of specific forest types are important as a basis for conservation efforts. The theme encompasses ambitions to reduce deforestation and to restore and rehabilitate forest landscapes. This theme also includes the important function of forests and trees outside forests to store carbon and thereby contribute to moderating the global climate.

2. Biological diversity

The theme concerns the conservation and management of biological diversity at the ecosystem (landscape), species and genetic levels. Such conservation, including to protect areas with fragile ecosystems, ensures that diversity of life is maintained, and provides opportunities to develop new products, for example medicines, in the future. Genetic improvement is also a means to improve forest productivity, for example to ensure a high wood production in intensively managed forests.

3. Forest health and vitality

Forests need to be managed so that risks and impacts of unwanted disturbances are minimized, including fires, airborne pollution, storm felling, invasive species, pests and insects. Such disturbances may impact social, economic as well as environmental dimensions of forestry.

4. Productive functions of forest resources

Forests and trees outside forests provide a wide range of wood and non-wood forest products. The theme expresses the ambition to maintain a high and valuable supply of primary forest products, while a the same time ensuring that production and harvesting are sustainable and do not compromise management options of future generations.

5. Protective functions of forest resources

The theme addresses the role of forests and trees outside forests to help moderate soil, hydrological and aquatic systems. This includes to maintain clean water including e.g. healthy fish populations, as well as to reduce risks or impacts of floods, avalanches, erosion and droughts. Protective functions of forest resources also contribute to ecosystem conservation efforts. Protective functions of forest resources have strong cross-sectoral aspects, as the benefits to agriculture and rural livelihoods are high.

6. Socio-economic functions

The theme addresses the contributions of forest resources to the overall economy, for example through employment, values generated through processing and marketing of forest products and energy, trade, and investments in the forest sector. The theme also addresses the important functions of forest to host and protect sites and landscapes that have high cultural, spiritual or recreational values, and thus include aspects of land tenure, indigenous and community management systems, and traditional knowledge.

7. Legal, policy and institutional framework

The theme includes the legal, policy and institutional arrangements necessary to support the above six themes, including participatory decision making, governance and law enforcement, and monitoring and assessment of progress. The theme also addresses broader societal aspects, including fair and equitable use of forest resources, science research and education, infrastructure arrangements to support the forest sector, transfer of technology and capacity building, and public information and communication.