ith these features, national forest programmes can serve as a means of promoting, prioritising, and co-ordinating public and private investments in sustainable forest management, without neglecting the needs and interests of the various actors


Main elements of national forest programmes

(as defined by the Practitioner's Guide of the Six-Country Initiative in Support of the UN Ad-Hoc Intergovernmental Forum on Forests)

  • National forest statement: a political expression of a country's commitment to sustainable forest management within related commitments and obligations at the international level.

  • Sector review: to establish and understanding of the forest sector and its relations and linkages to other sectors in the context on national development, and to identify key issues and priorities for further action. Depending on existing information this could be a major exercise or a continuous process.

  • Policy, legislative and institutional reform: an intersectoral process of policy formulation and institutional development to support sustainable forest management, based on the sector review and dialogue with all actors, including clarification of their roles and mandates. This includes decentralisation, empowerment of regional and local government structures, e.g. transfer of responsibilities for planning and budgeting to local levels, decentralised funding, and building of local level capacities. The reform process needs to address land tenure arrangements dealing with access to natural resources, e.g. through land allocation, land ownership and user rights and certificates. It should also address recognition and respect for customary and traditional rights of, inter alia, indigenous peoples, local communities, forest dwellers and forest owners, through, for example, the provision of an appropriate institutional (legal) framework, access to information, definition of rights and benefits, and channels of intervention.

  • Strategy development: defining strategies to implement sustainable forest management policies, including financing strategies dealing with the roles and potentials of the public and private sector, and domestic and international investment, including ODA.

  • Action plan: a bundle of measures, based on needs accessment and jointly agreed prioritisation, defined for one national planning cycle (e.g. Five Year Plan).

  • Investment programme: prioritised public sector investments, including ODA, and incentives for private and non-governmental sectors deriving from the financing strategy for sustainable forest management. In this context, public-private partnerships could be one means to overcome initial investment hurdles and to tap the financing potential of the private sector for forestry purposes.

  • Capacity building programme: and accompanying programme to assist the governmental and nongovernmental sectors in fulfilling their roles and mandates, with specific focus on strengthening capacities at the local levels.

  • Monitoring and evaluation system: multi-layered monitoring of the national forest programme and decentralised forest programmes to provide continuous feedback on nfp implementation, impacts and efficiency.

  • Co-ordination and participatory mechanisms, including conflict-resolution schemes: effective vertical and horizontal co-ordination and communication within the forest sector and with other sector, at all levels. This should include interaction with the international level, including donor involvement, and international and regional forest-related agreements and commitments. These co-ordination and participatory mechanisms should aim to involve all interested parties, to ensure right of interventions and fair processes of negotiating and compromising, e.g. through public debate, specific for a and consultative groups. These include the definition and development of national and international forest partnership agreements as mandatory instruments to support the formulation and implementation of national forest programmes in a participatory and co-ordinated manner.

With the above features, national forest programmes can serve as a means of promoting, prioritising, and co-ordinating public and private investments in sustainable forest management, without neglecting the needs and interests of the various actors, the balance between private and public interests, the economic dynamics and potential of the private sector, and the regulatory functions of the state.

In this context, the national forest programme is a technical process in the sense that the identification of goals, policies, strategies and mechanisms for implementation are based on accurate information. It is a political process in the sense that the choices between available options are the outcomes of debates, negotiations and compromises by relevant stakeholders. This means participation of all actors, including clarification of their roles and responsibilities, defining their rights of intervention and ways and means of collaboration and co-operation and, eventually, joint implementation and sharing of inputs and benefits.

As a holistic and comprehensive approach to sustainable forest management, it is evident that a national forest programme is not only a process involving the government, with its related institutions and agencies, but one which includes all actors with and interest in forests. This implies transparency at all stages of the process, as well as decentralisation of planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, following upon the principle of subsidiarity, i.e. decision-making at a level closest to the object of activities. According to the concept, decisions are taken directly by the actors and beneficiaries of forest development, within a jointly agreed institutional and regulatory framework that is compatible with the overall national forest programme.

Decentralisation allows, in practice, for the establishment of provincial, district-level, and even communal forest programmes that comply with the specific ecological and socio-economic setting, and with the needs and requirements of concerned actors at these levels. The principle and elements of national forest programmes as described above apply at these decentralised levels as they do at the national level.