During this phase an understanding of the main forestry issues in the context of national development is obtained. The definition of the most feasible development options are also considered. More specifically, the strategic planning is aimed at:
- making the case for public investment in the forestry sector;
- identifying constraints, problems and opportunities for forestry development in an inter-sectoral context;
- identifying and assessing development options;
- establishing sectoral goals and objectives, the long-term development strategy (20-25 years) and the overall programme structure in the short-term (5-10 years);
- improving national capacity in policy formulation and sectoral planning.
To ensure compatibility, strategic planning must be carried out within the broader context of the national planning framework and on-going global initiatives.
Strategic planning choices should be a combination of professional analytical work and the result of public consultations through seminars, workshops and other mechanisms that foster the involvement of all stakeholders.
The strategic planning is a national undertaking. However it could be carried out in close collaboration with external development agencies when and where applicable.
Four stages may be identified:
The Action Plan should clarify and quantify the role of all partners (government, private sector, local communities and NGOs). It should identify potential sources of funding (national or international, private or public). It should include quantifiable targets and a schedule. The social, economical and environmental impacts must be assessed.
The action plan must be realistic i.e., it must take into account the national and international resources (human and financial) potentially available and both national and sectoral absorption capacity.
The strategic planning phase of the process usually results in a series of documents comprising:
- Working papers and background documents (in particular, the relevant sub-sectoral analyses)
- The presentation and description of the results of the planning phase, usually including:
- a review of the forestry sector, historical trends, present situation and future projections, along with the identification of main issues;
- a forest policy statement or its draft if still under exam;
- a long-term strategy;
- an action plan with a description of reforms and programmes to be undertaken and, in many countries, a capacity building programme.
- a summary for wider distribution and promotion.
These national forest programme documents are then distributed to the decision-makers of the country for political endorsement. They should also be circulated to all national and international partners and discussed at national and international meetings/round tables.
The national forest programme documents must be the result of a comprehensive participatory process. This is essential for the full involvement of all partners in its implementation. Insofar as the strategic planning phase has been a fully transparent, participatory and inter-sectoral process (i.e. following the basic principles presented in Part I), the endorsement of the final documents should not be difficult to obtain from both the political authorities and all other partners.
In many developing countries the process is often supported by specific projects funded by external donors (UN organisations, development banks, bilateral agencies, international NGOs). A clear distinction must be made between the national forest programme documents and the project reports which may be subject to specific requirements and standards. In all cases, the fundamental country-driven feature of the process must be enforced.