National forest programmes
Key characteristics of nfps
Unlike its predecessors, the nfp concept explicitly pertains to all countries and to all types of forests in tropical, subtropical and temperate areas. It reflects a global consensus on how forests ought to be managed and developed, but it is neither legally binding in itself nor embedded in any legally binding instrument.
An nfp helps a given country approach the objective of sustainable use, conservation and development of forests – by guiding and streamlining existing activities or programmes (in the forest sector and beyond) towards this goal.
An nfp is not a tangible document in the sense of a master plan, but a participatory process with defined outputs. The nfp goes far beyond a planning document only. It is an iterative, long-term process, composed of various elements, including the country policy and legal framework related to forests, the participation mechanisms, the capacity-building initiatives and others. In all its phases the nfp provides for learning cycles which allow the realities experienced along the way to be shared; and for lessons to be learned in order to fine-tune the process. The active call for feedback from stakeholders makes nfps dynamic, adaptive and negotiable.
The nfp does not only provide for forest policy development and planning but also for their implementation on the ground. Participatory planning is key to the process, hence links between normative planning (policy formulation), sector planning (elaboration of a strategy) and operational planning (action programmes) are fostered. They aim to promote participatory implementation where the results of agreed objectives, policies and strategies on sustainable forest management are translated into specific actions developed by the stakeholders. Joint M&E is also part of this process.
An nfp should not be regarded as an additional, parallel exercise, opposed to or competing with existing approaches to sustainable development. Instead, existing approaches can be taken as an entry point into an nfp, and themselves be integrated into the nfp process. Each country will need to find its own entry point for an nfp as based on its own set of circumstances, existing processes, institutional arrangements and capacities. Entry points may be based on a problem such as a punctual crisis (e.g. in sector finances), imminent threats (e.g. effects of deforestation), long-pending problems (e.g. sector performance gaps), or on a potential (e.g. increased contribution to national economic development and poverty alleviation, wood and energy supply, or ecological stabilization).
The nfp concept goes beyond forest-technical matters in that it is intrinsically linked with matters of good governance. Nfps work best under decentralization, public consultation and democratic participation.
Phases and related outputs
Nfps typically evolve in a sequence of phases that can be continuously repeated in an evolving cycle of learning and adaptation from experience. These phases are intended to help the nfp practitioner in mapping the nfp process of his/her country, as well as to assist in the identification of definite outputs. In most cases, these outputs form a set of so-called “elements” that constitute the nfp process.
As an open-ended, country-driven and adaptive process, there is no common recipe for how to develop an nfp. However, the guiding “principles” agreed upon by all countries participating in the international forest debate entail certain norms and orientation that should steer an nfp process. The principles pertain to both the content and the entire development of the nfp.