Final Report - Kotka IV Expert Consultation

Global Forest Resources Assessments - Linking National and International Efforts

(Final version 23 July 2002)

Background

  1. FAO has, on request from its member countries, implemented assessments of global forest resources since 1947, in collaboration with countries and other partners. The latest report was the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000), published in 2001.


  2. At its fifteenth session in March 2001, the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO1) was informed about the main findings of the FRA 2000. COFO made a number of recommendations in relation to forest resources assessments, reflected also in the subsequent FRA 2000 Main report.


  3. In particular, COFO recommended that the Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) programme continue to be a priority for the FAO Forestry Department. FAO was requested to provide continued technical and financial assistance to build national capacities for carrying out forest assessments. Of particular relevance is the following paragraph in the COFO 2001 report:


  4. "47. The Committee noted the inclusion of a wider range of forest-related variables in FRA 2000 than in past assessments. It recommended that FAO continue its efforts to carry out broad assessments that included various aspects of forest resources, such as biological diversity, forest health, and resource use. While acknowledging the importance of the studies on forest cover and cover change, the Committee recognized that the monitoring of indicators of sustainable forest management would require assessment of qualitative forest and ecosystem parameters, as well as variables related to social and economic features of forest use."

  5. FAO's role in spearheading global forest resources assessments and country capacity building for forest assessments has also been acknowledged in other intergovernmental fora, for example in the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests in 1997 which also stated that "national inventories are an important basis for effective national forest programmes", that "Forest assessments at the national level should adopt an integrated and holistic multidisciplinary approach, and should be user-oriented and demand-driven.", and that "International and national forest assessments should take account of appropriate international, regional, subregional and national-level criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management."


  6. In light of the above, FAO in collaboration with UNEP and UNECE, and with support from the Government of Finland, arranged the "Kotka IV" expert consultation on "Global Forest Resources Assessments - Linking National and International efforts" in Kotka, Finland on 1-5 July 2002.


  7. The Kotka IV meeting was the fourth expert consultation held in this location on the subject global forest resources assessment. The previous consultations were held in 1987, 1993 and 1996. The latter of these, Kotka III, was held to define the scope and output of FRA 2000, and resulted in detailed specifications of tables and variables. By comparison, Kotka IV addressed more conceptual and strategic aspects of global forest resources assessments, including aspects relevant at regional and national levels, and building on the experiences from FRA 2000 and considering future reporting requirements at the international level.


  8. The objective of Kotka IV was formulated as to make recommendations to FAO and its partners regarding:


    • The overall scope of global forest assessments;


    • The level and mechanisms for participation of countries;


    • The relationships between FAO/FRA and other international bodies;


    • Organization of secretariats and supporting groups, particularly the establishment of a global advisory group;


    • The scope and technical approach of country capacity building related to national forest assessments;


    • The role of independent remote sensing surveys in future global assessments.

Terminology used

  1. For the purpose of this report, the following terms and concepts are defined. Note also that some of the terms and concepts are further elaborated throughout this report:



  2. Forest resources

    Forest resources explicitly include forests, other wooded land and trees outside of the forest, as defined by FAO.

    National Forest Assessment

    A national process to collect, manage, make available and analyze information on forest resources, their management and use covering the entire country, including also analyses, evaluations and scenario development for use, e.g., in policy processes.

    National Forest Inventory (NFI)

    The principal activity to collect data within a National Forest Assessment. A NFI is based on systematic field sampling and can be complemented by remote sensing components.

    Global Forest Resources Assessment (GFRA)

    The global process led by FAO that collects, analyzes, manages and makes available information about forest resources, their management and uses for all countries.

    Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) Programme

    The FAO Programme tasked to lead the implementation of GFRA, and to support National Forest Assessments


Consultation process

  1. The Kotka IV consultation was organized as an FAO Expert Consultation with the title "Global Forest Resources Assessment - Linking National and International Efforts". The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Economic Commission to Europe (UNECE) co-sponsored the meeting. The Government of Finland hosted the consultation and provided the necessary financial contributions to make the consultation possible, and in addition, through the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), provided substantial in-kind support to the management of the consultation.


  2. Kotka IV was held between 1-5 July 2002 in the College of Forestry and Wood Technology of Kymenlaakso Polytechnic in Kotka, which provided excellent facilities including meeting rooms, computers and networks, lodging and full board.


  3. In all, 57 experts participated in Kotka IV, of which 32 were nominated by countries (Regional distribution: Africa: 5, Asia: 6, Near East: 3, Latin America and the Carribbean: 4, North America: 3, Oceania: 3, Europe: 8). 10 experts represented intergovernmental organisations and 15 other organisations. 52 of the experts were male and 5 female. 12 of the experts participated in the Kotka III meeting on 1996. Eighteen technical background papers had been prepared for Kotka IV by the participating experts and were presented in plenary. Background papers are reproduced in the Kotka IV proceedings published by Metla.


  4. Mr. Risto Seppälä (Metla and also President of IUFRO) was elected chairperson of the consultation. Mr. Adrian Newton (UNEP), Ms. Susan Braatz (UNFF secretariat), Mr. Christopher Prins (UNECE) and Mr. Kari Korhonen (Metla) were elected as co-chairs and alternated to chair the plenary sessions.


  5. The consultation was implemented in three phases, (a) presentation and discussion of background papers in plenary (two days), (b) group work in four groups addressing specific aspects of the agenda (two days), (c) compilation, discussion and agreeing on findings and recommendations (one day).


  6. An opening icebreaker on the old icebreaker ship Tarmo was hosted by the City of Kotka represented by the Mayor Mr. Henry Lindelöf and members of the City Council. An excursion to study Finnish small-scale mechanized forest operations and an example of large-scale integrated forest industry establishment was hosted by StoraEnso AB.

Findings and Recommendations

Introduction

  1. The Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) Programme is a continuing programme within the FAO Forestry Department. It consists of two components, (a) Global Forest Resources Assessments (GFRA), and (b) Support to National Forest Assessments.


  2. The FRA Programme is implemented together with a wide range of partners, including countries, international bodies and organisations, NGOs, and the scientific community.


  3. The following findings and recommendations from the Kotka IV expert consultation are organized by the three major components: (a) National Forest Assessments, (b) Global Forest Resources Assessment (GFRA), and (c) Linkages between National and Global Assessments.

National Forest Assessments

Why have a National Forest Assessment?

  1. National Forest Assessments, carried out by countries, are important to:


    • contribute to the developments of national policies and laws (including national forest programmes), notably related to sustainable forest management, nature conservation, rural community development, social policies, land tenure, land use change, and forest health, and to guide their implementation;


    • fulfil international commitments, for instance with regard to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the International Tropical Timber Agreement, the Convention for Combatting Deforestation, United Nations Forum on Forests; and with respect to indicators of sustainable forest management and sustainable development;


    • respond to concern expressed nationally and internationally for improved forest management and protection of forests;


    • provide information to market actors and other stakeholders.

Scope and status of National Forest Assessments

  1. National Forest Assessments are generally developing towards comprehensive assessments, including all aspects of forest resources. The assessments may include information on physical quantities, qualitative aspects as well as estimates of values of forest products and services.


  2. National Forest Assessments provide important and relevant information to the forestry sector, and also to other economic sectors and policy processes, including agriculture and energy.


  3. National Forest Inventories (NFI) are essential data sources for National Forest Assessments. Significant gaps in information and timeliness of information have been identified by FRA 2000 for many countries. Potential reasons for this include low priorities and awareness at the national level, low national capacities, and lack of financial resources.


  4. As a consequence of the information gaps, there is also lack of experience in presenting and using NFI information for overall policy development, which, in turn, probably hampers the awareness of the utility of good forest information. Without such awareness, countries may not prioritize to develop and maintain NFI's.


  5. National forest inventories and assessments, and the capacity to implement these over time, will only be maintained if the information demand originates from national forest policy processes.


  6. While the responsibility for implementing National Forest Assessments is with respective Governments, FAO has a mandate to offer support to countries in this field, including methodology development as well as support to implementation and capacity building.

Recommendations

  1. Countries should assess whether they need external assistance to implement National Forest Assessments and consider to seek such help from FAO, for example through the National Forest Programme Facility, implemented by FAO.


  2. FAO should work closer with countries, and other institutions, to build national capacities for implementing national forest assessments, raise awareness for capacity maintenance and for inclusion of forest resources monitoring in the national policies. This should include development of assessment methods for wood products, non-wood forest products, and forest services including biological diversity. FAO should also support countries in the formulation of projects for consideration by donors in this respect.


  3. The proposed FAO approach to develop guidelines for and to support National Forest Assessments based on a low-intensity, and permanent field sampling and collecting data on the biophysical status as well as the management and uses of forest resources is relevant and feasible for countries lacking effective national forest inventory capacities. The approach needs to be further evaluated and developed to more effectively meet the requirements of these countries.


  4. The FAO approach to support National Forest Assessments should take into consideration existing information and inventory systems to make efficient use of available inventory resources.


  5. The FAO approach to support National Forest Assessments should include activities to strengthen information management and analysis, and reporting on data reliability, including to strengthen the capacity to report to international processes.


  6. FAO should work with countries and the donor community to revive and/or maintain the interest in committing resources to National Forest Assessments being an important part of national policy development, including capacity building and capacity maintenance; and to promote co-ordination of efforts in the field of forest resources assessments.

Global forest resources assessment (GFRA)

Rationale

  1. The Global Forest Resources Assessment (GFRA) is a process, led by FAO and involving all countries and other partners, that reports on the world-wide status and trends of forest resources, their management and uses. The latest report was the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000).


  2. GFRA has many functions including to:


    • Provide as accurate and quality-rated a picture as possible of the status and trends of forest resources world-wide for facilitation of improved policies in relation to forests and forest management;


    • Enable countries with the ability to view their forest sector within regional and global environmental and socio-economic contexts;


    • Contribute some of the validated and harmonised data required for monitoring and assessment functions of international processes;


    • Provide data that can be used in scientific and technical studies;


    • Provide data that can contribute to investment decision support and private sector development;


    • Present relevant information on forests to wider communities, including other sectors, NGOs and the general public.


  3. GFRA has multiple users including:


    • National Governments;


    • Inter-governmental, international and regional organizations and processes, and inter-sectoral assessments;


    • Scientific, research and academic communities, including education;


    • NGOs;


    • The public;


    • Private sector entities.

Overall scope

  1. GFRA can best serve the needs of many users by providing information that is as consistent over time and in space, reliable and accurate as possible, including information about data quality and gaps. It also contributes to improvement of concepts, definitions and methods related to forest resources assessments.


  2. Following recommendations of COFO 2001, GFRA should continue to be a broad assessment that includes information on all aspects of forest resources. In particular, it is recommended that the overall conceptual framework of GFRA be guided by criteria used by the various regional processes on criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, i.e.:


    • Extent of forest resources and Global carbon cycle,


    • Forest ecosystem heath and vitality,


    • Biological diversity,


    • Productive functions,


    • Protective functions, and


    • Socio-economic functions.

  3. Within this framework GFRA, in consultation with countries, should identify key parameters related to forest resources. GFRA should maintain and publish validated and harmonised national, regional and global data for these key parameters. Among these parameters, some are collected, harmonized and validated as a core set of global variables by GFRA. Other parameters, produced by regional FRA initiatives or other partners should be made available through linkages.


  4. GFRA data essentially consists of data provided by countries. Countries through their national correspondents are responsible for the data provided. In addition some GFRA datasets may originate from other sources, for instance remote sensing surveys. Countries should validate national data before publication.


  5. GFRA serves as a source of official, defined and validated information, which may be used by international processes. The availability of officially validated national data in an international dataset can contribute to reduce the reporting burden on countries. In defining the parameters to be collected, GFRA should take account of the reporting requirements of different processes and agreements, for instance any agreement on indicators that may emerge from the International Conference on Criteria and Indicators scheduled for 2002. It is expected that the international processes should support and promote GFRA as an important mechanism to facilitate data supply from countries, and as the major contributor of information on sustainable forest management at the global level.


  6. The GFRA is carried out by the FRA team in close collaboration with national correspondents, and advised by the advisory group, which is recommended to be established, as well as periodic expert consultations with the participation of users and national correspondents.

Medium-term (~5 year) objectives and priorities

  1. The emphasis of the GFRA should be to consolidate the progress achieved by FRA 2000 towards a broad assessment. This implies, for nationally reported data, in order of priority:


    • Increase accuracy, completeness, timeliness, reliability and comparability of data and parameters reported in FRA 2000;


    • Refine reporting formats for parameters reported in FRA 2000;


    • Include new parameters as feasible in relation to countries priorities and capacities.

  2. National information should be compiled by GFRA on a more frequent basis than previously, based on annual requests for national updates from national correspondents, who would only submit data if and when new national data are available. For countries where new data have become available, the GFRA database should be updated as soon as possible. On reporting of global datasets, taking note of needs of forthcoming international meetings, and in particular UNFF5 scheduled for 2005, an intermediate global report, including the new national submissions, should be issued around 2005. A comprehensive global assessment should be published around 2010.


  3. The continued improvement of GFRA data, including comparability over time, implies stability in concepts and definitions relating to core parameters.


  4. Regional initiatives related to forest resources assessment should continue to contribute to and, where appropriate, be co-ordinated with the GFRA work, notably in relation to concepts, definitions and core parameters. Regional Forest Commissions have an important role in increasing political support for country involvement in forest resources assessment. The participants recognized the benefits of the regional FRA effort contributing to FRA 2000, co-ordinated by the UNECE/FAO secretariat in Geneva ("TBFRA 2000"), wherein variables and information specific for the regional needs were incorporated in addition to the global information requirements. This regional FRA effort continues. Participation in such regional FRA initiatives should be determined by the countries themselves.

Actions

  1. FAO should establish a multi-disciplinary and informal advisory group to GFRA consisting of about 20 persons, with a balanced representation of experts, FRA national correspondents, representatives from relevant international bodies, and other stakeholders. Its tasks should be to advise FAO and its partners on the implementation of GFRA, and in particular its concepts, classifications, definitions, methods, organisation, timing and communication of results. The group should meet about annually.


  2. FAO should carry out a wide-ranging user demand survey for the GFRA, trying to reach all potential types of users, and clarify their data requirements. The survey should also investigate the willingness and ability to pay for the information required. The objective of the survey should be to help define priorities for the development of GFRA contents.


  3. Following the user survey, an expert consultation with users and data providers should be held in about three years. The consultation should complement the advisory group proposed above. The consultation should aim at refining and further develop the scope and output of GFRA, including specification of parameters and variables. The possibility to repeat such consultations should be considered.


  4. FAO should carry out a feasibility study for a remote sensing study of land cover and land use changes to complement national reporting, including options for a global coverage of the study as well as possible partnerships for the implementation, noting also that countries should be consulted when considering options that may result in national level estimates. The study should include aspects on field sampling necessary to validate the remote sensing output. Objectives of a remote sensing study could be:


    • improve accuracy and precision in countries with poor data;


    • provide regional level estimates of state and change;


    • provide global estimates of state and change; or


    • provide global forest map for visualization.

Linkages between national and global assessments

Rationale

  1. National forest inventory and assessment information is the basis for national reporting on forest resources to international processes, including GFRA.


  2. Since GFRA data essentially consists of data provided by countries, the GFRA depends on good linkages and partnerships between FAO, regional partner institutions and countries.

Recommendations

  1. FAO should inform Governments in each country about recent developments of the GFRA process, and ask them to nominate or confirm their national correspondent to GFRA, including allocating time and resources for the correspondent to be able to contribute to the GFRA work.


  2. The GFRA secretariat should keep national correspondents informed about timing of future work and reporting, and request information from the correspondents about national assessment activities, to enable good work planning.


  3. The primary channel of communication for the GFRA secretariat, regarding requests for and validation of national forest resources information, is the officially nominated national correspondent.


  4. Countries should take into account international reporting requirements when designing national forest inventories. Countries should, to the extent possible, collect data in national forest inventories in a way that makes national information suitable for reporting against agreed international definitions, procedures and methods for inclusion in the global forest resources assessment. FAO should offer advice to countries in these respects.


  5. National correspondents should be prepared to submit updated national data to GFRA as it becomes available.


  6. FAO should facilitate the transformation from national to GFRA data for instance through guidelines, consultations and efficient use of information and communication technology.


  7. The incorporation of national information into GFRA data should be undertaken collaboratively between countries and the GFRA, and be transparent and documented to ensure credibility and consistency in the GFRA database. It is expected that this approach will over time reduce the effort required to maintain the GFRA database.





1 The Committee on Forestry (COFO) is the most important of the FAO Forestry Statutory Bodies. The biennial sessions of COFO (held at FAO headquarters in Rome) bring together heads of forest services and other senior government officials, usually representing more than 100 countries, to identify emerging policy and technical issues, to seek solutions and to advise FAO and others on appropriate action. Other international organizations and, increasingly, non-governmental groups participate in COFO.
last updated:  Monday, November 27, 2006