National Forest Programme
As early as the 1960s, the international forestry community had identified policy planning as a priority, recognizing the importance of having sound policy to guide efforts to improve the forest sector's performance in countries and provide more strategic orientation towards forest development. In the 1980s, in response to worldwide concern over deforestation in the tropics, it initiated the first set of internationally concerted action plans, including tropical forest action plans (TFAPs), forestry sector master plans and forestry sector reviews. The lessons learned from TFAPs and other planning frameworks had significant impact on the subsequent international forest policy dialogue.
Sustainable development processes and the internatinal forest policy regime
In 1992, the output of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) triggered a paradigm change that led to more participatory, holistic, cross-sectoral approaches. The UNCED action plan, known as Agenda 21, devoted its Chapter 11 to combating deforestation, calling for governments "to prepare and implement, as appropriate, national forestry action programmes and/or plans for the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests." The participating governments agreed to:
"reviewing and, if necessary, revising measures and programmes relevant to all types of forests and vegetation, inclusive of other related lands and forest based resources, and relating them to other land uses and development policies and legislation".
In 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), established by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), elaborated an agreement on a large number of forest-related “Proposals for Action”. NFPs were conceived as central instruments to put the proposals into practice at the country level. As agreed in the IPF4 of 1996, the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests:
“recognized the importance of comprehensive forest policy frameworks or "national forest programmes" for the achievement of sustainable forest management. It agreed that the term "national forest programme" is a generic term for a wide range of approaches to sustainable forest management within different countries, to be applied at national and subnational levels based on the basic principles outlined below. It emphasized that national forest programmes demand a broad intersectoral approach at all stages, including the formulation of policies, strategies and plans of action, as well as their implementation, monitoring and evaluation.”
The Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF), a successor to IPF, reconfirmed that NFPs were a viable framework for implementing the Proposals for Action in a holistic, comprehensive and multisectoral manner.
The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), established in 2000, continued to promote the implementation of the IPF/IFF Proposals for Action through NFPs. In 2007, the UN General Assembly Resolution on a “non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests” (NLBI) specified that, to achieve the purpose of the instrument, Member States should:
“develop, implement, publish and, as necessary, update national forest programmes or other strategies for sustainable forest management which identify actions needed and contain measures, policies or specific goals”.
A range of other forest-related international agreements and decisions specifically refer to NFPs as a main forest policy planning and implementation framework of countries. The International Tropical Timber Agreement, adopted in 2006, specifies that criteria for approving projects and pre-projects of the International Tropical Timber Organization have to take “their relationship to national forest programmes and strategies” into account. The UNFCCC Conference of Parties Decision 1/CP16 of 2010 specifies, with regard to safeguards of the REDD+ actions, specifies that “actions complement or are consistent with the objectives of national forest programmes and relevant international conventions and agreements.”Mechanisms have emerged to support implementation of NFPs in countries, such as the World Bank’s Program on Forests (PROFOR) which began in the late 1990s, and the National Forest Programme Facility, launched in 2001 and hosted by FAO.