NFP principle: National sovereignty and country leadership

Definition and significance

In the context of NFP, it is widely acknowledged and agreed that countries are sovereign in their right to manage and use the forests within their national boundaries in accordance with their own environmental policies and development needs. Countries should also be sovereign in selecting the most suitable approach to NFPs, as agreed in IPF/IFF and UNFF.

The principle of national sovereignty and country leadership comprises different dimensions:

  • sovereignty of the country in its approach to the NFP;
  • national leadership with regard to the international donor community;
  • leadership with regard to involvement and coordination with other sectors within a country.

A strong country leadership in the NFP processes necessitates that policy-makers are aware of forests' contribution to the nation's wellbeing and are willing to develop the sector further. Raising the forest sector’s profile among policy-makers and other sectors requires demonstrating the contribution of forestry to development and poverty alleviation. Political will and commitment are also influenced by public opinion and media. Transparency of NPF processes is a precondition for a positive image of the forest sector.   

Negotiation arrangements that support the national sovereignty and ownership in the NFP process are crucial. Such arrangements can consist of a national stakeholder forum, a steering committee or a board where all key stakeholder groups are represented, with a mandate to oversee and lead the NFP process.

Donor coordination under national leadership will enable demand-oriented, targeted and synergetic interventions and effective use of official development assistance (ODA).

How to measure progress

The existence of a publicly well-known, officially adopted and broadly accepted policy statement on forests, wildlife and protected areas is certainly an important milestone. Another indicator of the sector’s profile is how it is presented in the media.

In countries receiving donor support, the assessment of country leadership may be based on the quality and effectiveness of donor coordination as well as the degree to which roles and mandates of the different donors have been defined.

Last but not least, the representation and quality of countries’ contributions to international fora and seminars are signs of commitment and sovereignty.

Country Experiences

Country experiences are based on a survey carried out in 2010 by FAO and the NFP Facility to improve understanding of how NFPs work in practice.

Overall, most countries reported that they own and lead their NFPs. However, agencies that head NFP processes can struggle with issues of leadership and lack of power and capacity to coordinate, communicate, negotiate and manage change. For an NFP to give strategic direction, it must provide leadership and coordination both within and beyond the forest sector. Its steering body must therefore be able to lead at the national level.

In many countries, the low priority afforded the forest sector means that insufficient funds are allocated for the implementation of NFPs. As a result, implementation may occur only in local pilot areas, benefiting local stakeholders but not generating tangible benefits at the national level.

Options for strengthening governance through NFPs are:

  • positioning the NFP leadership at higher administrative or political level;
  • providing adequate administrative and budget planning for consultation, coordination and communication;
  • creating flexible arrangements that will promote involvement of a broad range of stakeholders, including in the implementation of strategies and plans;
  • promoting the inclusion of the NFP in larger frameworks and consultation processes, e.g. on sustainable development or climate change. 

last updated:  Tuesday, August 7, 2012