History of Silva Mediterranea

Mediterranean forests (FAO)

In 1911, the idea of Mediterranean forestry cooperation was launched and in 1922, a Mediterranean Forestry League was established under the name of Silva Mediterranea. In 1948, Silva Mediterranea evolved into an FAO statutory body as a Committee of Mediterranean Forestry Questions where the Mediterranean member countries of the European Forestry Commission, the Near East Forestry Commission and the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission could meet, share experiences and establish cooperative programmes.

Silva Mediterranea adopted a conceptual strategic framework, the Mediterranean Forest Action Programme in order to support Mediterranean countries in setting up their own forest policies and implementing the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio, 1992), which urged all countries to draw up national forest programmes. Where research was needed, the Committee established cooperative research networks on subjects identified during sessions. Six research networks were established on:

  • Forest fire management;
  • Selection of multi-purpose species for arid and semi-arid zones;
  • Silviculture of species: Cedrus spp.;
  • Silviculture of species: Pinus pinea;
  • Selection of stands of Mediterranean conifers for the production of seed to be used in reforestation programmes; and
  • Silviculture of species: Quercus suber.

Mission of Silva Mediterranea

The mission of Silva Mediterranea is to:

  • Periodically review the trends in the use of forest land in the Mediterranean area and to assess the impact of changes implemented in the agricultural, industrial and urban sectors;
  • Advise member governments accordingly on reorientation or improvements necessary to meet changed situations or newly-emerging needs;
  • Periodically examine progress in forestry technology within regional and ecological contexts in order to better assess present forest land utilization methods;
  • Identify forestry research priorities in the Mediterranean area, determine forestry research projects of common interest to member governments in the region and recommend measures necessary for forestry research institutes in the region to carry out these projects; and
  • Determine and carry out, in collaboration with member nations and with the support of the appropriate national forestry agencies, technical studies and surveys to assist in the formulation and implementation of national forest policies.

2002 - Silva Mediterranea gears up for change

At the committee's 18th session held at FAO headquarters in Rome in April 2002, the future of Silva Mediterranea was the main topic on the agenda. Based on an external review of Silva Mediterranea and its networks carried out as recommended by the committee's previous session in Antalya, Turkey in October 1997, a number of changes were recommended to reinvigorate Silva Mediterranea.

The committee proposed that the research networks be phased out and replaced by working groups with a specific mandate and clear objectives, outputs and time frames. It urged Silva Mediterranea to establish more effective alliances with other institutions working in the Mediterranean region.

The meeting suggested that Silva Mediterranea should address in future: the finalization of past work that holds potential for delivering important and useful output; activities leading to the sustainable management of Mediterranean forests and woodlands; and the contribution of Silva Mediterranea to sustainable development in general. Silva Mediterranea was asked to approach forest issues in the region in ways consistent with new paradigms and developments emerging both in the Mediterranean region and in the international policy dialogue on forests.

The participants noted that Silva Mediterranea should be more responsive to the needs of countries, in particular in the following areas:

  • Improving the responses and contribution of the forest sector to the well-being and socio-economic advancement of the population, including poverty alleviation and food security;
  • The contribution of the forest sector to the implementation of the international conventions on biological diversity, climate change and desertification control;
  • Forest sector planning through national forest programmes; and
  • Achieving sustainable forest management.

Member countries of Silva Mediterranea have since worked to implement these recommendations.

International initiatives in Mediterranean forestry

The Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP), adopted in 1975 at an International United Nations Environment Programme Conference in Barcelona, was originally aimed at controlling marine pollution and seashore protection. However, it soon became apparent that there was a need to extend the mandate of the MAP to the conservation of terrestrial ecosystems, with due consideration to socio-economic conditions and requirements. The Mediterranean "Blue Plan" was elaborated in response to such needs. Ecosystem conservation and the conservation of plant and animal genetic resources are addressed in the forestry component of the Blue Plan. The Blue Plan analyses the reasons for the degradation of Mediterranean ecosystems, draws attention to the actual and potential consequences of the often irreversible damage caused to them, and suggests measures for their future protection and management. In particular, the Blue Plan calls for the countries concerned to join forces in the implementation of a dynamic and coherent plan aimed at safeguarding the Mediterranean environment with the assistance of the international community.

In 1988, the European Economic Community (EEC) adopted a Medium Term Action Programme for the Protection of the Mediterranean Environment (MEDSAP), complemented by a financial plan for investments in environmental programmes in low-income areas of the EEC (ENVIREG), including countries in the Mediterranean region. In the same year, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank launched a joint programme for the Mediterranean environment in which they formulated an environmental policy and identified investment needs of the Mediterranean countries.

Natural resource depletion in the Mediterranean, particularly the degradation of forests and woodlands, led in the 1980s to repeated requests from countries for assistance in the elaboration of an action-oriented forestry programme for the region, along the lines of the national forest programmes operational in a number of tropical countries. This call for support was particularly strongly voiced at the Tenth World Forestry Congress held in Paris, France in September 1991. It was reinforced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, in which an appeal was launched at the highest level for countries in all regions to develop and implement national forest programmes. In response to these calls, the Mediterranean Forest Action Programme (MED-FAP) was formulated within the framework of Silva Mediterranea with the full involvement of the countries concerned. MED-FAP is conceived as a regional umbrella under which the elaboration and implementation of national forest programmes may be harmonized and promoted. It lays emphasis on sustainable forest management and the conservation of biological diversity and genetic resources.

last updated:  Tuesday, October 12, 2010