Table of Contents Next Page

Part 1
Evolution of forest policies and future directions

Evolving forest policies

In the past, the need to generate revenue and foreign exchange for national economic development motivated governments to design centralized and sectoral policies to influence how forest resources were used. Policy-makers regarded forests as distant reserves to be managed as sources of public revenue, treated as reservoirs of new land for cultivation or protected as nature reserves. Over time, however, society's shifting and sometimes conflicting expectations created more difficult policy challenges related to both the forest sector and national development. The perspectives and demands of politically diverse groups are still proliferating, placing a significant strain on current institutions and policies.

Today, national development strategies require policies that integrate forests in rural development efforts and that balance economic and environmental needs among national, local and international interests. Forests are no longer viewed as being separate in space, narrow in political interest or sectoral in their economic function. They directly affect, and are affected by, local national and international concerns. Development strategies must acknowledge that forest conditions are a consequence of development, shaped and formed by competitive uses.

Important changes in our approach to forest policies began in the 1970s, when growing awareness of how local communities depend on forests, and of the importance of small-scale forest industries, prompted efforts to strengthen local participation in forest management, programmes and activities. New types of cooperative activities emerged between local communities and national governments, including community forestry, farm forestry and joint forest management. These activities highlighted the role of forests in broader rural development and, at the same time, eroded confidence in exclusive state control.

The importance of forests to local communities led governments, NGOs and donors to consider a variety of rights, obligations, incentives and supports that would motivate people to invest in growing and managing forests. Countries throughout the world paid greater attention to local interests in forests and the capacity of communities to manage them alongside national interests. They explored new organizations, structures, rules and tenurial forms to enhance the productivity of forests, protect environmental qualities and empower rural communities to use forest resources for economic and social needs. As these various interests and objectives were not necessarily compatible, they gradually expanded rather than resolved contentious forest issues.

By the 1980s, countries began to recognize that forests have a global role in the stability of the biosphere, in the maintenance of biodiversity and in the protection of threatened indigenous and traditional cultures. This expanded role placed additional pressures on national governments. While in the 1970s they were compelled to develop better means to work with local communities, governments of the 1980s were expected to act as intermediaries between international interests in forests and local actions and demands for forest resources. Forestry policy-makers searched for ways to balance growing international expectations with the dispersed, diverse activities and needs of households and local communities.

In the 1990s, forests are a primary focus of policy debates about sustainable development. Despite its message of harmony, the concept of sustainability raises tensions between market-driven economic growth, social pressures for a more equitable distribution of economic opportunities and the need to maintain environmental productivity, ecological services and biological diversity to fulfil future economic and social aspirations. The forces behind these pressures are unlikely to meet their goals without some compromise.

Forest resources are also in the forefront of national policy debates about how to restructure economic and political systems as well as how such structural changes can be made consistent with national interests in local action, social and sectoral distribution, international obligations and sovereignty. Today's governments are searching for pragmatic policy frameworks that deal coherently with both the contributions of forests to development and the institutional and organizational structures required to make better use of these contributions.

Forest policies and sustainable development

Developing effective forestry strategies and policies to promote sustainable development involves an array of difficult choices. For example, while we know that forest clearing for crops and pasture, overcutting for fuelwood, uncontrolled commercial logging for timber and expanding infrastructure all contribute to deforestation and degradation, the fundamental problem facing policy-makers is how to address the underlying causes. These include poverty, hunger, access to land, a lack of jobs and income-generating opportunities, and growing economic demands for forest goods and services.

Ironically, some government policies frequently exacerbate these underlying causes, producing intense and lasting impacts on forest resources. A growing body of literature now demonstrates convincingly that taxes, terms of forest concessions, administered prices, controlled transportation of forest goods, land and tree tenure insecurity, tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade, investment incentives, agricultural sector strategies and macro-economics policies all affect economic motivations as well as the management and conservation of temperate and tropical forests. In many cases, these policies directly encourage or unintentionally subsidize deforestation and degradation.

Countries are seeking more appropriate economic policies, regulatory mechanisms, financial incentives, organizational structures and tenurial arrangements to promote sustainable forestry practices. In many countries, the search for policies takes place alongside a wider examination of the role of government as regulator of the market place, as landowner and as forest manager. This examination is prompted partly by governments' own need to optimize resource efficiency, and partly by public concerns with government performance and, in particular, with the performance of forest services and their policies.

The overall policy impacts on the economy, society and environment depend not so much on the effect of policies on one forest, but their net effects across these diverse settings. The resulting forest conditions reflect the consequences of policies that created and modified the motives for cutting and growing trees in different places and at different times. For example:

Thus, the use, development and conditions of forests are fundamental consequences of the wider configuration of national policy and economic development. National development is constantly creating incentives and capacities both to exploit and to enhance forest resources. Economic growth and social conditions tend to shift the location and composition of forest resources. On a national scale, the nature of this relationship depends on a country's particular economic, demographic and political circumstances.

Forests in national policy

Many governments tend to deal with forests through programmes and projects rather than as elements of a national system. Forests are nonetheless analogous to other systems of national interest such as infrastructure, education, finance, transportation and energy. Policies chosen to express and serve these interests influence the aggregate quality, composition, distribution and use of a country's forests.

Forests are living systems which evolve over time with or without human intervention. These changing forest formations create a kaleidoscopic movement of trees and land uses over space. Understanding the reasons behind these changes provides the basis for predicting the direction and consequences of future changes. Understanding how national policies affect forests provides the basis for achieving desired types of forest formations, including the aggregate contributions they provide, and the required trade-offs with other national objectives. But while the overall economic implications of national policy models are reasonably well understood, aggregate forest landscape formations have been ignored.

Forests and the resources devoted to growing, maintaining and protecting them depend on combinations of many different policies: environmental, energy, land, commodity, trade, industrial and agricultural policies; price, wage, income and investment policies; and the terms of international agreements. The analytical task is to relate policy combinations to forest consequences in diverse conditions and to identify those that are likely to serve local, national and international interests in the best way.

An important step towards understanding how overall policy choices affect forest resources was taken in the 1980s, as development strategies shifted from project-based assistance to policy-oriented programmes. During this period, policy analysts turned their attention to the impacts of intersectoral policy linkages on the forestry sector. They recognized the inability of traditional forestry strategies to slow the accelerating pace of deforestation and forest degradation and realized that the roots of forest degradation and depletion often lay outside the forestry sector.1 In the industrial countries, the effects of pollution (acid rain) on temperate forests highlighted this problem. In the developing countries, population growth, land tenure systems and agricultural sector policies were seen as underlying causes of deforestation.

Indeed, specialized direct policies have proved to be remarkably ineffective without an appropriate macro or intersectoral policy context allowing them to work properly. How these policy linkages are defined and interpreted depends on whether forest issues are: viewed from a national (macro) or a forest unit (micro) perspective; evaluated using development-oriented or resource-oriented concepts of capital, space and location; and analysed with macro-economic or micro-economic methods (therefore establishing macro or micro sets of policy priorities).

The ongoing research on the efficiency and sustainability implications of these linkages may be consolidated in four key areas: i) market failures and incentive structures; ii) policy failures; iii) forest sector policies; and iv) impacts of timber trade policies on forest use and the environment.

Market failures and incentive structures

When public goods, including public environmental goods and externalities are present, incentive structures may lead to market failure. The market does not confront users with the full social costs of their actions. For example, markets that fail to reflect environmental values fully (e.g. the additional costs of managing forests sustainably) can lead to excessive environmental degradation. Some form of public or collective action involving regulation (command and control), market-based incentives or institutional measures is required if market failures are to be corrected.

Forests may be affected in several ways. For example, the market prices of widely traded timber products typically do not reflect the environmental costs of their production. Market prices fail to account for indirect use values (e.g. watershed protection or nutrient cycling) as well as future use and non-use values (e.g. option value or existence value), which may be lost or degraded by the production or consumption of forest products. Many environmental benefits are public goods and thus have no market price.

1 M.R. de Montalembert. 1992. Intersectoral policy linkages affecting the forestry sector. In H. Gregerson, P. Oram and J. Spears, eds. Priorities for forestry and agroforestry policy research. Washington, D.C., IFPRI.

If all goods and services, including environmental services, provided by forests could be bought and sold in efficient markets, the trade-offs among forest functions and between forest and non-forest uses of land would be determined by the public's willingness to buy different services. If the public preferred the services of an intact forest over timber, the private landowner would be paid more to preserve the forest than to harvest it. Since it is not possible to restrict environmental benefits to those who pay for them, no market for these services exists and most landowners undervalue and thus underinvest in environmental forest functions.

In these cases, private and social costs and benefits diverge. Logging companies, for example, may disregard the impact of their activities on wildlife and landscape. The resulting loss of value for hunting or tourism falls outside the private cost and benefit calculations of the timber firm. When external costs are consistently ignored throughout an industry, prevailing market prices will tend to fall below the socially optimal level. Ideal policies would induce landowners to weigh the social costs and benefits of their land-use decisions equally with the private costs and benefits. Policies that attempt to induce this behaviour include taxing landowners to cover the social costs they impose on society or subsidizing landowners to prevent them from imposing the damages.

Property rights also shape the system of incentives and disincentives for forest use. The structure of property rights defines the rules, rights and duties within which users of the forest operate. Economic policy-makers place great importance on property rights systems because they govern the efficiency of resource use throughout the economy as well as the distribution of income.

Macro-economic policies

Macro-economic policies and public investment decisions may distort market prices of traded forest products and services. Economic policy interventions at various levels can alter the profitability of forest-based activities vis-à-vis other domestic sectors and their competitiveness relative to foreign producers. For instance, exchange rate devaluations and the level of debt-service ratios influence forest resource use in a variety of ways. An overvalued exchange rate lowers the price of tradable goods relative to non-tradable goods. In this case, a real devaluation would remove economic distortions and provide enhanced incentives to domestic production of tradable goods (including forest products) relative to non-tradable goods. This may encourage forest harvesting and increase deforestation rates through the expansion of wood production for international markets. More generally, macroeconomic policies can affect underlying demand and supply conditions, having an inevitable impact on the forest industry and forest resources.

The impacts of macro-economic performance and policies on the forest sector are difficult to assess; few studies have attempted to examine the macro-economic linkages to temperate deforestation, and studies of tropical deforestation often produce conflicting conclusions.2

Public investment often has direct effects on forest-based activities, particularly where transport infrastructure and public services are extended to previously inaccessible forested areas. This type of investment may be an important subsidy for the logging and wood processing industry, because it reduces the costs of gaining access to forest resources. Likewise, it represents a subsidy for consumers, as it brings forest products to market less expensively. Public investment in remote forested areas also acts as an impetus to human migration and agricultural expansion, which is the major cause of forest clearing in many countries.

2 See, for example, A.D. Capistrano. 1990. Macroeconomic influences on tropical forest depletion: a cross country analysis. University of Florida (Ph.D. dissertation); A.D. Capistrano and C.F. Kiker. 1990. Global economic influences on tropical closed broadleaved forest depletion, 1967-1985. Food Resources Economics Department, University of Florida; and J. Kahn and J. McDonald. 1990. Third World debt and tropical deforestation. Department of Economics, New York, SUNY-Binghampton.

Forest sector policies

Examples of policies that aim directly at forest management include tax credits or subsidies for forest conversion, forestation and wood production. Forestry is also affected by policies that alter incentives and impede competition in downstream industries or related sectors, such as wood processing and construction.

In the past several years, a great deal of applied research has focused on the economic linkages between forest policies and deforestation.3 Many studies conclude that forest pricing and management policies often distort costs in two ways. First, the prices for timber products or the products derived from converted forest land do not incorporate the lost economic values, such as foregone timber rentals, foregone non-wood forest products, forest protection and ecological functions or the loss of biodiversity. Second, the direct costs of harvesting and converting tropical forests are often subsidized (or distorted in other ways), thus encouraging overuse and waste.

An important role of policy analysis is to determine whether the benefits of incorporating these foregone values into decisions affecting forest use balance the costs of reduced timber production, trade, jobs and income (as well as the costs of implementing such policies). The next step is to correct the distortional domestic government policies and market failures that drive a wedge between private and social rates of forest use. Economically efficient policies internalize the ecological costs of forest use in production decisions.

Policies that permit imperfect competition in the forest industry can have important effects. Barriers to entry can prevent the most efficient firms from operating, thus leading the industry as a whole to extract more timber than necessary to provide a given supply of products. Inefficiencies in the processing sector are particularly damaging in this respect, as they tend to increase the raw material requirements and, consequently, timber exploitation through poor log conversion rates and overexpanded capacity. Imperfect competition may also lead to the failure to adopt technologies and management practices designed to improve forest harvesting activities that minimize environmental degradation.

Forestry policies may lead to management inefficiencies in a number of ways by affecting the level of privately and socially efficient harvests; by influencing alternative royalty, contract and concession arrangements and their implications for trespass, high-grading and other environmental losses; and by altering the level of rent distribution. Designing forestry policies to reduce the inefficiencies of existing management practices and to control excessive degradation through logging activities is a complex process requiring careful attention to harvesting incentives. More often than not, policies actually create the conditions for short-term harvesting by concessionaires and, in some instances, even subsidize commercial harvesting at inefficient levels.

All these domestic market and policy failures have important implications for sustainable forest management. If public policies are to be redirected to achieve efficient and sustainable management of forest resources, then changes are required. The economic valuation of current policies plays an important role in determining the appropriate policy responses. Often, however, insufficient economic data and information exist to allow a precise estimation of the economic costs arising from domestic market and policy failures. Although in most cases cost estimates as orders of magnitude and indicators of the direction of change are sufficient for policy analysis, in many cases we are not even at this stage of ‘optimal ignorance’.

3 For recent comparative reviews of how public policies affect deforestation, see: E.B. Barbier, J. Burgess, J. Bishop, B. Aylward and C. Bann. 1993. The economic linkages between the international trade in tropical timber and the sustainable management of tropical forests. Final Report for the ITTO; W.F. Hyde, D.H. Newman and R.A. Sedjo. 1991. Forest economics and policy analysis: an overview. World Bank Discussion Paper 134, Washington, D.C., World Bank; and R. Repetto and M. Gillis, eds. 1988. Public policies and the misuse of forest resources. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge University Press.

Forests, trade and the environment

The environmental impacts of international trade are among the most divisive issues facing national policy-makers. Some environmental and advocacy groups interested in the trade environment debate argue that further trade liberalization will increase the demand for tropical timber. Not surprisingly, these groups tend to distrust regional and global trade agreements aimed at removing trade barriers. A number of interest groups advocate more restrictive trade measures in multilateral negotiations to control excessive forest depletion, encourage sustainable timber management and raise compensatory financing for timber-producing countries that lose revenues and incur costs by changing their forest policy.

Important concerns in the trade and environmental debate include: i) logging of old-growth forests in some regions of the world to service the trade; ii) the impacts of market, policy and trade distortions on the incentives for timber trade; and iii) the inability of many countries to make a sustainable transition from dependence on primary to second-growth forests and to match domestic processing capacity with the availability of timber stocks.

Trade policies and forest resource use

Countries with forest industries may use restrictive trade policies to protect their own forest-based industries, to stimulate value-added processing or to reduce the log content of timber product exports. Trade barriers include tariffs, quotas and other controls that limit the type and volume of forest products traded relative to what would be traded in a free market. Tariffs and quotas on imported forest products provide protection for domestic forest industries. Subsidies and product standard rules are used to discriminate against imported forest products. Taxes and bans on log exports are intended to promote value-added processing and restrict harvesting.

Over the past four decades, international trade negotiations have attempted to reduce trade restrictions on a wide range of goods and services including forest products. Fora such as GATT provide a means for reaching agreements on trade rules, settling disputes and reducing trade barriers.

Trade liberalization also raises important questions regarding social distribution of wealth, resources and income. More open markets tend to concentrate wealth and redistribute it to economically efficient groups at the expense of less advantaged and less efficient segments of society. These shifts require public interventions to adjust for imperfect competition and market failures. How to sustain productive distribution and regulate conflicts over forest resources is a fundamental question in the new world of liberalized trade, and nations are only beginning to confront the complexity of these problems.

The various studies to date imply that, to take advantage of trade-expanding strategies, countries need to address existing policy failures and the incentive structure underlying deforestation by, for example, internalizing externalities, improving access to farmland, increasing agricultural productivity, expanding employment opportunities and providing increased tenure security for common and private property.4

On the other hand, trade measures are often not the most appropriate means for addressing concerns about deforestation and degradation, for several reasons. First, substantial distortions may already exist in the timber trade, the environmental effects of which are not well known. Further interventions to achieve environmental objectives may add to these uncertainties and prove to have unintended and even counterproductive effects.

Second, market and policy failures have a significant impact on forest management. Domestic environmental policies can have substantial effects on timber production, trade and prices. Trade interventions, on the other hand, address these problems only indirectly at best. Trade measures imposed unilaterally by importing countries would have little influence on domestic policies within producer countries.

Finally, trade measures have their most direct impact on cross-border product flows and prices. As noted above, changes in these international flows may have very little influence on the main causes of deforestation and forest degradation in producer countries. Even for forestry operations, there may be little effective control on how these trickle-down effects influence economic incentives at the level of the timber stand.

However, trade policies can play a role in encouraging trade-related incentives for sustainable forest management. Such policies should be used in conjunction with and to complement forest sector policies and regulations that improve forest management. Certainly, other sectoral and macro-economic policies that influence the pattern of deforestation and forest land use must also be addressed.

4 FAO. 1994. Forest development and policy dilemmas. In The State of Food and Agriculture. Rome.

Forests and future directions

In the past, national governments treated forests as bounded stocks of wood that could be enhanced, maintained or converted to improve national welfare. These earlier approaches made use of centralized ministries and sectoral policies to generate revenue and foreign exchange. Today, governments are recognizing that sources of wood are found beyond conventional forest jurisdictions and that forest benefits and services go beyond wood.

This broader view of what forests are and what they contribute requires national strategies and policies to integrate forests in rural development efforts and balance economic and environmental needs among local, national and international interests. At the same time, these sometimes conflicting expectations create difficult policy challenges in dealing with both the forest sector and national development.

Evolving concepts and shifting priorities are also placing additional strains on national capacity to manage individual forest units. For instance, sustainability in forestry has evolved from focusing on sustained yield of timber to a much broader concept of managing ecological processes, environmental services and economic and social goods. Like the concept of sustainable development, incorporating this broad range of values into sustainable forestry management is appealing, but difficult in practice. The approach to sustainability depends on the perspective adopted.

In addressing the wide spectrum of priorities between local and global perspectives and responding to interest groups which may have competing objectives, trade-offs are inevitable. Critically important issues of equity arise when the interests and welfare of local communities, with limited options and capacity to find alternatives for their subsistence, differ from national or international priorities. Consulting and compensating those who are poorly served by the priorities selected is essential; the public must be involved in setting priorities.

For all these reasons, national governments are challenged to mesh people's needs with national and global interests; to use policies that determine forest conditions in ways that help improve opportunities for people and communities; and to understand better how interactions among sectoral policies and macro-policies influence people's use of forests, and the consequences of such use on national development.

Developments in community forestry

Recent experiences at the local level, in community forestry programmes, provide lessons in new forms of local governance aimed at addressing the interests of people who depend on the forest. There is now a need and an opportunity to invest these lessons in arrangements that also capture the intersectoral and macro policy relations that determine what people do with forest resources

Until the early 1970s, central governments tended to blame rural communities for forest destruction; local communities overharvested fuelwood, allowed livestock to overgraze and illegally converted land to crop agriculture. Local needs increasingly conflicted with national needs and, during much of this period, governments responded by nationalizing forests, restricting local access, curtailing community rights and introducing police authority. Over time, this authoritarian approach displaced community-centred cultures, broke up well-established common property resource traditions and resulted in increased forest destruction.5

State control meant keeping people away from forests. Agriculture and forestry were considered separate and, to some extent, mutually exclusive land-use activities. However, it became evident that the expansion of state control and curtailing of community rights ignored fundamental linkages between the forests, agriculture and people as integral components of the rural ecosystem. Food security, income, nutrition, employment, energy sources and overall well-being of rural families were linked to the forests.

The new approach that emerged attempted to integrate forestry and communities into a single framework of policy and action, especially in areas with endemic poverty and severe forest depletion. The re-orientation of policies and programmes aimed to support forestry for people and encourage rural populations to participate in forestry and conservation efforts. Community forestry is the well-known umbrella term for these participatory activities, which include farm forestry, social forestry, joint forest management and extractive reserves. There are subtle distinctions among programmes, but all involve a form of forestry that is based on local interests and depends on community participation.

Community forestry attempts to account for diverse situations by strengthening local stakes in management. Nonetheless, community programmes and activities must operate in the context of national-level approaches that involve uniform policy structures. For instance, macro and sectoral polices affect local-level forest use by influencing such factors as: i) the level of competition for non-forest land uses (agricultural, grazing and industrial uses and the relative prices for their products); ii) ease of access to forest products (unguarded public forests, low-cost agricultural wood, commercial fuels and other fodder sources); and iii) access to markets and availability of services. Community forestry activities attempt to work within this policy context by directly influencing the use of individual forests through formal and informal agreements between the government and local groups.

Community forestry experiences from around the world illustrate diversity in: the products harvested; the organization of local users; the politics surrounding access; the initial conditions; and contractual arrangements. The variety of products, services and interested parties makes it difficult to classify cases and policies into successes and failures. However, it is evident that different types of users can cooperate and manage programmes, plant trees and restore forests.

On the other hand, as a result of top-down planning, many projects more accurately reflect planner's perceptions of people's needs rather than local people's ideas of their own needs. A recent FAO review of community forestry identifies several patterns that differ from what had been assumed or intended by the planners. Other studies question community forestry achievements and some of its aims. Criticisms include the following: people did not participate to the expected level; the extensive practice of monoculture has been ecologically destructive in some cases; many fuelwood plantations produced industrial and commercial timber rather than relieving fuelwood shortages; and a weak commitment to gender equity (many programmes treated the household as a unit) has worsened rather than strengthened women's economic position and productivity.

The experience with community forestry offers some important lessons.6 First, just as different branches of the government often support conflicting uses for forests (such as agricultural expansion, timber production, watershed production, government revenue or local economic development), community interests differ and conflict among activities, users, user groups and communities. Because access to political power and economic opportunities are not uniform within a community, it is not surprising that some groups fare poorly under arrangements intended to benefit local users as a whole. This is especially true for women who are often responsible for collecting fodder, fuelwood and food items from the forest. In these cases, women are penalized by forest management policies designed to promote forest growth by reducing access to forest products. Addressing these concerns through national policies is feasible but may inhibit local initiatives. It is more effective for women to decide on their own priorities and negotiate these with competing interest groups.

5 M. Sarin, 1993. From conflict to collaboration: local institutions in joint forest management. Joint Forest Management Working Paper No. 14, New Delhi, Ford Foundation.

6 J.E.M. Arnold. In FAO, 1992. Community forestry: ten years in review. FAO Community Forestry Note No. 7. Rome.

Second, the more successful examples from around the world point to the need to lay out explicit contracts where the returns to the parties are roughly proportional to the respective levels of investment and risk. Arrangements whereby the state government tries to collect most of the benefits create local opposition. On the other hand, arrangements with large subsidies for local users often attract considerable attention from politically powerful individuals. Even if the usurpation of rural resources can be controlled, highly subsidized projects are financially unsustainable and are rarely replicated.

Capacity development

Community forestry successes underline the advantages of strengthening the capacities of local groups and NGOs involved in forestry activities. Capacity development is needed for individual participation, communal management, co-management with government forest services or joint ventures with private sector groups. Local and provincial groups need expanded education, skill training and funding for national forest services.

Developing local and national capacity in forestry requires human resources with improved skills and capacities to formulate and implement policies, strategies and programmes; and improved institutional arrangement for economic development.

Evidence suggests that all countries need to improve their capacity to manage the growing demands on forest resources and increasing obligations to the international community. While it may be more urgent in some developing countries and those undergoing the transition from a centrally planned to a market-oriented economy, it is also necessary in the industrial countries. Although encouraging examples of organizational reforms and adjustments exist on a limited scale, every country faces challenges to achieve the kind of balance between development and the environment agreed to at UNCED.

FAO identifies six specific areas that require special attention to capacity-building:7

The international dimensions

Evolving global interests in forest conditions (for carbon storage, biodiversity, wilderness, etc.) are increasing the level of international involvement in forest governance. International funding for forestry from ODA increased from $400 million per year in the mid-1980s to more than $1 300 million in the early 1990s. During the last decade, a variety of new international arrangements emerged, including: debt-for-nature swaps and subsidized plantation programmes; tradable permits, quotas and quasi-market schemes for carbon storage; scientific, political, technical assistance and financial programmes to expand resource availability and increase national investments through capital and technology transfers; and freer trade and market liberalization.

7 FAO. 1994. The road from Rio: moving forward in forestry. Rome.

UNCED devoted considerable attention to the world's forests. The conference drew up a non-legally binding authoritative statement of principles for a global consensus on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, known as the ‘forest principles’. Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 focuses on deforestation, and forestry is an important element in other chapters dealing with desertification and drought, sustainable mountain development and the conservation of biodiversity.

The forest principles can be considered as a code of good stewardship applicable to all forests. They respect national sovereignty over forests and request all countries to adopt sustainable patterns of production and consumption. They also point out the multiple functions and uses of forests and the need for a balanced view of the issues and opportunities for their conservation and development.

Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 highlights four programme areas: sustaining the multiple roles and functions of all types of forests; strengthening capacities for planning assessments and systematic observations of forestry and related programmes, projects and activities; promoting efficient resource utilization and evaluation techniques that incorporate the entire range of values provided by forests, forest lands and woodlands; and enhancing, protecting, conserving and managing degraded areas. The UNCED Secretariat estimated the total annual cost of these programmes to be $30 000 million.

The responsibility for implementing UNCED agreements rests with national governments, while the commitments made by NGOs, local communities and private sector groups in each country will determine the rate of progress.

FAO has identified several levels of action:

In the future, the trade-offs between international obligations and national interests and government readiness to negotiate international dimensions of forests (in terms of both commodity trade and environmental services) will further influence policy choices, national development and forest conditions.

Actions within the forestry sector alone cannot secure sustainable conservation and a wise use of forests. Success in the implementation of UNCED follow-up activities requires the promotion of follow-up actions in other sectors that influence forestry. Redirecting public policies to achieve efficient and sustainable forest management requires significant changes. However, UNCED's consensus on forest principles represents the first-ever commitment of responsibilities beyond national boundaries. The formidable challenge ahead is to turn these principles into practice. The contributions of forests to national development will depend on how well this challenge is met.

Top of Page Next Page