Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Part III: Processes and methodologies

Chapter 45. Framework for implementation and country participation
Chapter 46. Pan-tropical survey of forest cover changes 1980-2000
Chapter 47. Global mapping
Chapter 48. Forestry information system development

Navigation page to FAO Forestry country profiles

Chapter 45. Framework for implementation and country participation


FRA 2000 was developed according to the guidance of major United Nations policy fora, including the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), held in 1992, and especially its Agenda 21. In 1997, the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO) approved the plan for the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 according to the recommendations of a formal FAO Expert Consultation held in Kotka, Finland in 1996. The Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) also reviewed and endorsed results of the Kotka meeting and provided important feedback to FAO on conducting the assessment.

The Kotka meeting developed an agenda, outlined major issues and defined ways of compiling the information needed for the assessment. Later, a great amount of operational work and fundraising was required to execute FRA 2000. In practice, the assessment required the active participation of countries and areas throughout the world. Of the 212 countries represented in the assessment, 160 participated actively in workshops or worked with FAO staff in their own countries. Countries provided specific technical information used as baseline data for the assessment and worked with FAO in adjusting national data to global standards.

Countries were involved in the review of the results of the assessment as well as in its planning and implementation. In late 2000, all countries were given the opportunity to preview and check the results of the assessment before their publication. Through this process, 56 countries provided additional material and feedback to FAO. The preliminary results were also reviewed during the COFO meeting in 2001, which provided formal and positive feedback on the implementation and findings of FRA 2000.


The foundation for FAO's global assessments lies in its Constitution, which states that "the Organization shall collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information relating to nutrition, food and agriculture", where agriculture is defined to include fisheries, marine products, forestry and primary forest products (FAO 1992). After reviewing the results of FAO's first world survey of forests in 1947, the sixth session of the FAO Conference in 1951 recommended that the Organization "maintain a permanent capability to provide information on the state of forest resources worldwide on a continuing basis" (FAO 1951). Since that time, FAO has conducted global or regional assessments about every five to ten years.

The importance of forest resources assessments was highlighted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. In fact, much of the information that led to the environmental concerns highlighted at UNCED came from previous global forest resources assessments, particularly change information from the 1990 assessment. UNCED devoted a full chapter of Agenda 21, "Combating deforestation", to the issues of forest conservation and development and adopted the 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 has as a key element Programme D, "Establishing and/or strengthening capacities for the planning, assessment and systematic observations of forests and related programmes, projects and activities, including commercial trade and processes". Programme D contains a series of relevant recommendations for periodic assessments, which are underscored in the "Basis for Action" as follows:

Assessment and periodical evaluations are essential components of long term planning, for evaluating effects, quantitatively and qualitatively, and for rectifying inadequacies. This mechanism, however, is one of the often neglected aspects of forest resources, management, conservation and development. In many cases, even the basic information related to the area and type of forests, existing potential and volume of harvest, etc. is lacking (UNCED 1992).
Other principles contained in Chapter 11 provide additional guidance to international organizations and countries regarding the importance and conduct of periodic assessments. The Rio+10 conference in 2002 will provide the opportunity to review progress on these proposals since they were elaborated in 1992.

In all policy fora of relevance to FRA 2000, the need for involving countries and their professionals in the global assessment was stressed. This is one of the guiding principles of the FRA Programme. Along these lines, the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF IV) noted that:

FRA 2000 should be a partnership exercise facilitated by FAO but also involving United Nations organizations, national institutions and other interested parties, including relevant major groups. Cooperation at the national level should involve all interested parties, both within and outside the forest sector (UN 1997).
FAO fulfilled this obective and surpassed all past assessments to ensure that countries were involved in the assessment, that their information was utilized and that their perspectives were included in the final analyses.


Committee on Forestry

FAO serves as a steward of the data that are proffered by countries regarding their forests, which are often sensitive - especially those concerning tropical deforestation. Misuse of such data has the potential to impair a country's economy and therefore the welfare of its citizens. For an assessment to succeed, countries must be convinced that it is in their best overall interest to share such information with the rest of the world and to participate actively in the assessment. Therefore, a formal endorsement by FAO member countries for each periodic assessment is sought prior to initiation of the work. This is conducted through the FAO Forestry Department's highest policy forum, the Committee on Forestry (COFO).

During biennial COFO meetings each member country has the right to endorse or veto an assessment, as well as to make specific requests concerning its execution. As almost all FAO member countries attend COFO, approval to move forward with an assessment signifies that these countries are aware of the work that will be required of them and politically committed to the task. In 1997, COFO approved the agenda for FRA 2000 according to the recommendations of a formal FAO Expert Consultation held in Kotka, Finland in June 1996.

Expert consultations

Expert consultations are key to developing an agenda, outlining major issues and defining ways of compiling the information needed for an assessment.

The June 1996 Expert Consultation on Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (known as Kotka III) was attended by 45 forestry and environment experts from 32 countries and representatives from five non-governmental agencies and three international organizations. The meeting provided a unique opportunity for some of the world's foremost experts on forest assessments to discuss the scope and execution of FRA 2000. Participants provided valuable technical advice on the parameters needed for the assessment, as well as insight into its political and operational complexities. FRA 2000 also benefited from the review and endorsement of the Kotka recommendations by IPF IV.

As expected, Kotka III underscored the need for FRA 2000 to provide basic information on worldwide forest area, volume and biomass - its state in the year 2000 and changes since 1990 and 1980. In addition, the Kotka participants emphasized the need to include in the assessment a number of non-traditional parameters to provide a more holistic vision of forests. These include non-wood products and services, protected forest areas, trees outside the forest and others. The Kotka participants recommended a multifaceted approach for amassing FRA 2000 information, to include information provided by countries based on remote sensing surveys of forest cover change, low-resolution mapping and a number of special studies. Important decisions were also reached on a core set of comparable global definitions for all countries and on a division of labour between FAO headquarters in Rome (developing countries) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) (industrialized countries) (Finnish Forest Research Institute 1996).

Because of the difficulty and importance of providing the best possible information on forest change, FAO convened a second official meeting, the Expert Consultation on Forest Change, in March 2000. At this meeting leading specialists in forest inventory from around the world reviewed FAO's past methods of estimating forest change and submitted proposals for estimating forest change in developing countries for FRA 2000. During the meeting, methods for conducting change assessment were tested and analysed using representative data sets from FRA 2000.

Figure 45-1. Process of developing forest cover estimates using country information

The 1990 population-deforestation regression model was tested against new data coming from countries which could be compared against the FRA 1990 predicted values - with only sketchy results. The tests showed the tendency of the model to overestimate deforestation, particularly in countries lacking comparable multi-date inventories. Eventually, the meeting confirmed that "deforestation is such a complex process, involving physical, climatic, political, and socio-economic forces which are themselves very complex, that simple generalized models of forest change have so far not been developed. Current models are oversimplified and yield similar predictions of forest cover change rates for countries which are known to be very different" (Päivinen and Gillespie 2000). Based on these findings, FRA 2000 discontinued using the FRA 1990 model for predicting or extrapolating forest loss based on population dynamics.

The expert panel also tested and finally recommended a variation of the "convergence of evidence" method for estimating forest change, as it could be tailored to the available information from a particular country. This method was adopted for FRA 2000, as countries with greater amounts of ancillary information could use it to generate more precise estimates of forest change. Guidelines for the use of the method were developed in the meeting, and computer modules were written for the Forest Resources Information System (FORIS) to aid analysts in extracting, graphing and analysing multiple data sets needed to generate national estimates of change for FRA 2000.

Intergovernmental Panel on Forests

IPF IV specifically reviewed and commented on the Kotka agenda for FRA 2000 and made recommendations to FAO on its global assessments in general. The panel noted the importance of the assessment and commended the broadening of the scope to include non-traditional roles of forests and trees in the survey. However, it also noted that as of February 1997 the assessment was still unfunded and FAO had yet to produce a relevant working plan for the operation. In conclusion, the panel endorsed the Kotka agenda:

The Panel expressed strong support for FRA 2000 and the arrangements being made following the recommendations of the FAO Expert Consultation on Global Forest Assessment in Finland in June 1996 (Kotka III) ... [and requested] FAO to implement the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 in collaboration with international organizations, countries and other organizations with competence in assessments, and to share the results of the assessment effectively with the international community (UN 1997).
Use of country information

FRA 2000 relied on information from countries as a source for national-level statistics (see Figure 45-1). To collect the country data, the FRA Programme made formal requests to developing country representatives in 1996 and 1998 for their latest forest inventory reports and initiated a dialogue with them to ensure understanding of the information contained within the reports. The 1998 request was accompanied by specific guidelines (FAO 1998b) for all FRA 2000 assessment parameters to ensure that the information collection was well structured, along with a publication on FRA 2000 terms and definitions (FAO 1998a). UNECE/Geneva sent an enquiry, guidelines and terms and definitions to industrialized countries to initiate collection in those countries.

FAO relies primarily on the statistics from technical reports from the countries, rather than quoted or secondary sources. The use of data published in primary source documents ensures that FAO has the most objective, scientific and statistically valid information - and the necessary background to understand how it may best be used. In the few countries that have no applicable national forest inventories, FAO has had to compile information from various partial inventories or to use subjective estimates. This complex work could only be carried out with the direct collaboration of professionals from the various countries.

Once information from developing countries was compiled in FAO and its utility for FRA 2000 assessed, it was archived in the Forestry Information System (FORIS). Each entry included the original statistics from the source, terms and definitions, a description of the utility of the information and complete bibliographic references. Even information not directly relevant to the assessment was entered into the system, in the event that it might eventually be useful for other purposes. The detailed information on sources was also archived in order to achieve the maximum amount of transparency in the generation of FAO estimates.

To make the highly variable country information useful for global reporting, FAO employed a set of standards for its harmonization. First, all country information was classified according to a common set of terms and definitions. This was a difficult task because of the sheer magnitude and variability of the information produced by countries and the wide range of forest formations, ecological conditions and cover types that exist on a global scale. For example, in FRA 2000 more than 650 definitions of forest were assembled from 132 developing countries (from 110 independent surveys). FORIS was used to compute and archive the relationships established between national and global definitions.

FAO experts visited over 100 countries to work with national professionals on the use of their national data for FRA 2000. FAO also conducted numerous workshops for training related to data collection, analysis of country statistics and adjustment of information to global reporting standards required by FRA 2000 (see Box). UNECE/Geneva held a series of workshops and meetings to guide the implementation for the assessment in industrialized countries.

Review of results

Prior to publication of the results, FAO asked that countries review the country results and provide their comments. A formal letter was sent to each country requesting its cooperation, along with a Country Validation Profile containing the results and source information. Some countries requested changes in the FAO estimates.

The results of FRA 2000 were presented at COFO 2001 and were reviewed and commented on by the member countries. Member countries were asked to give any final comments to FAO by the end of March 2001. By the end of May 2001, all comments from countries had been taken into account. To modify the statistics, countries submitted primary technical material (inventory reports) which improved the results already compiled by FAO. Revised estimates were then calculated as a collaborative exercise between the countries and FAO.

The report of the fifteenth session of COFO summarizes the countries' final official position on the results of the assessment:

The Committee commended FAO for carrying out the Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000) and for presenting the findings in a comprehensive and transparent way. It acknowledged the difficulties posed by the limited availability of timely and accurate national inventory reports, and by the lack of adequate financial resources to ensure the elaboration of these inventories. It recognized the considerable efforts involved in harmonizing national inventory information in a global synthesis. While recognizing that the rate of global deforestation may have slowed in the 1990-2000 period, the Committee nonetheless noted with concern the continued high level of deforestation. It urged countries to consider FRA 2000 findings when carrying out policy development and planning (FAO 2001).

Beginning in 1997, the FAO Regular Programme provided three staff positions to FRA, equivalent to US$423 000 per year, and US$404 000 per year in non-staff funding. This represented 5.4 percent of the Forestry Department's annual allocation, and 0.25 percent of the Organization's annual budget. A number of Trust Funds to support the assessment, totalling about US$4.2 million, were established through donations (Table 45-1).

FRA 2000 workshops


Data Collection and Analysis for Sustainable Forest Management in ACP Countries: Linking National and International Efforts (Nakuru, Kenya, 12-16 October 1998)
Countries attending: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, the Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda

Data Collection and Analysis for Sustainable Forest Management in ACP Countries: Linking National and International Efforts (Mutare, Zimbabwe, 30 November-4 December 1998)
Countries attending: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Data Collection and Analysis for Sustainable Forest Management: Linking National and International Efforts (Lambarene, Gabon, 27 September-1 October 1999)
Countries attending: Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Rwanda

Data Collection and Analysis for Sustainable Forest Management: Linking National and International Efforts (Yamaussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire, 13-18 December 1999)
Countries attending: Benin, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, the Niger, Nigeria

Regional Workshop on Forestry Information Services (Stellenbosch, South Africa, 12-17 February 2001)
Countries attending: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Latin America and the Caribbean

Workshop on the Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (Turrialba, Costa Rica, 17-21 May 1999)
Countries attending: Belize, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela

Subregional Workshop on Data Collection and Oulook Effort for Forestry in the Caribbean (Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 21-25 February 2000)
Countries attending: Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago

Asia and Oceania

South Asian Regional Workshop on Planning, Database and Networking for Sustainable Forest Management (Thimpu, Bhutan, 23-26 May 2000)
Countries attending: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

Data Collection for Pacific Region (Apia, Samoa, 4-8 September 2000)
Countries attending: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polinesia, Kiribati, Micronesia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu

Industrialized countries

Temperate and Boreal Country Forest Resources Assessment Team of Specialists Meetings and Ad Hoc meetings on FRA 2000 in Industrialized Countries (Geneva, Switzerland, April 1996; Birmensdorf/Zurich, Switzerland, March 1997; Geneva, November 1997; Ispra, Italy, March 1998; Geneva, March 1999; Joensuu, Finland, May 2000; Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, June 2001)
Countries attending: Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, United States
Other organizations represented: FAO, European Commission, Joint Research Centre (EU), UNEP, World Wildlife Fund, European Forest Institute, World Conservation Monitoring Centre and UNECE/FAO Secretariat

TBFRA Meeting for Countries in Transition (Gmunden, Austria, 1-4 October 1997)
Countries attending: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Ukraine, Yugoslavia

Table 45-1. Trust Funds


Project code

Amount US$



1 046 000



650 000



1 596 924



355 950



30 000

United Kingdom


550 582

The following countries provided Associate Professional Officers (APOs) to work on the assessment: Austria (duty station Rome), Denmark (duty station Bangkok), Finland (duty station Geneva), France (duty station Rome), Italy (duty station Cairo), Japan (duty station Rome) and Sweden (duty stations in Rome and Santiago).


Additional goods and services were rendered by a number of institutions in the form of in-kind contributions. These contributors include the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (for country data collection and remote sensing interpretations), the Canadian Forest Service (for global ecological zoning), the EROS Data Center in the United States (for cost sharing and implementation of global mapping), the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (for remote sensing imagery), the Forest Survey of India (for remote sensing interpretations), the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (for global ecological zoning), the Swedish National Board of Forestry (for information systems and data collection in Africa) and the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (for global mapping, information collection in the Caribbean and technique development for estimating global change). Many other individuals contributed their time and labour to the assessment either in agreement with their organizations or as non-affiliated experts.


FAO. 1951. Sixth session of the FAO Conference. Rome.

FAO. 1992. Basic texts. Rome.

FAO. 1997. Report of the thirteenth session of the Committee on Forestry. Rome.

FAO. 1998a. FRA 2000 terms and definitions. FRA Working Paper No. 1. Rome.

FAO. 1998b. FRA 2000 guidelines for assessments in tropical and subtropical countries. FRA Working Paper No. 2. Rome.

FAO. 2001. Report of the fifteenth session of the Committee on Forestry. Rome.

Finnish Forest Research Institute. 1996. Proceedings of FAO Expert Consultation on Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 in cooperation with ECE and UNEP with the support of the Government of Finland (Kotka III), Kotka, Finland, 10-14 June 1996, ed. A. Nyyssönen & A. Ahti. Research Papers No. 620. Helsinki, Finland.

Päivinen, R. & Gillespie, A.J.R. 2000. Estimating global forest change 1980-1990-2000. Background document prepared for an international panel of experts convened to review methods to be used in completing the FAO Global Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) 2000. Rome, March 2000.

Space, J. 1997. Strategic plan, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000. Unpublished paper. Rome, FAO.

UN. 1997. Report of the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests on its fourth session. New York, 11-27 February 1997. E/CN.17/1997/12. New York.

UNCED. 1992. Combating deforestation. Agenda 21, Chapter 11. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page