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Chapter 51. Recommendations for future assessments

At its fifteenth session in March 2001, the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO)[58] was informed about the main findings of FRA 2000 as well as proposals for future assessments. COFO made a number of recommendations (FAO 2001) which formed the starting point for the recommendations below. In particular, COFO recommended that the global FRA programme continue to be a priority for the FAO Forestry Department. FAO was requested to provide continued technical and financial assistance to build national capacities for carrying out forest assessments.


FRA 2000 expanded the scope of previous assessments, and COFO recommended that FAO continue its efforts to carry out broad assessments, including various aspects of forest resources such as biological diversity, forest health and resource use. Future global forest resource assessments should continue to expand the number of parameters that are assessed.

National and international information requirements should guide the design and implementation of inventories and assessments so that the results will be useful for scenario development, planning processes and policy formulation. Information requirements should be holistic, multisectoral and multidisciplinary (Figure 51-1).


Forest information requirements are determined by overall policy objectives, and the parameters are chosen to indicate, evaluate or predict to what extent these objectives are being fulfilled. The requirements must by necessity address not only biophysical status and development of the forests, but also parameters that tell how the forest is used, as well as types and quantities of various benefits that are derived from the forest.

Each country needs to identify the information that is required to develop and implement effective forest policies and programmes, including the need to monitor criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management (in accordance with the criteria and indicators process with which the country is affiliated).

National forest information must have a number of key characteristics to be trusted and useful for the complex analyses of the forest sector and impacts on forest ecosystems. More specifically, the information must be objectively collected, be representative of all forests or lands, have both a high precision and good accuracy, and capture relevant variations of key parameters. FRA 2000 has clearly shown that such information is lacking in most countries. This lack of information impedes the provision of qualified input to national policy processes and makes international assessments and reporting of key indicators difficult.

Investments in information directed at national needs should be proportional and relevant to the national issues. For example, although detailed mapping of forests and other land uses to achieve better area estimates is feasible, the costs involved must be weighed against the cost and importance of assessing other variables such as productivity, values of products and services and other indicators adopted to monitor sustainability of forest management.

Figure 51-1. Forestry knowledge management at the local, national or international level

Note: The outer line indicates the activities of forest resources assessments.
As many forestry parameters are inherently local by nature and also affected by local management decisions, they must be inventoried and monitored at a local scale. Further, such local-scale observations must be aggregable to the national level. The consequence is that national-level assessments should be based on systematic field sampling where direct measurement and observations of relevant parameters can be made. This approach ensures not only that representative estimates can be achieved, but also that the variation of important parameters can be described. The variables to be assessed should be relevant for national-level policies as well as local needs.

To the extent feasible, international standards and reporting requirements should be taken into consideration when developing national information requirements and forest assessment processes. The use of internationally agreed standards and definitions is fundamental. This will greatly improve the consistency and comparability of data among countries as well as greatly simplifying the compilation of global assessments.

The fifteenth session of COFO (FAO 2001) recommended that FAO should lead the development and implementation of capacity building initiatives for developing countries and countries in transition, with an emphasis on improving national capacity for routine forest surveys related both to resources and to uses of forests. Such initiatives should be integrated with efforts to foster national information and knowledge management capabilities (FAO 2000a). COFO asked FAO to further develop this concept and to discuss it in the Regional Forestry Commissions. The goal is to initiate systematic knowledge collection and management at the national level and at the same time to develop internationally consistent data.

Capacity building for technical work should start at the field level and work up. At the same time, decision-makers should be increasingly brought into the picture, to ensure that information is relevant and available for their needs.


Previous global assessments have been carried out at approximately ten-year intervals. While this historically reflected a need to balance cost, reporting requirements and the availability of new information, the demands for more complex and timely information have increased. At the same time, requests for increasingly detailed documentation of forest resources are proliferating with the needs of international fora, global treaties and other opportunities for forest-related discussion. With this in mind, it is relevant to reconsider the format and cycle of global forest resources assessments.

The fifteenth session of COFO in 2001 recommended that FAO should begin staging the next global assessment and should present a plan to the sixteenth session of COFO in 2003. The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) recommended that FAO perform global assessments every five years instead of every ten, or carry out "rolling regional assessments" in the fifth year of the ten-year cycle. The twenty-third session of the Joint FAO/ECE Working Party on Forest Economics and Statistics (May 2001), representing the industrialized countries, recommended a ten-year cycle for the full global assessment.

To the extent possible, the next assessment should be coordinated with national criteria and indicator processes and with the United Nations Forum on Forests, with the assistance of the participating members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF).

National statistics, updated in tables and in-depth reports on selected assessment issues, will be published every two years in FAO's State of the World's Forests.

As countries update their national inventories or undertake other related national assessments, this information should be reported concurrently to FAO for updating of databases and for posting on the country pages of the FAO Forestry Web site,


Future global assessments should continue the approach introduced by FRA 2000 to present findings in a fully transparent manner. Steps should be taken to continue to improve the distribution and hence the impact of FRA results, both electronically and in print, and to improve access to Internet technology in developing countries.


As recommended by an expert consultation in March 2000 (FAO 2000b), a global multidisciplinary team of specialists should be established to provide guidance on content, methodologies, definitions and other relevant issues to improve the quality of future assessments. The team should interact on a regular basis through meetings or electronic networking. Team members would also participate in capacity building and knowledge management processes.

To facilitate future information gathering, data ownership for global core variables should be further distributed among countries, the CPF and UNECE/FAO. In addition, further partnerships should be developed to support core information on subjects such as protected areas, threatened species, forest fires and illegal logging, taking advantage of the comparative advantages of partners.

The FAO Forestry Information System (FORIS) should continue to be developed as a platform for effective and transparent monitoring and reporting of forestry knowledge.


Upon completion of FRA 2000, FAO will undertake:


FAO. 2000a. Global Forest Survey - concept paper. FRA Working No. Paper 28. Rome.

FAO. 2000b. Proceedings of the FAO Expert Consultation to Review the FRA 2000 Methodology for Regional and Global Forest Change Assessment. Rome, 6-10 March 2000. FRA Working Paper No. 42. Rome.

FAO. 2001. Report of the fifteenth session of the Committee on Forestry. Rome, 12-16 March 2001. Rome.

[58] The Committee on Forestry (COFO) is the most important of the FAO Forestry Statutory Bodies. The biennial sessions of COFO (held at FAO headquarters in Rome) bring together heads of forest services and other senior government officials, usually representing more than 100 countries, to identify emerging policy and technical issues, to seek solutions and to advise FAO and others on appropriate action. Other international organizations and, increasingly, non-governmental groups participate in COFO.

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