Item 8(d) of the Provisional Agenda


Rome, Italy, 12-16 March 2001


Secretariat Note



1. The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000) has been a participatory process for developing and implementing the most comprehensive baseline survey of forest resources, available for all countries, carried out to date. Available information on the extent, composition, protection and utilisation of forests has been compiled and analysed for each country. Special attention has also been given to estimating the rate of change of forest resources and to documenting the various factors involved in the changes. The FRA 2000 was a transparent process in that all background material and analyses are published, and each country invited to be involved in the process.

2. Despite this effort, FRA 2000 results indicate that information on forests and forestry is still not sufficient to address all needs at the global level. Although the collection of reports and articles that address forestry has grown considerably over the past decade, the overall source information base has not improved much in the past 20 years. With an apparently increased use of secondary or non-verified information and analyses, there is a risk that inaccurate perceptions of forest and forestry development will drive decision making.

3. Only a handful of developing countries carry out continuous forest inventories with systematic field surveying, which is required to provide the best information set. In fact, the vast majority of all countries do not have well comparable surveys over time, making it difficult to quantify and qualify forest change processes. The methodologies chosen for surveys may sometimes be insufficient for assessing qualitative parameters relevant to sustainable forest management, thus limiting the usefulness in forestry policy development.

4. The international community is now calling for for even more detailed, timely and accurate measurements of forest resources, including the monitoring of forest change. Such information would be used to address issues such as carbon sequestration, biological diversity and sustainable forest management. Conversely, inventories and information-generation mechanisms needed to survey and monitor the world's forests in a systematic way are still insufficient to meet information demands.


5. Requirements for forest and forestry information are broad in scope, which is justified by the many and varied processes and functions they serve. At the national level, quality information is required for policy development, implementation and monitoring, particularly related to complex land use issues. Without appropriate base information on forests, it is impossible to reliably outline management options, or to evaluate the effects of previous decisions. At the international level, several processes, notably those dealing with carbon cycling and biological diversity, require quality controlled input to models and analyses as well as monitoring systems. As mentioned, such information is today largely missing.

6. In light of the above, the following general directions and objectives of future FAO global assessments are proposed:


Continued development of country information

7. Global assessments have historically relied extensively on direct collaboration with countries, in the form of documentation and analyses from national correspondents. This excellent arrangement ensures the involvement of countries in the assessment process, and also that the most recent information is made available to FAO. It is envisaged that this approach will continue to provide the bulk of information to the global assessments.

8. To ensure the wide communication of the wealth of information proferred by countries, and to ensure transparency in the reporting, FRA 2000 has included the establishment of a state-of-the-art information system. One guiding principle in this effort is to ensure that a clear link from the FAO reported results exists with the country-supplied information. The information system constitutes part of the Forestry Information System (FORIS) of the Forestry Department, and includes national information also on subjects outside FRA. It is accessed through the website (

9. An obvious role for future global assessments is to continue to improve, update and expand the country information base as new information is made available. It is envisaged that this work will comprise (a) frequently updated presentations of country information following a continuous maintenance of the databases, and (b) reporting for all countries at regular (5-10 years) intervals.

Establishment of a Global Forest Survey framework

10. To address the finding of FRA 2000 that essential base information for sustainable forest management is largely missing, a proposed Global Forest Survey (GFS) framework is currently under development. The GFS would be part of the Forest Resources Assessment Programme and would complement the compilation and analyses of national reports and information. Additionally, the GFS would address the need for capacity building for forest inventory and information analysis by providing and supporting implementation of a systematic approach following international standards, to which national information requirements can be added. The GFS would be a large undertaking that would rely on FAO's capacity for coordinating and facilitating global information efforts. The GFS places strong emphasis on inviting partners to implement the survey through independent country projects.

11. The draft GFS methodology (see FRA Working Paper 28, found at under Publications) suggests global field sampling, a technique corresponding to the implementation of existing national forest inventories. The rationale behind a large scale field sampling is that data must be measured or observed in the relevant management scale to be useful for aggregated analyses. Furthermore, many variables of interest (including biological, socio-economic and forest mangement information) can only be collected on site. The knowledge on how to design such inventories has been available for many years, and methodologies (measurements, observations, interviews) exist for assessing the broad range of forest and forestry variables relevant for national and international processes. The GFS intends to implement this, as well as new developments and methodologies as they become available, at a global level, and to achieve capacity building through implementation in partnership with countries.

12. The GFS is justified by the clear role and mandate of FAO in information gathering, analysis and disseminafion and by the three strategies of the Forestry Department to: (a) serve as a neutral forum for policy and technical dialogue and source of global information, (b) set clear priorities according to international demands, which currently includes information systems, global assessments and outlook studies, and (c) build partnerships with member countries, international organizations, NGO's and the private sector to address and implement the Forestry Programme. The GFS is designed to work along the lines of these three strategies.

13. The GFS would be implemented based on country leadership (or group of countries), and national forestry institutions. Advantages with a survey design that follows country boundaries are (a) to facilitate national capacity building in the implementation, (b) to be able to tie in with existing national survey grids, (c) to enable project formulation for the field component on, e.g., a bilateral basis. In addition to the country survey, a secretariat and implementation team at FAO would coordinate and facilitate the implementation. FAO would also manage information relevant in the international context and report results.

14. Current activities to develop the GFS include methodology development, particularly of the field survey component, and discussions with national forestry institutions on design and implementation issues.


15. The proposals above would be implemented within the framework of the Forest Resources Assessment Programme of the FAO. It is envisaged that the links to other activities within the Forestry Department will be strengthened as the scope of information to be collected, analyzed and disseminated spans over a broad set of forestry topics (in FRA 2000 more than 10 subjects are included, covering resources, management as well as products). Furthermore, existing collaboration with national and international institutions will be expanded, particularly in the implementation of the GFS. No substantial additional financial resources will be needed at FAO. As with all efforts of the FRA programme, FAO will seek partnerships with countries, donors and other organizations who wish to be involved in the GFS exercise.

16. COFO may wish to review the proposal for future Global Forest Resources Assessment in the light of FAO's mandate to collect, analyse and disseminate information and in support of other activities within the programme in forestry, such as sustainable forest management and/or national forest policy development.