Editorial - The importance of partnerships

Mette Løyche Wilkie, Director, Division of Environmental Policy Implementation in the United Nations Environment Programme

When you stand at a crossroads in your career, you often find yourself looking back over the years, attempting to identify key lessons learned and a “red thread” in a series of moves that, more often than not, were the results of unexpected opportunities rather than part of a carefully executed strategic plan. In my own case, the red thread has been the combination of environment and sustainable development – with forests as the entry point. As a strong believer in the mandate and vision of the United Nations, I have been fortunate to
work for FAO for most of my professional life up until now.

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When it comes to lessons learned, the one that stands out is the importance of building and maintaining strategic partnerships. As part of my very first assignment with FAO, I was tasked with the rehabilitation and management of mangrove forests in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Situated at the interface between the land and the sea, mangroves epitomize the need for a broad intersectoral approach to their management, conservation and use – in this case involving several different ministries, local government units, customary owners (Paramount Chiefs), village elders and religious leaders, donors, environmental NGOs, wood cutters and charcoal producers, salt makers, farmers, fishermen and the women smoking and selling the fish, casual labourers and school children and their teachers.

The need for and benefits of effective partnerships are obviously not limited to mangroves and this early lesson repeated itself during my involvement in the International Model Forest Network, the Global Forest Resources Assessments of 2005 and 2010, the UN-REDD Programme and, more recently, during the design and implementation of a new strategic framework for FAO that cuts across the sectors the Organization works in. It’s amazing what we can achieve if we combine our efforts.
However, building and maintaining partnerships take time and require a willingness to compromise. This can be challenging, but time, an open mind and a flexible approach are absolutely essential ingredients if the partnership is to thrive. On the other hand, these efforts are compensated by the stimulating and rewarding interaction with people of different backgrounds, skills and ideas – not to mention ages, gender and value systems. More importantly, adopting a collaborative approach invariably results in joint activities that are better adapted to a broader range of stakeholders with wider and more positive and longer-lasting impacts.

Having recently returned to Africa, I am reminded of an old African proverb, which says it all:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”

Mette Løyche Wilkie, Deputy Director, Forest Assessment, Management and Conservation Division, FAO Forestry Department has recently left FAO to take up the position of Director, Division of Environmental Policy Implementation in the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi, Kenya. She is currently working with colleagues in FAO and UNEP to develop a strategic partnership agreement between the two organizations.

FAO Forestry news

Regional forest policy course gets top marks 

“This is one of the most satisfying courses …”, opined one of 22 foresters from six Pacific Island countries and China at FAO’s recent Executive Forest Policy course in Fiji. Participants spent 12 days immersed in the theory and practice of forest policy and being challenged by leading sector trainers to address new and emerging policy issues, successes and failures, and to hone new skills. 
Read more about the FAO Executive Forest Policy course held in Nadi, Fiji, in May 2014 , the 7th in a series initiated in 2007, which to date has trained over 100 current and future forestry leaders from 25 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

©FAO/Yurdi Yasmi

Strengthening global ties between forest and farm producers

Bolivia, Kenya, Viet Nam and Zambia are the latest additions to the Forest and Farm Facility’s network of partner countries working to attain sustainable livelihoods and food security for forest-farm communities. Partnering  also with regional and global forest and farm producer organizations, including under some new agreements, the Facility will  provide multi-sectoral support centred around three pillars of activity.
Read more about the Forest and Farm Facility's approach and visit the Facility website.

Committee backs sustainable bio-packaging to reduce food loss and waste

Representatives of the 23 world-leading forest industry and forest growers’ associations met in the Russian Federation in June for the 55th Advisory Committee on Sustainable Forest-based Industries (ACSFI) session. Strengthening collaboration on the development of bio-based packaging to reduce food loss and waste sustainably was one of several ACSFI recommendations, and the one that the 22nd Committee on Forestry encouraged FAO to support.

Read more about FAO's ACSFI, including the executive summary of its 55th Session.

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Global news

XIV World Forestry Congress: what's new, what's next

Find out about the latest developments regarding the XIV World Forestry Congress, taking place in Durban, South Africa, 7-11 September 2015 - English, French and Spanish.


Upcoming meetings and events

Training course

Strengthening forest tenure systems and governance - FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and The Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC), Bangkok, Thailand, 8–16 September 2014

Related documentation:


United Nations

Collaborative Partnership on Forestsevents calendar, including:

Expo 2015

Publications and videos


State of the World's Forests 2014

The State of the World's Forest Genetic Resources

The Forest and Farm Facility


EU FAO FLEGT Programme

XIV World Forestry Congress, Durban South Africa, 7-11 September 2015 

Unasylva: a stroll down memory lane  

In this occasional series, we feature reprints of extracts from early editions of Unasylva, FAO Forestry’s international journal of forestry and forest industries.  

 Spreading Knowledge

     ...The heart of FAO's task in Forestry is to help people of many lands to follow the arduous road of forest conservation and use. To this end many devices contribute -conferences, study tours, discussions, visiting specialists in various fields - all aimed at direct co-operation with technicians of the countries concerned. Such measures are indispensable. 

     But reflection, experience, and the most casual study of statistics show such a method of consultation can work only slowly with the many nations and very many problems demanding attention. Only the written word can really fill the void. 

     The activities of FAO and other agencies are unquestionably stimulating interest in forestry in many places. But clearly the enthusiastic director of administration or research and the ambitious forestry worker still cannot find a ready-made answer to the proper and insistent question, "Exactly where can I find the most significant technical material produced to date, which may contain fertile ideas applicable to my own project or task? ... 

Unasylva editorial, Vol. 6, No. 2, 1952

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last updated:  Tuesday, January 20, 2015