Editorial: The roads less travelled – the architecture for future forests

Jan L McAlpine, Director of the UNFF from 2008 through 2013

Ending one chapter of a career does lead to reflection. Serving as Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) from 2008–2013 could be compared to being a skier in heavy snow and moving too quickly to the dangerous black slope – an extremely fast and steep experience.

Read more

UNFF consists of 197 member countries, and was created to address all aspects of policy related to forests. The body sets its own programme of work, but the number of issues and institutions it seeks to address: economic, social and environmental, is overwhelming. As director of the UNFF secretariat, it was my job to work with the bureau, members of the secretariat and forest leaders around the world to focus UNFF’s work on the top priorities that called for decisions by the member states on actions to be taken by countries, stakeholders and the international and multilateral institutions to implement them. This required putting together workshops, background papers, meetings of experts and negotiators, consulting with stakeholders, and serving as a member of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests – a voluntary partnership of key international organizations whose mandates includes forest issues - that would enable an informed discussion and decisions to create real transitional change to a sustainable future of forests.

When the UNFF was created, it was designed as part of a larger set of institutions, organizations and public and private stakeholders with an impact on forests. The international arrangement on forests (IAF), as it came to be known, is made up of the UNFF, its member countries, forest-focused multilateral organizations through the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, women, business and industry, scientific and technological communities, workers and trade unions, children and youth, local authorities, non-governmental organizations and farmers and small forest landowners.

In 2015, the UNFF will decide on a future international arrangement on forests, how it will be constructed and what its programme of work and modalities of partnership will be in the future to implement the decisions of the UNFF. It may stay structured in the same way as it is now, or it may include other elements, including the option of an agreement to negotiate a legally binding international agreement on forests and a corresponding global fund or funds to implement those agreed functions.

Looking back at what has worked and what has not, everyone will agree that the IAF still fails to achieve the goals on forests that all have agreed are critical. And with the threats to forests, and potentially to food security and poverty created by the real possibility of 9 billion people in 2050, it is imperative that we consider a different way forward.

I would like to suggest, however, that, while we have failed to reach all of our goals, we have learned a great deal. Looking back at our attempts in global “governance” to identify effective goals, incentives and tools to change the status quo, we have discovered through our failures that many attempts to achieve positive change had elements of success. Look at the attempts to restrict trade in forest products to only those that come from sustainable forest resources. Look at eco-labeling, certification, and criteria and indicators. Most recently look at the intersectoral approach required for linking legality and trade and, embedded within it, many of the tools identified above. Have we glimpsed a transformational way forward?

Many find it simpler to write off a tool – or even an institution – as a failure and then to move on to yet another tool or institutional approach to see if that works. But what if we tried a completely different approach? A strategic approach to determining which road we should take? Or should it be roads?

In seminal work, professors Bernstein and Cashore (2000, 2012) conclude that lessons from multi-level forest governance to date can inform us on how to design an “effective learning architecture”. Cashore, Gohler, Rayner and Bernstein (2012) focus attention on learning about “casual mechanism”, (Dobbin et al., 2007; Gehring & Oberthür, 2009) . This is further identified as “the phenomenon in which policy makers and relevant stakeholders devote attention to understanding, assessing, and hypothesizing about the cause and effect of policy interventions across multiple levels for ameliorating specified problems”. Their hypothesis is that by doing so stakeholders will be able to collectively look for, and identify, practical tools for unlocking innovative and potentially durable interventions.  This work suggests that “… identifying synergistic solutions that, to date, have been largely bypassed by multi-stakeholder initiatives that emphasize compromise among competing goals, rather than identifying integrative and synergistic pathways…” is a better strategy for the future architecture of the IAF, including in the tools it may advocate and use.

This learning effort can draw on, they argue, four pathways within which all of the previously attempted attempts are embedded; although the international community has usually focused on one path over the others, resulting in deadlock in making decisions on a way forward. These four identified pathways are: 1) international rules (the traditional focus of regime effectiveness literature); 2) international norms and discourse; 3) creation of or interventions in markets; and 4) direct access to domestic policy processes. These can be complementary but, more importantly, the pathway approach necessarily requires an on-going analysis of the effectiveness of these pathways in achieving the collective goals for forests to inform and improve on the failures and successes of these approaches.

The pathways approach could be describing an idea which has developed significantly in the UNFF in the past ten years – it picks up the fact that the UNFF recognizes that many sectors must be engaged in order to change the unsustainable deforestation levels around the world, that while sovereignty of nations to rule their own forest resources is paramount, a partnership of global, regional and national levels – coordinated by the UNFF – will be the only way to achieve sustainable forest management and that all partners in the IAF must work together in order to achieve the goals. This requires focusing far more on a learning approach and recognition that multiple pathways may be used concurrently.

The IAF must be sent back to the drawing board for careful examination of the framework that guides work on forests for all partners. I believe that this work – and my experience supports this – points to an almost radically different way of thinking and acting, which should be focused on action, not analysis.

And a surer way to ski down a black slope ...

Jan McAlpine is a Lecturer at Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, a Fellow at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and an international consultant. She served as Director of the UNFF from 2008 through 2013. [email protected]

This paper draws from the following:

1. The Role of Policy Learning in Shaping Pathways of Influence: Lessons from Multi-level Forest Governance for Designing an Effective Learning Architecture, International Conference on Global Policy, Grenoble France. The four authors are Cashore, Gohler, Rayner and Bernstein

2. Bernstein and Cashore 2012. “Complex Global Governance and Domestic Policies: Four Pathways of Influence.” International Affairs 88 (3)

3. Steven Bernstein and Benjamin Cashore, ‘Globalization, Four Paths of Internationalization and Domestic Policy Change: The Case of Eco-forestry in British Columbia, Canada’, Canadian Journal of Political Science 33:1, 2000, p. 67–99, for an early articulation of these pathways.

Forestry news

Metsä2013 - Joint Session of the 37th Session of the European Forestry Commission and the 71st Session of UNECE Committee on Forest and the Forest Industry

Mr Robert Lodewijk Busink, Chairperson, 37th Session of the European Forestry Commission  and Senior Policy Advisor, Ministry of Economic Affairs, The Netherlands

The December joint meeting of FAO and UNECE’s regional forestry bodies has endorsed a new action plan aimed at supporting the transition of UNECE member countries towards green bio-based economies. The Rovaniemi Action Plan for the Forest Sector in a Green Economy establishes five pillars that will help countries deliver a steady, secure and sustainable future for forests in the region. Read the Rovaniemi press release and read on the Chair’s summary.

Read more

Metsä2013 ("Metsä" means "forest" in the Finnish language) was the name given to the joint meeting of the FAO European Forestry Commission (EFC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry (COFFI), which was held on 9-13 December in Rovaniemi, Finland, in conjunction with the second European Forest Week.

About 450 people representing governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, academia and the private sector attended this major European forest policy event.

The remarkably high level of participation is a strong indicator of the vitality of the forest sector in the European and Central Asian region and of the interest in the joint session and its many parallel events. Moreover, Rovaniemi is the home of Santa Claus, who kindly accepted to be the Ambassador of the European Forest Week. The association of Santa with forests helped enormously to promote the event throughout the region, especially among the younger generation, and no doubt has also increased general appreciation of the important role of forests in human well-being.

Holding the joint session and the second European Forest Week together proved so successful that the EFC and COFFI decided to organize their next joint session (in 2015 in Switzerland) in conjunction with the third European Forest Week.

The highlight of Metsä2013 was the adoption of the Rovaniemi Action Plan for the Forest Sector in a Green Economy. This plan sets out the principles and activities for the forest sector grouped into five “pillars”: sustainable production and consumption of forest products; a low-carbon forest sector; decent green jobs in the forest sector; the long-term provision of forest ecosystem services; and policy development and monitoring of the forest sector in relation to a green economy. I believe that the plan will provide a solid platform to enable the sector to perform its essential role in the more general move in the region towards a green bio-based economy.

Another important outcome of the meeting was the adoption of the Integrated Programme of Work 2014–2017 for the EFC and COFFI, which will guide the future work of the two bodies while maximizing synergies by using their respective qualities, competencies and networks.

The joint session issued the Market Statement 2013, which summarizes market trends and developments in the European and Central Asia region. It also featured three roundtables focusing respectively on market discussions, opportunities for engaging the private sector, and measuring and communicating the contribution of the forest sector to a green economy.
Thirty-eight side events were held in parallel with the joint session. This provided a unique opportunity for the various partners and stakeholders attending the joint session to present their work and discuss a wide range of substantive issues, such as: forest land ownership in Europe; the future of forest education; the future of sustainable forest management; and more. Among the organizations holding events were: the Forestry Commission of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; the European Forest Institute; the Finnish Forest Research Institute; the International Union of Forest Research Organizations; the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries; and the International Forestry Students Association.

I feel very honoured to serve EFC members as EFC Chair for the next two years. The forest sector faces important challenges. Through their Integrated Programme of Work and the Rovaniemi Action Plan, the EFC and COFFI provide a good infrastructure to guide and support the forest sector in meeting these challenges. Good cooperation between the EFC and COFFI, and with all stakeholders, is a prerequisite if the forest sector is to assume the place it deserves in the green economy. I also speak on behalf of the Chair of COFFI, Mr Heikki Granholm, in saying that we are looking forward to working with the EFC Executive Committee, the COFFI Bureau and their joint secretariat to implement the recommendations made in Rovaniemi.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to both FAO and UNECE for the excellent collaboration with the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in successfully organizing the 37th EFC session. I particularly wish to thank Assistant Director-General Eduardo Rojas-Briales and his team at FAO headquarters; Ms Paola Deda, Chief, ECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section and COFFI Secretary; Mr Dominique Reeb, Deputy Chief of the ECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section and EFC Secretary; and the ECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section team in Geneva for their excellent work in organizing Metsä2013 in Finland.

Santa Claus is ambassador for European Forest Week 2013

Forest product market statements released

The UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section has published the market statements of its member states for 2013/2014. The statements report on the economic trends, policy measures and other developments influencing the forest and forest industries sector. Along with the Forest Products Annual Market Review, they served as a basis for the Market Discussions at Metsä 2013. Read more on the 2013 Market Statements

Unleashing the economic power of smallholders

Locally driven forest producer organizations can unleash the economic power and entrepreneurial potential of indigenous peoples, local communities and private smallholders by assisting them to secure and sustainably manage their forests and obtain fair value for their products and services. This was the view of a recent international meeting on the topic in Guilin, China, co-organized by FAO. Read more about the Guilin Conference

Mountain family farming can contribute to sustainable development, with more support

The lives of 300 million mountain people who are food-insecure could be improved if they were to gain land tenure rights and access to resources and to basic infrastructure, according to an FAO publication, Mountain Farming is Family Farming. Released on 11 December, International Mountain Day, the book calls for more support for these marginalized communities. Read the Mountain Day press release

Unasylva 241: Forests for food security and nutrition

Forests and trees are essential for food security and nutrition as producers of foods and income and providers of ecosystem services. Achieving an optimal mix of trees in landscapes, however, requires much more interaction between forestry and agriculture. Unasylva 241 explores how to best use forests and trees to ensure food security, adequate nutrition and the elimination of poverty and hunger. Unasylva 241 English, French and Spanish

More reading:
Unasylva 160 1(41) 1990 – Forests and Food Security
202 3(51) 2000 – Forests, food security and sustainable livelihoods

Sustaining Andean mountain communities and ecosystems

The results of national surveys on the state of mountain ranges undertaken as part of an FAO project in 5 Andean countries will reinforce political efforts to strengthen sustainable development there, according to a regional meeting held last November. The FAO project also helped establish and strengthen national mountains committees to support mountain peoples and ensure ecosystem integrity. Read the results of the regional surveys and more on mountains in Latin America.

The 21st-century challenge for agro-environmental sustainability

Reconciling the goals of sustainable agriculture, poverty reduction, food security and environmental protection is the great agro-environmental challenge of the 21st century, according to participants at a regional meeting held in Brasilia, Brazil, earlier this month. The meeting reviewed case studies on agro-environmental policy interventions in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Nicaragua. Read more on the Brazil-FAO Cooperation Programme

Looking into the future of forest policies 

Developing future scenarios and foresight would greatly improve forest policies, especially when key stakeholders are involved in the process, according to senior forest policymakers from Brazil, India, Kenya and Peru, who met last month at FAO headquarters. Tools for, and experiences with, scenario-building should be shared globally to strengthen forest policymaking, the meeting concluded. Read meeting concept note | Agenda

Mediterranean bodies review action and plan for the future

A high-level panel report on the external review of Silva Mediterranea and its thematic working groups was the focus of discussions by the executive committee of Silva Mediterranea when it met in Tunisia in early December. The steering committee of the Collaborative Partnership on Mediterranean Forests also convened to review the implementation of activities and a forthcoming evaluation. Read more on Silva Mediterranea

New conservation corridor for West Africa

A conservation corridor linking forest reserves and protected areas in SE Ghana and SW Côte d’Ivoire is to be established by the two countries, with funding from the Global Environment Facility and technical assistance by FAO. The pilot project will encompass about 176,000 hectares, with the corridors representing 7,000 ha,and could be expanded if successful. Watch the APA interview with Fernando Salinas from FAO’s Subregional Office for West Africa.

EU FAO FLEGT Programme calls for project proposals from countries not engaged in VPAs 

The EU FAO FLEGT Programme will launch a global call for project proposals from government institutions, civil society and private-sector organizations in eligible timber-producing countries not already engaged in Voluntary Partnership Agreements in January 2014. Grants of up to Euro 100 000 will be available. Subscribe to the EU FAO FLEGT mailing list for more information.

Forestry data an integral component of new FAO database

FAO has launched a new website, FAOdata, that brings together a vast range of statistics, maps, tools, pictures and documents on nutrition, food, agriculture, fisheries – and forestry. Users can search FAO’s databases using Faodata's powerful search engine, filter and download data, create charts, maps and tables, and much more. Access FAOdata.

Unasylva reader survey 

We believe that Unasylva plays an important role in articulating the ideas, practicalities and challenges of sustainable forest management, but we want to know what you think. You can tell us by participating in a short (5–10 minute) Web-based survey. We will use your responses to improve Unasylva and increase its impact in the development of effective forest policy and practice. Take the survey.

Global news

19th Session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Global Landscapes Forum, Warsaw, Poland

FAO’s delegation to the UNFCCC was led by MariaHelena Semedo, Deputy-Director General, for Natural Resources, who, among other things, held bilateral meetings with country ministers and the executive secretaries of UN conventions. FAO’s representatives gave one of two technical presentations at UNFCCC's in-session workshop on agriculture, organized a side-event on climate-smart agriculture and spoke at other events.

Read more

Agreement reached on REDD+ in Warsaw
Parties to the Warsaw Climate Talks (UNFCCC COP19) held in Poland in November have completed their work on a framework to support results-based forest climate-change mitigation actions by adopting a package of 7 decisions on REDD+. Parties also agreed on the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, designed to assist developing countries suffering from the impacts of extreme events and slow-onset change. COP19 outcomes

Global Landscapes Forum
The first Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), held in November on the sidelines of UNFCCC COP19, made 13 recommendations to apply landscape approach principles in the Sustainable Development Goals and climate agreements, including on REDD+. The GLF merges three annual events held previously at UNFCCC COPs: Forest Day, Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day and Mountain Day. Read more about the Global Landscape Forum key outcomes and visit the GLF site.

High-level forest partner discussions in Warsaw
The Collaborative Partnership on Forests met in Warsaw last November to discuss indicators for a possible Sustainable Development Goal on forests, follow-up to the Global Landscape Forum, and the forthcoming Global Forest Expert Panel report on Forests and Food Security. The meeting was attended by high-level officials of CPF member organizations and chaired by FAO’s Eduardo Rojas. Read previous reports of the CPF

FAO, UNIDO to help boost forest and wood-processing sectors in southern Africa

FAO and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) are joining forces to assist the development of sustainable forest and wood-processing sectors in countries of the Southern Africa Development Community in an effort to combat forest resource depletion caused in part by failing reforestation and sub-standard and wasteful logging and wood-processing practices. Read the UNIDO press release.

Three-way linkage for climate-change mitigation

Germany is supporting Morocco and Costa Rica in an innovative climate-change project to promote knowledge sharing in sustainable watershed and fire management, ecotourism in protected areas, and partnerships in payments for environmental services in forest and other wooded lands. Signed in Rabat, Morocco, in November, the initiative is part of the GIZ regional project Silva Mediterranea-CPMF. Read more on the SM-CPMF

Upcoming meetings and events

Collaborative Partnership on Forestsevents calendar, including:

International Institute for Sustainable Development calendar 

New publications and videos


Unasylva reader survey
Unasylva is the FAO's journal of forestry and forest industries. FAO wants to ensure that it continues to be an effective medium for articulating the ideas, practicalities and challenges of sustainable forest management. You can help by participating in a short (5–10 minute) online survey. FAO will use your responses to improve Unasylva and increase its impact in the development of effective forest policy and practice. You can find a link to the survey.

Wood production slows in Europe but recovers elsewhere
Europe's share of global wood markets fell in 2012 due to its economic slowdown but North America and Asia–Pacific led recovery elsewhere, according to new data published by FAO. FAO’s annual forest product statistics span 53 product categories worldwide. The recent release also shows that wood pellet production increased 10-fold in the last decade, driven mainly by bioenergy targets in Europe. Read the press release and Forest Products Statistics


European forestry innovation: charting a path towards a green economy (8 minutes)
English - French - Spanish - Russian - Finnish

Santa Claus as new European Forest Week ambassador (3 minutes)
English - Finnish - French - Spanish - Russian

Santa Claus explains the importance of forests (60 seconds)
English - Finnish - German - French - Spanish - Russian

Green Gold
Produced for the United Nations by Svensk Filmindustri in 1949, the film Green Gold emphasizes that the nations of the world must work together to ensure that their forests are perpetuated and used for the good of all. In that era, the message was to think of a world plan – combine, cooperate, unite – to give hope for the future.

Unasylva: a stroll down memory lane

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

The tree that purifies water: Moringa

“... Our particular interest in Moringa oleifera concerned its role as 'clarifier tree' (shagarat al rauwãq) in the northern Sudan. After scientific confirmation of the flocculating properties of the seeds, which the village women had so far mainly used to treat the highly turbid water of the Nile (Jahn and Dirar, 1979; Jahn, 1981), systematic search for natural coagulants was also extended to seeds from other Moringa species. So far, success has been obtained with Moringa peregrina (Forssk.) Fiori (Egypt), Moringa stenopetala (Bak. f.) Cut. (Kenya), Moringa longituba Engl. (Somalia), Moringa drouhardii Jumelle (Madagascar) and Moringa ovalifolia Dinter & Berger (Namibia).

As with Moringa oleifera seeds, all investigated seed types contained primary coagulants comparable to the conventional coagulant alum. Applied in doses of 30 to 200 mg/litre in accordance with raw water quality, the Moringa seed powder suspensions could clarify different types of tropical surface waters with low, medium and high turbidities to tap-water quality within one to two hours (Jahn, 1984). As efficient elimination of turbidity is accompanied by a 98-99 percent elimination of indicator bacteria, domestic water treatment with Moringa seeds became a low-cost technology to be utilized in improving water and health in rural communities of tropical developing countries (Jahn, 1981; Sattaur, 1983; Jahn, 1986).

Unasylva 152 2(38) 1986


Subscribe to inFO news

To subscribe, click here and send the email (with no subject line).

Terms and conditions

The contents of this page are subject to the same terms and conditions as the FAO website.

last updated:  Tuesday, February 4, 2014