Agenda 21/11:Deforestation
SD DIMENSIONS / Environmental Policy, Planning & Management / Special
AGENDA 21 10 Land resources 11 Deforestation 12 Desertification 13 Mountains
14 SARD 15 Biodiversity Climate Energy

Progress Report
FAO, June 1997
Chapter 11:
Combating deforestation

The challenge

Conservation and development of forests are vital to human welfare. Forests help maintain ecological balance and biodiversity, protect watersheds, and influence weather patterns and climate. Forest products provide rural communities with wood, food, fuel, forage, fibre and organic fertilizer. Forest-based enterprises generate jobs and incomes. As an inseparable part of the total land use system, forests have significant inter-relationships with food and agricultural production.

Yet forest resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. More than 150 000 sq km of tropical forests are lost annually, mainly due to population growth leading to improper land uses. In many countries, remaining forests are being degraded by overgrazing, overlogging, air pollution, mining and oil extraction. The forestry sector will face even more intense demand in the future for its industrial products and services, and increasing pressure for transfer of forest land to agriculture, infrastructure and urban uses.

UNCED held environmental protection to be an integral part of development, which should aim at poverty alleviation and striking a balance between economic efficiency and sustainability. As part of that vision, it said all forests need to be sustainably managed for their social, economic and ecological services and benefits. Broad-based people's participation in forestry should be actively promoted.

Further, the efforts of developing countries to strengthen management, conservation and sustainable development of their forest resources need support from the international community. Trade in forest products should be based on non-discriminatory and mutually agreed regulations, while access to biological resources should give due regard to the sovereign rights of the countries where the resources are found.

Progress since UNCED

In February 1997, the CSD's Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) completed 18 months of political dialogue that has helped define the world's "Forest Agenda". It reaffirmed that conservation and sustainable development of forests are international concerns and stressed cross-sectoral links between Chapter 11 and other Agenda 21 priorities.

The Panel adopted proposals for action and reached consensus on key issues such as national forest programmes and forest assessments. The IPF process, in which NGOs actively participated, has fostered new intergovernmental and professional partnerships.

Forests occupy a prominent position in many International legal instruments - the international Tropical Timber Agreement, for instance, contains an accord on the need to manage tropical forests sustainably.

Work on scientific criteria and indicators, through the European "Helsinki Process" and the "Montreal Process", is likely to have a major impact on forest policies. Similar work is under way for Amazonia and dry zones in Africa, Near East and Central America. A framework and core definitions for the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 have been agreed upon.

At country level, recent years have seen a shift towards involving all stakeholders in decision-making, expanding the role of the private sector and regional/local level institutions, and integrating cross-sectoral issues in policy and planning. Fifty developing countries have completed strategic planning exercises and another 20 are in the process.

Private capital flows to the forest sector have risen. In some cases, public/private partnership has helped cover the environmental externality costs associated with sustainable forestry. Progress has been made in technology transfer and capacity building in such areas as forest resources assessment, national forest strategies, appropriate technologies and methods, reforestation and agroforestry.

Key issues

The following are among key issues and recommended actions emerged from the IPF process:

  • National forest programmes should be holistic, intersectoral and interactive, and consistent with national and local policies and strategies. They should involve all stakeholders, promote secure land tenure, and integrate the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources. Special attention should go to capacity building and better coordination among national and international partners.

  • Indigenous people and local communities have traditional rights that must be respected. Collaboration with them is essential to identify, maintain and promote traditional forest-related knowledge.

  • National forest research capacities should be improved and regional and global research networks developed to facilitate information exchange, foster interdisciplinary research and disseminate results. Needed are in-depth studies of the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation.

  • Improved valuation methodologies are needed to provide reliable estimates for all forest goods and services, especially those not traded in the market place. Further development, field testing and implementation of criteria and indicators at the national, subnational and forest management unit/operational levels is also needed.

  • Measures are needed to improve market access for forest goods and services, including the reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in accordance with existing international obligations and commitments.

  • Innovative approaches are needed to make more effective use of existing financial mechanisms and to generate new and additional resources at both domestic and international levels.

  • Investment policies and regulations should aim at attracting domestic, local community and foreign private investment in sustainable forest-based industries, reforestation, afforestation, and forest conservation and protection. Appropriate market-based and other economic instruments and incentives would increase rent capture and mobilize domestic financial resources.

  • Cooperation in forest-related technology transfer - both North-South and South-South - should be promoted through public and private sector investment, joint ventures, exchange of information and greater networking among forest institutions.

  • Improved information systems would enhance coordination and data sharing in the implementation of national forest programmes, ODA programming, the provision of new and additional financial resources, private sector investment, and development and transfer of technology.

  • The roles and mandates of relevant international organisations and mechanisms should be clarified in order to enhance cooperation and remove gaps and duplication.

The role of FAO

As Task Manager of Chapter 11, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) chaired an Inter-Agency Task Force on Forests (ITFF) that played a key role in the work of the IPF. FAO took the lead in developing four IPF programme elements and contributed to most others.

The Organization implements several major forestry activities related to UNCED follow-up. It promotes national forest programmes at the international level, organizes workshops on strategic analysis, planning, programming and monitoring, and has provided direct support to 35 country exercises. It prepared the Forest Resources Assessment 2000, which will assess of forest and land cover areas and changes over time, estimate biomass and tree volume by broad forest type categories, produce global vegetation and ecofloristic zone maps, and produce information on 15 indicators of sustainable forest management

FAO has produced regional outlook studies (Europe, Asia/Pacific, Africa) as a basis for strategic analysis of present and future consumption and production patterns for forests. It supports strengthening of the negotiation capacity of indigenous people and local communities, and networks for in situ conservation in arid and semi-arid lands. It reviews institutional arrangements for promoting investment in forestry development, and has organized training seminars on sustainable forestry operations and practices in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Future action will focus on building capacities to sustain forests' multiple roles, enhance their conservation, management and rational utilization and support local people's participation in forestry activities. Special efforts will concentrate on providing policy and strategic advice to member countries and the forest community as a whole in support to Agenda 21 and the "Forest Principles". FAO will promote the development of national forest programmes in response to Chapter 11.

Institutional arrangements

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Forests (ITFF) is composed of FAO, UNDP, World Bank, ITTO, UNEP, Secretariat of the CBD, and DPCSD. Its strategy for effective implementation of CSD-IPF proposals for action considers actions at global, regional and national levels, and existing strategies, mandates, policies and programmes of work of ITFF members and other relevant organizations.

Expected outcomes include identifying specific actions to be taken by ITFF agencies and other organisations, identifying lead agencies for each action as well as partnership arrangements, enhancing partnership between international organizations and governments, and identifying additional funding needs and joint mechanisms among the ITFF agencies in approaching potential donors.

FAO contacts

Task Manager, Chapter 11
Jean Clement
FAO Forestry Department
Tel.: (396) 5225 33589
Fax: (396) 5225 2151

Interagency Task Force on Forests (ITFF)
David A. Harcharik
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Tel.: (396) 5225 3550
Fax: (396) 5225 2151 - 52255137

The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000
Robert Davis
FAO Forestry Department
Tel.: (396) 5225 3596
Fax: (396) 5225 6661

Agenda 21 Progress: Introduction | 10 Land | 11 Deforestation | 12 Desertification | 13 Mountains | 14 SARD | 15 Biodiversity | Climate change | Energy