Summary report, 4–8 October 2010

20th Session of COFO

The twentieth session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Committee on Forestry (COFO 2010) convened from 4-8 October 2010 at FAO headquarters in Rome. The meeting attracted 770 participants from COFO member states, including heads of forestry departments, UN agencies, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. In plenary sessions held throughout the week, participants discussed: the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA); forests, biodiversity and water in the context of climate change; emerging opportunities and challenges in forest finance and forest governance; programme priorities for FAO in forestry; communicating the role of forests in sustainable development and preparations for the International Year of Forests 2011 (IYF); and preparations for the XIV World Forestry Congress.

COFO 2010 adopted a final report, in which it, inter alia: recommends that the next FRA be prepared by 2015; requests FAO to support national efforts on strengthening financial support for sustainable forest management (SFM); requests FAO to assist countries in valuing the potential contribution of forests in climate change adaptation and mitigation; and requests FAO to more clearly identify areas of emphasis and work on areas where FAO has a comparative advantage.

In parallel to the meeting and throughout the week, many special events were held as part of the second “World Forest Week.” These events included panel discussions on, inter alia: phytosanitary standards; new developments in forest finance; linking policy dialogue and implementation; forest governance; reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as well as the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+); and Growing Forest Partnerships.

COFO 2010 took place at a time when the world’s forests are receiving more attention than ever. Many would say that this attention is long overdue, given that we are losing 13 million hectares of forest—about the size of Greece—on an annual basis. One of COFO 2010’s principal contributions was a call for an inter-sectoral approach to addressing problems facing forests, and a “360 degree” perspective that takes into consideration the many functions and services that forests provide.


COFO is the most important of the FAO Forestry Statutory Bodies, which also include the Regional Forestry Commissions, the Advisory Committee on Paper and Wood Products, the Committee on Mediterranean Forestry Questions (Silva Mediterranea), the International Poplar Commission, and the Panel of Experts on Forest Genetic Resources. The biennial sessions of COFO, held at FAO headquarters in Rome, bring together heads of forestry services and other senior government officials to identify emerging policy and technical issues, seek solutions and advise FAO and others on appropriate action. This is achieved through: periodic reviews of international forestry problems and appraisal of these problems; review of the FAO forestry work programmes and their implementation; advice to the FAO Director-General on the future work programmes of FAO in the field of forestry and their implementation; reviews of and recommendations on specific matters relating to forestry referred to it by the FAO Council, Director-General or member states; and reports to the FAO Council. Membership in COFO is open to all FAO member states wishing to participate in its work.

COFO-14: Discussions at COFO-14 session in 1999 addressed the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development’s Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, the global forest sector outlook, and national and international challenges to forest policies for sustainability. COFO-14 also reviewed FAO’s programmes in the forestry sector, and its Strategic Framework (2000-2015) and medium-term implications for the forestry programme.

COFO-15: In 2001, COFO-15 focused on forest information and knowledge management, criteria and indicators for sustainable development of all types of forests, and implications of certification and trade for SFM. It reviewed FAO’s forestry programmes, including results of the FRA 2000, the 2002-2007 Medium-Term Plan, proposals for a global FRA, and key forest-related issues of climate change and the Kyoto Protocol.

COFO-16: COFO-16 convened in March 2003 to discuss: forests and freshwater; national forest programmes as a mechanism to implement the key outcomes of the World Food Summit and the World Summit on Sustainable Development; the review of FAO programmes; and the FAO medium-term planning process, particularly regarding forests, poverty and food security, forest governance and forest biodiversity.

COFO-17: COFO-17 convened in March 2005 to address: the 2005 State of the World’s Forests report; RFCs; needs and opportunities for international cooperation in forest fire preparedness; the role of forests in contributing to the Millennium Development Goals, and the World Forestry Congress. The Ministerial Meeting on Forests was also held during COFO-17. Ministers addressed issues relating to international cooperation on forest fire management and maintaining commitment to SFM, and adopted a Ministerial Statement.

COFO-18: COFO-18 convened in March 2007 to address: the 2007 State of the World’s Forests report; forest and energy; forest protection; putting forestry to work at the local level; progressing towards SFM; shaping an action programme for FAO in forestry; decisions and recommendations of FAO bodies; and the XIII World Forestry Congress (WFC XIII).

COFO-19: COFO-19 convened in March 2009 to discuss: the FAO Strategy for Forests and Forestry; the Collaborative Partnership on Forests’ Strategic Framework on Forests and Climate Change and related topics including SFM and climate change; forest genetic resources; reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; access to financing; the impacts of recent economic turbulence on the forest sector; and preparations for WFC XIII. COFO19 adopted a final report, in which it, inter alia: urges members to deliberate on national and international responses of the forestry sector to climate change; recommends that FAO and other organizations strengthen members’ capacities to implement SFM; and recommends that FAO prepare a report on the State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources by 2013.


On Monday, 4 October, Eduardo Rojas-Briales, FAO Assistant Director-General and Head of Forestry opened COFO 2010. Rojas-Briales suggested that forests are a manageable sink and can make an essential contribution to offsetting carbon emissions. He added that reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as well as the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+) is most welcome, but to last it must integrate issues such as biodiversity, rural development, and land tenure, and ensure that resources reach the ground. Noting that forest policies and management will only achieve their goals if based on a sound scientific basis, he supported the creation of an advisory panel on forest knowledge.

The plenary then adopted the provisional agenda (COFO 2010/2) without amendment. The following COFO officers were nominated and elected by acclamation: Anders Lönnblad (Sweden) as Chair; Donatien N’Zala (Republic of Congo) as First Vice-Chair; and Karma Dukpa (Bhutan), Josué Morales (Guatemala) Ahmed Ridha Fekih Salem (Tunisia) and Jim Farrell (Canada) as Co-Vice Chairs. In addition, delegates elected members of the Drafting Committee, with each region nominating three countries to serve on this committee.


GLOBAL FOREST RESOURCES ASSESSMENT: THE WAY FORWARD: On Monday, Mette Wilkie, FAO, presented the Global Forest Resource Assessment 2010 (FRA) (COFO 2010/4), noting that it is the most comprehensive assessment of its kind, involving over 900 experts from 178 countries, at a cost of US$25 million. She cautioned that the quality of data from many countries remains poor due to a lack of capacity, and noted challenges in assessing forest degradation. She suggested that key variables should be made available on an ongoing basis, instead of every five years, and that remote sensing is playing an increasingly important role.

In the ensuing discussion, several countries made statements on the comprehensiveness and utility of FRA 2010. The European Union (EU) noted that although good governance is a prerequisite to sustainable forest management (SFM), the concept is not defined well enough to assess on a global level. She cautioned that increasing reporting frequency would be costly, and urged a focus on increasing the quality of existing reporting. Canada called on FAO to focus on forests and not trees outside forests. Ethiopia suggested reevaluating current definitions of the term “forest,” and Angola called for uniform definitions.

The Republic of Korea recommended that FAO consider revising and clearly defining variables and adding new ones for the next assessment. Norway urged giving priority to information on rates of deforestation, carbon stocks, and soils, and to continue streamlining forest-related reporting. Morocco noted that high costs act as a barrier to using remote sensing but that this can be overcome by pooling efforts.

Reflecting on the interventions made by delegates, Rojas-Briales highlighted the need to streamline reporting in regions where other processes exist, and to integrate remote sensing with traditional FRA methods.

FOREST BIODIVERSITY, FIRE AND WATER IN THE CONTEXT OF CLIMATE CHANGE: This agenda item was addressed on Monday and Tuesday. Biodiversity was discussed in plenary on Monday; and fire and water were addressed in parallel plenary sessions on Tuesday, which reported back to a joint plenary session on the same day.

Forest biodiversity: Oudara Souvannavong, FAO, presented a report on forest biodiversity in the context of climate change (COFO 2010/5.1), highlighting the importance of forest biodiversity to the functioning of forests and their ability to adapt to climate change. He noted the impacts of deforestation and forest degradation on forest biodiversity, and noted that SFM faces constraints in addressing this. He said that although the global extent of primary forests is declining, the amount of protected areas is increasing.

Tony Simmons, World Agroforestry Centre, facilitated the ensuing panel discussion, noting that forests are fundamental to the habitability of our planet.

Donatien N’Zala, Director General of Forest Economy, Republic of Congo, described efforts undertaken by his country to monitor biodiversity and encourage its sustainable use, noting that many threats remain. He said that 12 out of 20 million hectares of forest are designated for timber production, and noted that additional capacity is needed to ensure their sustainable management.

Expressing hope for large-scale restoration of forests and their biodiversity, Tim Rollinson, United Kingdom Forestry Commission, called for a holistic approach to sustainable management of forests that avoids separating the issue into biodiversity, climate change and forests.

Sarath Fernando, Conservator General of Forests, Sri Lanka, presented on his country’s legislation and in situ and ex situ activities protecting forest and forest genetic resources. He highlighted ex situ conservation activities, noting limited human and financial resources, and called for increased education, training, and regional cooperation.

In the ensuing discussion, the EU emphasized that the ecosystem approach is an important part of SFM, called on FAO to support national implementation of international agreements, and called for improving biodiversity indicators in the FRA.

Brazil welcomed the State of the World’s Forests Genetic Resources report, suggesting that it will be a technical rather than prescriptive document. She expressed disappointment that it does not refer to access and benefit sharing. Noting that SFM and biodiversity protection are not fundamental contradictions, Switzerland supported strong cooperation of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF), FAO and other forest organizations with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Japan said protected areas, good management of forests outside of protected areas, and sustainable management of planted forests are all crucial for biodiversity conservation. Republic of Congo called for coordination amongst biodiversity-related conventions.

Reflecting on country interventions, Souvannavong noted support for: FAO’s efforts to help countries to protect biodiversity and gather information for national strategies for mitigation, adaptation and forest management; and improving the quality of data gathered rather than increasing the quantity of indicators for biodiversity assessment.

Forest Fire and Health: Gillian Allard, FAO, presented a guide on forest practices to manage pests. José-Antonio Prado, FAO, presented the Secretariat’s note on forest fires (COFO 2010/5.2), and suggested that COFO may wish to encourage countries to, inter alia, recognize the importance of fire in REDD+ plans, and request FAO to update fire management guidelines in light of REDD+. Jim Carle, FAO, presented a new approach to address mega-fires, including increasing mitigation efforts through active land management such as fuel reduction and prescribed burning in high risk areas.

Panelists addressed fire management strategies in their respective countries. Tom Tidwell, US Forest Service, said the US’s strategy aims to restore ecosystems and forest resiliency on a landscape scale and build fire-adapted human communities. João Rocha Pinho, National Director for Forest Management, Portugal, described the challenges of strategic fuel management in current social and agricultural systems, given Portugal’s mostly smallholder land ownership system. Felician Kilhama, Ministry of Forestry and Beekeeping, Tanzania, highlighted villager involvement in reducing fire incidence in participatory forest management areas.

Andrey Eritsov, Aerial Forest Fire Center, Russia, said that increased fire frequency is linked to climate change and regional drought, and highlighted new transboundary fire prevention efforts. Neil Cooper, Fire Manager, Australia Capital Territory, said that recent catastrophic fires exposed the insufficiency of Australia’s fire management capacity and prompted reforms, including prescribed burning of at least 5% of the country’s forests per annum.

In the ensuing discussion, the EU urged a proactive approach to forest health, and to seek synergies with existing efforts such as the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the Global Fire Monitoring Centre. Indonesia suggested engaging sectors other than forestry as well as forest dwellers to address the root causes of forest fires. Iran queried whether forest fires originating in protected areas should be allowed to burn as part of the forest’s natural cycle. Japan highlighted efforts to reduce emissions from slash and burn agriculture. China emphasized that the impact of invasive species is three times that of fire, and described national achievements in SFM promotion, pest control and emergency responsiveness. Ethiopia noted that impacts of fire on wildlife have not been considered, and that traditional knowledge should inform fire management strategies. France suggested that discussion of forest health needs to be further linked to climate change. Malaysia called on FAO for guidance on how REDD will intersect with fire management programmes. Nicaragua highlighted the restoration of rights over ancestral land, noting that traditional forestry practices can contribute to SFM.

Forests and Water: Moujahed Achouri, FAO, presented the relevant document (COFO 2010/5.3). Karma Dukpa, Department of Forest and Park Services, Bhutan, described a compensatory payment system in which the hydropower sector supports efforts to combat deforestation. MoshibudiRampedi, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, South Africa, reported on efforts to link water and forest issues in light of water scarcity, including: linking afforestation projects to the purchase of a water license; and agreement with the private sector on the maximum level of afforestation. İsmail Belen, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Turkey, noted the lack of clear responsibilities of water and forest departments within his ministry, resulting in problems with managing water catchment areas in forests. Rolf Manser, Federal Department of the Environment, Switzerland, noted threats to water supply from forest catchment areas, such as atmospheric nitrogen deposition. He said forest management practices can help maintain water quality, but forest organizations need support through cross-sectoral partnerships and payments for forest ecosystem services. Wladimir Tene, National Forest Director, Ecuador, described a national plan for the expansion of forest areas and the protection of catchment areas in cooperation with the water sector.

In the ensuing discussion, participants addressed, inter alia: the role of arid and semi-arid areas in the context of forest and water management; the difference in water needs for reforestation and afforestation; FAO’s water platform; protection of water catchment areas in highly populated regions; integrated water management; training programmes for water and forest organizations to identify common ground; transboundary water management; and landscape restoration for protecting water resources.

Summarizing the panel, Eva Müller, FAO, highlighted the trans-boundary and social and economic dimensions of the forest and water issue, and the need for FAO to take into account the very different country settings.

EMERGING OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES IN FOREST FINANCE AND FOREST GOVERNANCE: This agenda item was addressed on Wednesday in parallel and plenary sessions, including panel presentations and discussion.

Strengthening public sector finance for SFM: Adrian Whiteman, FAO, introduced the topic (COFO 2010/6.1) by describing barriers to raising public finance for SFM, and ways to overcome them. Juan Manuel Torres-Rojo, Director, National Forest Commission, Mexico, emphasized matching funds as a means of scaling up forest finance, and described specialized financial mechanisms, including: insurance products; mortgages for standing trees; contracts on future harvests; and creation of local markets and voluntary carbon markets. Luis Torales Kennedy, Paraguay Forest Institute, noted that his country replaced less successful indirect incentive mechanisms with direct subsidies, that, inter alia: reimburse 75% of the costs of forest plantations and the first three years of maintenance of these forests; and provide credits that are appropriate for forest projects.

José Antonio González Martin, Ministry of the Environment, Spain, said it is important to both strengthen finance for public-owned forests and provide financial incentives to private owners and communities. He emphasized: financing mechanisms for sustainable agriculture and for owners of small forests; grouping of forest projects; and common marketing of products from certified forests. Kiyeon Ko, Korea Forest Service, described  success stories in stopping deforestation in his country: village forestry associations that receive financial support from the government to establish and protect pine forests, and a green fund that receives funding from lottery proceeds and finances projects such as walking trails, green culture and education programmes, and bioenergy projects.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates addressed, inter alia: that forests provide multiple benefits and must be financed by many sectors; the need for making activities and results visible to raise awareness and funding for forestry sectors; donor agencies’ focus on big programmes, resulting in forest projects receiving less funding; and the difficulties in matching donor rationalities with local needs. Delegates also asked for FAO’s assistance in developing forest finance mechanisms.

Nicaragua said that due to donors failing to meet their official development assistance (ODA) commitments, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will not be met. Paraguay commented on the difficulty of accessing existing funds.

The EU and Japan called for the creation of enabling conditions to encourage private sector investment, with the EU adding that the value of environmental services needs to be properly assessed to be incorporated into decision making. China suggested the creation of separate finance mechanisms tailored to address different functions of forests, including ecological and cultural.

New Zealand said that public funding can serve as a catalyst for private investment, and suggested that FAO work with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) to refine finance mechanisms. The US called on FAO to support the UNFF Facilitative Process on forest financing. Brazil supported the creation of a global forest fund.

Forest governance: Eva Müller, FAO, presented the associated background paper (COFO/6.2), stating that insecure tenure and discretionary authority create an uncertain investment climate. She said that countries could benefit from an analytical framework to assess governance strengths and weaknesses. She suggested that COFO consider adopting decisions on including governance in future FRAs, and on extending support to countries in strengthening forest governance.

Nalin Kishor, World Bank, said that corruption spreads between sectors, and leads to an overall loss of governmental credibility. He highlighted work conducted by the Environmental Investigation Agency that demonstrated the high costs of illegal logging. He applauded demand-side efforts to ban imports of illegal wood, but cautioned that leakage to indiscriminate markets threatens to undermine such efforts. He said that a number of institutions are developing forest governance indicators, avoiding overlap by sharing experiences at a recent symposium. 

Paul Munro-Faure, FAO, presented FAO’s voluntary guidelines on forest tenure, noting the interdisciplinary nature of the issue, and highlighted risks associated with insecure tenure, including marginalization of the poor and unsustainable land use. He stressed the voluntary nature of the guidelines, intended as an international framework for evaluation, and said implementation will commence in 2012.

The EU noted that many different international institutions are addressing forest governance, and said it was premature to include this in the FRA. Brazil stressed that devising universal standards to monitor governance mechanisms in the FRA is inappropriate. She noted that controlling illegal logging was a domestic issue and, with China, called for international cooperation to control illegal trade.

The US, Canada and Japan suggested that FAO build on national experiences and regional criteria and indicator processes to develop governance indicators. New Zealand said efforts to assess governance should build on existing efforts such as the efforts of national forest programmes (NFPs) to improve governance. He stressed the importance of demand-side policies by importing countries in restricting trade in unsustainably produced forest products.

Indonesia said fighting illegal logging and trade will take international political commitment. Japan said forest governance should be tackled in coordination with other stakeholders involved in climate change-related capacity building. The Community of Central African States and Tanzania called for support for capacity building and strengthening of public sector institutions at the country level.

Rojas-Briales suggested a broad approach to forest governance, noting that illegal logging was a relatively minor driver of deforestation.

REDD+: Jose Antonio Prado, FAO, outlined ways in which FAO can support national REDD+ efforts (COFO 2010/6.3), including: integration of forests into climate strategies and policies; information exchange; capacity building for monitoring, reporting and verification; assistance with forest inventory and databases; and participation in the UN-REDD Programme to support countries in preparing their REDD+ strategies. He noted that many of FAO’s existing best practices guidelines can assist countries in meeting their REDD+ goals.

Morocco requested that REDD+ assistance include all types of forests, including arid and semi-arid areas. Afghanistan emphasized that a successful REDD+ mechanism will depend on good governance, equity, fairness and stakeholder involvement, and encouraged the integration of REDD+ into the agendas of all FAO regional bodies.

Brazil cautioned against prejudging outcomes of the discussions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The US emphasized that REDD must include robust monitoring and strong social and environmental safeguards. The US and Norway suggested FAO can play an important role in climate change activities by building on existing efforts, with Norway highlighting the FRA and capacity building, and the US emphasizing: integration of REDD into NFPs; strengthening governance and tenure; financing strategies, including payments for ecosystem services (PES); and monitoring and assessment, including a global remote sensing survey.

Japan said that the Copenhagen Accord provides a basis for action on REDD+. Republic of Congo called for FAO to support REDD+ as an instrument to restore degraded forests and ensure sustainable development of forest resources in the fight against poverty.

The EU said the document should give more attention to sustainable land use, linking the improvement of land-use governance for agriculture and forests. She urged involving local communities in REDD+.

Malaysia said FAO plays a significant role in developing and understanding issues related to climate change and REDD+. Costa Rica suggested that FAO should give technical support for capacity building in accessing funds.

Switzerland called for enhanced regional cooperation and information sharing on forestry and adaptation, and advocated to link the climate change platforms envisaged under the UNFCCC to FAO’s regional commissions. He said a synthesizing organization that provides network and support services is needed, and supported periodical meetings on technical issues of interregional interests.

DECISIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF FAO BODIES OF INTEREST TO THE COMMITTEE: This agenda item was addressed in plenary on Wednesday. Michael Martin, FAO, introduced the relevant document (COFO 2010/7), highlighting proposals to: examine COFO’s rules of procedure that would, inter alia, enhance the role of COFO chairs; and develop a multi-year programme of work for 2012-2015.

Several countries supported the recommendations contained in the document, highlighting support for an analysis of forest genetic resources, and for regional policy exchanges. The EU and the US called for closer cooperation with the FAO Committee on Agriculture, with the US adding that this should go beyond agroforestry to include issues such as governance, land tenure and market access.

PROGRAMME PRIORITIES FOR FAO IN FORESTRY: Rojas-Briales introduced this item (COFO 2010/8) in plenary on Wednesday. Noting priorities were based on recommendations from the regional forestry commissions, he highlighted the following: broadening national forest monitoring and assessment to cover rangelands, non-wood forest products (NWFPs) and environmental services; climate change adaptation activities; capacity building in forestry education; activities in social and community forest management; communication opportunities during the International Year of Forests; scaling up exemplary cases of SFM; capacity building in forest health and forest genetic resources; and strengthening alliances.

Iran called for attention to phytosanitary measures. Stressing that REDD+ is a coordinated activity among UN agencies, Japan lamented that FAO has not clarified its own role and comparative advantages, and suggested that FAO’s strength lies in statistics, forest monitoring and assessment, and technical support. The EU called on FAO to prioritize climate change-related activities, particularly the use of SFM for mitigation and adaptation. She: called for giving priority to enhancing the quality of data in the FRA rather than the quantity of criteria assessed; welcomed the strategic objective of sustainable management of land, water and genetic resources; and asked how priority setting will be reflected in the next FAO budget. The US called for building capacity for NFPs, in particular on national financing strategies. Welcoming climate change as a priority area, she urged that FAO concentrate on its comparative advantages, suggesting: cross-sectoral integration of climate change issues into forestry; national forest strategies; and global remote sensing. Australia supported FAO’s priority setting for the medium term, saying the objectives are ambitious but achievable, and urged FAO and member countries to think strategically.

Canada suggested, inter alia: in cooperation with CPF partners, to focus on increasing the effectiveness of existing SFM funding sources as well as on increasing the funding; to maximize the SFM benefits of emerging sources of finance such as REDD; and, on forest governance, to broaden the emphasis on community forestry to include other participatory approaches to forest management.

Tanzania, supporting the proposed priority areas, noted that priority setting must be evaluated against the background of FAO’s strategic framework.

COMMUNICATING THE ROLE OF FORESTS IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT—THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF FORESTS (2011): This session was held on Thursday. Moderator Annika Söder, FAO, said forests have moved to the center of attention as they play an important role in achieving the MDGs as well as the Rio+20 process. Rojas-Briales presented on communicating the role of forests in sustainable development (COFO 2010/9), noting a lack of awareness outside the forest sector of the contribution of forests to sustainable development. He emphasized that NWFPs provide a safety net during tough economic times. He suggested that each month of the International Year of Forests highlight a different value that forests deliver.

Emphasizing the linkages between his country’s NFP and poverty reduction strategies, Abdelazim Mirghani Ibrahim, Head of Forestry, Sudan, noted that Sudan’s National Forest Corporation links the trade of wood products with poverty reduction, highlighting community participation in planting and protecting trees, but lamented that shrinking revenues and lack of donor and government funding constrain the extension of these activities.

Gilbert Canet Brenes, Director, National System of Conservation Areas, Costa Rica, described efforts that helped restore his country’s forest cover from 21 to 51%, including: protected areas that account for 30% of the country’s territory; education and community forest programmes; PES to finance the production of hydroenergy; 30 biological corridors managed with the participation of local councils; ecotourism accounting for 50% of the tourism sector; and hydro-energy that delivers 90% of national electricity consumption.

Addressing the need for better communicating the role and work of forestry sectors, Gerhard Mannsberger, Head of Forestry Department, Austria, lamented that despite significant expansion of forests in Europe, the vast majority of Europeans believe harvesting is a major threat to forests. He described a national cooperation programme linking more than 30 organizations from the forest and wood-based sector.

Emphasizing that the framework for forest work has changed dramatically due to factors such as climate change and population pressure, Gerhard Dieterle, World Bank, urged for increased interaction with other sectors to tackle deforestation. He explained that the World Bank’s forest-related investments are more successful when linked to water, energy, or agricultural issues, and presented Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Forest Investment Program (FIP) projects that reflect such cross-sectoral thinking. 

Jan McAlpine, UNFF, presented a movie by John Liu showing the potential of forest restoration to improve the lives of rural people. She emphasized the need for forest financing, and engagement with actors outside the forest sector.

In the discussion, Afghanistan said that individual projects, while useful, do not fulfill the need for a national forest strategy. Senegal lamented the lack of trained foresters and funds to recruit them.

Republic of Korea said that development strategies have not given forests enough attention, and suggested that the FRA be adapted to evaluate the dollar value of services provided by forests, so their importance could be properly communicated to other ministries. He noted that his country will host the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and that this could provide an opportunity to showcase forests’ role in preventing desertification.

China announced that in 2011, China will expand its afforestation campaign, and will hold an award ceremony on 12 March 2011. Republic of Congo said that the forest sector in his country has played a role in improving access to remote forested regions due to construction of roads, communications infrastructure, and landing strips. He noted Congo’s ambition to establish one million hectares of plantations. The EU suggested that the role of forests in achieving the MDGs should be highlighted during the IYF, noted the success of the European Forest Communicators Network, and suggested that the message of what forests have to offer needs to be tailored to the regional and local level to be effective.

Senegal brought attention to a project on knowledge transfer of sustainable practices to local communities. Uganda asked for sharing of information on how to restore forests removed by small-scale farmers to enhance their food security.

Norway outlined cooperation on policies among European countries through Forests Europe. He highlighted the upcoming Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, saying that countries will likely commit to a common vision of European forests, and decide whether to launch negotiations on a legally-binding agreement on forests in Europe.

Brazil said that the IYF should focus on how forests make a difference in the lives of people living in and around forests.

Lamenting that the preoccupation with climate change and other issues has distracted attention from the role of forests in sustainable development, Indonesia expressed hope that the IYF can restore attention to a broader view of forests.

The US welcomed FAO’s emphasis on working with other sectors and organizations, and urged not to reduce forests to one benefit or service.

Highlighting comments on cross-sectoral issues and land planning, Rojas-Briales urged FAO to strengthen its capacity in these areas, and said FAO will take the challenge of transforming FRA to have a broader view on forests.

CONCLUSIONS OF THE XIII WORLD FORESTRY CONGRESS (WFC) PREPARATIONS FOR THE WFC XIV (2015): On Friday, Leopoldo Montes, Secretary-General, WFC XIII, and Tomás Schlichter, Chair of the Technical and Academic Committee of WFC XIII, presented the conclusions of WFC XIII (COFO 2010/10), highlighting that most observations and recommendations from the nine key areas addressed by the WFC contain a strong environmental component.

Delegates then heard bids from India and South Africa to host WFC XIV in 2015. Delegates commended the governments of both countries for the high quality of their applications. Several African countries, as well as Switzerland, supported South Africa’s bid, noting that the WFC has never been held in Africa, and recognizing the potential the first congress on the continent could have. Peter Csoka, FAO, said that the submissions of the two countries, as well as the recommendations heard in plenary, will be presented to the FAO Council for a final decision. 

DATE AND PLACE OF THE NEXT SESSION OF COFO: On Friday, Csoka recommended, and delegates agreed, that the next session of COFO will be held in October 2012, in Rome, Italy.


Throughout the week, parallel events and events in support of COFO 2010 were held as part of World Forest Week (WFW). These events were intended to create a more informal dialogue, with delegates speaking in their personal capacity and not as state representatives, and open to participation by intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. These events were not officially included in the report of COFO 2010. All WFW events held in support of COFO are summarized here.

He Changchui, FAO, opened WFW on Monday. He said SFM is a practical tool for achieving sustainable development, and called for stronger partnership with the private sector, as well as sound governance as a precondition for achieving greater benefits. Lamenting that the total number of hungry people remains unacceptably high, he encouraged delegates to sign FAO’s “One Billion Hungry” campaign.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, CBD Executive Secretary, through a video message, emphasized the importance of biodiversity in climate change mitigation, and noted the CBD’s new strategic plan to restore 50% of degraded forests by 2020. He lamented that less than 10% of the world’s forests are managed sustainably, and that a high degree of variation remains in interpreting what constitutes SFM.

Teresa Presas, President, International Council of Forest and Paper Associations, addressed challenges facing the forest sector, including the economic downturn, access to fiber and competition from wood substitutes. She highlighted land pressures stemming from increased demand for food and bioenergy, and called for the use of lesser-used tree products.

Niels Elers Koch, President, International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), highlighted IUFRO’s contributions to bridging the science-policy gap, including: the Global Forest Expert Panel, which produces comprehensive peer-reviewed scientific assessments and policy briefs on forest adaptation to climate change, and on the international forest regime; capacity building in science-policy interfacing; and the IUFRO 2010-2014 Strategy’s emphasis on this interface.

BIODIVERSITY AND PHYTOSANITARY STANDARDS: This event took place on Monday, and was chaired by Peter Kenmore, FAO. Tim Christophersen, CBD, presented on the biodiversity benefits of REDD+, noting that there is a strong correlation between biodiversity and forest carbon stocks. He said that there was more carbon in primary and naturally regenerated forests than in plantations, and highlighted carbon and biodiversity mapping tools.

Jean Claude Nguinguiri, FAO, discussed a study surveying measures to protect biodiversity in forest concessions in Central Africa, saying that results were mixed: progress had been made on awareness-raising among forest companies and incorporation into national legislation, but effective implementation of measures has been limited. He highlighted barriers to implementation, including insufficient human and financial resources and technical problems.

Jarkko Koskela, Bioversity International, introduced the European Information System on Forest Genetic Resources (EUFGIS), which: created a network of 35 national focal points; established pan-European minimum requirements to clarify the role of protected areas and production forests in gene conservation; and defined standards for gene conservation units. Koskela noted that EUFGIS offers data on more than 2200 gene conservation units and 110 tree species in 35 countries, and suggested that the information system can contribute to the discovery of genes with adaptive significance.

Presenting a study on the implementation of phytosanitary standards in forestry, Kerry Britton, US Department of Agriculture, explained that the main reason for the rising number of forest pests is increasing trade in wood products, with major forest pest pathways being: wood packaging materials; wood products including handicraft and firewood; and nursery stocks. She suggested that ways to prevent pests include good forest management, investing in science to identify threats, monitoring of expatriate plants, and regulating commodity and package material. She noted that the International Plant Protection Convention developed international standards for phytosanitary measures, but that governments have to find ways to implement the standards and the forest industry needs help in implementing them.

In the ensuing discussion, participants addressed, inter alia: the need for differentiating between the potential of different forest types for adaptation and mitigation; experience with biodiversity conservation in forests controlled by private entities; and coherence between phytosanitary standards and forest certification schemes.

FRA 2010: On Monday, Mette Wilkie, FAO, presented key findings from the FRA 2010, noting that five countries account for more than half of the world’s four billion hectares of forest. She noted that primary forests are declining by four million hectares per year, while plantations are expanding by five million hectares per year, largely in China. She noted that it is difficult to depict global trends in forest management, noting that certain regions exhibit alarming trends.

Joberto Freitas, Brazilian Forest Service, noted that deforestation in Brazil has been declining since 2004 due to a variety of measures, including: expansion of protected areas; a strategic plan to prevent and control deforestation; enhanced law enforcement; and investment in forest monitoring systems. He highlighted the importance of detecting selective logging, which is a precursor to deforestation.

Zhang Min, State Forestry Administration, China, described China’s massive reforestation efforts, amounting to almost five million hectares per year, involving 11.5 million people. He said that this has increased China’s forest cover from 14 to 20% between 1990 and 2010, and that the government aims to achieve 26% cover by 2050. He noted the ecological and social benefits that this has delivered.

Jim Farrell, Canadian Forest Service, presented on forest health, noting that although most insect “pests” are a natural part of forest function, current outbreaks in Canada are high above normal cyclical levels, likely due to conditions created by fire suppression over time.

Rémy Mukongo Shabantu, Economic Community of Central African States, described developments in Central African forest management, noting that between 2000 and 2010 the region lost an average of 660,000 hectares of forest, but designated 147,000 hectares per year as conservation areas. He noted that all governments now have policies supporting SFM, and most have timber auction systems designed to increase allocation transparency. He noted that although all countries are engaged with the EU’s forest law enforcement, governance and trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement process, progress has been uneven. He noted the importance of independent forest monitoring in ensuring transparency, and challenges such as weak institutions.

Adrian Whiteman, FAO, presented results from an inquiry on public expenditure and revenue collection, new to the FRA for 2010. He highlighted that in 2005 global revenue from forestry was US$14.6 billion, while public expenditure on forestry was US$19 billion. He noted that Africa averaged less than a dollar per hectare in revenue, compared to the global average of six dollars.  

NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN FOREST FINANCE: Michael Martin, FAO, chaired this session on Tuesday. Ulrich Apel, Global Environment Facility (GEF), said that US$750 million of the US$4 billion of GEF’s fifth replenishment period are allocated to SFM/REDD+ activities, with an additional US$250 million going to an SFM/REDD+ incentive mechanism. Uganda commented that these vast sums of money have not yet reached the ground.

Yemi Katerere, UN-REDD Programme, said the Programme received pledges of US$112 million, and that eight out of nine pilot countries are ready for implementation. He noted lessons learned, including: formulation of roadmaps as a means of clarifying needs and ways forward; and readiness plans that should be cross-sectoral and integrated with national development plans.

Gerhard Dieterle, World Bank, provided an overview of the activities of the FCPF and FIP, highlighting FIP’s planning of investments in: institutional capacity in forest governance and information; and investments in other sectors that affect forests. He noted stakeholders’ concerns with the potential of REDD to recentralize forest governance.

Christian Mersmann, Global Mechanism (GM) of the UNCCD, highlighted the GM’s role as a facilitator of forest financing, working towards an integrated investment framework that links sectors nationally. He noted that forest financing was still too dependent on international finance.

Jan McAlpine, Director, UNFF, said the UNFF financing strategy takes a cross-sectoral approach. She highlighted the conclusions of the recent meeting of the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Forest Financing, including the request to the UNFF Secretariat to study the implications of REDD+ financing on broader forest financing.

Peter Besseau, International Model Forest Network (IMFN), stressed the value of people as an integral asset in sustainability. Recounting the IMFN’s experience to date, he noted that a lot can be done with relatively modest, well-targeted funding.

LINKING POLICY DIALOGUE AND IMPLEMENTATION: Jim Carle, FAO, chaired this session on Tuesday. David Kpelle, FAO/Forestry Commission, Ghana, reported on implementation of the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests (NLBI) with the support of the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), noting the importance of its national action framework in coordinating Ghana’s many programmes related to forests. He identified existing strengths, including stakeholder consultations and areas for improvement, such as enhancing cross-sectoral coordination and providing a watchdog role for civil society.

Liu Daoping, State Forestry Administration, China, presented on planted forest management in China, noting the establishment of guidelines on responsible management of plantations and on silvicultural practices by Chinese companies overseas.

Felician Kilahama, Director of Forests and Beekeeping, Tanzania, said that Tanzania’s forest inventory, financed by Finland, had been broadened to consider emerging issues such as REDD, biodiversity, soil carbon, and trees outside of forests. He emphasized the importance of monitoring forest governance in order to understand how decisions affect people and forests, and said that the inventory had been influential in improving policies and strategic planning.

Delegates discussed, inter alia: how frequently forest policies should be re-assessed; costs associated with forest inventories; challenges with monitoring change over time; benefits of adopting voluntary guidelines, and the need for more widespread implementation of the NLBI prior to the 2015 review of its effectiveness.

COMMUNICATING THE POTENTIAL OF FORESTRY TO THE FINANCE SECTOR: On Tuesday, Chair Jerker Thunberg, FAO, noted the need for enhanced communication between the forest and finance sectors to bridge the financing gap in forestry. Emmanuel Ferreira, economic advisor to the Government of Paraguay, said improving this communication requires a process of translation of terminologies between forest and finance departments. Reinhold Glauner, Managing Director, WaKa Forest Investment Services, said the challenge for the forest sector is to create reasonable financial returns of about 10% to attract the billions of dollars available from private and institutional investors. Dominic Elson, advisor to the Government of Indonesia, said establishing rights can improve the institutional conditions for attracting the desired type of investments, but noted that investors can find community rights difficult to understand. Josué Morales, Head of the National Forest Institute, Guatemala, shared experiences with a forest investment programme that, inter alia, aims to involve small wood producers, emphasizing the role of micro-finance institutions. Hans Thiel, FAO Investment Centre, lamented that forest departments often do not participate in negotiations with international financial institutions, and therefore do not partake in public sector loans. He called for articulating forestry policy with broader sectoral policies and national development plans.

Responding to questions, Thiel said private investment does not need to be triggered by public money, but requires clear rules and expectations. Elson called for distinguishing between soft public money that can help create institutional contexts, and hard private investment that seeks returns. Ferreira noted a gap between finance for small projects and large investments of more than US$10 million, and recommended pooling projects at the community level to attract investment.

PANEL OF SCIENTISTS AND HEADS OF FORESTRY ON GOVERNANCE: Ewald Rametsteiner, FAO, chaired this session on Tuesday. Dilip Kumar, Director, Indian Forest Service, noted that since decolonization India has delineated forest management according to village, production and protection forests. He noted the need to move away from a technical to a more social approach to forestry, particularly since forested areas are associated with high levels of poverty, and to consider the impacts of other sectors.

Karl Reinhard Volz, Freiburg University, highlighted that science’s role is to independently evaluate and present options and possible consequences, leaving it to politicians to select from among these. He cautioned against the “scientification” of politics that ignores the social construction of truth.

Margaret Shannon, European Forest Institute, suggested that forest policy making is not a “puzzle” that can be solved with additional information, but a “mystery” that requires good judgment in order to make sense of an abundance of data. She recommended a post-normal approach to science that considers legitimacy of authority and the context of a problem as well as the problem itself.

Marilyn Headly, Forestry Department, Jamaica, described a national case where scientific information provided by the forestry department was used to inform and adapt policy on land reclamation, requiring mining companies to restore forests in a two-phased approach that involves planting of leguminous plants prior to planting hardwood species.

Ahmed Ridha Fekih Salem, Director, Department of Forests, Tunisia, described the Tunisian experience with collaboration between decision-makers and policy implementers, stressing the strong and diversified involvement of scientific partners.

Julius Chupezi Tieguhong, FAO, described collaboration between scientists and policy makers in identifying gaps in forest legislation with respect to NWFPs in Cameroon, and on governance transparency in the NWFP sector. He lamented that funding had been terminated before the project was completed.

Delegates discussed: why forest scientists had yet to receive a Nobel Prize; how some governments have ignored scientific recommendations; and the need to involve more social scientists in forestry departments.

PANEL OF SCIENTISTS AND HEADS OF FORESTRY ON REDD+: This panel was moderated by Eva Müller, FAO, on Wednesday. Samuel Afari Dartey, Forestry Commission of Ghana, emphasized the importance of civil society participation and the inclusion of proactive conflict resolution mechanisms in REDD.

Francesco Carbone, University of Tuscia, described how forests have failed to benefit under the Clean Development Mechanism, and lessons that this offers for REDD, noting that plantations offer very little benefit for local people and cause social tension. Marlo Mendoza, Forest Management Bureau, the Philippines, said that since the 1970s the Philippines’ forest cover has dropped from 17 to 7.2 million hectares, and said REDD will be most difficult to implement where poverty is the driver of deforestation.

 Alain Karsenty, Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), argued that if REDD is to work it will necessarily create winners and losers, and that if all countries “win,” chances are that it is the climate that is losing. He noted several fundamental problems underlying REDD that remain unresolved, including the impermanence of forests and methods of remuneration, and lamented that the mechanism remains incapable of addressing “leakage.” He said that REDD is based on an overly simplistic theory of motivation, in that it assumes that each state will react in the same way to the same incentives, and fails to consider the dynamics of the fragile and sometimes failing states in which it will operate. Karsenty added that as a “cap-and-trade” mechanism, thus far REDD has generated a lot of “trade” but no real “cap,” as there is no limit to credits generated. He cautioned that REDD currently lacks the rigor and regulation underlying the Kyoto Protocol. He said that an agreement on REDD is unlikely to be achieved in Cancun, and suggested that an alternative would be to create an international fund to combat deforestation, focused on addressing underlying drivers and tailored to country situations.

 Boen Purnama, Ministry of Forestry, Indonesia, said that Indonesia’s complex tenure system poses challenges to REDD implementation, and that financing needs to be simple and adjusted to local requirements.

Elena Petkova, Centre for International Forestry Research, said it is not a question of “how can we make REDD more effective” but whether it can be effective at all, given the flaws in its current design. She said the true test of REDD is whether it will be able to re-shape development paths towards sustainability, or be shaped itself by the vested interests that are resisting change. She highlighted how focusing on measuring emissions dictates a costly techno-centric approach that can lead to outside “expert control” of REDD activities, taking control away from local communities.

 She cautioned that REDD may recentralize governance, and said that transparency and civil society oversight will be key to ensuring legitimacy. She emphasized that the single biggest obstacle is the contradictory incentives driving the development of non-forest sectors such as palm oil.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF FORESTS 2011: This event was chaired by Peter Csoka, FAO. Outlining planned activities for the International Year of Forests (IYF), Jan McAlpine, Director, UNFF, said “Forests 2011” should be a celebration of the positive things related to forests and their role for people, highlighting biodiversity, climate and health. She explained that the UNFF, as the focal point for the UN system, will be working closely with the Secretariats of the Rio conventions, the CPF, and major groups, as well as artists and filmmakers. She said UNFF will pursue a variety of activities, highlighting a “forest heroes” programme, the International Forest Film Festival, and the role of goodwill ambassadors.

Describing activities, success stories and lessons learned from the International Year of Biodiversity, Tim Christophersen, CBD, said national governments play a key role as primary organizers of activities and can, inter alia: build national committees, including municipalities, NGOs, and other stakeholders; evaluate the impact of activities at the national level as a basis for overall impact evaluation; and translate and spread information. Regarding lessons learned, he highlighted: websites that allow for user updates; regional ambassadors; use of films and photos rather than text to be more visual and creative; and regional conferences.

Many participants commented on the opportunity presented by the IYF to promote the importance of forests to the general public and to politicians, and described planned national activities for the IYF. Participants brought up: the important role that NGOs will play in national promotion activities; youth as one of the principal targets of campaign efforts; and involving family forests and national and international forester organizations.

McAlpine commented on the potential of NFP facilities to promote the IYF, and that the IYF is not just an exercise in public relations, but a chance to have substantive discussions at the national and local levels.

GROWING FOREST PARTNERSHIPS: On Thursday, Sophie Grouwels, FAO, chaired the session and explained that Growing Forest Partnerships (GFP) is an initiative that was launched in February 2009 by IUCN, the International Institute for Environment and Development, FAO and the World Bank, designed to build international and local networks to enhance the local control and sustainable management of forests. Alda Salomão, Centro Terra Viva, described a project involving two forest communities in Mozambique, one of several GFP pilot countries. She noted that GFP has helped communities engage with and influence Mozambique’s national REDD Strategy.

Lennart Ackzell, Federation of Swedish Family Forest Owners, said that GFP has played an influential role in the ability of his organization to advance its goals, and has enabled the creation of a “Rights-Holders Group” composed of the International Alliance for Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of Tropical Forests, the Global Alliance for Community Forests and the International Family Forest Alliance. He noted the need to disaggregate the term “forest investment,” noting that while investment can benefit locally-controlled forestry, often it does not.

Dominic Elson, advisor to the Government of Indonesia, described the barriers that need to be overcome in order to link community-based and small-scale forest management with investors. He cautioned that this type of forestry risks being shuffled into a firm’s “corporate social responsibility ghetto” and given low priority, and that interested groups must make the business case for it to be considered a valuable asset. Noting that many NGOs bemoan the “failure” of the concession model of forestry, he argued that concessions do exactly what they are intended to do—produce large amounts of timber as cheaply as possible—and that it is up to the low-impact forest sector to distinguish itself from this large-scale industrial model.

EMBRACING COMPLEXITY: MEETING FOREST GOVERNANCE CHALLENGES: Alexander Buck, IUFRO, chaired this event on Friday. Su See Lee, IUFRO, recalled that IUFRO, at its XXIII World Congress, adopted a decision to enhance its contribution to the science-policy interface, and said that this is the intent of the Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP).

Jeremy Rayner, University of Saskatchewan and Chair of GFEP on the International Forest Regime, provided an overview of the GFEP initiative, which involves 30 experts from multiple disciplines. He recognized that the very terms “regime” and “governance” are contentious. He said that both the drivers of forest loss and the governance arrangements that have developed in response are extremely complex, but noted that this is also the case with other regimes, such as climate change. He suggested that instead of attempting to reduce regime fragmentation, it may be best to embrace inter-institutional complexity. He also noted the need to think beyond the forestry paradigm to consider the wider multi-sectoral context within which forest-related decisions are made, referring to this approach as “forests+”. He said that the GFEP report will be launched at UNFF9 in January 2011.

Constance McDermott, Oxford University, presented selected findings from the GFEP on the core actors and issues defining international forest governance, and the six-themed framework that was employed in the analysis. Drawing upon the theme “Forest Extent” as an example, she showed how the actors involved and the discourse surrounding the issue have changed over time.

Heidi Vanhanen, Finnish Forest Research Institute, presented a policy brief entitled “Asian Forests: Working for People and Nature,” prepared by IUFRO-World Forests, Society and Environment Special Project. She highlighted new emerging opportunities for Asian forests, such as carbon finance mechanisms, PES, and new institutional investors, stressing that these are forest-related issues, not only forest issues. She said that by 2025, one in four people in the world will live in an Asian city, and that there will be one billion more middle class people in Asia alone, noting implications of this for land and resource use. She called for improved land use planning, tenure and public sector reform, and sustainable landscapes, to ensure forest benefits will reach the people.

Rayner concluded that the challenge was to move beyond the forestry sector to involve broader society and the public sector for better outcomes.

Responding to questions, Rayner stated that the expert panel had debated the use of the concepts “forestry+” versus “forests+,” deciding on the latter to stress the need to move away from the “forestry box,” which has been limited in its ability to respond to current pressing concerns. He said that complexity would have to be embraced at the appropriate scale, keeping in mind the principle of subsidiarity. One participant commented on the need to strengthen forest institutions as a principal means to address cross-sectoral cooperation.

PRESENTATION OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TUSCIA INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE-FORUM: On Friday in COFO plenary, Gerard Buttoud, University of Tuscia, presented the results from a three-day seminar on emerging economic mechanisms and their implications for forest-related policies and sector governance, held as part of World Forest Week. He said that a great number of success stories of economic mechanisms for innovation and certification existed, but that difficulties arise as these mechanisms fundamentally change the framework of forest governance and require the adaptation of national policies. He recommended continuing dialogue between scientists and policy makers, suggesting that a rigorous scientific analysis is more helpful than work resulting from consultancies, since scientific criticism, although sometimes more pessimistic, is more useful for policy making.


On Friday, Xiao Wangxin, China, Chair of the Drafting Committee, introduced the draft report (COFO 2010/REP/Draft) for adoption. Delegates went through the report item-by-item. On emerging opportunities and challenges in forest finance and forest governance, Nicaragua requested adding that FAO be requested to support countries in exploring the innovative forms of financing for development currently under consideration by the UN system. On programme priorities for FAO in forestry, Canada called for working with the CPF on increasing the effectiveness of existing sources of finance, and working towards maximizing the SFM benefits of emerging financing opportunities such as REDD. On communicating the role of forests in sustainable development, Canada also added that consideration be given to strengthening the idea and profile of an international day of forests. Delegates adopted the report with these amendments.

Rojas-Briales thanked delegates for their contributions that allowed for a “360 degree view on forests,” and COFO Chair Lönnblad closed the meeting at 4:32 pm.

COFO 2010 REPORT: The report of COFO 2010, as adopted during the closing plenary, contains the following elements:

  • On the way forward for the FRA, the Committee recommended that the next FRA be prepared by 2015, and that it give priority to improving information on deforestation and forest degradation rates, forest carbon stocks, trees outside forests, and the roles of forests in protecting soil and water resources and providing livelihoods. The Committee requested FAO to prepare a long-term strategy for FRA, streamline forest-related reporting, investigate the feasibility of more frequent updates on key variables, and coordinate international efforts and build country capacity to use remote sensing to monitor forests.
  • On forest biodiversity in the context of climate change, the Committee requested FAO to strengthen country capacity, continue efforts to develop a report on the state of the world’s forest genetic resources, and strengthen its capacity to share information related to biodiversity conservation.
  • On forests and water in the context of climate change, the Committee recommended that countries intensify work in this area and pay increased attention to socio-economic issues related to forests and water and financing mechanisms such as PES, and recommended that FAO continue to review critical related issues and facilitate information exchange.
  • On strengthening financial support for SFM, the Committee requested FAO to support national efforts in this matter, and recommended that countries take advantage of existing experiences and lessons to diversify their economic base for financing SFM.
  • On forest governance, the Committee recommended that FAO support countries to achieve their goals in strengthening domestic forest law enforcement and governance, and take into account existing regional initiatives in its work to propose an analytical framework for assessing and monitoring socio-economic and institutional indicators.
  • On REDD+, the Committee requested FAO to assist countries to value and utilize the potential contributions of forests and trees outside forests in climate change mitigation and adaptation, focusing on FAO’s comparative advantage in areas such as integrating forests in national climate change strategies, strengthening information exchange and cooperation, supporting monitoring activities, implementing best practices in forest management, and overcoming the constraints linked to carbon sink extension and the root causes of deforestation and forest degradation.
  • On decisions and recommendations of FAO bodies of interest to the Committee, the Committee requested the Near East Forestry and Range Commission to review the activities of relevant bodies engaged in forest and range activities in the region, endorsed changes in its rules of procedure on officers, sessions, and records and papers, requested the Secretariat to prepare a draft multi-year programme of work for 2012-2015, and recommended that FAO maintain the Panel of Experts on Forest Genetic Resources.
  • On programme priorities for FAO in forestry, the Committee recommended that FAO more clearly identify areas of emphasis in future documentation, taking into account its strengths, and recommended FAO to prioritize, inter alia: improving the FRA programme, including by assisting countries in providing robust estimates of key parameters; strengthening links to the regional forest committees, fostering collaboration among CPF members, and working with CPF partners to increase availability and the effectiveness of existing forest finance; emphasizing cross-sectoral integration, and supporting community forestry as well as innovative approaches to forest governance; in SFM, broadening understanding and tools, highlighting the multiple functions of forests; and on the social and livelihood values of forests, helping to develop community capacity for accessing markets.
  • On communicating the role of forests in sustainable development, the Committee recommended that countries take action to better integrate forests with development strategies. The Committee further requested FAO to increase its efforts in promoting SFM by, inter alia: clarifying the role of forests for sustainable development and achieving the MDGs; developing tools to value the full range of forests goods and services; and building on the opportunities offered by the International Year of Forests 2011.
  • On the preparations for the WFC XIV, the Committee commended the Governments of India and South Africa for their interest in hosting WFC XIV and the high quality of their applications, and recommended that the Council consider these submissions for decision, noting that several delegations recognized that no WFC has yet taken place on the African continent, and further recognized the potential the first congress on the continent could have.


“You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”

- Albert Einstein

The 20th session of the Committee on Forestry of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (COFO 2010) took place at a time when the world’s forests are receiving more attention than ever. Many would say that this attention is long overdue, given that we are losing 13 million hectares of forest—about the size of Greece—on an annual basis. Most importantly, forest issues are coming to the attention of non-traditional audiences outside the forest sector and receiving mainstream media attention, illustrated by an issue of The Economist focused on forests, released just prior to COFO 2010. Much of this attention can be attributed to the heightened recognition of the contribution that deforestation and forest degradation make to carbon emissions. With the International Year of Forests less than three months away, COFO 2010 presented a good opportunity to reflect on the state of the world’s forests and international efforts to address underlying drivers of forest loss.

This analysis will discuss what new information was brought to light during COFO 2010, and what the meeting revealed in terms of FAO’s role in solving the problems that are eating away at the world’s forests, including its ability to engage with actors outside of the forest sector, in order to develop a new approach to an age-old problem.


The most anticipated event of the week was the launch of the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 (FRA), a comprehensive analysis of the state of the world’s forests put forth by the FAO every five years. It contains a wealth of data covering a range of forest issues and values, including on socio-economic functions, biomass and carbon stocks, forest health, and the status of legal and policy frameworks. However, the statistic that is most often used is the rate of deforestation cited above, and this, in turn, is underwritten by the FAO’s definition of “forest”: “land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 meters and a canopy cover of more than 10 percent, or trees able to reach these thresholds…”

The simplicity of this definition is intended to provide an easily applied metric that will allow universal application and comparison. However, there are a number of countries and interest groups that take issue with the definition, in that it fails to differentiate between: diverse forest ecosystems; intact and degraded forest; or between natural forest and plantations. In fact, forest that has been cut down, but is expected to eventually regenerate, is still counted as forest. Also, as raised by Ethiopia at this meeting, ecosystems with naturally sparse tree cover are not counted as forests, even though they might be in much better condition, and more likely to persist than a heavily logged tropical forest that still meets the 10 percent rule.

Because of this problematic definition, many external audiences are more concerned about the loss of “primary forest,” a separate statistic also included in the FRA, estimated to amount to an alarming 40 million hectares lost between 2000 and 2010. However, even this definition allows for logged forest to eventually be considered “primary” again, if it is allowed to regenerate over time.

However, the statistic most often cited at COFO is the net forest loss or gain, which allows the loss of primary forest to be offset by forest regrowth and establishment of plantations, and was heralded as a great success. While the FRA presentation mentioned that four million hectares of primary forest per year had been lost between 2005 and 2010, it was quick to point out that plantations had expanded by nearly 5 million hectares during the same period, almost entirely in China. This is reflective of FAO’s overall approach to considering forest extent, and emphasis on forest management. The question is can this paradigm contribute to solving the current problems facing the world’s forests?

The controversy over the definition issue is nothing new, and the lack of response to Ethiopia’s intervention indicated that there was little appetite within COFO to open it up. While this issue has always been a bone of contention with environmental and indigenous peoples’ groups, in the past year it also received attention within the academic and climate community, since a weak definition poses a risk to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). This was illustrated by Indonesia’s announcement earlier this year that it would reclassify its palm oil plantations as forests, and thus become potentially eligible for REDD credits for this highly emissive activity.


As was the case during the previous session of COFO, all eyes remained focused on REDD+ and the potential financing it might provide for forests. At the same time, half a world away in Tianjin, China, climate negotiators were meeting to discuss the same subject, perhaps indicating a lack of coordination between the two regimes. However, the Tianjin talks have run into their own share of problems: the draft REDD+ agreement did not advance during the week of negotiations, and the REDD+ Partnership, a group of 68 donor and recipient countries trying to fast-track REDD implementation, may be at risk of imploding due to disagreement over fundamental issues such as stakeholder participation. Plans for a technical meeting of the Partnership in Nagoya at CBD COP 10 were cancelled, and with key aspects of the Partnership still unclear, many participants were calling into question the value of a still scheduled ministerial meeting later this month. Given that the road to REDD is looking rockier than initially predicted, what does FAO have to offer to the discussion? After COFO 2010, what more do we know about FAO’s relevance to the REDD debate?

The chorus repeated throughout COFO 2010 was that FAO’s role is to push for a “360 degree” view of forests that takes into consideration all functions they perform and values they deliver, to ensure that the REDD mechanism does not get skewed towards carbon-centrism. But the overall consensus was that REDD needs to go ahead, and quickly, with a view to enabling access to the much-anticipated funding.

Over the course of the meeting, delegates had also come to use the “360” term to refer to the need for REDD and forest policy in general to take into consideration pressures that lie outside the forestry sector. This could signal an opportunity for changing the paradigm reflected in the focus on “net” forest loss or gain, to a more nuanced approach and more refined definition of “forest,” reflective of ecosystem diversity.

As reflected in an intervention by Afghanistan, the desirability of REDD+ is a given within COFO, with discussion more focused on the range of issues that need to be resolved to make it a successful mechanism, such as capacity building, good governance, and involvement of all stakeholders. The EU was more cautious, urging all to consider REDD as but one of several finance mechanisms needed to support sustainable forest management (SFM), and saying that FAO’s programme priorities focus too much on REDD and should give more attention to “sustainable land use in general.” The EU, US and Japan urged FAO to limit its involvement in REDD+ to where it has institutional comparative advantages: reflecting both that successfully realizing REDD requires a concerted effort in which FAO can play a certain important role, and that important challenges for FAO exist in forestry beyond the role of forests for climate change.

However, the most critical discussion of REDD+ came out of several World Forest Week events, involving experts outside the forestry discipline. One speaker stressed the need to design institutions capable of transforming the way we see the problem, as opposed to adapting or responding to change. Another speaker said that there were fundamental errors of logic underpinning REDD+ that need to be addressed before rushing towards implementation. Yet another pointed out that by focusing on reducing emissions instead of deforestation itself immediately frames the issue into one where technical expertise dominates, due to the skills and technology required to measure forest carbon, and biases discussions towards a market approach that allows for carbon credits to be bought and sold. Several presenters at the Growing Forest Partnerships event called for local control of forests and reclamation of the term “sustainable management” away from large-scale industrial producers, as it is emerging that this activity will form a major component of REDD+. However, not many delegates participated in these events, and since the discussions took place outside of COFO plenary, they are not included in the COFO report.


Repeated interventions throughout COFO 2010 called for an inter-sectoral approach to forests; however, there are several different takes on what is meant by that, and each offers a way forward.

The first interpretation is that greater attention needs to be paid to the fact that some of the most important land-use decisions impacting forests originate outside the forest sector, including agricultural and infrastructural expansion. Such observations are nothing new, and echoed by those made in previous COFO sessions and in other forest processes, such as the UN Forum on Forests and the International Tropical Timber Organization. The question is how can this be accomplished? As one COFO participant noted, FAO, as the world’s chief authority on agriculture, is well positioned to bring agricultural decision makers to the table to talk about how these sectors intersect, and how to limit their impact on forests. Other sectors, such as energy and mining, could also be engaged, to move away from the sector-isolated “silo” approach to decision making that has been acknowledged as part of the problem. With 2011 designated the International Year of Forests, it may be time to invite these non-forest sector actors to the “celebrations,” and discuss what the forest community needs from them.

Other calls referring to the need to think “inter-sectorally” refer to the need to engage with the climate regime and communicate the “360 degree” message, urging REDD to recognize forests as more than just “sticks of carbon.” In order to do this, FAO could lead the way, and show that foresters value forests for more than just the timber they produce, with the corollary being that primary forests and plantations serve different functions and should not be considered interchangeable. Relevant to this was an intervention made by a representative of the Convention on Biological Diversity noting that there is a strong correlation in forests between high biodiversity levels and forest carbon stocks, with more of both being present in primary forests than in plantations.

A possible step towards recognizing the impact of other sectors may be to revisit the definition of forest to reflect the “360 degree” approach. For example, under the current definition, tropical forests can be subjected to the expansion of roads without registering a reduction in forest extent in the FRA, even though roads are often a precursor to eventual deforestation and agricultural expansion. Similarly, the other interpretation of “360 degree” approach, which takes into consideration the multiple values that forests deliver, could be drawn upon to inform a more nuanced definition.

Another interpretation of thinking “inter-sectorally” was not brought up during COFO plenary, but at a World Forest Week event. Although all countries were in agreement that a major part of the problem lies outside the forest sector, a member of the Global Forest Expert Panel was the only one to suggest that part of the solution to the current forest crisis may need to come from expertise outside of the forest sector as well: the problem may require a broader lens than foresters can provide. Just as foresters have reservations about entrusting forests to the climate regime, others, such as biologists and human rights advocates, have their own reservations about entrusting forests entirely to the forestry discipline.

As FAO Assistant Director General Eduardo Rojas-Briales noted on several occasions, decisions concerning forests need to be considered in the context of broader societal choices concerning land use as a whole. This may afford a path to a changing “consciousness” and learning to see the world anew.


UNECE Timber Committee Market Discussions and Policy Forum: The forum will address: wood energy, carbon markets and certified forest products markets, and the role of wood products in mitigating climate change. dates: 11-14 October 2010  location: Geneva, Switzerland  contact: UNECE Forestry and Timber Section  phone: +41-22-917-1286  fax: +41-22-917-0041 e mail: [email protected] www:

CBD COP 10: The tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is expected to assess achievement of the 2010 target to reduce significantly the rate of biodiversity loss, adopt an international regime on access and benefit-sharing and celebrate the International Year of Biodiversity 2010.  dates: 18-29 October 2010  location: Nagoya (Aichi), Japan  contact: CBD Secretariat  phone: +1-514-288-2220  fax: +1-514-288-6588  e-mail: [email protected] www:

30th Meeting of the CDM Afforestation/Reforestation Working Group: The working group on afforestation and reforestation (AR) for Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project activities was established to prepare recommendations on submitted proposals for new baseline and monitoring methodologies for CDM AR project activities. The working group is expected to work in cooperation with the CDM Methodology Panel. dates: 18-20 October 2010  location: Bonn, Germany  contact: UNFCCC Secretariat  phone: +49-228-815-1000 fax: +49-228- 815-1999  e-mail: [email protected] www:

UN REDD Fifth Policy Board Meeting: The Fifth Policy Board meeting of the UN-REDD Programme will be followed by a joint meeting with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Forest Investment Programme (FIP) governing bodies, to be held on 6 November 2010. dates: 4-5 November 2010  location: Washington, DC, USA  contact: Cheryl Rosebush  phone: +41-22-917-8410  e-mail: [email protected] www:

Enhancing the Legality of the International Timber Trade: Creating Enabling Environments and Opportunities for the Private Sector and other Stakeholders: This Country-Led Initiative in support of the UN Forum on Forests is organized by the Governments of Viet Nam, Finland, the Netherlands, and the United States. dates: 15-19 November 2010  location: Hanoi, Viet Nam  contact: Tran Kim Long  phone: +844-38436812  fax: +844-37330752  e-mail: [email protected] www:

Sixteenth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC and Sixth Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol: The 33rd meetings of the SBI and SBSTA will also take place concurrently.  dates: 29 November to 10 December 2010  location: Cancun, Mexico  contact: UNFCCC Secretariat  phone: +49-228-815-1000  fax: +49-228-815-1999  email: [email protected]  www:

Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2010: This event will be held alongside UNFCCC COP 16, and will be hosted by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development, the CGIAR Challenge Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food of Mexico. date: 4 December 2010  location: Cancun, Mexico  contact: ARDD Secretariat  e-mail: [email protected] www:

Forest Day 4: This event, hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research, will be held alongside UNFCCC COP 16. date: 5 December 2010  location: Cancun, Mexico  contact: CIFOR secretariat  e-mail:[email protected] www:

46th Meeting of the International Tropical Timber Council: This meeting will take place together with associated sessions of the four ITTC committees. dates: 13-18 December 2010  location: Yokohama, Japan  contact: ITTO Secretariat  phone: +81-45-223-1110  fax: +81-45-223-1111 email:[email protected]  www:

Ninth session of the UN Forum on Forests: The theme for UNFF 9 is “Forests for people, livelihoods and poverty eradication” and the Forum is expected to complete discussions on approaches for implementing SFM.  dates: 24 January - 4 February 2011  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UNFF Secretariat  phone: +1-212-963-3401  fax: +1-917-367-3186  email: [email protected]  www:

International Symposium on Ecosystem and Landscape-level Approaches to Sustainability: This event, organized by the Regional Government of Castilla y León, Spain, the International Model Forest Network Secretariat, FAO and CBD Secretariat, aims at advancing the understanding and application of ecosystem and landscape-level approaches to sustainable land use and management. dates: 22-26 March 2011  location: Burgos, Spain  phone: +34-983-304-181  fax: +34-983-308-671  e-mail: [email protected]  www:

Sixth Forest Europe Ministerial Conference: This meeting of ministers responsible for forests in Europe will discuss the elaboration of a strengthened policy framework for sustainable forest management in Europe. dates: 14-16 June 2011  location: Oslo, Norway  phone: +47-64-94-8930  fax: +47-64-94-8939  e-mail: [email protected]  www:

Second Asia Pacific Forestry Week: This event will take place in conjunction with the 24th session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission. dates: 7-11 November 2011  location: China contact: FAO  phone: +66-2-697-4000  fax: +66-2-697-4445  email: [email protected]  www:

COFO 21: The 21st session of the FAO Committee on Forestry will take place in October 2012. dates: to be determined in October 2012  location: Rome, Italy  contact: COFO Secretariat  phone: + 39-06-5705-3925  fax: +39-06-5705-3152 email: [email protected]  www:

This issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin © <[email protected]> is written and edited by Reem Hajjar, Simon Wolf and Peter Wood, Ph.D. The Digital Editor is Diego Noguera. The Editor is Pamela S. Chasek, Ph.D. <[email protected]>. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <[email protected]>. The Sustaining Donors of the Bulletin are the United Kingdom (through the Department for International Development – DFID), the Government of the United States of America (through the Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs), the Government of Canada (through CIDA), the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission (DG-ENV), and the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea. General Support for the Bulletin during 2010 is provided by the Government of Australia, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, the Ministry of Environment of Sweden, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, SWAN International, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies - IGES), the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (through the Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute - GISPRI), the Government of Iceland, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Bank. Funding for translation of the Bulletin into French has been provided by the Government of France, the Belgium Walloon Region, the Province of Québec, and the International Organization of the Francophone (OIF and IEPF). Funding for translation of the Bulletin into Spanish has been provided by the Spanish Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs. The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD or other donors. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in non-commercial publications with appropriate academic citation. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <[email protected]>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, New York 10022, USA.


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