News

FAO Produces Policy Briefs on Greater Mekong Subregion

14 June 2011: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN's (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific has released a new series of policy briefs related to the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) as part of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study.

The studies address issues related to: investment in forest resources; field-level forestry; forest biodiversity conservation; policies and institutions; and training and education. The policy brief on "Investment in forest resources," highlights that although the subregion has 48% forest cover, reinvestment in forests is necessary to address increased demands for timber and biodiversity conservation. The brief argues that millions of hectares of grassland and degraded forest could be viable sites for plantation development and assisted natural regeneration. It also stresses the need for a renewed focus on an enabling institutional environment to make the most of forestry investments.

The policy brief on "Field-level forestry" underscores that field-level activities are often overlooked in cases where priorities are placed on high-level national and international issues. The brief calls for efforts to focus on field-level management activities including, monitoring of forest health, fire management, forest patrolling, silvicultural activities, reduced impact logging and collection of forest statistics. The brief also stresses the need for foresters to engage in voluntary codes of best practice and to integrate monitoring into responsive management systems.

The brief on "Forest biodiversity conservation" stresses that habitat destruction and extraction of high-value species are major threats to biodiversity in protected areas in the GMS. It calls for a focus on awareness raising, environmental impact assessments and improved law enforcement.

The brief on "Policies and institutions" notes the need for the institutions responsible for forest management to compete with and complement a variety of sectoral interests to prove their worth to society, stressing that traditional forestry institutions that rely on command and control structures are increasingly outmoded. Weaknesses in the sector in many countries include: failure of forest management systems to protect forest resources; failure to safeguard livelihoods of the forest-dependent poor; and sluggishness in reacting to new demands and ensuring the representations of key stakeholders in decision-making. It suggests that assessments of field-level forestry issues may be a first step to revitalize forestry institutions to assess human and financial resources and available knowledge. In particular it calls for: tenure reform; reform of public sector agencies; changes in institutional cultures; and improved land-use planning.

The brief on "Training and education" highlights the need for institutional strengthening and training for countries in the GMS to benefits from the prospects for sustainable forest management. Such training is necessary at the local level so that stakeholders are made aware of the aims of forest policy as well as their rights and responsibilities. The brief calls for an institutional skills audit to assess current skill levels and potential needs at local, regional and national levels. [Publication: GMS Forest Policy Brief 1: Investment in Forest Resources] [Publication: GMS Forest Policy Brief 2: Field-level Forestry] [Publication: GMS Forest Policy Brief 3: Forest Biodiversity Conservation] [Publication: GMS Forest Policy Brief 4: Policies and Institutions] [Publication: GMS Forest Policy Brief 5: Training and Education]