25 Years of Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management: How Intergovernmental C&I Processes Have Made a Difference
Scope and Objectives of the Paper
2. Materials and Methods
- the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO)’s C&I for the sustainable management of tropical forests;
- the Pan-European Forest Process on C&I for SFM under the Ministerial Conference for the Protection of Forests in Europe, known also as FOREST EUROPE;
- the Montréal Process on C&I for the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests;
- the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) Tarapoto Process on C&I for the sustainability of Amazon forests, recently renamed the “process of harmonized C&I of ITTO–ACTO (Tarapoto) for the sustainability of the Amazon forests”;
- the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) C&I for the sustainable management of tropical forests in Southeast Asia;
- the Low Forest Cover Countries Process, also known as the Tehran Process;
- the African Timber Organization (ATO)/ITTO C&I process;
- the Dry-Zone Africa Process on C&I for the sustainable management of dry-zone forests in sub-Saharan countries;
- the Near East and North Africa (NENA) Process on C&I for sustainable management of dry-zone forests;
- the Lepaterique Process of Central America on C&I for SFM; and
- the Dry Forests in Asia Regional Initiative for the development and implementation of national-level C&I for the sustainable management of dry forests in Asia (also known as the India-Bhopal Process).
3.1. Impact on the Discourse of SFM
- facilitating societal consensus on how forests should be managed and what a society wants from its forests ;
- making general concepts of sustainable development and abstract concepts like socio-economic benefits more concrete and operational by specifying what should actually be measured ;
- increasing political commitment to SFM by providing a reference framework for SFM-related policies, enhancing the accountability and transparency of policy-making, and better integrating policy-making with evidence-based forest reporting. Today, the concept of SFM, as characterized by C&I for SFM, is embodied in many national forest programmes and forest-related planning documents [4,5,26]; and
- facilitating common understanding of SFM-related concepts, terms, and definitions .
3.2. Impact on Science Applications
3.3. Impact on Monitoring and Reporting of SFM
- Shaped, improved, and streamlined national reporting. C&I for SFM have been used as a framework and basis for national monitoring applications and reporting on SFM. Progress and adaptation of C&I-based monitoring instruments have been observed in many countries, and data collection has been streamlined. This is particularly important for the long-term development of national inventory systems, which have steadily improved to cover all aspects of SFM, as identified in C&I sets. The C&I sets have helped improve data availability, validity, and quality in areas not previously covered in forest-sector statistics, which generally focused on resource inventory and lacked social, environmental, economic, and cultural aspects [4,5,21,26,46,49].
- Contributed conceptually and practically to improvements in the comparability of time series of forest-related information within and between regions by supporting a common reporting framework known as the Collaborative Forest Resources Questionnaire (CFRQ) [5,26,49]. Since the beginning of FOREST EUROPE reporting on C&I, for example, efforts have been made to reduce the reporting burden and to enhance the coordination of data collection, with informal coordination between the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)/FAO process and regional and international C&I processes. FAO, the UNECE, FOREST EUROPE, ITTO, the Montréal Process, and the Observatory of Central African Forests all cooperated to harmonize data collection for the FRA 2015, the forthcoming FRA 2020 and the reports of various regional and international C&I processes. In 2018, ACTO started negotiating a memorandum of understanding with FAO that includes its support to also use the CFRQ to collect forest information for the Amazon region.
- Provided information of international relevance. C&I-based data collection has made forest-related data available to broader policy processes [5,50]. It has also contributed to reporting and assessment for a range of global policy goals, objectives, and targets, including the Non-Legally Binding Instrument (NLBI)’s Global Objectives on Forests, the UN Strategic Plan for Forests, and the CBD’s Aichi Targets.
- Provided the basis for the proposal and acceptance of indicators for reporting on forest-related SDG targets 15.1 and 15.2 . The whole SDG indicator set contains around 20 indicators that may be linked to forests in one way or another and two that specifically refer to forests: 15.1.1 ‘trends in forest cover’ and 15.2.1 ‘area of forest under sustainable forest management’, the latter of which includes five sub-indicators  which are included in most of the regional and international indicator sets.
- Provided a pool for the selection of a global core set of forest-related indicators [18,51], comprising a limited number of indicators necessary for monitoring progress towards international goals, objectives, and targets. The intention is to focus and prioritize monitoring and reporting efforts and avoid duplication. Key indicators as an information base for decision-makers and the broad public were developed recently as part of the Tarapoto process  and are under development in the FOREST EUROPE Process [9,53].
- Reduced multiple reporting burdens on emerging related issues by including recognized indicators from other international processes in their regional and international C&I sets. The ITTO, FOREST EUROPE, and Tehran Process include, for instance, indicators relevant to the CBD (e.g., biodiversity conservation measures in natural production forests, common forest bird species, and forest fragmentation), UNCCD (e.g., trends in forest land degradation, degraded forests, and landscape restored), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (e.g., tree species in each of the CITES appendices) and the UNFCCC (e.g., changes in carbon stock in forest biomass, forest soils, and harvested wood products).
3.4. Impact on Sustainable Forest Management Practices
- The integration of stakeholder participation in forest management to ensure that a broad range of values are considered [17,24,28,32,56]. This is despite concerns that C&I processes are top-down and overly complex and sideline the knowledge and experience of forest communities, including Indigenous Peoples, in the developing world .
- Improving access to resource use rights. C&I have been used as references for national governments in providing a transparent system and rule base for granting use rights, including means for controlling and verification [22,35]. There is concern that, in some developing countries, a lack of local knowledge and resources to implement C&I may constrain the rights of rural communities because local government staff lack the knowledge and resources to support efforts to adhere to the C&I, making legal forest management prohibitively expensive .
- The development of forest certification. The concept of C&I served as a stepping stone for the development of forest certification schemes, which are market-driven instruments designed to improve market access for forest products that have produced according to good forest practices [4,22,35,60]. The importance of forest certification varies significantly across the world [15,61],
- Improve access to markets. C&I have been used in community forestry to increase access to local and international markets [22,35]. However, there is concern that smallholders and rural communities in developing countries have limited capacity to meet the specifications of C&I (e.g., in certification schemes), with the effect of constraining market access .
3.5. Impact on the Assessment of Progress towards SFM
- The first steps in the review of trends and benchmarks between countries. Time series data for some SFM indicators are available from the early 1950s (or before), and coverage has improved steadily, partly under the influence of C&I since the 1990s. In Europe, assessment prototypes were presented in “State of Europe’s Forests” reports in 2007 and 2011, and these will be subject to further revisions and development [8,23,62]. ITTO’s “Status of Tropical Forest Management” reports published in 2006 and 2011 [63,64] were carried out explicitly to assess progress towards SFM in the Organization’s tropical member countries using the ITTO C&I reporting framework. A third assessment is planned before 2020;
- The development of the UNECE pilot project, “System for the Evaluation of the Management of Forests” (SEMAFOR). SEMAFOR is based on the assessment of the sustainability of forest management in 20 European countries on the basis of the pan-European C&I for SFM, setting common thresholds, leading to a dialogue with national correspondents on threats to SFM and the policy measures being put in place to address identified issues ;
- Various forest-related global or regional goals, such as the SDGs (e.g., 15.2.1), the Global Forest Goals and their associated targets, and the Goals for European Forests and the European 2020 Targets for Forests. These have been set mostly independently of C&I but in related processes [4,8]. Further work—and close cooperation between the policy and technical levels—is required to use the data and insights developed in the C&I processes to monitor progress towards officially agreed goals.
3.6. Impact on Dialogue and Communication
- Facilitated deliberations and consultations between policy-makers and stakeholders, thus promoting stronger stakeholder participation and improved evidence-based decision-making in forest-related policy processes [5,28]. Some of the literature, on the other hand, points out that these processes have limited participation of forest communities in developing nations .
- Raised the attention and interest of other sectors in forest-related information, in particular energy, climate change, and biodiversity .
4.1. Impact on the Discourse of SFM
4.2. Impact on Science Applications
4.3. Impact on Monitoring and Reporting of SFM
4.3.1. Quantitative Information
4.3.2. Qualitative Information
4.4. Impact on Sustainable Forest Management Practices
4.5. Impact on the Assessment of Progress towards SFM
4.6. Impact on Dialogue and Communication
- The regional and international processes and the related sets of C&I for SFM are complex and too focused on issues of interest only to the forest sector. This complexity hinders the communication of forest-related issues to the public and to other sectors because information embedded in the C&I are difficult for many to comprehend.
- Most of the sets of C&I for SFM are static. This limits the ad hoc consideration of emerging politically relevant issues (e.g., climate change, ecosystem services, and bioeconomy) and hampers dialogue between and compatibility with other C&I processes. This is not an inherent shortcoming in the C&I approach, pointing, rather, to the need for ongoing review and adjustment of C&I frameworks. Such review and adjustment takes time and effort but is certainly possible—7 of the 11 regional and international C&I processes have revised their C&I at least once (and as many as four times) .
- In the last decade, the regional and international sets of C&I for SFM have raised the attention and interest of other sectors in forest-related information, particularly in the climate-change, biodiversity and energy sectors. Challenges remain in improving consistency between the various areas of policy that influence, and are influenced by, forests and forest management. Regional and international sets of C&I for SFM may help these sectors identify and incorporate new information by explicitly organizing available information and highlighting information deficiencies.
Conflicts of Interest
|ACTO||Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization|
|ASEAN||Association of Southeast Asian Nations|
|ATO||African Timber Organization|
|C&I||Criteria and Indicators|
|CBD||Convention on Biological Diversity|
|CFRQ||Collaborative Forest Resources Questionnaire|
|CITES||Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora|
|EFI||European Forest Institute|
|FAO||Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations|
|FMU||Forest management unit|
|FRA||Forest Resource Assessment of the FAO|
|FSC||Forest Stewardship Council|
|ITTO||International Tropical Timber Organization|
|IUFRO||International Union of Forest Research Organizations|
|NENA||Near East and North Africa|
|NLBI||Non-Legally Binding Instrument|
|PEFC||Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification|
|SDG||Sustainable Development Goal|
|SEMAFOR||System for the Evaluation of the Management of Forests|
|SFM||Sustainable Forest Management|
|UNCCD||United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification|
|UNCED||United Nations Conference on Environment and Development|
|UNECE||United Nations Economic Commission for Europe|
|UNFCCC||United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change|
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|Discourse of SFM||Science Applications||Monitoring and Reporting on SFM||Sustainable Forest Management Practices||Assessment of Progress towards SFM||Forest-Related Dialogue and Communication|
|Facilitated societal consensus building regarding forest management||Provided a framework to guide research on SFM||Shaped, improved, and streamlined national reporting||Fostered a shift from sustained yield to more holistic SFM practices||Facilitated efforts to review differences in trends between countries||Increased awareness and understanding of SFM|
|Made abstract concepts like socio-economic benefits more concrete||Inspired new areas of research||Contributed to improve the comparability of time series and of information between the various regions||Increased stakeholder participation in SFM processes||Fostered innovative regional assessment methods (e.g., SEMAFOR)||Improved communication within the forest sector|
|Supported new modes of governance in national forest policy-making||Encouraged funding of C&I related research projects||Aligned global forest reporting with national data collection systems||Enabled better access to resource use rights||Contributed to assessment approaches for a variety of forest-related global or regional goals||Facilitated deliberations and consultations between policy makers and stakeholders|
|Increased the political commitment to agree on and support SFM||Supported engagement of scientists in SFM policy discussions and negotiations||Provided information of international relevance to high-level policy processes||Mobilized investment in new forest products and ecosystem services||Raised attention and interest in forest-related information of other sectors|
|Facilitated the common understanding of related concepts, terms and definitions||Provided an organising structure for scientific events, conferences and international congresses||Provided indicators for the reporting of the forest-related SDG targets||Aided control of compliance with forest management requirements||Broadened understanding of forest related information for evidence-based policy-making|
|Provided a pool for the selection of a global core set of forest related indicators||Fostered development of forest certification||Provided modern knowledge tools for global governance|
|Reduced multiple reporting burdens||Improved access to markets for forest products from sustainable sources|
|Enhanced evidence-based decision-making|
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Linser, S.; Wolfslehner, B.; Bridge, S.R.J.; Gritten, D.; Johnson, S.; Payn, T.; Prins, K.; Raši, R.; Robertson, G. 25 Years of Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management: How Intergovernmental C&I Processes Have Made a Difference. Forests 2018, 9, 578. https://doi.org/10.3390/f9090578
Linser S, Wolfslehner B, Bridge SRJ, Gritten D, Johnson S, Payn T, Prins K, Raši R, Robertson G. 25 Years of Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management: How Intergovernmental C&I Processes Have Made a Difference. Forests. 2018; 9(9):578. https://doi.org/10.3390/f9090578Chicago/Turabian Style
Linser, Stefanie, Bernhard Wolfslehner, Simon R. J. Bridge, David Gritten, Steven Johnson, Tim Payn, Kit Prins, Rastislav Raši, and Guy Robertson. 2018. "25 Years of Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management: How Intergovernmental C&I Processes Have Made a Difference" Forests 9, no. 9: 578. https://doi.org/10.3390/f9090578