How can national forest programmes
support countries’ aspirations for democratization and decentralization?
How can they link up with existing national strategies such as poverty
reduction? And how can regional processes contribute to endorsing
the further development of this political instrument?
In celebration of the fifth anniversary of the FAO’s
National Forest programme Facility the FAO journal Unasylva has
devoted its 3/06 issue to such questions, with the leading article
by ECO Managing Director Cornelia Sepp.
Cornelia Sepp, who just comes from authoring the FAO manual “Understanding
national forest programmes” (above, right), recalls in her
Unasylva article the essentials of the concept of national forest
programmes, as a basis for establishing consistent long-term forest
and forest-related policies in a country. Their adaptive, negotiable
and dynamic character as a process, sets nfps qualitatively apart
from any previous planning frameworks such as the Tropical Forestry
Action Programme, National Forestry Action Plans and their kind.
Experience tells that addressing forest issues through
an nfp offers possibilities to reach a wider scope of stakeholders,
mobilize new service providers and create more and lasting attention
to forest sector matters and to the difference they make on poverty
reduction. In the last ten years, practical application of nfps
has been facilitated by three important moves: the FAO’s publication,
as early as in 1996, of “nfp priciples” derived from
the International Panel on Forest’s negotiations, as a set
of minimum standards to guide an nfp process.
the “Principles” went into print, these standards were
in the course of being moulded into the Proposals for Action –
a document of rather scattered, often repetitive negotiated text.
In 2004, an Australian compilation made a great move forward in
clustering certain thematic thrusts from the IPF (and subsequent
IFF) Proposals, thereby making them much more transparent for practitioners.*)
Cornelia Sepp, in her 2006 FAO manual
(together with Eduardo Mansur) goes even further in distilling the
key recurring prerequisites and recommendations into three umbrella
principles in which all other nfp elements are embraced: Sovereignity
(and country leadership), consistency (within and beyond the forest
sector) and partnership (and participation). According to Sepp,
respecting these three principles (that are further elaborated on
in the manual), observing a logical sequence of action-learning
cycles (four phases with flexible entry points) and trying to reach
a defined set of related outputs has great chances of making an
nfp a success – genuine commitment and long-term endorsement
from governments and donors provided.