Developing policy for conservation of forests

Formulating forestry policy
Creating strategies for sustainable management of forest resources

Forest resources and forest lands should be sustainably managed to meet the social, economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual needs of present and future generations. These needs are for forest products and services, such as wood and wood products, water, food, fodder, medicine, fuel, shelter, employment, recreation, habitats for wildlife, landscape diversity, carbon sinks and reservoirs, and for other forest products. Appropriate measures should be taken to protect forests against harmful effects of pollution, including airborne pollution, fires, pests and diseases, in order to maintain their full multiple value.


Because of the diversity of their uses, forests play an important part in the economy and environment of most European countries. Amongst the most important aspects of forest degradation in some parts of Europe are non-sustainable management practices, air pollution and forest fires. Air pollution, including acid precipitation, thought to exceed the critical levels and loads for forest ecosystems, represents a serious threat to the sustainability of forest resources in central and eastern Europe and, as regards acidification, northern Europe. Forest fires are a major concern in southern Europe.

A growing realization of the scale of loss and degradation of forests has mobilized media attention and public concern, changed policies, legislation and institutional arrangements, and focused local, national and international efforts on promoting sustainable forest management. Timber harvesting from natural forests in some countries has been reduced for environmental reasons, and more emphasis is being placed on increasing the efficiency of harvesting of forest products and manufacturing operations, expanding the area of tree plantations, rehabilitating degraded lands and reducing demand through wood substitutes and other alternatives. Non-wood forest products, important for household use and income and, in some cases, as export products, are increasingly being recognized as a substantial component of the forest economy in some regions. Growing awareness of the social and environmental functions of trees and forests has led to the planting or expansion of urban and community forests.

This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.

Agenda 21 recommends:
(a) promoting the better use and development of natural forests and woodlands, including planted forests, wherever possible, through appropriate and environmentally sound and economically viable activities, including silvicultural practices and management of other plant and animal species;
(b) developing and implementing plans and programmes, including definition of national and, if necessary, regional and subregional goals, programmes and criteria for their implementation and subsequent improvement;
(c) ensuring the sustainable management of all forest ecosystems and woodlands, through improved proper planning, management and timely implementation of silvicultural operations, including inventory and relevant research, as well as rehabilitation of degraded natural forests to restore productivity and environmental contributions, giving particular attention to human needs for economic and ecological services, wood-based energy, agroforestry, non-timber forest products and services, watershed and soil protection, wildlife management, and forest genetic resources;
(d) strengthening the coordination and improving the capacity and ability of intergovernmental organizations such as FAO, ITTO, UNEP and UNESCO to provide technical support for the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests, including support for the negotiation of the International Tropical Timber Agreement of 1983, due in 1992/93 (actually successfully negotiated and adopted 26 Jan 1994, Geneva).

Developing a concept to further improve sustainable forest management is one of the fields of action in the follow-up process to the Rio Conference and the 1993 Helsinki Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe. The non-wood functions of European forests, such as nature conservation, biodiversity, groundwater generation, erosion control, protection function and recreation, are increasingly regarded as being essential aspects of sustainability.

The Environmental Programme for Europe recommends: (1) strengthening efforts to reduce the impact of air pollution on forest ecosystems; (2) improving the information base and encourage the exchange of experience on sustainable forest management, including forest fire prevention and control, and prepare actions with due emphasis on the social and ecological aspects of forests; (3) gathering information and develop codes of practice for multi-use forestry together with national and regional forest-use plans that incorporate activities such as soil and water protection, nature conservation, recreation and heritage protection; (4) conserving the biodiversity of forests by, inter alia, preserving, to the extent possible, the present level of natural and semi-natural forest areas, encouraging the participation of wood producers in the preservation of such areas and integrating conservation and sustainable development concerns into the economic apsects of forest management; (5) promoting the sustainable management and conservation of all kinds of forest, and support the ongoing pan-European initiatives for the follow-up to the 1993 Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe; (6) supporting the examination of the issues for priority action and of the programme of work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests established by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, especially by: (a) Strengthening the efforts to further the national implementation of the Forest Principles through appropriate arrangements and mechanisms covering all types of forests, including through legal instruments; (b) Strengthening the efforts to develop criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management and applying these criteria; (c) Examine the relationship between trade and sustainable forest management and in this context study in the appropriate forums the importance of market-based instruments to promote sustainable forest management; and (7) examining the issue of voluntary certification and labelling of forest products to contribute to a better understanding of the role of voluntary certification with regard to the sustainable management of forests.

The first market-oriented regional forestry code in Russia was developed with assistance from the USAID-funded Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID). The code combines sound environmental and market economic elements to represent the interests of a broad set of stakeholders. HIID's role in this process was instrumental in the World Bank's decision to select this region as one of just three in Russia to participate in its $60 million sustainable forestry policy and regulatory pilot project, a precursor to a proposed $300 million forestry sector loan for Russia. The Federal Forest Service regards this code as a potential model for the entire country. HIID also introduced an unprecedented public review process for the code, incorporated sound economic analysis into governmental decision making, and helped to ensure that the next generation of forest enterprise managers understands market economics.

In 1995, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development established the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF). The IPF identified 135 proposals for protecting and conserving forests.


The World Bank is the single largest source of 'development' finance and of investments in the forest sector globally.


Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal