President’s Discuss Emerging Issues in Forest Policy and Practice

President’s Discussion 2014
Emerging Issues in Forest Policy and Practice: Input from Stakeholders to the Science Community

Steve Johnson, ITTO speaks at IUFRO President's Discussion. Credit: Ramin Korchidi
Steve Johnson, ITTO speaks at IUFRO President’s Discussion. Credit: Ramin Korchidi

The President’s Discussion has become a valued feature of any IUFRO World Congress. The discussion at this year’s Congress focused on identifying with stakeholder’s emerging issues in forest policy and practice.

Research in any field has to serve their stakeholders in the end. Thus, the questions research addresses have to be in line with the needs of these stakeholders. During the President’s Discussion, panelists representing different perspectives engaged in a dialogue with the session participants about what they see as emerging issues in forest policy and practice. Panelists included: Mr. Juergen Blaser (Swiss Development Cooperation), Tukka Castrén (The World Bank), Teresa Magro (University of São Paulo), T. Bently Wigley (National Council for Air and Stream Improvement), Steven Johnson (International Tropical Timber Organization) and Yemi Adeyeye (International Forestry Students’ Association).

The discussion was started with a keynote presentation given by Robert F. Bonnie, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, US Department of Agriculture. In his presentation, Bonnie emphasized the complexity of emerging issues, such as forest restoration and the increasing demand for forest-based goods and services against the background of global change. He underlined the scientific community’s role in informing related discussions and refereeing them. Bonnie placed particular emphasis also on the role of markets and pointed out that forests must provide value to people who own them, manage them and live around them.

Panelists underscored that forests are essential in reducing poverty and promoting shared prosperity in a sustainable world. Yet, they are also facing major global challenges, such as population growth, climate change, loss of ecosystem services, and extreme events. While those global challenges have not changed in past decades, new ‘tactical approaches’ have emerged which promise to help address these challenges more effectively. Such tactical approaches include the restoration across landscapes, based on more integrated governance arrangements across sectors and land-uses.

Implementing such integrated solutions will require interdisciplinary research on drivers of change across landscapes. As became evident in the panel discussion, they also require solid information and data about our world’s forest resources. Yet, such information and data continues to be scattered or missing in many parts of the world, as was identified by the lack of activity occurring across many of processes which have been enacted within the international sphere. As the demand for forest goods and services increases and becomes more diverse, it will be essential to also develop new and innovative approaches for measuring and valuing these multiple benefits.

In all the activities, forest research must ask the right questions, but also needs to show solutions. In doing so, communication with policy makers, stakeholders and the public is crucial. There is an identified need to encourage youth to enter the forest sector and overcome the obstacles present such as lack of economic incentives, lack of education and awareness of jobs within the forest sector.  Innovative ways and means for communication will be pivotal not only for reaching out to the vast audience of youth,  but to share forest research, and to raise awareness about forests and forestry and the issues faced from a policy and practice perspective.

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