Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), based in Rome, is the pre-eminent international body dealing with agriculture and forestry issues. The FAO has three main roles:

  • information gathering and dissemination
  • program supervision
  • policy development

The FAO Forestry Department produces a wide variety of reports on forestry issues ranging from technical papers and case studies, analysis of data and policy papers. It also supervises on-the-ground program activities, particularly in developing countries. The activities involve new research, the applications of existing research, provision of training and promoting better or alternative approaches to forest management. The FAO provides a forum for policy discussions on forestry issues through the FAO Committee on Forestry and the six Regional Forestry Commissions that report to the committee.

The Australian Government participates as a member in the FAO Committee on Forestry and in the Asia Pacific Forestry Commission.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources also actively contributes to the forest data collection and reporting activities of the FAO, in addition to contributing to the regular FAO Global Forest Resource Assessments.

FAO Committee on Forestry

The FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO) is the highest FAO Forestry statutory body. The Committee reports to FAO Council.

The biennial sessions of COFO held at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, bring together heads of forest services and other senior government officials to identify emerging policy and technical issues, to seek solutions and to advise FAO and others on appropriate action. Other international organisations and, increasingly, non-governmental groups participate in COFO. Participation in COFO is open to all FAO member countries. The committee has held 23 meetings.

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The 23rd meeting of COFO, held in July 2016, was the main event of the 5th World Forest Week which focused on the role of forests in implementing major global decisions, in particular the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

The 24th meeting is due to be held in 2018.

Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission

Australia participates in the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC); one of the six Regional Forestry Commissions that report to the COFO. The Regional Forestry Commissions act as part of an inclusive, transparent priority setting approach for FAO’s forestry programmes.

The 26th session of the APFC was held 22 - 26 February 2016 in Clark, Philippines.

The APFC considers issues such as the state of forestry in the region focusing on approaches that recognise and maximise the contributions of forests and trees to food security, sustainable livelihoods and eradication of poverty. Topics areas such as forest landscape restoration; governance and land tenure; climate change adaptation; increasing disaster preparedness and developing greater understanding of the roles of trees and forests in mitigating natural disasters and supporting post-disaster recovery; strengthening international cooperation on fire-related activities and supporting regional networks and initiatives; and emphasized the need to raise the profile of forests in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Meeting reports provide a summary of the recommendations made in the sessions, as well as regional issues identified by the Commission for the attention of the FAO Committee on Forestry.

The APFC sessions are held biennially.

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The FAO Conference established six Regional Forestry Commissions between 1947 and 1959. Every two years, the Commissions bring together the Heads of Forestry to address the most important forestry issues within their regions. The Commissions consider both policy and technical issues.

The Regional Commissions play a key role in the international arrangements on forests, serving as a link between global dialogue on forest policies at meetings of COFO and the United Nations Forum on Forests and implementation of the policies.

The Regional Forestry Commissions are active between formal sessions. Most of the Commissions have technical working groups or sub-regional chapters to implement projects that benefit from collaboration among countries in their respective regions.