Determining the Future of the IMFN

In October 1997, representatives from 12 countries (Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, USA, and UK) active in the IMFN, or considering the establishment of model forests, plus the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO),  met in Antalya, Turkey to exchange views on model forests and networking. 

Participants agreed to engage in a collective dialogue to:

  • refine the criteria that define model forests, 
  • provide perspectives on their needs and expectations vis a vis networking,
  • examine the role of model forests nationally and internationally, and
  • look at approaches to coordinating and supporting an international network. 

It was agreed that this consultation would take place through a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings on these issues. 

Since then, multi-country regional meetings have been held in Japan, the USA, Chile, and Russia.  Over 32 countries participated in this consultation process along with representatives from local non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations.  Workshops and country-level and bilateral meetings with country policy advisors also took place and were successful in having participants and countries confirm their interest to continue development of the model forest concept. 

Among other things, the consultations concluded that model forests are unique to their country setting (i.e.  their geographical, cultural and institutional setting).  To be self-sustaining they must provide real benefits to the people and participants at the local level as well as at national levels.  The desire for and benefits of sharing experiences and knowledge through networking activities were also confirmed.  Networking of model forest participants and activities at local, regional, national and international levels is attractive because it provides benefits to all players.  It allows the communities and forestry specialists to learn from one another and thereby accelerate the application of innovative planning and management options.  The IMFN was seen to be unique and not in competition with other initiatives.  For the IMFN to be effective and efficient in networking, it should be facilitated and coordinated through an international Secretariat.  The range of expectations for networking and coordination through a Secretariat is diverse and reflects the views and needs of developed countries, those in transition, and countries that are in a developing stage. 

Having completed the consultations and bilateral discussions with policy advisors and officials from the Antalya group of countries, the IMFNS, as facilitator,   prepared a discussion paper on the future of the IMFN. This paper proposed a framework of activities for the IMFN, a governance structure, and mechanisms to support the IMFN and its Secretariat.  This paper, along with a proposal for the next steps in the international consultation process, was presented to the heads of forestry organizations in a meeting held on the margins of the United Nations, FAO, Committee on Forestry (COFO),  in Rome, in March 1999.

At that meeting there was broad endorsement of the discussion paper and agreement to explore options for the creation and support of a five-year IMFN development program for the period  March 2000 to 2005. Discussions will focus on identifying  priority areas of work, and  exploring the ways and means of supporting the IMFN and its Secretariat in the Development Program.  An IMFN Consultative Committee, chaired by Dan Welsh, Canadian Forest Service (CFS), and consisting of country representatives, has been established and will be focusing on these issues over the coming months.