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Meeting - Regional Forest Research Organizations

Regional Forest Research Organizations – Experiences and Visions

October 2005

Satellite Event held during the XXII IUFRO World Congress in Brisbane, Australia, August 2005

Birger Solberg (Chair)
Atse Yapi, Sim Heok-Choh, Michael Kleine (Rapporteurs)

This satellite meeting attended by 24 scientists from various regions (see list of participants at the end of this report) took place at the Brisbane Convention Centre on Friday 12 August from 19:00 to 21:00 hours. Birger Solberg (Norway) opened the meeting and briefly stated the objectives of this event:
• Present experiences of regional actions in forest research;
• Learn from each other and understand the roles and linkages of the various global and regional organizations/associations/networks;
• Discuss future directions of regional forest research;
• Identify the needs to improve networking and the optimal role of regional organisations - between national and global levels.

In total, seven organizations and networks delivered the following short statements on their regional activities and experiences with:
Glenn Galloway presented CATIE’s strategies to increase the impact of forestry and agroforestry research in Central and South America. As a regional learning and research centre with 13 member countries CATIE pursues a number of strategies to improve the effectiveness of its research and include collaborative research networking; creation of interdisciplinary thematic groups; integration of research, outreach and higher education; and research in operational management areas.
David Kaimowitz elaborated on CIFOR’s role as an international research institution operating in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In addressing major constraints of research in the tropics, CIFOR is implementting policy-relevant research, strengthening developing country research capacity, promoting pro-poor interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research approaches, and investing in communication.
Sim Heok-Choh informed the audience about APAFRI’s mission to promote the collaborative exchange among institutions to enhance forestry research and conservation capacity in the Asia Pacific region. As a registered NGO in Malaysia, APAFRI represents regional forest research within IUFRO (Chapter of IUFRO), Asia Pacific Forestry Commission and other international fora, and acts as regional coordi-nator of IUFRO-SPDC activities. Its involvement ranges from capacity building, information sharing and exchange, special interest groups, online data bases and the organization of workshops and conferences.
Risto Päivinen explained the role of EFI as an independent non-governmental organization conducting forest research in Europe. As of September 2005, EFI’s status has been changed to an international organization consisting of 8 European Member States and 136 member institutions in 37 countries. EFI in future is intended as a centre of excellence, information provider and platform for meetings and information exchange, and representing the European forest research community.
Atse Yapi presented the objectives of and experiences with FORNESSA, an umbrella network of three sub-regional institutional networks in West and Central, Eastern and Southern Africa (CORAF, AFREA, SADC-FANR) founded in 2000 through collaborative efforts by FAO, IUFRO and a number of forestry research institutions in Africa. This network aims to foster regional research cooperation, expand research capacity, and articulate and advocate African forest research agenda and development issues in global fora. Major achievements thus far include the establishment of the Global Forest Information Service in Africa, research networking projects on rehabilitation of degraded lands and participation in COFO and UNFF meetings.
Godwin Kowero and Yonas Yemshaw introduced to the participants the AFORNET initiative, a network of individual scientists under the African Academy of Science funded by the Swedish Government. The activities include a research grant program, training courses, travel grants for workshops and conferences, and contract research. In collaboration with the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture & Forestry and FAO the network is also leading a project on lessons learnt on sustainable forest management in Africa.

More information about the activities and achievements of the regional networks and international research institutions presented in this meeting can be found in the annexes to this report.

Following the presentations, Birger Solberg opened the floor for discussions and invited questions and comments. The issues raised and major points of discussions are presented below.

An imbalance was noted with regard to the representation in this meeting of regional organizations and institutional networks that had the opportunity to present their experiences. Compared to Africa, Asia and Europe, Latin American forest research institutions have not yet established strong networks that could promote research cooperation at the regional and global levels. Current efforts are directed towards the establishment of two networks of national research institutions in Latin America, one in the Amazon and another one in the Southern region. Although the issue of closer collaboration of national research institutions in Latin America has been discussed since 1999 at various meetings of the Forum Directors of Forest Research, effective support for such an initiative has not been realized. However, as stated in the discussions, FAO and IUFRO will continue to support regional networking efforts in Latin America.

The question regarding the roles of research networks in Africa, in particularly whether AFORNET and FORNESSA are competing initiatives was discussed. Network representatives stated that both networks do not compete because AFORNET represents a network of scientists with focus on enhancing research capacity of individual researchers, while FORNESSA as a network of national research institutions aims at promoting cooperation among organizations at regional and sub-regional levels. Nevertheless, it was suggested that the two networks should aim at closer cooperation while maintaining clarity of the roles of the two organisations and to find further funding for the programmes of both of them.

Then, the discussions turned to the issue of the relationship between CIFOR and regional research networks in Africa and Asia. It was stated that in order to enhance cooperation between CIFOR and the regional networks a more systematic approach to communication and collaboration should be pursued, particularly in Africa.

As most of the networks and international organizations face considerable difficulties to secure the financial resources for their infrastructure and activities from the international donor community some points on funding were raised.
Major sources of APAFRI’s income during the early days of its establishment, for example, were provided by FAO’s FORSPA programme and in the period 1998 till 2002 through the Tree Link Project of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Since late 2003, after both the Tree Link Project and FORSPA programme terminated, APAFRI has been surviving on small grants from agencies such as USDA, FAO, and a few others. The Forest Research Institute Malaysia currently hosts the Secretariat; and the Malaysian Government shoulders a major portion of the secretariat costs (including the salaries of the Executive Director and his Secretary, and office utilities).

With regard to the initial establishing costs of a network which include expenditures to coordinate meetings and pay for travel and communication, it was suggested to seek a short-term grant from an international donor agency. This is likely to be the most focused approach to successfully establishing a network and recommended for the creation of the network in Latin America.

As far as funding support for regional networks through IUFRO-SPDC is concerned it was stated that the changes in donor policies over the past several years towards specific-purpose projects deprived IUFRO-SPDC to replenish its resources for the scientist assistance programme. However, new approaches are sought to continue support for the participation of developing country scientists in regional and global scientific meetings and conferences.

Finally, it was further suggested that the issue of better coordination of networks, from the different sub-regions within a region, be voiced at a higher level in IUFRO so that the next IUFRO Congress would see a better integration of the networks into the global role of IUFRO.

The results of the discussions of this satellite event are considered a valuable input into the formulation of IUFRO’s regional strategy which is an integral part of IUFRO’s Strategic Plan 2006 to 2010.

Birger Solberg closed the session by thanking the presenters and participants for their contributions, noting that regional networking will be successful only if the regions organize themselves based on their needs and aspirations.

List of Participants