This was one of the tips given by David Ganz, one of the panelists APFNet invited to participate in the Forestry Planning Network (FPN) side-event during the 26th session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He clearly seems to be pointing out the obvious, so what was this about?
Earlier this year during a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, FPN members agreed that the new network will only be able to effectively help its member economies if it assesses what the current gaps and needs in strategic planning are. In summer, we set out to do just that and visited or had a call with several representatives from academia, government and NGOs in different economies.
During the APFC, we were able to give participants a sneak-peak into our findings, which will be published in a comprehensive report by the end of the year. These were presented by Miss Anna Finke in the first part of the event. Some of these findings were expected, while others proved to be quite surprising.
Many of the current gaps are actually interrelated. For example, we found that many plans rather resemble “wish lists” than realistic plans. In some plans seemingly every single problem in forestry an economy has is addressed. While on paper this looks great and comprehensive, such plans are often unfortunately developed independently of the available funding and by experts that have little insight into what is actually financially possible. This non-knowledge was often exacerbated by the fact that the plans often lacked specific budgets or financing programs, thus indirectly incentivizing the creation of impossibly long lists of things to get done.
This, amongst other challenges we found, was then addressed during a panel by experts in strategic planning, moderated by FAO’s Mr. Yurdi Yasmi. Mr. Ganz’ tip to be SMART, then, turned out to be useful advice. SMART is actually a mnemonic acronym, used in management and planning to guide the setting of objectives. These should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
However, many of the strategic national plans are neglecting one or the other, and lacking a budget certainly didn’t make them anymore Achievable, as Miss To Thi Thu Huong put it.
As Mr. Chen Jiawen agreed with this, saying getting the targets right is crucial in order to make a plan successful. Even more he cared, however, about the Relevance of these plans. Currently, many plans do not consider international goals and targets, such as the SDGs and Aichi targets, sufficiently, so he suggested the FPN should help economies incorporate those targets into their plans.
Edna Nuestro added that the Timeliness of the monitoring is also often lacking or it is even not conducted at all, ultimately preventing economies from improving and adapting their plans to current needs.
Pheakkdey Nguon, the lead author of the Cambodia National REDD+ Strategy, agreed with many of the points the others made, but also cautioned that the best targets can still fail if stakeholders are not sufficiently involved in the process. This, he emphasized, includes not only holding a consultation but also ensuring the consulted are fully understanding the project or plan they are being consulted about.
Many other things were discussed and will be reflected in the FPN’s future activities. Overall the side-event was very successful and will help the FPN to move ahead with great activities to enable SMART and strategic planning.