The FPN should prioritize monitoring, strategic communication and knowledge sharing, new study shows
When the Forestry Planning Network (FPN) was formalized at the Asia-Pacific Forestry Planning Workshop in early 2017, members discussed a number of challenges that planners continue to face in strategic planning. It was agreed that the FPN should conduct a gaps and needs study to further define its strategy and areas of support to Asia-Pacific forestry planners.
The Baseline Review, Gaps and Needs Assessment of Forestry Strategic Planning in the Asia-Pacific Regionwas completed in early 2018. The study covered Cambodia, China, Fiji, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam with the potential to include other economies in future studies. Senior forestry expert Dr. Thomas Enters led the study. It comprised a self-assessment by FPN members, interviews during visits to four economies and a review of plans and related documentation.
Based on the gaps and challenges in forestry strategic planning that were identified, the study recommended three main areas of focus for developing FPN support activities:
1. Strengthening monitoring and evaluation
One of the biggest weaknesses in current strategic planning practices is in the monitoring and evaluation of implementing the strategic plans. The study recommended for the FPN to support economies in building monitoring and evaluation capacity and ability. One such idea is to assist economies in establishing frameworks for monitoring and evaluation to help planners meet monitoring requirements and policymakers to understand the reasons behind the speed of progress.
It was also recommended that as a minimum, the monitoring and evaluation framework should focus on monitoring progress towards the desired conditions of key resources (e.g. biological diversity; soil, water and air; and social and economic benefits), which should be defined by individual economies. The framework should also be sufficiently flexible to accommodate shifting priorities over time.
Other areas of support include training and capacity building activities in developing SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound) indicators and in using the logical framework approach in order to build a solid understanding of strategic planning in general. In addition, the study recommended for FPN to identify opportunities to collaborate with other similar initiatives, such as the FAO’s Executive Forest Policy Course for the Asia and the Pacific.
2. Assisting with strategic communication
One of the gaps identified in strategic planning is the communication of the plans and translating it to something that can be understood by the general public as well as decision makers beyond the forestry sector. In the medium-term, the study recommended that the FPN assists economies in developing communication plans that, in a timely and cost-effective manner, can make a case for forests and forestry. This involves building communication ability and skills including:
- Supporting with the identification of target audiences at international, national and sub-national levels and their information needs.
- Supporting with the selection of broad key messages, based on consultations with key stakeholders (i.e. audiences).
- Recommending internal and external communication tools and proposing channels of communication. This may include leveraging on personnel in the media and journalists to strengthen outreach.
3. Building knowledge on external issues and linking them to national contexts
Over the last decade, several developments at the international level including the UNFCCC Paris Agreement on climate change, the CBD and its Aichi targets, the UN SDGs, and the Bonn Challenge and the New York Declaration on Forests have also impacted forests, forestry, forest policy and/or strategic planning. Many foresters struggle with the constant emergence of new issues, concepts, discourses and themes.
The study recommended for the FPN to respond to the demand for clear and easy-to-understand information on such issues and provide access to learning tools, training courses and relevant events. This mode of communication should also be used to enhance the understanding of issues such as:
- Cross-sectoral planning (that goes beyond broader consultations);
- Governance and rights;
- Drivers of deforestation and forest degradation; and
- Strengthening private sector engagement.
The study also recommended for the FPN blog to review the work of other similar organizations to complement information-sharing efforts and avoid unnecessary duplication.
Based on the recommendations of the study, the FPN has developed a work plan which was discussed with members during the annual Forestry Planning Workshop on 28 March 2018 in Beijing. The workshop also included sessions on introducing SMART indicators and their importance in monitoring. The workshop took place as part of the APFNet Conference on Forest Rehabilitation in the Asia-Pacific Region.