How to Improve Strategic Planning in Asia-Pacific
by Nadia Urriola Canchari, 26 July 2018
In 2017, a new study “Baseline Review, Gaps and Needs Assessment of Forestry Strategic Planning in the Asia-Pacific Region” was conducted to discuss the challenges that planners continue to face in strategic planning. It covered seven economies: Cambodia, China, Fiji, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.
During previous consultations it was agreed that FPN members could improve their forestry planning through studying gaps and needs in selected member economies.
During the strategy development process, a number of strengths and weaknesses emerged:
- Preparation of the strategy development process
It was unclear how rigorous many of the status reviews were prior to the formulation of the strategic plans as a consequence of some of the data being outdated or of poor quality. Additionally, a weak understanding of some stakeholders of the true drivers behind deforestation, forest degradation, and emerging issues lead to blanket statements drawn from common knowledge instead of evidence-based insights. However, there was a joint understanding that top-down approaches need to be combined with bottom-up approaches.
- Formulation of the strategy development process
The average time to complete formulation of the strategy was around two years. At times, this led to a reduction in quality and relevance of the final result as a consequence of waning interest and fatigue among stakeholders due to the long process. Another challenge was that the plans were often written by foreign consultants instead of the forestry agencies themselves. This was largely due to economies’ dependence on foreign funding sources for strategy formulation. While excellently written, the strategies then often failed to be adjusted to each economy’s specific reality, as the forestry departments had little agency and input.
- Consultation for the strategy development process
The biggest problem during this process was the dominance of the process by a small number of participants, while participants from other sectors, e.g. agriculture and mining or the private sector, were often not even invited for consultation. On a more positive note, in some economies like Cambodia the consulted stakeholders went beyond just giving opinions, but were invited to draft sections of the plan itself, indicating much greater involvement.
Even with the existence of some weaknesses, it’s important to emphasize that forestry strategic planning has evolved from a rather narrow approach with only foresters being consulted to a more inclusive approach, integrating a wider group of stakeholders characterized by their active participation. This helps build a better understanding of the local situation and the most pressing issues.
However, in general the reviewed strategic plans still have some issues that need to be dealt with, such as how to increase the contribution of forestry to poverty reduction and how to better integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation into the strategic plans.
Finally, considering the gaps and needs that were found in the majority of economies, some challenges remain, including:
- Highlighting how forests contribute to the national economy.
- Integrating the plan with other sectors by e.g. using budgeting incentives for collaboration.
- Knowledge-sharing and skill transfer acquired during planning processes amongst technical staff.
- Ensuring the sustainability of developed and implemented projects for the achievement of strategic plan targets.
- Creating an awareness and understanding of global processes and agreements that may affect forest management and governance.
- Creating awareness and an understanding of drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.
- Enhancing facilitation skills for more constructive consultation processes.
The study was written by Dr. Thomas Enters as the main author and supported by Ms. Anna Finke and Ms. Alexandra Wu as co-authors. For more information, download the report.