Bureau of Alternates--Activities

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Evaluation of the Working Groups


Table of Contents:

1. Introduction

2. Current Functioning of Working Groups

3. Preliminary Conclusions

4. Terms of Reference

5. Composition

6. Modus Operandi

7. Duration

8. Questionnaire


At the meeting in Charleston, North Carolina, in March 1998, the Bureau of Alternates (BOA) decided to undertake a review of the mandates, objectives and activities of each study group with a view to making recommendations on future work on current and emerging issues such as watershed restoration, urban forestry and recreation. The review would also include suggestions on ways to improve collaboration on cross-cutting issues and on how to enhance communications within and among groups and with the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Department of the United Nations (FAO). Work will be undertaken with the full involvement of the Secretary of the North American Forest Commission (NAFC).

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Study groups generally meet once a year, rotating locations among the three countries. Sessions consist of presentations or seminars and field trips. Mandates have in common the need to promote and enhance the sustainable use of forest resources and terms of reference describe respective goals, objectives and methods of operation. All are similar, especially in terms of facilitating information exchange and sharing expertise.

Membership in all groups is comprised of technical experts, including practicing scientists and operational people. From time to time, composition changes to reflect evolving objectives and activities, mainly in response to a science-driven agenda. As one issue is addressed, the group then turns to the next, often haphazardly. This could be interpreted as a lack of direction at the policy level, perhaps requiring clearer guidelines from the BOA. The current practice does, however, produce a good science base for future policy options.

Study groups sometimes hold joint meetings and collaborate to publish workshop proceedings and other documents. Such joint activities have generally been quite successful and all groups are open to having more of them.

Members are active and are producing results. Many of their findings provide a scientifically valid background for policymaking and contribute to explaining and examining broad policy issues. They are able to resolve technical problems while providing a variety of products, such as on-site training, standards development and joint research projects. Study groups help maintain the science basis for ecosystem management and provide a basis for policy actions taken within a science environment. They appear to function well as science driven initiatives, with a high degree of scientific credibility. However, they may need to increase their effectiveness by taking policy considerations into account, to a greater degree, when carrying out their work.

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1.There are strong similarities in the mandates, objectives and activities of all study groups, and all clearly define the functioning of the groups. Strengthening the policy dimensions in each group would enhance their capacity to consider policy issues.

2.Holding joint meetings and jointly producing publications that reflect activities common to one or more study groups would improve collaboration and communications within and among study groups. Such cooperation would also facilitate the examination of cross-cutting issues such as the incorporation of traditional forest-related knowledge into mainstream sustainable forest management practices.

3.Closer ties with the Forestry Department of the FAO, especially with regard to its Programme of Work and Budget (PWB), would result in greater complementarity between the activities of the FAO and study groups.

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A task force will be established to review and report to the BOA on the current functioning of study groups, including the extent to which they collaborate with each other on issues of mutual interest and the extent to which they and the FAO work together. The review will consist, inter alia, of the following activities:

  • examine the mandates, objectives and activities of all study groups;
  • determine the extent of duplication, gaps and overlaps;
  • assess the functioning and effectiveness of groups;
  • seek the views of study groups on NAFCs web site and on the need for improvements;
  • suggest a continued or expanded role in the context of emerging issues*, as appropriate;
  • identify ways to improve collaboration within and among groups and the FAO;
  • recommend ways to enhance communications within and among groups and the FAO;
  • explore the potential for greater collaboration with the Forestry Department of the FAO;
  • examine ways to increase the participation of the private sector in study group activities.

* Examples of emerging issues are: the role forests can play in addressing potential future shortages in the quantity and quality of freshwater; the increasing use of forests for recreation; urban forestry; and the incorporation of traditional knowledge in sustainable forest management practices.

The review should also provide the basis for recommending, as appropriate, the establishment of new groups and the modification or termination of existing ones.

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Task force members are as follows:

  • Canada (lead): Carl Winget and Rosalie McConnell
  • Mexico: Aurelio Fierros
  • United States: Andrew Gillespie (working group chair) FAO: Yves Dub

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6. Modus Operandi:

As the need arises, the task force will consult with key personnel in each of the forest services and in the FAO. Regular communication will also be established with study group chairs and others who are directly and indirectly involved in study group activities. Information will mostly be gathered through a search of background documents, telephone interviews and mailed questionnaires. The task force will conduct its work mainly via teleconferencing and electronic communications. However, attendance at some of the meetings of the study groups would increase the awareness and understanding of operational issues under which they must function. Should a face-to-face meeting be required to compile the final report, the BOA Secretariat will facilitate arrangements.

7. Duration:
The task force will submit its report to the BOA no later than June 2000.

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