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Bangkok, 19 Jan 2017 - Forestry strategic planning is an ongoing process, not a one-time exercise. It must be people-focused, learning-centered, and adaptive to external changes to be considered strategic.

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Mr. Phouthone Sophathilath, Deputy Director of Planning and Cooperation of the Lao Department of Forestry, highlighted that forestry planning has become increasingly difficult given that the scope of planning has become more complex over time.

These were the overriding sentiments at the Asia-Pacific Forestry Planning Workshop in Bangkok, held from 18 to 19 January by APFNet in partnership with FAO-RAP and the Royal Forestry Department of Thailand.

Twenty-three participants from government forestry planning departments, NGOs and IGOs gathered to analyze and finetune key programmatic elements as part of establishing the APFNet Asia-Pacific Forestry Planning Network (FPN).

The FPN is a newly established, informal network that aims to strengthen economy-level forestry strategic planning processes in the Asia-Pacific region. Knowledge sharing, policy analysis and capacity building are major activities foreseen in the network.

Forestry planning has a long history in the forestry sector, where traditional planning approaches focused on timber production as one of the key objectives.

However, advancements in communications technology, globalization and trade has made socioeconomic development increasingly complex. At the same time, the awareness and demand for forests to contribute to sustainable development is steadily growing at the international level.

For forestry planners to adapt to these changes, the pressure to make forestry planning as strategic as possible is now greater than ever.

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Strategic planning is a deliberate and ongoing decision-making process that stresses knowledge integration and addresses societal needs, according to natural resource policy expert Dr. CTS Nair.

So what differentiates strategic forestry planning from conventional forestry planning?

“Strategic planning results from a deliberate decision-making process and defines where an organization is going,” says natural resource policy expert Dr. CTS Nair.

Dr. Nair has over 20 years of working experience in forestry strategic planning and policy development, and has written over 100 publications on policies, economics and institutional analysis.

What differentiates strategic planning is that it is a “knowledge intensive process”, that involves gathering and analyzing information to understand the present situation, draw up realistic future scenarios, define the goals that need to be accomplished and specify the actions to be taken to accomplish the goals.

Establishing a learning environment that addresses societal needs and encourages flexibility to respond to external changes are also key factors in forestry strategic planning, he added.

But intensive information gathering can be costly for some Asia-Pacific economies, which often face shortages and gaps in resources and capacity.

At the workshop, it was identified that the FPN can play a key role in building a common pool of knowledge, and serve as a valuable information resource to support the strategic planning process.

The workshop assessed and prioritized potential activities for the network in 2017, laying the groundwork for developing next steps and actions. A detailed workplan is currently being developed based on the feedback collected at the workshop.

The idea for establishing a regional network on strategic planning was initiated in two strategic planning-related workshops in November 2013 in Rotorua, New Zealand and December 2014 in Phenom Penh, Cambodia.