Message from the Chair

With all the pressures facing foresters, it is sometimes easy to forget that many of our activities are determined in part by events and decisions occurring in other parts of the world. Examples include regulatory actions, such as international legally-binding agreements, scientific developments such as advances in our understanding of forest ecosystems and their management, and new managerial techniques, such as the development of novel forms of silviculture. For example, how well do you understand the important differences between ecosystem management and ecosystem-based management? While forestry professionals have a responsibility to keep abreast of recent developments, tracking these many changes across multiple jurisdictions and countries is almost impossible for busy professionals. However, there are some opportunities available to us and one of the most important is the Commonwealth Forestry Association (CFA), the world’s longest established international forestry association. Created in 1921, the Association links people from around the world with an interest in professional forestry and focuses particularly on the exchange of information and experience. While the CFA still has some ties to the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of 54 independent countries including 2 billion people and just over 20% of the World’s forest resources, it is becoming increasingly global, and many individual members are located in non-Commonwealth countries.

The objective of the CFA is to promote the conservation and sustainable management of the world's forests and the contributions they make to peoples’ livelihoods through improved communication amongst forestry professionals and all those with an interest in the world’s forests. It does this through a number of mechanisms, including dissemination of information to members, policy makers and the public, education and training of members, facilitation of national and international capacity building, recognition of excellence in the field of forestry and representation at international meetings. For example, it is responsible for making the Queen’s Award for Forestry, with recent recipients being Canadian forest economist Shashi Kant and South African forest pathologist Jolanda Roux.

The CFA has a governing council comprising prominent forestry professionals from around the world, and has an Executive Director based in the UK. With a President based in Italy and the Chair and Vice Chair both based in Canada, the organization is truly international. This provides the CFA with the opportunity to draw on expertise from around the world, much of which is transmitted through its quarterly newsletter, CFA Newsletter. More scientific developments are reported in its journal, the International Forestry Review. The CFA is also responsible for a number of awards, such as the Young Forester Award, a Regional Award for Excellence, and the Queen’s Award for Forestry. Membership also provides access to other members around the world, providing the opportunity to link up with forestry professionals in regions of mutual interest.

While it is easy for an organization such as the CFA to talk about goals such as promoting sustainable forest management, it is often more difficult to achieve these. A recent example of significant progress in this area is provided by the partnership between the CFA, the Institute of Foresters of Australia and the New Zealand Institute of Forestry to develop training and education for forestry professionals located in Pacific Island Countries. This has included an examination of what is actually being done already and will lead to greater cooperation between forestry sector training and education bodies at all levels (vocational, technical and university) in the future. This initiative provides a great example of what can happen through collaboration, and the CFA would be very interested in promoting a similar venture between the professional forestry community in Canada and Caribbean states.

A particularly important aspect of the CFA is the links that are being forged between forestry professionals and civil society. Civil society organizations cover a diverse range of groups, including non-governmental organizations, labour unions, professional associations, parts of the media and academia and community groups. They are an essential part of a democratic society, yet many of the people involved in such groups have little knowledge of the importance of forests or the need for the sustainable management of forests, for the wellbeing of everyone. By working with such organizations, the CFA is seeking to provide foresters and the forestry profession in general with a voice in political decision making.

Prof. John Innes

Dean of Forestry, University of British Colombia, Canada

Chair, Commonwealth Forestry Association