Invitation to join an Electronic Forum on 'Sustainable Forest Use'

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), I extend to you a cordial invitation to participate in an electronic forum on 'Sustainable Forest Use' (SUSFOR-L).

As you may be aware, GEF serves as the financial mechanism for the international conventions on biodiversity (CBD) and climate change (IFCCC). CBD aims at promoting conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits of biodiversity. However, GEF sponsored biodiversity programmes in developing countries have so far been largely restricted to conservation in protected areas. The GEF Council is very keen on extending the scope of these programmes to cover sustainable use, particularly of forest ecosystems. The GEF family including the Secretariat, World Bank, UNDP, UNEP and STAP are therefore engaged in an exercise of developing a strategy for achieving this. Centre for International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia and Wildlife Conservation Society, New York have been retained by GEF as consultants for this purpose.

STAP has the mandate of helping GEF build up its strategic thinking and a special mandate to involve the wider scientific and technical community in the process. I, therefore, earnestly hope that you would join the forum and provide your valuable inputs to this important exercise.

With warm regards,

Yours sincerely,

Madhav Gadgil

Chairman, GEF-STAP

How the forum would work:

Our focus would primarily be on inputs from natural and social scientists. Within these broad boundaries, we would welcome all who are interested to join and comment.

The forum would be operated from August 20 to September 30, 1999. The resulting wisdom would be digested to form a background paper for a workshop that STAP plans to hold on October 15-16, 1999 in Mexico. We would of course share this paper and the results of the workshop with all participants of this forum.

To join the forum, you will need to send a blank email to with ‘subscribe’ in the subject line. You will then receive a confirmatory message from us and start receiving regular postings. If at any stage you wish to be removed from the forum, you will need to send a blank email to the same address with ‘remove’ in the subject line.

To initiate the discussion, STAP offers a background paper prepared by Madhav Gadgil along with a response from Kanta Kumari of GEF Secretariat. We would request you to access these at the web address An abstract of the paper is appended below. If you have difficulty in accessing the web or would prefer to receive the documents by email, just send an email to susfor-l@ces.iisc.ernet.inwith ‘send document’ in the subject line and we will send you the entire document as plain text by email. In case you would like a formatted version, please indicate so in the body of the message and we would send you the material as an attached WORD97 file. You need not subscribe to the forum for requesting the document.

You can post your messages in the forum after you have subscribed by sending emails to We would go over each message and share them with all participants by email and also, periodically make them available on the web. This moderation would be merely to ensure that there is not an excessive amount of repetitive material for all forum members to look at and is in no way meant to direct or limit the discussion. We hope that the discussion would be completely free.

We shall be grateful if you share this message with any of your colleagues who might be interested to join or send us their contact details so that we might invite them.

If you need any clarifications, please send an email to

Background paper:

Deploying funds to nurture biodiversity: A proposal

Madhav Gadgil

Chairman, GEF-STAP


Global Environment Facility (GEF) serves as the financial mechanism for the Convention on Biological Diversity which aims to conserve, sustainably use and equitably share the benefits flowing from commercial utilization of the world’s rapidly eroding heritage of biodiversity. However, the GEF supported programmes have so far focussed largely on conservation of biodiversity through protected areas. This note is an attempt at stimulating discussion within the scientific and technological community on how to broaden this approach, to include sustainable use, especially of forest ecosystems.

The most significant lessons to have recently emerged in this context pertain to an appreciation of the limits to the scientific understanding of the behaviour of complex systems; limits that are a consequence of highly non-linear interactions amongst a large number of variables governing the systems. Surprises in the behaviour of natural ecosystems are therefore inevitable; and management systems must be designed to adjust to the unexpected, rather than act on the basis of a spurious belief in certainties. This calls for flexibility; and an ability to select at any point in time the seemingly most appropriate of the whole range of options without being rigidly committed to it.

Sustainability of use may be viewed on many different space and time scales, and with respect to different kinds and classes of resources. In particular, different stakeholders may have very different perspectives on what is to be sustained, and thereby arrive at very different conclusions on the appropriate management regime. The process of adaptive management involves bringing the concerned stakeholders together to arrive at a consensus on management objectives, including what resources are attempted to be sustained and on what space and time scales. Management practices that may achieve the agreed upon objectives are then selected from a range of possible options based upon the necessarily limited understanding of the system behaviour. Whether these practices are fulfilling the accepted objectives of sustainability is then assessed through an appropriate process of monitoring which is included as an integral component of management practices. Thus adaptive management substitutes prescription of a rigid solution by a group of experts or managers with a periodically updated informed choice from amongst a spectrum of available options identified in light of objectives agreed upon amongst a broad based set of stakeholders.

It is suggested that GEF portfolio in the area of sustainable use of biodiversity may then focus on building of capacity to undertake such adaptive management of natural resources with the involvement of a range of stakeholders; instead of promoting large scale programmes planned in detail by centralized bureaucracies. Such an approach would be entirely compatible with the conclusion of the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development that localized community based management and participatory decision making are the key components of sustainable forest management.