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         4 July 2002

On 1-3 July 2002, the United Nations University (UNU), in cooperation with the European Forest Institute, University of Joensuu-Silva Network (Finland) and Lithuanian Agricultural University, held a joint high-level international symposium in Kaunas, Lithuania, to mark the inauguration of a new project on "Research and Capacity Development for National Forestry Programmes in Countries with Economies in Transition." The objective of the symposium, which was attended by policy makers, researchers and representatives of various governmental and non-governmental organizations and industry, was to clarify the status of development and implementation of national forestry programmes in relation to the environment and transitional process.

Countries in transition face major problems in their forest research, higher education and capacity building - problems due to their overall socio-economic situation as well as some that are sector-specific. One aim of the symposium was to share lessons already learned about how best to solve the problems and foster development. The symposium's four sessions focused on: (1) International Challenges to Research and Higher Education in Designing Comprehensive Policy Development Frameworks, (2) The Interface between Research, Education and Policy Development, (3) Issues for Socio-economic and Policy Research and Education, and (4) Presentations of Representing Countries. The programme also included field excursions to study productive forest stands, state forest policies after privatization/restitution reforms, multifunctional forestry and the private sector, and forestry sector reform and problems related to protected areas.

All the main multilateral UN agencies and international financing institutions as well as major bilateral donor agencies acting in forest sector development, under the auspices of the UN Secretariat for Sustainable Development in New York, have been involved with the design of the National Forestry Programme concept. The aim of this international process, which has been underway for approximately ten years, is to build an institutional framework and guidelines for sustainable forest sector-based development, both direct and indirect and through various forms of protection and utilization.

A recent workshop related to the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) emphasized the importance of building new capacities by means of training and education, especially in countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The new project, which involves representatives from 28 countries as well as several international organizations, will support the development of forestry-related regional networks and research projects in countries with economies in transition, with specific emphasis on the geographical region encompassing Russia and Central Asian, Balkan, Central European and Baltic states.

The programme and other details of the symposium are available online at

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