The basis of the work developed by FOREST EUROPE has been a common understanding of what sustainable forest management encompasses. The term was defined in 1993 in the Helsinki resolution H1 as “the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems”.
The first two set of Guidelines were agreed within the two Resolutions on “General Guidelines for Sustainable Forest Management” and “General Guidelines for Conservation of Biological Diversity of European Forests” in Helsinki in 1993. Besides them, FOREST EUROPE has elaborated “Pan-European Operational Level Guidelines for Sustainable Forest Management”, endorsed at the Lisbon Ministerial Conference in 1998, elaborated to promote SFM in Europe by translating international commitments down to the level of forest management practises and planning, and the “Pan-European Guidelines for Afforestation and Reforestation”.
Criteria and indicators have been also adopted and continuously revised to promote sustainable forest management and facilitate the evaluation of progress towards it. The six Pan-European criteria for SFM are:
- Maintenance and appropriate enhancement of forest resources and their contribution to global carbon cycles;
- Maintenance of forest ecosystems’ health and vitality;
- Maintenance and encouragement of productive functions of forests (wood and non-wood);
- Maintenance, conservation and appropriate enhancement of biological diversity in forest ecosystems;
- Maintenance, conservation and appropriate enhancement of protective functions in forest management (notably soil and water); and
- Maintenance of other socio-economic functions and conditions.
The associated indicators were adopted by the Ministers in Lisbon (1998), further improved in Vienna (2003) as “Improved Pan-European Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management” and updated and endorsed in Madrid (2015) as “Updated pan-European Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management”. They are used to communicate SFM to policy makers, to other related areas and sectors, and to the public; to develop related policies and strategies; and to monitor and report on the state and trends of the European forests. They are also used to assess progress towards sustainable forest management in the pan-European region both at regional and national level. This progress and up-to date information on European forests is regularly, before each Ministerial Conference, presented in the “State of Europe’s Forests” report.