Forests emerged on the international policy and political agendas in the late 1960s and early 1970s due to the increased concerns that were voiced by the environmental community and some governments. These concerns related to the unprecedented rates of deforestation and forest degradation, caused by environmentally unsustainable forestry practices in many parts of the world, which, in turn lead to the consequent loss of the multiple values and benefits provided by forests for human well-being. An understanding of Sustainable Forest Management at the global level is a prerequisite for implementing the concept and procedure at national and local levels.
Forests, covering nearly one-third of Earth’s landscape, are closely associated with human well-being worldwide. They constitute an essential natural heritage, are important economic assets, and are vital for sustaining the global environment; yet over the past 50 years humans have changed forest ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any other historical period. In recent history, the loss of forest cover amounted to around 13 million hectares annually between 1990 and 2010 due to deforestation and forest degradation according to FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 (FAO, 2010). Although there are indications that the rate of deforestation in slightly declining, it is still alarmingly high. Module I gives a historical background of the international arrangements to achieve SFM on a global level, as well as the components of such arrangements.