History of the Montréal Process

Meeting the Needs for Reporting about Sustainable Forestry

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio Earth Summit), 1992, was a turning point for how humanity defines its interaction with the planet. Although no convention on forests specifically emerged from Rio, the importance of forests across the environmental, social, and environmental landscape was clearly acknowledged. Recognizing that forests are essential to economic development and the maintenance of all forms of life, the Conference adopted the Rio Forest Principles. They devoted a chapter of Agenda 21 to establishing a programme to enhance the scope and effectiveness of activities related to the management, conservation, and sustainable development of forests, and to effectively ensure the sustainable utilization and production of forests' goods and services (chapter 11).

Both the Forest Principles and Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 expressed a broad suite of social, economic, and environmental objectives around the concept of sustainability of forests. From this, the concept of sustainable forest management emerged. Although there was no universal international definition of sustainable forest management, it is the basis of subsequent international policy on forests, especially the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) and its Non-legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests and associated objectives. The scope of sustainable forest management continues to evolve with more contemporary and wider management issues for forests.

Although an agreed global definition of sustainable forest management has been elusive—though the Montreal Process Working Group's 22nd meeting affirmed the UNFF's definition—it was recognized that the task of monitoring, assessing, and reporting progress in sustainable forest management at the global, national, and regional levels, and desirably, down to the forest management unit level, was important. Work on developing criteria and indicators (C&I) as a tool to monitor, assess, and report on trends in forest management was gaining ground at about the same time as the Rio Earth Summit and refinements continued in various separate groupings of countries or “processes”.

In 1992, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) published the ITTO guidelines for the sustainable management of natural tropical forests, developed as a tool to monitor, assess, and report on progress in sustainable forest management for tropical forests. There was the need to develop similar principles and guidelines appropriate for temperate and boreal forests; this need lead to the agreements under the Montreal Process and Forests Europe.

The Montréal Process Working Group (MPWG) was launched in 1994 and immediately set about the task of developing a set of criteria and indicators to cover the temperate and boreal forests within its member countries. These 12 member countries today represent 33% of the world’s population and report on 83% of the world’s temperate and boreal forests, 49% of the world’s forests, and 45% of the world’s wood products.

A critical part of the development of the MPWG criteria and indicators was extensive consultations with forest managers and users, researchers, the private sector, and technical and policy experts within member countries. The MPWG moved quickly to develop a framework for developing the criteria and indicators. In February 1995, the MPWG agreed that the “Santiago Declaration” (1995) (PDF, 115 KB), which set out scope and key definitions covering 7 criteria and 67 associated indicators, as guidelines for policy-makers to use in assessing national forest trends and progress toward sustainable forest management in temperate and boreal forests. The criteria are designed to group the indicators into common themes:

  1. Conservation of biological diversity
  2. Maintenance of productive capacity of forest ecosystems
  3. Maintenance of forest ecosystem health and vitality
  4. Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources
  5. Maintenance of forest contribution to global carbon cycles
  6. Maintenance and enhancement of long-term multiple socioeconomic benefits to meet the needs of societies
  7. Legal, institutional and economic framework for forest conservation and sustainable management

The First Reports and a Process of Refinement

By 2003, the Montreal Process member countries had published their first Country Forest Reports using the agreed MP criteria and indicators. The illustrative trends of these where consolidated into the First Forest Overview Report 2003.

Based on the experiences gained during the First Report, and international developments in forest reporting (for example, the UNFF), member countries identified a set of actions to enhance the effectiveness of the MP, including a major review and refinement of the MP indicators. These were adopted the Québec City Declaration in September 2003 and established the vision for the Montréal Process through to 2008.

This revision process concluded with the Working Group’s approval of a revised set of indicators based around Criteria 1-6 in Buenos Aires (November 2007), and revisions to Criterion 7 adopted in Jeju (June 2009). The member countries have used the improved indicators to prepare their second round of Country Forest Reports in 2009. In agreeing to the updated set of indicators, the Working Group underscored the relevance of Criteria and Indicators to decision making within their countries and international comparability.

Working with Others to Improve Forest Management and Understanding of Forests within Sustainable Landscapes

On November 2007, the Working Group agreed on the conceptual framework for the Montréal Process Strategic Action Plan: 2009-2015 (PDF, 20 KB). The Strategic Action Plan (SAP) established five Strategic Directions for the Montreal Process:

  1. Enhance the relevance of the Montréal Process criteria and indicators for policymakers, practitioners and others;
  2. Strengthen member country capacity to monitor, assess and report on forest trends and progress toward sustainable forest management using the Montréal Process criteria and indicators;
  3. Enhance collaboration and cooperation with forest related regional and international organizations and instruments and other criteria and indicator processes;
  4. Enhance communication on the value of criteria and indicators and the accomplishments of the Montréal Process; and
  5. Enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the Montréal Process Working Group and its Technical Advisory Committee and Liaison Office.

Since the SAP development, the Montreal Process has been using these to guide the Working Group and the Technical Advisory Committee. Highlights of what has occurred include:

  • A joint workshop of international criteria and indicators processes in Canada 2011, including the Montréal Process, International Tropical Timber Organization, Forest Europe, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Forestry Department.
  • Increasing the presence of the Montreal Process at other Forestry events, including the 2009 World Forestry Congress, and attendance by representatives of the different criteria and indicators processes at each other's meetings.
  • Thematic case studies of criteria and indicators application to address developing policy areas. Topics addressed have identified important issues for policy development where the Montreal Process criteria and indicators could provide valuable information including forest degradation; water, bioenergy, biodiversity, climate change, as well as how cross-sectoral thinking can be enhanced.
  • Identification of the unique aspects of the Montreal Process, and how this aids potential users of criteria and indicators to maximize benefits. These include the informal, non-binding, voluntary participation and reporting, and the fact that the criteria and indicators deals with multiple values that forests provide.