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[Annual Report'98
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DG Message

CIFOR Highlights

History and Mission
of CIFOR

 

Mr-Sayer2.JPG (21306 bytes)

Jeffrey A. Sayer, Director General

 

Director General’s Message

In 1998, we celebrated CIFOR’s fifth anniversary. Much has happened since Mr. Ali Alatas, Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, signed CIFOR’s host country agreement on 15 May 1993 during the Center’s first Board meeting. We have built and moved into our international headquarters near Bogor; we have recruited 135 staff members, including 60 scientists from 25 countries; and we have grown to an annual budget of more than US$ 11 million, with research activities in 38 tropical developing countries. The international research community concerned with forests has provided outstanding support in these first years. The Government of Indonesia has made contributions that exceeded our expectations, including the provision of CIFOR’s excellent headquarters complex, which reached the final stages of construction in 1998.

1998 was an eventful year for CIFOR in several respects. The period saw a dramatic evolution in the political situation of our host country. Despite the disturbances that led to the resignation of President Suharto in May, and the frequent demonstrations later in the year, CIFOR continued functioning throughout this period. There were changes also in the leadership of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, with Minister Djamaludin and many of his team who supported CIFOR in its establishment and growth ending their mandates.

The change in government initiated a period of political and economic reform that is still continuing. The economic crisis has had major impacts on natural resources, and CIFOR scientists offered analysis and advice to the Indonesian government in developing new legislation and institutional arrangements for managing the country’s forests. The fundamental issue is the tradeoff between the need for radical reform and the difficulty of moving smoothly toward institutional arrangements that will meet everybody’s hopes and expectations.

In 1998, CIFOR completed it first External and Management Review, whose conclusions were very favourable. The review team stated that "CIFOR is well positioned to meet the challenges ahead and to take advantage of the opportunities to contribute to poverty alleviation, food security, and environmental protection and enhancement." The recommendations from the review will certainly have an impact on our future growth and direction. An important step in this direction has been the consolidation of CIFOR’s major research thrusts from ten to six: policies and forests, sustainable forest management, biodiversity conservation, plantation forestry, forest products and people, and adaptive co-management of forests.

Several of our founding Board and staff members left us during the year, and we have been fortunate in attracting other excellent scientists and forest practitioners to join us both at Board and senior management levels. Our teams are revived and strengthened, and have added diversity.

In 1998, CIFOR also consolidated its regional offices within partner organisations in Zimbabwe and Brazil. In 1999, more scientists will be posted at these locations in fulfillment of CIFOR’s intention to work most effectively with our scientific partners, and where they can experience the problems of forest-dependent people first hand.

1998 also saw a major review of the CGIAR by an independent panel led by Maurice Strong. The panel recommended that the CGIAR focus more attention on environmental and natural resources issues and that other centres should emulate CIFOR’s collaborative, decentralised "centre without walls" way of operating.

The Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) continues to focus on science-based approaches to forest problems and has provided an excellent showcase for CIFOR’s products. CIFOR has been a major contributor to a number of studies that are supporting the IFF process.

So we embark upon our second five years, and approach the new millenium, with confidence and enthusiasm. We have superb facilities, a strong and diverse team of scientists, and an efficient pan-tropical network of partners. But, most important, in many tropical developing countries a political and social environment exists that is receptive to the new approaches to forest management that CIFOR’s research shows to be necessary.

Jeffrey A. Sayer