25 years of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management: How intergovernmental C & I processes have made a difference.
Growing concern about forest degradation and loss, combined with the political impetus supplied by the Earth Summit in 1992, led to the establishment of eleven intergovernmental, regional, and international forest-related processes focused on the use of criteria and indicators (CandI) for sustainable forest management (SFM). Up to 171 countries have participated in these processes to apply CandI frameworks as a tool for data collection, monitoring, assessment, and reporting on SFM and on achieving various forest-related UN Sustainable Development Goals. Based on an expert survey and literature analysis we identify six interlinked impact domains of CandI efforts: (1) enhanced discourse and understanding of SFM; (2) shaped and focused engagement of science in SFM; (3) improved monitoring and reporting on SFM to facilitate transparency and evidence-based decision-making; (4) strengthened forest management practices; (5) facilitated assessment of progress towards SFM goals; and (6) improved forest-related dialog and communication. We conclude that the 25-year history of CandI work in forestry has had significant positive impacts, though challenges do remain for the implementation of CandI and progress towards SFM. The work should be continued and carried over to other sectors to advance sustainability goals more broadly.