The Independent Steering Committee (ISC)

The Independent Steering Committee (ISC), with the CIFOR Board of Trustees – to which it reports – and the Management Team (MT), the work of which it oversees, is a key component of the governance of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). The ISC oversees at a strategic level the research programming, partnership engagement, delivery and effectiveness of FTA.

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Responsibilities of the ISC

The ISC has four key functions:

  1. Strategic programmatic oversight of FTA
  2. Monitoring FTA’s delivery
  3. Overseeing and strengthening FTA partnerships
  4. Reviewing the FTA Program of Work and Budget (POWB) and allocations from CGIAR and/or other program-level resources

The ISC is accountable to the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR’s) Board of Trustees (BoT), which retains overall strategic and programmatic responsibility, as well as fiduciary responsibility regarding the use of CGIAR and/or other program-level resources. On key functions 1, 2 and 3, the BoT’s work and decisions are delegated to the ISC, which reports to the BoT, and is answerable for follow-up and implementation. On key function 4, the ISC produces an annual recommendation for the BoT’s consideration.

The ISC oversees and provides guidance to the management team on the development and update of the FTA research strategy and programmatic priorities.

The ISC also oversees FTA management’s preparation of the POWB. It reviews it and recommends it to the BoT for approval, including the yearly funding allocation of program-level funds across the participating institutions. The objective is to align the POWB and program-level resources with the priorities identified through the priority-setting process, taking past performance into account, as relevant. The ISC ensures that underlying mechanisms, processes and decision criteria are fair and transparent, and that the decisions reflect a set of strategic research priorities.

As part of its monitoring function, a key role of the ISC is to assess the performance of the program, the participating centers and the FTA Director, based on traffic light reports and annual reports, and conduct other reviews against work plans.

The ISC also reviews the perimeter of the program partnership and can advise the Board of the Lead Center on relevant changes.

Further roles include:

  • Ensuring that advice and direction from the relevant CGIAR entities are considered in FTA planning and implementation.
  • Commissioning and approving FTA’s management response to external reviews.
  • Working with the Lead Center’s Director General (DG) to design and implement a transparent recruitment process for the FTA Director that is in the best interests of FTA, and annually assessing the performance of the FTA Director, working closely with the Lead Center DG.

Decision making

  • The ISC operates by consensus. When it cannot reach a consensus on a matter, the decision lies with the BoT of the Lead Center, CIFOR, because of its overall fiduciary responsibility.


The ISC consists of nine members. A majority of five members, including the Chair, are independent, appointed for a three-year term, renewable once. Three other members represent respectively the Lead Center, the CGIAR partners and the non-CGIAR partners. The FTA Director participates ex-officio, with no voting rights.

Independent members are appointed by the BoT and selected in their individual capacity, and are not representatives of their respective governments, institutions or organizations. They bring recognized, state-of-the-art scientific expertise in fields relevant to FTA, insights from diverse sectors (such as national agricultural research systems, development agencies, the private sector, civil society, farmer organizations, etc.), and broaden the perspectives and views of FTA.

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