17 May 2005
Sustainable Development of World’s Forests Should Be at Top of National Agendas, Speakers Stress, as UN Forum on Forests Opens at Headquarters
Chairman Says Increased Rate of Deforestation Illustrates Gulf between International Achievements and Work Remaining to Be Done
NEW YORK, 16 May (UN Headquarters) -- The United Nations Forum on Forests resumed its fifth session today at UN Headquarters, with participants stressing the priority need to reinforce the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF) to achieve implementation of existing agreed goals and policies and reiterating commitments to push the sustainable management, conservation and development of the world’s forests to the top of national agendas.
In introductory remarks, Manuel Rodriguez Becerra (Colombia), Chairman of the Forum’s fifth session, noted that a tremendous gulf between work achieved and work remaining to be done continued to exist, as illustrated by the increased rate of deforestation, particularly in the tropical countries. Many of the poorest communities that relied upon forests were in despair, suffering from increased poverty and inequality. The chasm should be reduced by attempts to obtaining better implementation of agreed goals, as well as strengthening and re-evaluating existing regulations.
During the current session, he added, the Forum should take critical decisions on future action, including future international regulations to govern forests. Those actions should be linked to international development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. The forthcoming high-level segment should send a strong message to the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly to strengthen the subject of forests within the Millennium Declaration.
Delivering a statement on behalf of United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, Pekka Patosaari, Director, Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests, affirmed that sustainable forest management remained an essential element of sustainable development, playing a key role in several critical objectives, including those aimed at achieving climatic stability, protecting watersheds, maintaining soil quality and coastlines, preserving biological diversity, promoting environmental sustainability generally, and eradicating poverty.
The Forum, he continued, faced three significant tasks: to continue to advance the implementation of actions already agreed on by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and Intergovernmental Forum on Forests; to assess the performance and effectiveness of the Forum in its first five years; and to chart the way forward for the Forum -- to consider its future within the institutional framework of the UN system, including the specific agenda items that it might address.
And, while there were differences of opinion among the national delegations addressing on the future shape of the IAF, including on the desirability of a legally binding international instrument and how often the United Nations Forum on Forests should meet, most agreed that the Forum itself should be focused on high-level dialogue, while regional-level initiatives should increasingly be encouraged to promote the implementation, review and monitoring of existing objectives.
Jamaica’s Conservator of Forests, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that greater efforts must be made to reverse the decline in official development assistance allocated to forest-related activities, and to increase capacity-building and technology transfers to developing countries. Meanwhile, Luxembourg’s Deputy Director of Forestry Administration, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said the IAF’s continuation should be made dependent upon its ability to effectively address the failures of the current arrangement. Clear and ambitious overarching objectives with specific and measurable targets, such as those set for water, energy and biodiversity in association with the eight Millennium Development Goals, should be elaborated.
Presenting the reports before the Forum for its consideration were Pekka Patosaari, Hosny El-Lakany, Chairman of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), and Andrea Alban Duran (Colombia) and Tim Rollinson (United Kingdom), Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on Consideration with a View to Recommending the Parameters for a Mandate for Developing a Legal Framework on All Types of Forests.
The representatives of the United States, Russian Federation, New Zealand, Guatemala, Mexico, Switzerland, Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Australia, Iran, Canada, Norway, Cuba, Republic of Korea, China, and Nigeria also spoke.
Additionally, the representatives of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Montreal Process addressed the Forum, as did representatives of the children and youth major group, and the indigenous major group.
At the outset of this morning’s meeting, the Forum recalled the election, last May, of Francis Butagira of Uganda, Adam Craciunescu of Romania, Manuel Rodriguez Becerra of Colombia and Denys Gauer of France as officers for the fifth sessions, and elected Mr. Rodriguez Becerra to serve as Chairman of the fifth session. Rezlan Ishar Jenie of Indonesia was elected to fill the vice-chairmanship from the Group of Asian States, and to serve as Rapporteur, while Vasile Lupu of Romania was elected to fill the position vacated by Adam Craciunescu, who was unable to serve as Vice-Chairman during the current session.
In other organizational action, the Forum adopted the provisional agenda and organization of work for its fifth session.
The United Nations Forum on Forests will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 17 May, at which time it is expected to hear an address by Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. It will also continue its review of issues related to the body’s past, current, and future work and format.
The United Nations Forum on Forests met today, resuming its fifth annual session, which is being held at United Nations Headquarters from 16 to 27 May. The Forum was expected to address organizational matters, including the election of its officers and adoption of its provisional agenda, and to review issues related to the body’s past and present work. (For additional background information on the United Nations Forum on Forests, please see Press Release ENV/DEV/851 of 12 May 2005.)
For its consideration today, the Forum had before it the provisional agenda (document E/CN.18/2005/1), as well as the report of the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Consideration with a View to Recommending the Parameters of a Mandate for Developing a Legal Framework on All Types of Forests (document E/CN.18/2005/2). The Ad Hoc Expert Group met from 7 to 10 September 2004 in New York and the meeting was attended by 68 nominated experts, as well as representatives from some Member States, members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, other international organizations and major group organizations.
There was also a note by the Secretariat, which contained the report on Enhanced cooperation and policy programme coordination (document E/CN.18/2005/5). That document noted that the United Nations Forum on Forests and its secretariat had pursued a range of cooperative and coordination functions to promote and implement the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests/Intergovernmental Forum on Forests proposals for action, and to achieve sustainable forest management at all levels, and provided an overview of progress made by the Forum and its secretariat in performing their functions. The note also put forward options to enhance further coordination and cooperation on forests, including that greater collaboration and cooperation on sustainable forest management were needed across sectors, between national focal points of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development-related Conventions and those of the Forum, between international and regional organizations and their secretariats, and within the United Nations system.
The report of the Secretary-General on Review of the effectiveness of the international arrangement on forests (document E/CN.18/2005/6) contained a synthesis of the information provided by Member States, members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, and other relevant organizations in their reports on the implementation of the proposals for action of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests/Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, and in their responses to a questionnaire based on the specific criteria for the review of the effectiveness of the international arrangement on forests. Reports and/or responses had been received from 46 Member States, the European Union, and 10 other relevant organizations and forest-related processes.
The report of the Secretary-General on Review of progress and consideration of future actions (document E/CN.18/2005/8) reviewed progress towards sustainable management and progress in the implementation of the Forum’s plan of action and the multi-year programme of work, explaining how they had contributed to promoting sustainable forest management and identifying catalysts and obstacles to progress. In its consideration of future action, the report suggested priorities, discussed the setting of goals and targets, and considered emerging and critical issues. It also examined the financing of sustainable forest management.
The note by the Secretary-General, containing the report on Consideration of the parameters of a mandate for developing a legal framework on all types of forests, with a view to recommending them to the Economic and Social Council and through it to the General Assembly (document E/CN.18/2005/9), sought to facilitate deliberations and to provide some background on the matter. It did not imply any recommendation related to adoption of a mandate or development of a legal framework.
There was also a note by the Secretariat on Accreditation of intergovernmental organizations to the United Nations Forum on Forests (document E/CN.18/2005/17), which noted that the Forum’s secretariat had reviewed the credentials of the Montreal Process and of the Secretariat of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, and had judged their activities to be relevant to the work of the Forum. The secretariat thus recommended that the Forum grant them observer status.
As its first order of business this morning, and recalling the election of Francis Butagira (Uganda), Adam Craciunescu (Romania), Manuel Rodriguez Becerra (Colombia), and Denys Gauer (France) as officers for the fifth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests at the first meeting of the fifth session (held on 14 May 2004 in Geneva), the Forum elected Manuel Rodriguez Becerra (Colombia) as Chairman of its fifth session.
Statement by Chair
MANUEL RODRIGUEZ BECERRA (Colombia) said that, while important achievements had been made since the creation of the United Nations Forum on Forests, there was still a great distance between what was agreed upon and what has been achieved in the field. The process of deforestation that continued throughout the world -- particularly in the tropical countries, which had witnessed an increase -- signified that there was a tremendous gulf between what had been achieved and what remained to be done. That distance needed to be reduced by attempting to obtain better implementation on everything that was agreed upon, and the regulations needed to be strengthened and re-evaluated, which he said was, in itself, a tremendous challenge.
In the course of the session, he hoped that participants would be able to benefit from the contributions of the members of the high-level segment, while working on some of the principal problems affecting forests throughout the world. He expected that the Forum would be able to take critical decisions on future action, and also on the future international regulations governing forests. Those actions should be intertwined very clearly with the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals. He hoped that, in the course of the high-level segment, a message would be produced that would be strong enough for the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the General Assembly, and that members would seek to strengthen the subject of forests within the Millennium Declaration. It was also necessary to undertake an evaluation of what had and had not been achieved thus far on the issue of forests, as well as what the political commitments at the highest level would be.
He recognized that there had been great progress with regard to a number of initiatives from the last session, but said that it was necessary to understand that there was still a great deal of ground to cover in order to combat deforestation and to ensure that the decline was halted. Many of the poorest communities that relied on forests were in despair, and poverty and inequality had increased, making it necessary to make efforts in that area to link the subject of the Millennium Declaration with deforestation. He added that it was necessary to give a clear signal to the world about the priority given to forests, so that it would not be said that members had not responded to the mandates and challenges they possessed.
The Forum then proceeded to fill the remaining position of Vice-Chairman, electing Rezlan Ishar Jenie of Indonesia, whose candidacy had been endorsed by the Group of Asian States, by acclamation. Subsequently, Mr. Jenie was appointed Rapporteur of the Forum’s fifth session.
The Forum also approved, by acclamation, the replacement of Mr. Craciunescu, who was unable to serve as Vice-Chairman, by Vasile Lupu, also of Romania, whose candidacy had been endorsed by the Group of Eastern European States.
Next, the provisional agenda of the Forum’s fifth session was adopted, without a vote, and as orally revised.
An informal document, which contained a proposed organization of work for the fifth session, was also adopted without a vote. By the terms of that informal document, the Forum decided to establish two working groups, and to refer issues related to agenda items 4, 5, 6 and 7 to the first working group, and issues related to agenda item 9 to the second.
As a further matter of organization, the Forum approved the requests (contained in document E/CN.18/2005/17) of two intergovernmental organizations -- the Montreal Process, and the Secretariat of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization -- to participate in the body’s deliberations.
The Secretary of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization welcomed the Forum’s decision, which would allow her organization, which represented eight countries, to participate in the forest body’s work.
PEKKA PATOSAARI, Director, Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests, delivering a statement on behalf of Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo, said the participants were gathered out of profound concern over deforestation, continuing forest degradation, illegal activities, and other demanding issues. Sustainable forest management was an essential element of sustainable development, and it played a key role in the pursuit of several critical objectives: to achieve climatic stability; to protect watersheds; to maintain soil quality and coastlines; to preserve biological diversity; to promote environmental sustainability generally; and to eradicate poverty. He was pleased to see that the Forum had developed a wide range of participatory processes, as action must start on the ground, with governments, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society all playing important roles.
The Forum, he continued, faced three significant tasks: to continue to advance the implementation of actions already agreed on by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and Intergovernmental Forum on Forests; to assess the performance and effectiveness of the Forum in its first five years; and to chart the way forward for the Forum -- to consider its future within the institutional framework of the United Nations system, including the specific agenda items that it might address. He hoped the session produced three principal outcomes, including a reinvigorated commitment to the management, conservation, and sustainable development of all types of forests; clear guidance on the future of the Forum and on the international arrangement on forests; and a cogent message, from the Forum to the Assembly’s September summit, on enhancing the role of sustainable forest management in the Millennium Declaration’s implementation.
Mr. PATOSAARI then addressed the status of the Forum secretariat, and introduced the document on enhanced cooperation and policy and programme coordination (document E/CN.18/2005/5). Noting that a major part of the secretariat’s work was servicing and supporting the Forum during its sessions, he said the secretariat also acted to establish contacts with high-level government officials, government agencies, and representatives of major group organizations, and to prepare documents and conduct general administration. The servicing of last September’s Ad Hoc Expert Group meeting had also been a major task. The secretariat also provided support to the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), and assisted the Chair in planning meetings and maintaining the CPF’s website and calendar of events.
He said the Forum website constituted a valuable portal to the Forum and its secretariat, and up-to-date information was provided on all aspects of the Forum’s activities, while the comprehensive forest-related calendar of events was updated on a quarterly basis. The secretariat also liaised with other areas of the United Nations Secretariat. Its structure was compact, yet the secretariat had managed to fulfil all its tasks, due to the non-reimbursable loan arrangements that had been provided, and due to charging the United Nations Trust Fund on Forests. However, there should be a fair increase for posts of regular staff members in the regular budget of the United Nations. He also acknowledged the voluntary contributions of Member States to the United Nations Forum on Forests and its secretariat, including by the United States, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Norway, Canada, Sweden, Australia, Austria and the European Community.
Introducing the note by the Secretariat on enhanced cooperation and coordination, he said that those issues had remained essential to the work of the Forum over the years. The note underscored the importance of working closely with partners to further the forest-related agenda, and explained that the CPF remained a key mechanism, and that its valuable and important work in support of the Forum should be recognized. The overall level of participation in the Forum’s fifth session would be enhanced, as multi-stakeholder dialogue had been integrated throughout the Forum’s work. Moreover, there had been initiatives to build consensus prior to the Forum’s session. It was also noted that cooperation and coordination at the regional level was important, and the holding of an Asia-Pacific Day constituted the secretariat’s special contribution to that regional process. The Forum might wish to invite United Nations regional commissions and other bodies to consider organizing regional meetings to contribute to the work of the Forum. Also responding to the calls for a holistic and coordinated approach to development, the Secretariat noted that the forest sector must also respond to that challenge. The Forum was uniquely placed as an actor on forest-related issues.
HOSNY EL-LAKANY, Chairman, Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), presented the CPF Framework 2005 on behalf of the 14 members of the partnership, which described progress made since the partnership’s inception in 2001. The document described joint initiatives and examples of other collaborative activities, and outlined areas for further development in order to strengthen CPF efforts in the future. At an important juncture in the process, he said, CPF members had taken the opportunity to assess the partnership itself, in addition to providing input to sessions. The CPF and its member organizations had implemented most of the proposals entrusted to them, and the partnership had provided an unprecedented opportunity to share information. The success of the partnership, he said, was due to its voluntary and informal nature, as well as a strong commitment from members to collaborate, which was supported by the members’ government bodies.
Several areas existed for further development in order for the CPF to live up to its full potential, he continued. For example, the CPF would like to work more at regional and national efforts to raise awareness of sustainable forest management and broader development goals, as well as the Millennium Development Goals. Members were also committed to building better stakeholder confidence in the CPF’s work. There was a critical need for external funding to support joint activities, funding that was targeted, yet flexible and accessible to all members. He welcomed clear guidance to better serve the process, but emphasized that the partnership was composed of individual member organizations, each with its own mandate and priorities. In conclusion, he said that CPF members supported stronger future international arrangements on forests, and was committed to working together with governments and other partners to help countries achieve sustainable forest management.
The information document on the Collaborative Partnership on Forests Framework 2005 (document E/CN.18/2005/INF/1) noted that the Partnership had embarked on six major forest initiatives since its establishment, including an online searchable database on funding sources; streamlining forest reporting; an Internet gateway to accessing information worldwide; fostering a common understanding of definitions; a website; and information-sharing with the Partnership Network. Members also worked together in a number of areas ranging from policy to technical matters, including forest landscape restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands; conservation of forest biological diversity; national forest programmes; fire; forest law enforcement; and research, with great emphasis on poverty reduction.
The 14 current members of the CPF include the following international organizations: Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO); International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO); Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); Global Environmental Facility (GEF); United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF); United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); World Bank; and the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
MARILYN HEADLEY, Conservator of Forests of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reiterated the urgent need to fully implement the internationally agreed commitments for sustainable forest management. Implementation of those commitments, and particularly those related to financial resources, capacity-building, and technology transfer, remained critical to advancing the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. Greater efforts must be undertaken to identify relevant financial and investment mechanisms for the mobilization of existing, new and additional financial and technical resources for sustainable forest management. Reversing the decline in official development assistance (ODA) allocated to forest-related activities was urgent; the resources necessary to enable developing countries to manage, conserve and develop their forests sustainably must be provided. Developing countries must have access to readily available and predictable funds for sustainable forest management.
International cooperation in sustainable forest management must also address the issue of capacity-building and technology transfer, particularly in support of traditional knowledge and best practices provided by indigenous and local communities, she stressed. The Group reiterated the call urging developed countries to promote, facilitate, and finance access to, and transfer of, environmentally-sound technologies and know-how to developing countries on favourable terms. Means of implementation should also be linked to national and regional processes and strategies in support of sustainable forest management, and should take account of specific circumstances and dynamics, as well as national legal frameworks. The international community must also support South-South cooperation, including through triangular cooperation, to allow for sharing of successful experiences. The social, economic and environmental well-being of the world’s population remained closely associated with the effective management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, she concluded. There was a crucial link between sustainable forest management and development, particularly in relation to eradication of poverty and improvement in the quality of life for those living in forests and rural areas. Moreover, sustainable forest management could not be achieved without ensuring access to basic services such as water, sanitation, health and education. A holistic and comprehensive approach was needed.
FRANK WOLTER, Deputy Director, Forestry Administration, Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the world was at a turning point in global forest policy. The review of the international arrangement on forests, and the discussions on the parameters of a mandate for developing a legal framework for all types of forests, provided an opportunity that must be seized. There was a real will for change within the European Union, and continuing the status quo was not an option, because the current trend of deforestation and forest degradation needed to be reversed. The European Union was heartened by the open and positive atmosphere in meetings earlier this year, and detected a high level of support for significant change and for the setting of clear overarching objectives and specific related targets for the future international arrangement on forests.
The European Union also looked forward to the increased interaction that the multi-stakeholder dialogue would bring, and in particular to the high-level ministerial segment and policy dialogue with heads of international organizations, which would both offer an opportunity to highlight the contribution of forests to key global issues of concern to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the global community. It was necessary to communicate clearly and demonstrate in practice the key role of forests in sustainable development. The European Union hoped the dialogue would lead to a change in the effectiveness of the future international arrangement on forests. It was necessary, he added, to be creative and constructive for the sake of the world’s forests, as well as for the sake of all the communities whose jobs and livelihoods depended on forests, and of future generations.
It was necessary to consider ways for structured corporation, he continued, and efforts at cooperation and coordination must focus on implementation on the ground. Efforts must also extend beyond the first sectors, and should include discussion about how forests could contribute to the achievements of other goals, as well as how forests were affected by other decisions. This was needed in the future in order to achieve the political status and credibility that the issue commanded.
Ms. McALPINE (United States) said the Cooperative Partnership on Forests (CPF) framework was one of the most exciting results of the Forum to date. Other United Nations-system bodies had looked to copy it, and great strides had been made in its work, as noted by the CPF Chairman in his statement. The United States appreciated the commitment to support forest-related contributions to the attainment of the internationally agreed development goals, and noted that, at the recent meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee on Forestry, ministers had endorsed the need to integrate issues related to forests and ecology within broader socio-economic concerns. There had also been a focus on the need to encourage and assist countries to incorporate those concerns into national development strategies and poverty reduction programmes. A large percentage of CPF members were focused on capacity-building, and on promoting country- and organization-led initiatives, and the United States agreed with the need for a high-level policy dialogue and advancement of regional cooperation in information sharing.
Also noting the CPF’s intention to increase transparency and information sharing with other groups, she said that an advisory group should be formed by members of the major groups in order to provide advice to the CPF. As for the recommendation that non-governmental organizations be included as members of the CPF, the United States did not support that proposal, as the intergovernmental nature of the Partnership was of critical importance to its functioning and future. Moreover, the number of members should remain at 14. Recognizing the need for increased funding of the CPF, the United States held that a seed fund should be established within the Forum Trust Fund, which would attract support for regional-level implementation and catalyse increased financial support. Such a seed fund could potentially leverage considerably greater financing. The Forum should consider organizing regional meetings, perhaps hosted by the United Nations’ economic commissions, which would allow the funds normally used to support the Forum to be directed towards increasing participation at the regional meetings. There should also be increased coordination and cooperation with the FAO regional process.
Regarding the current and future role of the Forum’s secretariat, she said that the Forum must edit the secretariat’s activities in the next two weeks, so as not to overburden it. The secretariat had been established to be small and compact, unlike any other in the United Nations. To increase the effectiveness of the Forum and secretariat, the United States had supported the secondment of staff from CPF members and other international organizations. The United States and others had ensured the availability of financing for those secondments. The current staff of 20 individuals was of optimal size, and the United States could not support an increase in staffing from the United Nations regular budget. Secondment and innovative means of financing the secretariat continued to be supported. The secretariat’s actions should become even more focused on catalysing cooperation between members of the CPF, and the Secretariat should also increasingly support country-led initiatives. Enhanced interaction between the Forum, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the broader United Nations system was also a significant role for the secretariat to play. Finally, the United States requested the provision of information on the overall financing provided to the Forum Trust Fund over its lifetime.
NIKOLAY CHULKOV (Russian Federation) said he fully realized that raw material potential of the forest areas of Russia were not only of national, but of global importance, and that was why Russia belonged to those most active and concerned stakeholders in the international forest process. The current session of the United Nations Forum on Forests could be regarded as historic, and it was intended to mark the conclusion of the building stage of the international mechanism on forests, and to turn a new and important page in history regarding forest cooperation under the aegis of the United Nations. The foundation for making any decisions on subsequent activity should be core resolution, while preserving a balance among the interests of all member countries of the Forum.
Over a period of five years, he continued, the Forum had been able to make important contributions, and its universal membership indicated its significance. A useful role had also been played by the CPF, a broad, inter-agency forum that had a definite value. In view of the sizeable and multi-tiered tasks facing the field of international forest cooperation -- including ensuring the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and reducing poverty -- it was very important to strengthen the Forum. Attention needed to be paid to enhancing the policy-making and coordinating role of the Forum, as well as to encouraging financial strength in the Secretariat. That approach was intended to achieve in the long term the main strategic purpose of ensuring the sustainable management of forests. The Russian Federation, he added, would do everything it could to promote and enhance the dynamic process of achieving the practical goals of international forestry cooperation.
Ms. CUDBY (New Zealand) said that increased coordination on forestry issues was essential given the cross-sectoral nature of forest-related issues. New Zealand affirmed that much of the CPF’s effectiveness could be attributed to its voluntary nature, and to its compact size. Thus, while supportive of the widening of the kind of organizations participating in the CPF, New Zealand felt that the body must be protected from becoming unwieldy. One way to manage that issue was for the CPF to identify issues to be addressed, and then invite additional organizations to address them directly. There was also a need for increased regional cooperation. A successful example of the regional contribution to forest-related issues was the outcome document from the Mauritius meeting in the Asia-Pacific region. New Zealand also affirmed that, at the community level, forests were often considered an integrated and undifferentiated resource. Regional meetings should be encouraged as a means of increasing cooperation and attendance. The CPF had also welcomed the concept of increased regional meetings.
Regarding financial issues, she said that New Zealand recognized the importance of the issues raised by Jamaica, but wished to stress the importance of increasing the role of the private sector in financing and providing technology transfer and capacity-building for forest-related issues. The Forum could also involve the private sector in its work, particularly through participation in regional meetings. New Zealand would host a side event on the last day of the Forum’s session.
BARRERA GARAVITO (Guatemala) said it was important to take into account the message of Mr. Patosaari regarding the strengthening of alliances between the different members of the Forum. Guatemala believed that alliances must be strengthened before giving thought to increasing the bureaucracy within the secretariat. It was also necessary to strengthen financing. As to the work of the Forum, it was necessary to analyse the bilateral portion, in order to obtain the best path to follow to reach rural populations, so that it would not become lost in the bureaucracy of the different organizations.
Guatemala also believed, he continued, that it was necessary to deal with more profound themes, among them being the part of drug trafficking played in the destruction of forests, and the participation of the population in sustainable management. Also necessary was a determination of what the advisory role should be, in order to propose and suggest fair treatment among the bodies.
Mr. GONZALEZ VICENTE (Mexico) said his country wished to encourage regional efforts, such as the country-led initiative in support of the United Nations Forum on Forests on the future of the international arrangement on forests, which had been held in Guadalajara, Mexico, in January 2005. A summary of the discussion there had been made available to delegations. The outcome of that meeting would provide for advancement in the agenda of the sustainable management of forests.
He also said that it was important to highlight that the results of the present session of the Forum should reflect the political commitment to the implementation required. Regarding cooperation and coordination with the CPF, Mexico stressed the need to strengthen work at the regional level through existing commissions. Progress should not lead to the creation of additional bodies. The regional commissions of the FAO could promote greater cooperation among all the members of that association. There was also a need for technical assistance and political will to support country-led programmes. Without such assistance, there would be fewer opportunities to make progress.
FRANZ PERREZ (Switzerland) said the Forum was a crucial meeting for the international arrangements on forests and for the future of the Forum’s process. Forests and their sustainable management were a key priority for Switzerland, and he was convinced that a strong international regime for forests was necessary. That would best be achieved through concrete cooperation and action on the ground. Switzerland was disappointed with the results that the Forum’s process has delivered thus far, and he said the current session presented a unique opportunity to identify the reasons why the Forum had not lived up to its expectations and to take decisions that would provide a better framework.
Switzerland, he continued, was committed to cooperation, and believed that the future international arrangement on forests should provide a coherent, comprehensive, and efficient framework for the formulation of common visions, goals and targets. He believed that identifying challenges and emerging issues, policy development for strengthening political commitment, as well as concrete action were all necessary. The simplest and best way to achieve that, he said, would be through the adoption of a legally binding framework that would address cooperation in managing forests effectively. At the current stage, however, the required consensus did not exist to make that option a success. Switzerland also strongly supported the idea that, in order to strengthen the success of the Forum, clear, overarching goals and a limited number of targets should be adopted. That would enhance the effectiveness of the process, as well as ensure high visibility for the issue. He added that countries should be called upon to formulate national commitments for each target.
Mr. WARDOJO (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the Association remained committed to internationally agreed commitments on the sustainable management, conservation and development of forests. The ASEAN held that the future international arrangement on forests should enhance its role in providing support for forest management, particularly with regard to issues related to food security and the importance of environmental integrity, among others. The supportive role of the CPF was also acknowledged and should be strengthened.
The ASEAN members had been implementing regional initiatives for sustainable forest management, he noted. Member countries had recognized regional cooperation and coordination as beneficial to the forest-related agenda, and felt that the regional approach would be particularly useful in addressing transboundary issues. Moreover, as international interdependence increased, there was a need to encourage dialogue and partnership for consensus on priority areas for implementation in forest-related issues. The ASEAN would continue to support regional efforts, and coordination and enhanced promotion of trade and forest products. The ASEAN had embarked on a strengthening of institutional capacity and, through its own secretariat, was developing appropriate tools to assist countries in evaluating efforts to contribute to international objectives. Overall, ASEAN looked forward to closer cooperation with other countries, and regional and international bodies, in implementing its commitments.
Mr. TALBOT (Australia) said his country remained firmly committed to the goals of the Forum, and it was important to recognize the sustainable progress made by the Forum during the past five years. There was a need, however, to move to deliver more on activities for on-the-ground work. During the next two weeks, he suggested considering alternatives, including the consideration of bi-annual meetings that focus on policy and implementation, with regional meetings during alternative years. The Forum had been a very useful global policy dialogue forum, but there needed to be more practical work on the ground, and the forum should be revised to enable it to adapt and evolve to meet that challenge. Instead, he said more and more dialogue had been taking place at expense of on-the-ground work.
Australia and New Zealand had prepared a short note for discussion, he continued, which highlighted the need for objectives on achieving outcomes, setting simple and achievable goals, and implementation arrangements. It was also necessary to set both long- and short-term goals, as well as analyse the issue of financing. The basic message in the paper, he said, was to simplify without losing efforts to date, work together to increase momentum, and increase high-level political commitment. In the end, he added, it was the countries themselves that possessed the responsibility for charting the way forward and, if there was willingness, it could be done.
JAVAD AMIN MANSOUR (Iran) said that the role of the CPF had been crucial to the work of the Forum and would be crucial to any future work on forest-related issues. While continuing negotiations at the international level on the future International Arrangement on Forests (IAF), the focus should remain on sustainable management. Moreover, the issue of Low Forest Cover Countries (LFCCs), of which there were almost 70, should remain under the CPF. The Rome process had been established in 1999 to support this strategy. The CPF members should participate in reviewing the body’s mandate and establishing arrangements to contribute significantly to work of the IAF in the future. New mandates of CPF members should not adversely affect their responsibilities to combat desertification.
He also said it was important to express appreciation for the performance of the Forum secretariat. That body should be strengthened to support the work of the new IAF in the future.
Mr. GUARIGUATA, speaking on behalf of the Convention on Biological Diversity, reviewed the progress that the convention had achieved to date, which he said could provide useful guidance to the Forum. Upcoming review meetings would serve to keep track of the progress of the impact and effectiveness of the Convention, as well as identify obstacles. The meeting would also be highly relevant in light of the need to reduce overlap among multilateral agreements, he added.
The fifth session of the Forum, he continued, marked the culmination of long and fruitful dialogues, and the beginning of what could become a truly concerted effort for people who depended on forests for their livelihood. To that end, improved collaboration and cooperation was essential.
At the afternoon session, Mr. PATOSAARI, Director, Secretariat, United Nations Forum on Forests, introduced three agenda items that he said were being introduced together because they were closely interconnected and should be considered in an integrated manner.
The first item (document E/CN.18/2005/6) was a report by the Secretary-General on the Review of the effectiveness of the international arrangement on forests, as referred to in paragraph 17 of Economic and Social Council resolution 2000/35, which he said had been requested by the Forum at its fourth session, and which was based on information provided by a total of 58 Member States. Outlining progress made on some 270 proposals for action, the report made it clear that, in many parts of the world, there were still serious challenges to be met, in particular with regard to combating deforestation and addressing problems concerning illegal forest activities. The financing of sustainable forest management was also of great importance, according to the report. It also considered the effectiveness of the international arrangement on forests, concluding that such an arrangement on forests had done much useful work, but that its full potential had yet to be realized. The report also said that among what was needed was a greater political commitment; more of an emphasis on finance; the enhancement of coordination among the Forum’s participants; and improvements in monitoring, assessment, and reporting.
The second item (document E/CN.18/2005/8) a report by the Secretary-General on the review of progress and consideration of future actions, complemented and built upon the report of review of effectiveness, he continued. That document reviewed implementation of the plan of action and multi-tiered programme of work, as well as examined catalysts and obstacles. In considering future action, the report identified a number of possible priorities for action, including providing secure and predictable financing; catalysing action on the ground; relating forest policy dialogue to the broader development agenda; providing flexibility to address emerging issues; attracting the interests of the wide range of stakeholders; and supporting forest law enforcement. There would be benefits in agreeing on a global goal for forests to provide a vision for the next 10 years, and the report discussed the critical importance of financing sustainable forest management. It also noted that attempts to strengthen the international arrangement included identifying priorities; adopting a global goal for forests; agreeing on voluntary guidelines for sustainable forest management; and developing cross-sectoral collaboration. The report also concluded that there was a need to raise the profile of forest-related issues on the international agenda, and that a legally binding instrument could help to increase action on the issue and provide the same status as other multilateral agreements.
The third item (document E/CN.18/2005/9) was a note by the Secretary-General on the Consideration of the parameters of a mandate for developing a legal framework on all types of forests, with a view to recommending them to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and through it to the General Assembly. That report explained that, when ECOSOC established the international arrangement on forests in 2000, it indicated it would consider the matter within five years. The document did not imply any recommendation about adopting a mandate, or as to the development of a legal framework, since that was the prerogative of Member States, but instead aimed to provide relevant background information on specific issues relating to a possible legal framework, should the Forum decide to proceed with such a development.
FRANK WOLTER, Deputy Director, Forestry Administration Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said that, while the global forest agenda had made some progress under the current International Arrangement on Forests, deforestation and forest degradation continued at an unsustainable, high rate. It was unacceptable for the IAF to continue in its current form; the IAF’s continuation should be made dependent upon its ability to effectively address the failures of the current arrangement. Those failures included the IAF’s inability to reverse the progressive decline of political commitment and allocation of resources for forests and forest management at all levels; the failure to translate recommendations of the global forest dialogue into implementation and action on the ground, or for monitoring and compliance; and unsatisfactory provisions for civil society and private sector participation in the IAF.
The IAF must be strengthened and improved, he affirmed, including through the elaboration of clear and ambitious overarching objectives with specific and measurable targets. Securing long-term political commitment and accountability for forests required setting goals equivalent to those set for water, energy and biodiversity, in association with the eight Millennium Development Goals. There was a need to raise the political profile of forest-related issues on the international agenda, and the overarching objectives should include achieving sustainable management of all types of forests; enhancing the contribution of forests towards achievement of overall development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals; and maintaining global forest resources and forest quality for the long-term term economic, social and environmental well-being of all. Regarding the targets that could be set, he suggested they include doubling the area of forests under sustainable management by 2015; reducing by half the proportion of people in extreme poverty among those whose livelihoods depended on forests by 2015; and reducing by half the global rate of deforestation and degradation of forests by 2015.
A strong IAF, with a focus on action on the ground, would also entail a reinforced role for the FAO and UNEP, particularly at the regional level, he added. Other CPF members, subregional organizations dealing with forests, multilateral and bilateral donors, and relevant stakeholders should be mobilized for coordinated action. The CPF should develop a joint programme of work and coordinate the activities of its members with the political recommendations of the Forum; ensure the monitoring and assessment of implementation of the Forum’s recommendations, and report back on progress made on commonly agreed targets. Financial support must also be strengthened, from public, as well as private, resources. All these modalities and functions of the future IAF would be best achieved through a legally-binding instrument.
ANDREA ALBAN DURAN (Colombia) Co-Chairperson, Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on Consideration with a View to Recommending the Parameters for a Mandate for Developing a Legal Framework on All Types of Forests, said that a balanced list of options had been sought in the process of recommending the parameters for a legal framework to cover all elements related to forest-related issues. It had been noted that, among existing instruments and bodies, there was already some duplication and complementarity of instruments. These existing instruments had affected the policies of various States, including through their lack of cohesiveness. Emphasis had also been given to the importance of regional processes, and it had been affirmed that international processes should strengthen international cooperation. However, countries should not depend entirely on foreign assistance for the forestry policies. The agenda on forests should also be seen to have changed, and issues such as that of forest fires had been addressed.
Among the conclusions arrived at during the meeting, he said the United Nations Forum on Forests had been recognized as a considerable achievement, at which those countries interested in the issue should continue to participate. The importance of recognizing limitations to implementation had also been underscored. In response, some had suggested that the sustainable management of forests would have greater political force if focus priorities were highlighted at the national level, while others felt that forest-related issues should be linked to the Millennium Development Goals.
TIM ROLLINSON (United Kingdom), Co-Chairman, Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on Consideration with a View to Recommending the Parameters for a Mandate for Developing a Legal Framework on All Types of Forests, reviewed options that were looked at by experts last September. There was a very strong view from experts that it was necessary to change the international arrangement on forests, he said. It was first necessary to agree on goals, objectives and substance, and a number of experts had said that the negotiation of quantitative goals should come first. In the discussion of the options, the experts said that a number of overarching objectives were common to all options: there should be high-level political commitment in any new international arrangement on forests; an arrangement should provide for dialogue on forest-related issues; there should be financing of projects and guidance to promote an open, transparent process; and the aim should be to catalyse action on the ground. Also mentioned were establishing a coordination mechanism at the international level; aiming to provide the interests of a wide range of stakeholders; and providing a mechanism for supporting and involving regional processes.
With regards to the development of the existing international arrangements, or the non-legally binding options, he said that experts felt there should be a clearer focus than currently in place on the limited number of issues that required international political attention, and a focus on the need for effective cooperation on the ground. Many experts also felt that any new international arrangement should increase the priorities of sustainable forest management, as well as aim to strengthen through increased financing, political support and a clearer mandate. Furthermore, experts said that such arrangements would not preclude development toward a legally-binding instrument in the future.
Turning to the convention or protocol approach, he said that experts believed that a legally-binding instrument in some way would provide a legal obligation for reporting by countries, and would provide a strong signal that forest issues were indeed important for the international community. It would also generate greater political commitment for sustainable forest management, and provide a focus for collaborative action. Such meetings had developed building blocks for future collaboration, and he said that members should take that momentum and positive mood forward to benefit society and the world’s forests.
JAN McALPINE (United States) said the IAF had accomplished a good deal in only five years. It had helped to draw together the world’s community of forest-interested persons and organizations, providing them with new opportunities to carry out a focused dialogue on the entire range of forest-related issues. The IAF had also raised Governments’ and civil society’s awareness about forests and their relation to national agendas, particularly in relation to law enforcement and governance, decentralization for the forest sector, and understanding the complexity of sustainable forest management and its role in contributing to poverty alleviation and sustainable development. However, the IAF had not achieved all that had been hoped; it had not secured a place for forests at the top of national agendas. A more coherent strategic and focused approach to catalyse action was needed, as was a more focused agenda and facilitated and catalysed action through CPF member organizations.
It was imperative, during the present session, to consider how to put forests back at the top of national agendas, she affirmed. Strengthening the future IAF required recognizing the United Nations Forum on Forests as the heart of the international arrangement, as well as strengthening its focus as a high-level body. There should not be attempts to dilute this body with too big an agenda. The CPF should be given an expanded role in the strengthened IAF, and the priorities of the future Forum should be reconciled with positions taken in the governing bodies of CPF member organizations. Also, an advisory group composed of major group representatives should be established to better inform the CPF of civil society concerns, and a seed fund within the Forum Trust Fund should also be established in order to catalyse funding for true action on the ground by CPF organizations. To that end, matching financing would be required from CPF member bodies, and governments should support those contributions when adopting the budgets of those organizations.
Additionally, regional, subsidiary meetings of the Forum should be held in the future, she said, and should focus exclusively on implementation, capacity-building, identification of gaps and obstacles to implementation of national forest programmes, and accomplishment of the shared goals of the future IAF. Such an approach should take full advantage of the Regional Commissions of the FAO. The high-level component of the Forum should meet no more frequently than every two to three years. In alternate years, the focus should be on regional meetings.
ROSALIA ARTEAGA, Executive Secretary, Amazonian Cooperation Treaty Organization, said the region she represented consisted of approximately 20 million people, mostly concentrated in urban areas along the rivers and their main tributaries. A high percentage of the population consisted of indigenous communities settled mainly along the banks of the river and its tributaries, and those factors, combined with a high level of poverty, placed constant pressure on the region’s natural resources, and in particular on residual native forest.
Among the issues identified by the Amazonian countries as priorities to be set, in order to guide the negotiations within the Forum, were that the strengthening of the Forum should be considered among the options for an international arrangement on forests. The Amazonian countries did not consider adoption of a legally biding international regime an adequate response. Global action must promote the development of policies and measures designed on the basis of action proposals to: increase areas of sustainable forest management around the world, integrating the needs of the forest regions with the strategies for national development; stimulate concrete actions where the countries established measures oriented to increase their economic value and to the sustainable use of forest resources; and promote long-term political commitments and strengthen the existing ones.
Mr. SINGLETON (Canada) said the decision to discuss the present agenda items jointly was welcoming, as the reports of the Secretary-General on those issues were interrelated. Having reported multiple times under those reports, Canada noted that the annual reporting posed a significant burden on Member States, and due consideration must be given to minimizing the reporting burden. Regarding the reform of the IAF, he said that it should be made more performance-based. The objective should not be to create a new IAF, but to strengthen its existing components.
Regarding the question of progress, Canada agreed that an unacceptable rate of deforestation persisted, he said. The IAF, and the Forum specifically, had yet to establish a strong link between its policy dialogue and action on the ground. It was time to make hard, yet practical, decisions to provide the guidance and assistance to Member States to help them do what was necessary to arrest deforestation. A legally-binding international instrument constituted the best means of advancing forest-related issues, including the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests. The Forum and CPF would continue to exist for the foreseeable future, and it was important to strengthen them. Additionally, global forest goals should be developed to guide efforts. Regional arrangements could contribute to implementation of global forest goals, and could further the review and monitoring of the implementation of agreed goals. Such a review process should be voluntary, and should include the identification of lessons learned and ongoing challenges.
Noting the Secretary-General’s reference to developing voluntary guidelines as a priority element of the new IAF’s work, he said that Canada would prefer their inclusion in a code of conduct on forest-related issues. Finally, as discussions moved forward in plenary and working groups, it would be important for United Nations staff to be available to recommend on modalities, including financing and staffing resources. It would also be beneficial to see a chairman’s text on the discussion as soon as possible.
Mr. FLETNES (Norway) regarded the report and notes of the Secretary-General as “good basis for deliberation” on the future international arrangement on forests. Some progress had been experienced at the global, regional and national levels, and there had been improvements in the common understanding of the characteristics of sustainable forest management. There had, however, been satisfactory progress on the ground, as there was still an alarming rate of deforestation and a deficiency in addressing policy and governing issues that were linked to an inadequate political commitment. The current international arrangement on forests had not resulted in necessary shifts in those trends, and Norway believed that the arrangement had not met its expectations. A different, more determined approach was needed, as was stronger support for the future arrangement. Members needed to decide on an overarching strategic objective for the future international regime.
Norway was also in favour of establishing a limited number of global goals that would provide possibilities for assessing progress. The goals should be focused on addressing major challenges, such as improving forest management, and should also align work to such targets as energy, water, and climate change. Also necessary was an intergovernmental political forum; attracting the highest level political participation and commitment; and promoting a wider understanding of the role of forests. The Forum should monitor and assess progress in achieving the global goals in close collaboration with the CPF, as it had proven to be a constructive partnership and was a major achievement of the existing arrangement. He added that the secretariat should service the high-level political forum, countries and the CPF. Finally, Norway believed that a strong and long-term commitment could be achieved though a legally binding instrument.
Mr. FERNANDEZ (Cuba) said it would be important to work to strengthen further the political visibility and solidity of the international process on forests. All possible initiatives would be considered, including the elaboration of a legally binding international legal instrument. Good wishes and voluntary declarations had thus far failed to improve the situation of forests overall. The financing of forest priorities and the transfer of technology had thus far been unsatisfactory. The delegation of Cuba remained open to all proposals to improve the IAF.
Mr. PERREZ (Switzerland) said that upon a review of the effectiveness of the present arrangement, Switzerland fully agreed with and supported other statements that indicated that the current arrangement did not live up to its expectations. While some elements had proven to be helpful, other elements had proven to be obstacles in the work on the issue of sustainable forest management. With regard to obstacles, they included a lack of focus because the Forum had tried to do too much in its first five years, and had succeeded in too little. There was also a lack of a simple and understandable framework, and a more user-friendly document, such as a code, was needed. Furthermore, there was a lack of political will in providing policy guidance, as well as a lack of real commitment and inadequate monitoring and reporting.
Switzerland believed that members needed to build on a critical assessment of the deficiencies of the current system and to build on the past. Also necessary was better involvement, and building on regional processes. Switzerland would support the idea of developing a code that would be user-friendly and a helpful tool in daily work on the issue of forests.
Mr. RHODES (New Zealand) said that his could be listed among those countries frustrated with the current IAF framework, but consideration should also be given to where the international community would have been without the existing voluntary mechanism. However, changes in the political environment and the need for implementation of proposals had not seen a commensurate response in the existing mechanism. The lack of voluntary reporting by countries was an issue, and proposals were unwieldy in their current form. Not enough had been done to prioritize them.
The discussion of reforming the IAF required that there be a determination about which of the options on the table were the most important, he affirmed. Thus, while New Zealand did not oppose a legally binding international instrument, the country felt that there might be too much opposition to the idea for it to be workable. The Forum should continue to exist, but its structure should be adapted to ensure implementation and concrete action on the ground. The Forum’s high-level engagement on global forestry issues should be reinforced, and its functions should continue to focus on mobilizing support and financing for the forestry agenda, and linking forest-related issues to non-forest agendas. The Forum also had the capacity to establish goals and objectives to guide progress on forest-related issues.
However, he added, while forest policy could be further improved, the emphasis should now be on implementation, specifically at the regional and national levels. Greater efficiency and effectiveness could be achieved in redirecting resources to the national level. Many countries did not participate in the Forum’s international meetings; their participation could be improved by reinforcing the regional aspect of meetings. New Zealand supported the holding of regional-level, thematically oriented meetings in alternate years. Also, a major impediment to the forestry agenda remained funding. The CPF should continue its guidance role. A stronger and better-financed CPF could do more to forward the international forestry agenda.
Mr. MODLEY, representative of the Global Youth Action Network, spoke on behalf of six major groups, including women, children, youth, worker and trade unions, business and industry, and the scientific and technological community. He said the major groups were committed to the advancement of major sustainable development, but would like to see an improvement in relations at all levels, including international, national and local. Major groups could be instrumental in attaining goals, but he recommended that there be a continuation of the improvement of the relationship between major groups and governments.
Other recommendations, he continued, included the development of relationships to enable governments to better define the role of major groups in the IAF, and the recognition of the interests of major groups for international arrangement on forests should also formalize the role and responsibilities of Major Group focal points. He added that major groups were diverse and had different needs and, therefore, support by IAF, including financial support, had to be ensured to allow them to successfully participate in international meetings. Each member of the CPF should also provide financial support to major groups for implementing their goals, and the IAF should provide technical assistance to ensure continuity of participation.
Mr. TALBOT (Australia) said his country recognized the difficulties encountered by many countries in fulfilling the detailed reporting burden involved in the Secretary-General’s reports, which underscored the general need to simplify the reporting process. Within the IAF, Australia considered that the best way to achieve progress was to establish regional processes in parallel to the Forum, at which regional actors would be brought together, and the agendas of which would be focused on regional issues. Each regional forum could then report back to the international forum. The FAO’s regional commission system could serve as a good basis for this future system. To build capacity and momentum for implementation, the regional meetings should be held annually. Meanwhile, the global forum could focus its work on a policy dialogue on an agreed number of global goals, and should not meet more frequently than every two years.
Also recognizing that financing was important to forest-related issues, he said that a variety of financial mechanisms should be used in response to the characteristics of each region. In agreement with Mr. Rollinson, Australia felt that the establishment of overarching objectives and target setting should not necessarily be a priority of the IAF. While regional processes were likely to share the global goals, the targets could well differ from region to region. Agreeing to them could distract attention from the overall global forest agenda. Australia also supported the need to underscore the good work being done by the CPF.
CHOI BYEONG AM (Republic of Korea) said that the Korean Government acknowledged that the Forum was the only forum that comprehensively included all forestry issues. He believed that a legally binding instrument was expected to increase political commitment, and the Korean Government proposed a framework convention to be established in order to provide detailed principles for current forestry issues.
Regarding financial assistance, Korea agreed that it was one of the issues that was directly related to the discussion of sustainable forest management, but his Government would suggest that, prior to discussing financial issues, it should be noted that forests were declining globally. He hoped that an international arrangement on forests would make strong resolutions prior to discussing financial resources. He also hoped that the goals and functions of an international arrangement on forests would help in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. The current session, he added, would no doubt strengthen international cooperation.
Mr. AMIN-MANSOUR (Iran) said that progress in advancing the forestry agenda had been encouraging thus far. However, deliberations during the five sessions of the Forum continued to show various differences and common positions on the future of the IAF. The setting of an appropriate new international arrangement on forests should lead to some form of understanding on cooperation for sustainable management of forests. Existing agreed goals on forest-related issues remained valid, and should be reinforced and implemented to further the agenda yet more. Regarding the possible establishment of overarching goals, success in reaching national targets would require them to be realistic and supported by the political will and long-term commitment of all States. Any failure in the future to achieve the goals and objectives would lead to the questioning of the commitment of all parties.
The forestry agenda was not a zero-sum game, he affirmed. All parties should undertake their responsibility to exercise sustainable forestry management on the basis of their capacities. At the first stage, required capacity for reporting and monitoring at the national level should be built and enhanced. To strengthen the long-term political commitment, the Forum should hold high-level sessions every other year. Regular meetings of the Forum could be held on an annual basis, including with facilitated participation for civil society. A strengthened Forum secretariat would be necessary, and the CPF should continue its existing activities. The IAF should also consider strengthening the CPF, which had considerable capacity to monitor and report on implementation of agreed commitments. He was, however, seriously concerned about level of commitment to the mobilization of financial resources. Without new and additional resources, existing goals and objectives would not be achievable, particularly in developing countries. The transfer of environmentally sound technology transfer and capacity building was also of central importance.
A representative of the indigenous group reaffirmed that indigenous and tribal peoples were unique in their relationships with the forests on which they depended, and had been following and actively contributing to the forest processes since the Rio Summit in 1992. Indigenous people believed that a majority of arrangements were being implemented inadequately and with little or no real participation by tribal peoples. The greatest obstacles for implementing commitments on forests, he said, included the lack of the political will of nation States, and the lack of political responsibility.
Any new international arrangement of forests, he continued, must conform to existing international law with regards to indigenous tribes, with an established principle in the working methodologies of the United Nations. Such an arrangement should only be embarked upon with the full participation of indigenous peoples and only if the provisions were respectful of the tribal peoples. It should also meet or improve on the standard set for the full participation of indigenous and tribal peoples in all of the United Nations bodies. Finally, he urged the Forum and the governing bodies of CPF to request coordination and expert advice from the Forum on issues relevant to indigenous and tribal peoples.
LIU HONGCUN (China) said the Forum served as a reference point for the forest policy framework for all nations, and also served to raise the international profile of the issue of forestry. Regarding the future of the IAF, he noted that Chinese forestry had achieved speedy development in recent years, and the Government had made high-level political commitments to the development of forestry, including through the development of targets in conformity with the objectives of the Forum. Among the issues facing the international community in relation to forestry, China felt it was important to harmonize the concepts of national sovereignty and international obligation in relation to forestry. Questions of forestry touched upon issues of international obligations, as well as of national sovereignty. The international community should also adhere to the harmonization of action for development, with countries of all sizes and levels of development enjoying the same access to development opportunities.
There should also be attempts to adjust policies to combine forest utilization and preservation, he said. Overall, the international community should adhere to the principle of Governments playing the leading role. Sustainable forest development should pay attention to the role of Governments in expediting the development of forestry technology and cracking down on illegal felling and trade to preserve forest resources. Moreover, all countries should formulate and implement national forest development plans, and the principle of common development should also be adhered to. Developing countries continued to face issues of shortage of financing and technology, and developed countries should provide additional financial resources and environmentally friendly technology transfers to developing countries. There should also be attention to the role played by international organizations and major group partnerships in raising financial resources.
Mr. SHAMANOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation was trying as far as possible to adopt an objective approach to the evaluation of the process of forests. In the view of the Russian Federation, it was extremely important not to go to any extremes and not to forget the positive things that had already been achieved. The basis for practical work in monitoring and evaluation had been established, as had an attempt to analyse regional programmes. His delegation also agreed with the basic conclusions drawn in the report of the Secretary-General about the need to strengthen existing forest mechanisms, and hoped that the present Forum would enable members to open up a new page in the implementation activities directed at the solution of specific tasks leading to sustainable forest management and to a satisfaction of the expectations of member countries.
He believed that an international arrangement on forests had to be adapted in order to solve new tasks, and that it had to be structured in such a manner that it would enable integrated and coordinated advances in the forest agenda and lead to a very clear hierarchy. His delegation shared the views expressed with regard to the need for a clearer focus on regional activities, but said that it must be an activity which was part of a comprehensive, overall approach. The regional process must be structured in such a way in that it brought together all interested partners, including but not limited to FAO regional commissions. In structuring the regional processes, the Forum must show itself to have a coordinating role, which, in a regional context, would unite all interested partners. The Russian Federation would also agree with the two-year approach to the programming cycle of work of the Forum.
The representative of Nigeria said the implementation of the present IAF had experienced shortcomings in three areas, specifically capacity-building for developing countries and countries in transition, transfer of technology and knowledge, and respect of traditional knowledge for sustainable forest management. Sustainable forest management incurred a high financial responsibility, which hampered heavily indebted countries’ implementation of that principle. Thus, while an ad hoc expert group had been convened to recommend the possible parameters of a legal framework on forest management, there was nothing to show that the international community had arrived at a stage where it could consider such a framework, which would only add to the financial burden placed upon developing countries.
Nigeria supported addressing the IAF’s shortcomings by strengthening the Forum secretariat to enable it to facilitate the exchange of experiences by Governments and other stakeholders. Nigeria would work to ensure that the deliberations of the next two weeks, and their outcomes, would be in the best interest of the whole international community.
The representative of the Montreal Process welcomed the Forum’s decision earlier in the day to allow her organization to participate in the forest body’s work. She reviewed the organization’s work this year, and welcomed forthcoming collaboration.
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