13/02/2006
Economic and Social Council
ENV/DEV/883

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

United Nations Forum on Forests

Sixth Session

2nd & 3rd Meetings* (AM & PM)


SIXTH SESSION OF UN FORUM ON FORESTS OPENS AT HEADQUARTERS


Under-Secretary-General Ocampo Says Current Meeting

‘Critical Juncture’; Opportunity Exists to Strengthen, Broaden Effectiveness


The sixth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests faced the same challenges that had confronted its last session, to chart the way ahead, and to adopt an effective method of work, José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, told the Forum today.


He said the Forum stood at a critical juncture, since its fifth session had been unable to complete its consideration of the review and future actions.  Forests covered one third of the Earth’s surface, and their benefits extended from economic development and distribution of wealth to functioning as an environmental safeguard.  Annual international trade in primary and secondary forest products amounted to $200 billion.  At the same time, hundreds of millions of people depended, at least partly, on forests for their livelihood, making the alarming rate of deforestation a major threat to sustainable development, and one to which some of the world’s poorest people were particularly vulnerable.


He emphasized that the current session had an opportunity to strengthen and broaden the Forum’s effectiveness -- and the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF) -- with vision and determination.  Deciding on a clear and compelling agenda for the future would help to secure strong international commitment and accountability on forest issues.  In reviewing its working methods, the Forum should discuss ways to provide better guidance to its many partners on the meaning of policies, as well as ideas to facilitate implementation.  It should also aim to spur enhanced international cooperation and strong support from partners worldwide, in the form of increased pro-poor, pro-nature and pro-growth actions linking trees and forests to the achievement of the internationally development goals and the people-centred development agenda.


Brazil’s representative said forests were more than natural resources, since they constituted a unique universe of complex social, political, economic and environmental aspects.  The Amazon region covered 60 per cent of the Brazilian national territory, where more than 20 million people lived, depending mostly on the use of its resources.  Brazil was implementing forest law enforcement and seeking to contribute to poverty eradication by creating jobs for those who depended directly on forests.


Regionally, he said, Brazil fully recognized the importance of the Amazonian Cooperation Treaty Organization as a realm of cooperation among eight developing

countries that together held 56 per cent of all broad-leaf forest in the world.  The Amazonian countries also supported the enhancement of global cooperation and the reversal of the decline of official development assistance (ODA) allocated to forest-related activities.  In accordance with other Amazonian countries, Brazil refrained from proposing an international legally binding instrument on forests, considering that the adoption of quantifiable and specific temporal targets was not the adequate global response to the sustainable development of all types of forests.


Gabon’s Minister for Forests, Fisheries and National Parks, speaking on behalf of the Commission on Forests of the Congo Basin, emphasized the importance of tropical forests in maintaining the global environmental balance.  The Commission was working to develop instruments for the conservation and sustainable management of Central African forest ecosystem, the world’s second largest after the Amazon.  Under the Yaoundé Declaration of 17 March 1999, Central African Heads of State and Government had recalled the right of peoples to the use of their forest resources for social and economic development.  The implementation of that joint political commitment had led to the creation of the Commission on Central African Forests, the founding treaty of which had been signed at Brazzaville on 5 February 2005.


At the outset of the meeting, Judith Mbula Bahemuka of Kenya, Majdi Ramadan ( Lebanon) and José Antonio Doig ( Peru) were elected to fill vacant positions on the Bureau of the Forum on Forests.  At its first meeting on 27 May 2005, the sixth session had elected Tono Kruzic ( Croatia) and Franx Xaver Perrez ( Switzerland).  All the elections were by acclamation.


In her capacity as Chairperson of the sixth session, Ms Bahemuka said the session should focus on addressing unfinished business.  The future actions of the international arrangement on forests should, in real terms, promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, thereby contributing to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration.


She also recalled that the 2005 World Summit had emphasized the cross-sectoral linkages between forests and other sectors, as well as the potential of sustainable forest management to benefit current and future generations.  The 2005 country-led initiative, entitled “Scoping for a Future Agreement on Forests”, would provide the impetus to efforts to deal with some of the difficult issues.  The current work programme provided a commonly agreed conceptual framework for sustainable forest management as part of the broader development agenda.


Setting clear and ambitious common global goals for sustainable forest management was important, she said.  In that regard, the work done by the fifth session was an excellent starting point.  Translating those noble ideas into actions meant improving the method of work and developing a multi-year work programme, which would address the most pressing policy issues, including those stemming from the regions.  She urged participants to keep the discussion on the issue of “instruments” in perspective.  The main focus should be on combating deforestation, promoting sustainable forest management and enhancing the contribution of forests to the broader development agenda, and less so on the instrument.


Michael Martin, Director of the Forestry Policy and Information Division in the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Forestry Department and Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), said on behalf of its 14 member organizations that they were committed to contributing to the objectives of the IAF.  A demonstration of that commitment had been the increasing number of their common activities and joint programming efforts.  Within available resources, the CPF had responded positively to specific requests from the Forum.


Pekka Patosaari, Director of the Forum on Forests Secretariat, introduced a note by the Secretary-General (document E/CN.18/2006/2), saying that its purpose was to transmit the draft Chairman’s text from the fifth session as per decision 5/2; and provide a brief background and an account of developments relevant to the item since the end of the fifth session.


He said decision 5/2 contained a clear mandate for the sixth session to complete the consideration of the review process, based on the Chair’s draft text developed in informal consultations during its fifth session and reproduced as an annex to the Note.


The Forum also heard from the representatives of Austria (on behalf of the European Union and associated countries), Cambodia (on behalf of ASEAN), Panama (on behalf of the Central American Integration System), Ghana (on behalf of the African Group), Japan, Croatia, China, Russian Federation, Canada, Australia, Algeria, Chile, Fiji, Nigeria, Argentina, India, Colombia, Tonga (on behalf of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community), Pakistan and Kenya.


Also speaking today were the recently retired Assistant Director General of the FAO’s Forestry Department, as well as representatives of major groups, the Montreal Process, the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, and the General Secretary of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization.


The United Nations Forum on Forests will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 17 February.


Background


The sixth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests opened at Headquarters today to resume negotiations on the review of the effectiveness of the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF) and the future direction of the intergovernmental body, which were initiated during the fifth session in May 2005.  Specifically, the session, on the calendar until 24 February, would review the following four global goals tentatively agreed last year:  significantly increase the area of protected forests and sustainably managed forests worldwide; reverse the decline in official development assistance (ODA) for sustainable forest management; reverse the loss of forest cover; and enhance forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits.


Statements


In her capacity as Chairperson of the sixth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests, JUDITH MBULA BAHEMUKA ( Kenya) said that the session’s focus should be on addressing unfinished business.  The future actions of the IAF should, in real terms, promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, thereby contributing to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration.  She also recalled the call of the 2005 World Summit, which emphasized the cross-sectoral linkages of forests to other sectors and the potential of sustainable forest management to benefit current and future generations.  World leaders had “put us on the spot” by specifically mentioning the discussions to be held at this session.


She said there was tremendous interest and good will to make positive progress at the current session.  Her 2005 country-led initiative, entitled “Scoping for a Future Agreement on Forests”, would provide the impetus to efforts to deal with some of the difficult issues.  The members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) had also played an important role.  The current work programme was a unique opportunity to further develop a clear vision on future actions, building on the objectives and main functions of the IAF.  It also provided a commonly agreed conceptual framework for sustainable forest management, as part of the broader development agenda.


Setting clear and ambitious common global goals for sustainable forest management was important, she said.  In that regard, the work done by the fifth session was an excellent starting point.  Translating those noble ideas into actions meant improving the method of work and developing a multi-year work programme, which would address the most pressing policy issues, including those stemming from the regions.  She urged participants to keep the discussion on the issue of “instruments” in perspective.  The main focus should be on combating deforestation, promoting sustainable forest management and enhancing the contribution of forests to the broader development agenda, and less so on the instrument.


“The spotlight is on us”, she said.  The Forum was an instrument to ensure that forest issues remained at the top of the global agenda.  “We need to compromise on individual aims, in the interest of the majority”, for which cooperation would be crucial, she said, urging flexibility, compromise and a spirit of cooperation and understanding.  She called for achievement of a solution that unified the shared vision for a more secure future for all types of forests, for the health of the planet and for posterity.  More than ever, the responsibility of all at the current session was enormous.  The resolve and commitment should be reaffirmed to ensure a functioning United Nations Forum on Forests.  She looked forward to rewarding and successful deliberations.


JOSÉ ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the Forum stood at a critical juncture, since the fifth session had been unable to complete its consideration of the review and future actions.  The present sixth session confronted the same challenges:  to chart the way ahead and adopt an effective method of work.  Forests covered a third of the Earth’s surface and their benefits extended from economic development and distribution of wealth to functioning environmental safeguards.  Annual international trade in primary and secondary forest products amounted to $200 billion.  At the same time, hundreds of millions of people depended, at least partly, on forests for their livelihood.  That rendered the alarming rate of deforestation a major threat to sustainable development, and one to which some of the world’s poorest people were particularly vulnerable.


Forests issues did not belong to any one sector, he said, adding that forest-related challenges were complex and critical for protecting the environment, and improving human life, he said.  If managed in a sustainable manner, forests could provide opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, particularly for people in rural areas.  Given the impact on forests of population expansion, economic growth and environmental sustainability, it was not surprising that they had been at the centre of several international negotiations.  The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio Janeiro, had firmly put forests issues on the international agenda, as reflected in the Rio Declaration, the Forest Principles and Chapter 11 of Agenda 21.


He said the Forum had been working to provide the necessar4y policy development, guidance and support to the national implementation of sustainable forest management.  Over the past five years, that objective had increasingly become an integral part of the broader development agenda, emanating from the major United Nations conferences and summits.  That included the policy decisions and targets set out in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and in the Millennium Declaration, plus the agreements reached last year at the 2005 World Summit.  The link between sustainable forest management and the global efforts to eradicate extreme poverty had become especially clear.  Illegal logging and associated trade exacerbated deforestation and forest degradation, and there was a need for further articulation of a concrete action on emerging issues.


Like all the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council, he said, the Forum would need to reflect on how to maximize its contribution to unified implementation of the conference and summit outcomes.  The Forum should articulate further the concept of sustainable forest management as one of the tools for integrated implementation of development goals.  It should explore how to build stronger linkages between sustainable forest management policy and other forest-related institutional and programmatic processes, including those focused on desertification, biological diversity, climate change, water and energy.


The Forum must also consider how it would contribute to the major thrust of the Summit on achieving greater coherence and synergies in the normative, analytical and operational work of the United Nations, he said.  That meant, in the first instance, thinking about how to strengthen productive linkages between the efforts of the Forum and those comprising the Collaborative Partnership.  More generally, it meant the Forum must pull together a wide range of forest-related processes, institutions and instruments, as well as major stakeholders, in order to address jointly the priority economic, social and environmental issues linked to forests in a much more integrated manner.


He emphasized that the present sixth session had an opportunity to strengthen and broaden the effectiveness of the United Nations Forum on Forests --and the International Arrangement on Forests -- with vision and determination.  Deciding on a clear and compelling agenda for the future would help to secure a strong international commitment and accountability on forest issues.  In reviewing its working methods, the Forum should discuss ways to provide better guidance to its many partners on the meaning of policies, as well as ideas to facilitate implementation.  It should seek to stimulate invigorated interaction and dialogue at the global, regional, national and local levels to address emerging issues affecting forests.  It should explore practical ways o integrate forests more closely with other cross-sectoral issues.  It should also aim to spur enhanced international cooperation and strong support from partners worldwide, in the form of increased pro-poor, pro-nature and pro-growth actions, linking trees and forests to the achievement of the internationally development goals and the people-centred development agenda.


HOSNEY EL-LAKANY, recently retired Assistant Director-General of the Forestry Department, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and former Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) since its establishment in 2001, said that forests had traditionally been managed along rotation lines, but the world was growing impatient and the rotation age was getting shorter.  There was also the threat of degradation and conversion of forests to other land uses.  He was sure that the Forum would not let that unique sector down or allow it to be subsumed by other sectors.  Participants were well aware of the importance of forestry, as its success or failure mirrored that of other United Nations forums.  He thanked the CPF member organizations for placing their trust in him and for their commitment to collaborative work to serve the forestry sector.


MICHAEL MARTIN, Director, Forestry Policy and Information Division, Forestry Department, FAO, and current Chair of the CPF, on behalf of the 14 member organizations, said that, more than ever, member organizations were committed to working together to contribute to the objectives of the IAF.  A demonstration of that had been their increasing number of common activities and joint programming efforts.  Within the available resources of those organizations, the CPF had responded positively to specific requests of the Forum.  At the current session, he would welcome identification of specific tasks which the CPF could undertake.  Such clear guidance would allow it to develop a work programme commensurate with the level of resources that Governments were prepared to commit.


He said that the CPF would like to emphasize the following outputs:  better coordination of support to national and regional efforts for implementation of internationally agreed actions; wider recognition of contributions of forests and forestry to reducing rural poverty; support to country efforts to prevent deforestation and land degradation; strengthened inter-sectoral linkages; contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; and continued cooperation.  The CPF was also committed to enhancing collaboration with civil society partners.  It looked forward to a positive outcome of the session and firm decisions on the future of the IAF -- an arrangement that would raise the profile of forests and forestry in national policy guidance and provide more support to action on the ground.


EMILE DOUMBA, Minister for Forests, Fisheries and National Parks of Gabon, speaking on behalf of the Commission on Forests of the Congo Basin, of which his country held the chair, emphasized the importance of tropical forests in maintaining the global environmental balance.  The Commission was working to develop instruments for the conservation and sustainable management of the Central African forest ecosystem, which was the world’s second largest after the Amazon.


He said that, under the Yaoundé Declaration of 17 March 1999, Central African Heads of State and Government had recalled the right of peoples to the use of their forest resources for social and economic development.  The implementation of that joint political commitment had led to the creation of the Commission on Central African Forests, the founding treaty of which had been signed at Brazzaville on 5 February 2005.  That action demonstrated the importance that Central African leaders attached to a future international agreement on forests covering the regional, subregional and national levels.  The Commission on Central African Forests had a vision for the joint management of the Congo Basin’s forest resources and had already developed an environmental plan of action under the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).


INGWALD GSCHWANDTL ( Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, expressed disappointment that, nine months ago, the international community had failed to reach a consensus on a new framework for forests.  However, the Union warmly welcomed the numerous positive efforts that had been made in the last month to improve the understanding of the issues to be addressed, particularly the International Expert Meeting “Scoping for a Future Agreement on Forests”, held from 12 to 18 November in Berlin, Germany.  The European Union thanked all countries and organizations that had contributed to that important initiative, which had provided valuable input and which had been characterized by an outstanding positive spirit of dialogue.


He said that strong efforts had been made to promote and implement sustainable forest management in all dimensions and to capture fully its contribution to improving human livelihoods and reducing poverty.  The international community continued to be confronted with the urgent need to address effectively, and reverse, the current trend of deforestation and forest degradation worldwide.  The present session of the Forum provided a fresh opportunity to tackle those challenges.  The importance of strengthening the conservation, sustainable management and development of all types of forests, and their contribution to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, had also been highlighted by the 2005 World Summit.


The Union, he continued, considered that the ongoing developments related to forests in other forums, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and the International Tropical Timber Organization.  Thus, there was an urgent need to achieve a meaningful result at the present session, in order to decisively contribute to a coherent and effective approach towards the sustainable management of all types of forests.  The Union continued to believe that the most effective means for dealing with forest issues on a global scale would be a legally binding instrument on forests.  However, bearing in mind that the achievement of a consensus on a legally binding instrument was not a realistic prospect at the moment, the Union wished to engage in a pragmatic dialogue with all its partners in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome at the present session that would see the global forest process taking a major step forward.


To strengthen and improve the IAF required the setting of overarching and specific targets, he stressed.  Those included the establishment of clear links with regional and thematic processes; the significant improvement of implementation mechanisms, including the allocation of financial resources and the promotion of technology transfer; adequate monitoring, assessment and reporting and compliance procedures; as well as a strengthened role for, and clear guidance to, the CPF.  In that regard, partner countries coordinate their development actions in order to ensure sustainable forest management, in accordance with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.


EANA SAVET (Cambodia), on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that, despite resource constraints and multiple national priorities, ASEAN continued to strengthen cooperation and joint approaches to addressing international and regional forestry issues.  It also continued to contribute to the IAF objectives and their linkages to the achievement of the globally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals and implementation of forest-related commitments flowing from the 2005 World Summit outcome document.  The ASEAN also fully supported efforts to achieve the global strategic objectives on forests outlined in the draft Chairman’s text of the fifth Forum.


He said that, in an attempt to achieve sustainable forest management in the overall context of sustainable development, the ASEAN member countries were enhancing practices towards “multiple-use” forest management.  Development of forest plantations and rehabilitation of degraded forests would continue to receive attention.  The new approaches took into account poverty reduction, good governance and environmental protection.  The ASEAN would like to see the establishment of a dedicated global forest fund to support developing countries in achieving sustainable forest management.  Developed countries should realize their 0.7 per cent ODA target and accelerate commitments to transfer environmentally sound technology to developing countries.  The ASEAN was exploring options to establish an ASEAN forest trust fund, to which it invited donors to contribute.  Meanwhile, the IAF needed more political visibility, and more concrete actions were needed to strengthen long-term political commitment.


TOMÁS A. GUARDIA (Panama), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said that the System’s member countries were aware of the wide range of divergent opinions that had led to the last session’s failure to reach agreement.  It was unfortunate that, six years after the Forum’s creation and 14 years after the Rio Summit, agreement still seemed remote.  However, there was still hope for progress.  The Central American Integration System was seeking effective agreement and implementation of regional and subregional arrangements that recognized the wide range of forest products and services that could benefit all of mankind.


He said that a legally binding instrument should be based on respect for national sovereignty and on the adoption of strategies agreed upon by all Governments.  There was a need for innovative financial arrangements among the countries of the various regions in order to ensure increased investment in the conservation and sustainable use of forests.  The Central American Integration System regretted the omission of language on payment for environmental services and hoped that the coming days would allow agreement on arrangements of that type.  On the other hand, capacity-building was important, particularly in the context of national forest programmes and the need to preserve and utilize indigenous and traditional knowledge.


On behalf of the African Group, DOMINIC FOBIH ( Ghana) said he attached great importance to the Forum, whose main objective was to promote the sustainable development of all types of forests.  Of primary concern to all African countries, which derived a myriad of benefits from all types of forests, was the integration of forest sustainability management in the internationally agreed development goals and poverty alleviation.  African countries had drawn attention in previous Forums to the challenges of conflicts to the control of their natural resources.  The IAF could help raise the profile of forests globally and catalyse global cooperation and foster best practices sharing.  The IAF remained valid and should promote implementation of globally agreed actions on forests at all levels.  It provided a coherent, transparent and participatory framework.


He said that the IAF should also promote implementation of the relevant provisions of the Johannesburg Action Plan.  Any future institutionalization of the IAF should explicitly pronounce itself on three dimensions of sustainable forest management.  First, it should be economically viable, environmentally friendly and socially equitable.  Second, it should recognize existing and future protocols on forests.  Third, it should have the potential to raise political awareness, secure commitments and raise the profile of forests at international and national levels.  It should also assign to forest issues the same status assigned to such issues as biodiversity and climate change, among others.  In that way, issues of forests would be guided by similar approaches of discipline and a strong framework for clear indicators and targets to assess progress.  He also sought predictable and independent financing and coordination.  The lack thereof made implementation of forest-related programmes difficult for African countries.


YUKIHIRO TAKEYA ( Japan) said that throughout the last session’s discussion on legally binding instruments, the Japanese delegation had stressed the need for realistic, practical and respectful approaches.  Japan, therefore, welcomed the initiative to create a non-binding “voluntary instrument” as a way to move forward.  At the same time, the next international agreement on forests should give priority to areas where further progress could be expected on the basis of the lessons learned from past experience.  From that perspective, Japan wished to emphasize the importance of periodic monitoring, assessment and reporting on the state of forests in each region and country, taking into account the seven thematic elements.


The issue requiring urgent attention in the next international agreement was illegal logging and related activities, which was fast becoming a matter of serious international concern, he said.  Momentum was building towards action, as demonstrated by initiatives under way in other international forums, including the Group of 8 industrialized nations and the Asia Forest Partnership.  The latest International Tropical Timber Agreement stated clearly the importance of that issue.  Several other issues, such as the global goals, the financial mechanism and the CPF, were highly relevant to Japan’s interests.  At the Forum’s fifth session, Japan had been very encouraged to see that many delegations favoured a regional mechanism as a means to promote action.  Such a mechanism must be flexible and efficient.  What was needed now was not new organizations or facilities, but opportunities for discussion.  Japan wished to encourage Collaborative Partnership members to participate actively in the coming discussions on that issue, especially since the opportunity to agree on a mechanism had been missed at the Forum’s last session.


MIRJANA MLADINEO ( Croatia) said that forests were a crucial means for eradicating poverty, reducing land and resource degradation, improving food security, ensuring access to safe drinking water, and providing affordable energy.  Forests and forestry had developed models through which the economic benefits were obtainable while preserving the environment and biodiversity.  She also stressed the importance of the sustainable management of forest ecosystems.  The International Year of Forests should be seen in line with efforts to achieve the internationally agreed goals and targets set at global conferences and to achieving their outcomes.  She was referring to the principles and “Agenda 21” of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio and the Johannesburg Plan of Action adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.


She said that the Croatia-led initiative to designate 2010 as the International Year of Forests would provide additional impetus to ensure forest sustainability and launch a review of the results achieved at Rio and Johannesburg.  It would be a year in which multi-stakeholder dialogue, policy and programme coordination and public participation was further strengthened.  By proclaiming an International Year, the importance of the common understanding of forests and awareness of forest issues would be highlighted.  The four years leading up to the event would be time enough to prepare a good programme to raise awareness with all interested stakeholders, including the FAO.


QU GUILIN ( China) said that, despite differences among members, the present session meeting was critical to determining the future of the Forum and to the future management, conservation and sustainable development of forests at the global level.  The concept of management, conservation and sustainable development pursued by the Forum had drawn massive attention and become a part of some existing international conventions.  It had developed into one means for solving the issues of the global environment, combating desertification, biodiversity conservation, water resources management and responses to climate change, as well as achieving the Millennium Development Goals.


He said that the concept of management, conservation and sustainable management of forests had initially been transformed into principles of forest development in some countries.  The existing international conventions were all related to forests, which reflected the importance of forests in environmental protection.  Strengthening the Forum and reaching a legally binding instrument were effective ways of further raising the profile of forests on the international political agendas and avoiding further fragmentation of the integrity of forest ecosystems.


Mr. PISARENKO ( Russian Federation) said his country had more than one fifth of the world’s forest resources.  President Putin’s active policy with respect to forests sought to conserve all types of forests at all levels.  His strategic goal was to further build on the International Arrangement, in the context of the United Nations Forum, to achieve practical results in sustainable forest management in the context of the sustainable development agenda.  He highly valued and supported the Forum, which was a unique subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council.  At a recent conference in November in St. Petersburg, his country had put forth information about the Forum; the final documents of that conference were available at the current session.  In the very near future, his Government would develop a national action plan to design ways to combat the illegal logging and trade, for which rules and regulations were already being adopted.


He said his country’s forest development concept sought to bring forestry out of its narrow scope into a broader ecosystem approach, with a practical application at all levels.  In the context of the administrative and economic reforms under way in Russia, a considerable part of the transfer of federal functions in the area of forestry to regional authorities had been carried out.  The country was now striving to achieve nationwide agreement on the sustainability of forests.  He was convinced that a succession of Forest Forums would reach its goals.  He especially appreciated the consistency of the Forum’s work, which strengthened Member States’ efforts to build on international forest management and maintain the United Nations’ forest strategy, as set out in various resolutions.


KEITH CHRISTIE ( Canada) said that the aim that his country had worked to fulfil for close to 15 years was a dedicated, effective and legally binding instrument on forests.  Canada had been prepared to work with other countries within the United Nations to achieve that goal and believed in achieving the strongest possible instrument in that regard.  Canada, the world’s third largest forest country, was sceptical about whether a voluntary instrument could ever achieve the objectives of the Forum.  If that was not possible, Canada would be forced to seek other forums to achieve the goal and looked forward to holding consultations and fruitful negotiations over the next two weeks in that regard.


TONY BARTLETT ( Australia) said his country had also been very disappointed with the outcome of the Forum’s last session.  If the present session failed, many countries would seek another forum to achieve the goal of a legally binding international instrument.  It was not acceptable that the Forum had been unable to achieve that important goal.  While supporting a non-legally binding instrument, Australia understood that there was a need for a stronger instrument.  Australia also understood that some Governments did not understand how a non-binding instrument would work.  With New Zealand, Australia had done some additional thinking on that subject and, as a demonstration of its commitment, was willing to work with other delegations to ensure the success of the sixth session.


MOHAMED SOFIANE BERRAH ( Algeria) said he was pleased at the growing awareness that a framework of international cooperation was needed, that took into account the special needs of countries with fragile ecosystems, including those with weak forest covers.  In order to strengthen the dialogue on internationally agreed measures, the Forum should focus attention on the objectives it set for itself and which were part of the internationally agreed poverty-reduction strategy, while continuing to discuss the means to find resources to fund the process.  He sought an inclusive and broad cooperative framework, which respected the sovereign right of States and respected their cultures and traditions.  Forests were not only a means of subsistence, but a means of identity.  The priorities for action should include a set of measures linked to those of regional entities.


He continued to support the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a global forest fund, and the use of funding from the global environmental facility should be further explored.  The time was not yet ripe, however, to discuss whether or not an instrument on forests should be binding.  First, agreement should be reached on the nature of measures to be implemented and synergy should be encouraged with other international legal instruments related to sustainable development and the environment.


CARLOS NOTON ( Chile) said that the World Summit had articulated the possibility of establishing a more coherent institutional framework for forest management, which included a more integrated structure based on existing institutions and internationally agreed instruments.  That agreement had imposed a need to resolve existing differences --which were related to a lack of knowledge about the different realities and problems.  In order to make incremental progress in that regard, the final report of the meeting of experts, held in Berlin last November, should be kept in mind, particularly what had been said about the advantages of a non-binding, consensus intermediate step.  It should be possible to reach agreement and overcome the fragmentation on a defined international framework for sustainable forest management.  That would help ensure that future generations inherited a planet healthy for the individual and the environment.


He said he appreciated initiatives that promoted conceptual and operational sustainable forest management.  He also appreciated donors’ contributions, as well as those of the FAO, and the incorporation of forests into the Millennium Development Goals.  Furthermore, he strongly supported the private initiatives against forest desertification.  He noted with interest that people were seeing forests differently now, taking into account their comprehensive use.  No one could overlook the value of forest ecosystems, which were a source of wealth and life.  Their treatment, however, was a complex and multi-systemic process that could not overlook the different realities surrounding the ecosystems, or sectoral and regional sensitivities.  All of that meant that forests were a particular component of socio-economic processes.


SAMIELA LAGATAKI (Fiji), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, said his country had identified the following areas as needing priority attention:  formulation and implementation of a national forest programme; combating deforestation and land degradation; strengthening of the economic and cultural aspects of forests; rehabilitation and restoration of degraded lands; strengthening of international cooperation in capacity-building; and strengthening of forest conservation and protection.


Last year’s meeting on “Scoping for a Future Agreement on Forests” in Berlin had been a country-led initiative to prepare for the present Forum.  It had been evident in Berlin that each country needed to clarify their position on three main elements in preparation for the negotiations at the present Forum.  They included a voluntary “code” by which donor countries favoured some form of legally binding instrument for sustainable forest management; implementation and means of implementation to address and orchestrate current efforts towards sustainable forest management; and determining what concrete role regional processes, partnerships or bodies played in any future agreement on forests to add value at the national and international levels.


BULUS PAUL ZOM LOLO (Nigeria), aligning himself with the African Group, said his country knew at first hand the importance of forests, because Nigeria’s national territory encompassed areas that were densely forested and heavily dependent on forest resources for livelihoods, as well as areas that were sparsely forested.  Nigeria was not convinced of the need for a legally binding instrument or the necessity of global goals and targets.


GUSTAVO AINCHILL ( Argentina) said that any instrument should respect the sovereign right of States to use their natural resources in accordance with their own national policies and development situations.  States also had a shared responsibility to participate in the global environment.  Any instrument that emerged from the United Nations Forum should promote international cooperation in a way that enabled developing countries to manage forests sustainably.  The current political context, however, did not seem conducive to a binding convention.  Instead, the Forum itself could be reformed, with a view to strengthening it and placing emphasis on implementing its agreements.  Negotiating parameters should be clearly defined at this meeting.  In light of the recent experience at the fifth session, failure in the current negotiations could put at risk the entire Forum and perpetuate consideration of the forest issues outside the United Nations’ aegis.


RUCHI GHANASHYAM ( India) said that there had been visible progress, but much more needed to be done to achieve the objective of the sustainable use of all types of forests.  Two major developments had been the establishment of the Forum and the collaborative partnership on forest.  The International Arrangement had promoted better understanding of the issues.  Another important achievement had been the identification of gaps in the implementation of sustainable forest management, especially in key areas, such as resources and the transfer of environmentally sound programmes, but many challenges remained.


In developing countries, she said, there was a competing demand for resources, and many countries, therefore, were not in a position to dedicate adequate resources to forest management, which required huge resources to operationalize.  The poorest of the poor lived in and around forests.  The internationally agreed thematic elements for sustainable forest management and the many legally binding forest-related instruments could all be strengthened, with a view to addressing existing gaps and removing the overlaps at the global and regional levels.  It was premature to develop a legally binding instrument on all types of forests.  The Forum should be strengthened so it could emerge as a leading intergovernmental body on forests, she stressed.


SIRUSI BULAI (Tonga), speaking on behalf of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, expressed support for the Forum and the process to promote the implementation of internationally agreed actions on all forests, including the Forum’s invaluable efforts to provide a coherent, transparent and participatory global framework for policy development, implementation and coordination, pursuant to the Rio Declaration, the Forest Principles, Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.   Towards that end, the Pacific Community Secretariat had supported its members to better understand the Forum process, and most of them had made significant progress in implementing activities, including the formulation and implementation of new forest policies and legislation, and of codes of logging practices, increasing involvement of landowners in the management of their forests, and the formulation of national standards in pursuance of certification.


HANNA GLEISNER, speaking on behalf of major groups, recalled that a high-level panel empanelled by the Secretary-General in 2003 and 2004 had underscored the importance of better cooperation and collaboration with civil society actors.  During previous Forum sessions the major groups had shared their views in a constructive and responsible manner, but Governments had chosen to downgrade their contributions.  The unique circumstances of each group should be accurately reflected in the chair’s draft text.  In order to ensure their effective contribution, there was a need to recognize the contributions of major groups at all levels.  There was a need to recognize the rights of indigenous groups, to secure land tenure and ownership rights, as well as decent labour rights and standards.


ROSALIA ARTEAGA SERRANO, General-Secretary, Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, acknowledged the importance of consensus-building regionally in the process of sustainable forest management in the Amazon region.  Sustainable forest management was being implemented in the Amazon and orienting public policies there, both nationally and regionally.  To her organization, specific and quantifiable measures were not the overall answer to the sustainable management and development of all types of forests.  Priority should also be given to the development of the social aspects of forests.  Her organization was ready to play an active role in the application of the International Arrangement, guided by the mandate of its member countries and acting as a coordinating mechanism, leading to a consensus on policies and the building of a regional agenda.


Speaking on behalf of the Amazonian countries at the start of the afternoon meeting, JORGE HERNAN BETANCUR ( Colombia) reaffirmed a number of principles in the Rio Declaration, in particular the principle that States had the sovereign right to take advantage of their own resources in accordance with their own environment and development policies.  The Amazonian countries were also committed to the principles of the shared responsibility of States in that regard.  The regional consensus for the sustainability of the Amazonian forests was crucial, and the countries of the region were contributing significantly to formulating policies in that regard.  They reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the Forum as a universal and crucial authority, aimed at implementing actions designed to increase and enhance conservation efforts and sustain the use and management of all types of forests.


He said that concrete mechanisms would make it possible to eradicate poverty and improve the quality of life for local populations, as well as provide access to much-needed technology and establish research networks. The Amazonian countries supported the establishment of a global fund for forests.  Still, institutional informational challenges and challenges in technical and financial capacity remained.  The Amazonian countries were undertaking major efforts to sustainably manage forest resources and reduce deforestation.  Adoption of a quantifiable and time-bound instrument was not the right answer to conservation and the sustainable management of forests.  Rather, the Forum should stimulate concrete actions, promote international cooperation, including South-South, and the participation of local communities.  The Amazonian countries were willing to play an active role in the current session.


Mr. DA ROCHA VIANNA ( Brazil) said that forests were more than natural resources since they constituted a unique universe of complex social, political, economic and environmental aspects.  The Amazon region covered 60 per cent of the Brazilian territory, where more than 20 million people lived and depended mostly on the use of its resources.  His interest in the implementation of sustainable forest management was reflected in its national efforts, such as the adoption of the National Programme on Forests in 2000 and the establishment of its Coordinating Commission.  Brazil was also deeply engaged in developing strategies for promoting social participation within the forest debate and in combating such illegal activities as illicit logging.  It was also implementing forest law enforcement and seeking to contribute to eradicating poverty through job creation for those who depended directly on forests.


Regionally, he said he fully recognized the importance of the Amazonian Cooperation Treaty Organization as a realm of cooperation among eight developing countries that held together 56 per cent of the world’s broad-leaf forest.  Those countries were intent on reaching a positive outcome for the Forum by strengthening it through concrete policies and measures.  The Amazon countries also supported the enhancement of global cooperation and the reversal of the decline of ODA allocated to forest-related activities.  In accordance with other Amazonian countries, Brazil refrained from proposing an international, legally binding instrument on forests, considering that the adoption of quantifiable and specific temporal targets was not the adequate global response for the sustainable development of all types of forests.


Instead, efforts in New York should focus on defining strategic objectives and adequate means of implementation, he said.  That would enable countries to develop and implement sustainable forest management.  The ideal Forum outcome should “imply” long-term political commitments and strengthen existing ones.  Those measures would facilitate the adoption of concrete actions in institutional, economic and social fields, for the integration of conservation and sustainable forest management within national development policies.  In that spirit, the Forum would contribute to poverty eradication in forest areas and to the improvement of the quality of life in forest-dependent communities.


FARHAT AYESHA ( Pakistan) said that the Forum provided the platform and policy attention that the important subject deserved.  Pakistan was committed to engaging in evolving strategies and fostering partnerships in confronting the challenges facing all types of forests.  Its national forest policy was clearly geared to achieving the objectives of sustainable forest management.  It was implementing a number of country- and donor-led forestry and biodiversity plans, and it had set targets aimed at increasing the covered and protected areas by 2015.  Within its limited resources, the Government was making concerted efforts to allocate financial resources to achieve the targets.  It was also trying to explore other donor funding to fulfil its obligations in that regard.


She said that an effective global forest agenda could only be achieved with sincere cooperation and the collective effort of all countries and effective financial support and partnerships.  The overarching objectives of future arrangements should be to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, and strengthen long-term political commitment towards that goal.  The realization of those objectives required capacity-building, technology transfers, the establishment of monitoring systems, and more.  Those objectives could only be attained by ensuring enhanced and predictable financial flows.  She supported the creation of a global forest fund and a dedicated window in the Global Environment Facility (GEF).  The requirements of countries with low forest cover deserved special consideration.


FREDRICK LUSAMBILI MATWANG’A ( Kenya) said the session was the culmination of concerted international dialogue over a very long period of time.  It was an opportunity to continue the dialogue and to define a future international agreement on forests.  For most, forests were important ecosystems, which, if well managed, could contribute significantly to sustainable development, improved livelihoods, and development, including to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Forestry sector successes and challenges had an impact on all eight Goals.  Kenya’s forest cover was changing rapidly, owing to overpopulation and poverty and the ever-increasing demand for forest land for agriculture, and the conversion of forest land into other unsustainable land uses.


He said his country had identified the major constraints to adequate forest management as:  a lack of information; inadequate funding and technology; weak policy and legislation; and lack of meaningful involvement by local communities in forest management.  Last year, Kenya developed and approved a new forest policy and law, which gave a major role to the community and the private sector.  The major challenge now was to operationalize that vision.  He pressed for a strengthened International Arrangement on Forests within the United Nations system and for the setting of targets and predictable funding, such as a global fund.


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*     The 1st Meeting was held at conclusion of fifth session on 27 May 2005.



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