7 December 2006
Press Release

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


Government experts, delegates, and representatives of intergovernmental organizations and civil society will begin drafting a new international agreement to manage the world’s forests at a United Nations Forum on Forests expert group meeting next week, 11-15 December, in New York.

The new agreement is seen as a “giant leap forward” for international forest policy, after years of deadlocked discussions.  Countries agreed, at the last session of the Forum, to adopt a voluntary instrument that would deliver an overarching and comprehensive framework for sustainable forest management, and focus global attention on the importance of forests in the broader development agenda.

“The real breakthrough here is the high level of commitment we see to sustainable forest management,” said Pekka Patosaari, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat.  “The instrument itself will bring together a wide breadth of policy recommendations into one framework and define a clear strategy towards accomplishing the Global Objectives on Forests.”

The process of drafting the new instrument comes at a time of growing recognition of the role that forests play in the economies of many countries, in the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people who depend on them, and as an environmental asset that contributes to stabilizing climate change and protecting biodiversity.

The world’s forests continue to shrink by some 350 square kilometres a day, an area greater than the size of the United Kingdom, every two years.  Loss of forest cover, mostly for conversion to agricultural land, continues at an alarming rate, but efforts in forest planting and restoration have helped stem some of that net loss of global forest area.

The agreement would draw attention to the growing problem of international trade in and illegal harvesting of forest productsand calls for strengthened domestic forest law enforcement and governance in all areas.  While the new agreement would not be legally binding, it would represent an important advance in harmonizing efforts to monitor the state of the world’s forests and ensuring that forest resources are managed sustainably.

Recognizing that States have sovereignty over their forest resources, the agreement would highlight the importance of voluntary national measures, policies, actions and partnerships, and enable countries to better determine their national targets, goals and policies.

Until now, the political will behind forests as an international issue has often been fragmented among the myriad forest-related agreements and processes already in existence.  The new agreement would offer a global platform for coordinating those various international efforts.

A press briefing on the ad hoc expert group meeting will be held in Room S-226, United Nations Headquarters, on Monday, 11 December, at 11:15 a.m.

For more information or interviews, please contact:  Dan Shepard, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel.:  1 212 963 9495, e-mail:  shepard@un.org; or Mita Sen, United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, tel.:  1 917 367 5069, e-mail:  sen@un.org.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record