28 April 2009
Economic and Social Council
ENV/DEV/1038

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

United Nations Forum on Forests

Eighth Session

8th Meeting (AM)


FORUM ON FORESTS CONSIDERS INPUT BY CIVIL SOCIETY AS DELEGATES


CONTINUE MULTI-STAKEHOLDER DIALOGUE WITH MAJOR GROUPS

 


Continuing its multi-stakeholder dialogue this morning, the United Nations Forum on Forests considered the input of major civil society groups on the main thematic issues of its current two-week session:  “Forests in a changing environment” and “Means of implementation for sustainable forest management”.


With indigenous peoples, communities and families managing an important share of the world’s forests, the joint statement of the major groups -- presented to the Forum by a representative of Children and Youth -– focused on land tenure, ownership rights, women’s and indigenous peoples’ rights, access to resources and capacity-building, emphasizing that they were among the issues that should not be overlooked.


Increasing carbon stocks in forests and forest products was only one of the multiple aspects of sustainable forest management, the statement said.  Therefore, long-term solutions would come about from the integration of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies with the production of timber and other forest products, as well as environmental services, such as conserving biodiversity or clean water.


The statement went on to say that, with regard to financing, the major groups -- Women, the Scientific and Technological Community, Children and Youth, Non-Governmental Organizations, Indigenous Peoples, Farmers and Small Forest Landowners -– called for the establishment of a dedicated funding mechanism, under the Forum on Forests, which would support sustainable forest management and be easily accessible to all major groups.


The major groups also drew attention to their initiative to convene an inter-sessional meeting in May 2010, which would focus on implementation of the 2007 non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests at the national and local levels.


During the discussion, delegates took up the key points raised by the major groups, saying they had provided much food for thought.  Several speakers encouraged the Forum to consider reflecting the views of civil society in the present session’s outcome.  Some delegates also shared their respective national experiences of involving major stakeholders in forest policies.  Among other things, the dialogue also focused on the role of non-governmental organizations, indigenous peoples, women, research and education.


Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, stressed the importance of investment in the Forum by major groups, whose participation had been recognized as a key element in ensuring stakeholder involvement in decision-making on forests.  Since its inception, the Forum had worked to enhance stakeholder participation.  Both the non-legally binding instrument and the Forum’s multi-year programme of work for 2007-2015 called for the active and effective participation of major groups in support of the International Year of Forests in 2011.


Noting the lack of active participation by the Local Authorities and Business and Industry major groups, she said their contributions would be welcome in the future.  Enabling participation by more constituencies had been an ongoing concern both for focal points and the Forum on Forests Secretariat, which would welcome suggestions on creative ways to address that concern.


Peter Mayer, Executive Director of the International Union of Forest Research, moderated the multi-stakeholder dialogue.


Prior to the dialogue, a representative of Turkey reported on the outcome of the Fifth World Water Forum, which his country had hosted last March.


The Forum is expected to take up a number of outstanding issues on the last day of its session, Friday, 1 May.


Background


The United Nations Forum on Forests held the second part of its multi-stakeholder dialogue this morning.  For Part I, see Press Release ENV/DEV/1036 of 22 April.


Statements


FAZLI CORMAN (Turkey), speaking before the dialogue, highlighted the close inter-relation between the issues of forests in the changing environment and means of implementation for sustainable forest management on the one hand, and water management and climate change on the other.  In March, Turkey had hosted the Fifth World Water Forum in which 11 Heads of State and Government and 90 ministers had participated, in addition to 315 parliamentarians and mayors, all amounting to a total of 33,000 representatives from 192 countries.  The theme of its Political Process, “Water management, adaptation strategies for global changes, including climate variability change”, was duly reflected in the principal outcomes of the Ministerial Process.  The Political Process also took into consideration other important global changes affecting water resources, such as population growth, deforestation, desertification, changes in land use and urbanization.


He said the outcomes of the Water Forum had been formulated through multi-stakeholder participation and dialogue on water issues, taking into consideration the cross-cutting issues of sustainable development.  Through those outcomes, critical messages had been given to the international community, the first being that, given the cross-cutting nature of water, integrated and coordinated action among water-related sectors was extremely important.  The major challenges of deforestation, soil degradation, land use changes, economic expansion, climate change and demographic growth were aggravated by the current economic and financial crisis.  It was, therefore, necessary to step up efforts to address the global water crisis through greater investment in water infrastructure, research and education, the decentralization of water management and improved risk management.


Since water was indispensable for economic and social development, food security and poverty eradication, joint efforts and effective tools of implementation were needed to address water issues, he continued.  Water resources could not be managed in a sustainable manner without appropriate capacity.  In that context, international organizations and institutions played a critical role in enhancing the sharing of experiences and best practices on sustainable water use, rehabilitation, protection and conservation.  The outcomes of the Water Forum also addressed the interaction between forests and water management in light of the importance of forests to sustainable development and combating climate change.


Within that framework, he said, the international community should take concrete steps for the promotion of ecological corridors and networks and the integration of ecosystems into planning and development projects in the context of sustainable development, while taking the necessary measures to reverse the degradation of ecosystems.  It was also recommended that Governments take into account the impacts of their policy choices on the hydrological cycle affecting rural, populated and urban areas.


He concluded by saying that the Water Forum had provided a valuable opportunity to take rapid action to address global water issues and implement existing instruments that would help to achieve solidarity, security and adaptability.  With the momentum gained at the Forum, Turkey looked forward to enhancing potential synergies between the Forum on Forests and the Water Forum.  During the seventeenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Turkey would be hosting a side event, with the contribution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Water Assessment Programme on “The Changing World and Water Management Adaptation Strategies”.


Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue


JAN MCALPINE, Director, United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, opened the discussion by stressing the importance of investment in the Forum by major groups.  Their participation in Forum sessions and related meetings had been recognized as a key element in ensuring stakeholder involvement in decision-making on forests.  Since its inception, the Forum had worked towards enhancing stakeholder participation in its work and its Secretariat continued to strengthen its relationships with stakeholders through regular consultations with major group focal points.  Both the non-legally binding instrument and the Forum’s multi-year programme of work for 2007-2015 called for active and effective participation by the major groups and in support of the International Year of Forests in 2011.


She pointed out that, while major groups -- Women, Farmers and Small Forest Landowners, Indigenous Peoples, Non-Governmental Organizations, Children and Youth, the Scientific and Technological Community and Forest Workers and Trade Unions -- had been actively involved in the Forum on Forests process, a major gap in the Forum’s work had been a lack of active participation by the Local Authorities and Business and Industry major groups, whose contributions would be welcome in the future.  Enabling participation by more constituencies had been an ongoing concern both for focal points and the Secretariat, which would welcome suggestions on creative ways to address that concern.


PETER MAYER, Executive Director, International Union of Forest Research Organizations and Moderator of the dialogue, outlined the day’s programme and expressed the hope that participants would seriously consider which direction they wished the Forum to take and how they intended to engage in a dialogue on sustainable forest management.


A representative of Children and Youth, presenting a joint statement of the major groups, said that, while they supported sustainable forest management initiatives, capacity-building for the mitigation of, and adaptation to, the effects of climate change was an important element that should not be overlooked.  Monitoring, evaluation and capacity-building programmes for all aspects must be undertaken to ensure full and equal participation by local communities and indigenous peoples, women and youth in all aspects of decision-making processes related to design and implementation.


In that context, she said, it was necessary to ensure that women and indigenous peoples had equal access to land ownership and other resources for their effective socio-economic participation in forest management.  Because indigenous peoples lived in forests and depended on them, all forest programmes and projects must recognize, before implementation, the rights established under international instruments such as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169.  Similarly, they must comply with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.


Regarding finance, she said a dedicated funding mechanism must be established under the Forum’s auspices to support sustainable forest management.  It must be easily accessible to all major groups.  Forest financing should also benefit the people at the grass roots, not just Governments, especially in developing countries.  There was also a need for periodic assessments and reviews for the funding mechanism, in which the major groups would have a role.  Investment in the strengthening of forest research capacities, particularly in developing countries, was necessary so that science could provide technical assistance to major groups on the implementation of sustainable forest management.


A representative of Women said the group had been continuously involved in discussions aimed at involving women in formulating programmes and actions affecting their livelihoods, especially those of rural women.  Women also needed equitable access to financial, educational, technological and other resources and facilities if they were to be equal participants in sustainable forest management programmes.  In the context of equitable access, the challenge was still the role that Governments could play in promoting women’s participation.


The group was seriously concerned about persisting, deep-rooted inequality, she said, calling for concerted efforts to end socio-economic discrimination against women.  Governments should address those inequalities so that women were not left behind.  The current arrangements for representation and addressing gender inequality were inadequate and women should be involved in formulating policies affecting them, particularly those concerning agro-management and equal access to land.  To ensure compliance with gender equality and anti-discrimination conventions, women must be involved in programmes from the design stage to implementation and evaluation.  All such programmes must respond to their needs.


A representative of the Scientific and Technological Community said it proposed, in supplementing the joint statement by major groups, the establishment of a dedicated subsidiary body on science and technology to provide scientific advice for achieving global objectives on forests.  Institutional capacity for implementing sustainable forest management was still very weak in many developing countries, and research could make a significant contribution to advancing it.  Among other things, there was an urgent need to develop indigenous forest management capacity.  With forest management in many countries hindered by civil upheavals and conflicts, it was also important to resurrect research in post-conflict situations.


A representative of Children and Youth stressed the importance of promoting inter-generational equity, education and transfer of knowledge to younger generations.  In addressing those issues, the role of sustainable development could not be over-emphasized.  It was also important to send a message to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on the potential role of forests in the post-Kyoto period and to emphasize the importance of sustainable forest management in advancing the benefits of forests, climate change mitigation, ecosystem preservation, and the preservation of water and soil.  The main constraints to investment and adequate payments for sustainable forest management were the conditions prevailing in the forest sector, which entailed questions of trust, transparency, accountability, access and reliability of information, as well as a lack of tenured security and authority over forest resources.


On financing strategy, he said the Forum must consider the diversity of the stakeholders involved.  Strategies adopted must incorporate both tangible and intangible forest products and take into account specific national conditions and objectives.  The international community had a responsibility to equip children and young people with real knowledge of forest issues, and youth-targeted initiatives were needed to promote activities for the preservation of forests.  The Children and Youth wished also to emphasize the importance of forest sciences and education as the best legacy for future generations.


The representative of Non-Governmental Organizations expressed support for the joint statement and reminded the Forum that there had been numerous proposals to address issues of concern to non-governmental organizations involved in forest policy negotiations, such as the underlying causes of forest degradation and deforestation, sustainable forest management and indigenous knowledge.  The main problem, however, was that most of those proposals were not implemented in practice.  Non-governmental organizations attended the Forum’s sessions, but serious constraints hindered the ability of major groups to contribute substantially, including inadequate financial provisions and restricted participation and accreditation.


Other major constraints included the overwhelming influence of vested interests controlling the exploitation of forest resources, lack of political will and increasing reliance on the market to provide solutions, he said.  The solution to forest crises should start with implementation of existing commitments.  The non-legally binding instrument would not make a substantial contribution unless it explicitly addressed the causes of forest loss, including unsustainable production and consumption patterns.  Another cause for inaction was a lack of funding for agreed decisions.  An effective financial instrument should be established at the present session, with the involvement of non-governmental organizations.  The Forum should recommend that Member States involve non-governmental organizations and other major groups in national-level implementation.


In that connection, he recalled that the Forum had had a very successful ad hoc meeting in Vienna last November, and non-governmental organizations were disappointed that the discussions at that forum had been forgotten in the present session.  The proposals from that meeting -- including the major groups’ initiative, drivers of deforestation and degradation, the role of governmental and non-governmental actors, stakeholder participation and engagement, capacity-building and enabling conditions -- should be reflected in the outcome of the eighth session.


A representative of the Indigenous Peoples, reaffirming their special relationship and “sacred unbreakable connection with Mother Earth”, said he was profoundly concerned about the unsustainable development and false solutions accelerating climate change, which was destroying resources as well as Mother Earth.  Indigenous peoples were experiencing profound and disproportionate adverse impacts on their cultures, environmental as well as human health, human rights and traditional ways of life, including food systems and food sovereignty.  Their very survival as indigenous peoples was at stake.


He said indigenous peoples depended on the forests and, for that reason, they could not accept that forests were treated only for their carbon capture without regard to their other multiple benefits.  Before any initiative was launched, account should be taken of the needs and rights of indigenous people.  In the same manner, any financial mechanism established under the Forum should consider the full and efficient participation of indigenous peoples at all levels, and access to funding should be direct and without intermediaries.


Several speakers endorsed sentiments expressed in support of the indigenous peoples’ position and urged the Forum to work towards the fulfilment of those goals.


The representative of the Dominican Republic said that, under a Government reforestation plan, all 10 groups established to carry it out were led by women because they were considered better able to implement the tasks involved.


The representative of Angola said reforestation was not simply a matter of planting trees; it went hand in hand with other activities such as health and education, reconstruction of roads and others which helped to bring goods to market, and helped those living a more nomadic lifestyle.  Forest inhabitants were essential in maintaining ecosystems and Angola, therefore, strongly endorsed the position of the indigenous peoples.  As populations grew, so did consumption, compelling people to travel increasingly longer distances in search of both food and firewood.  Angola had established an organization to provide support exclusively to indigenous peoples.


A representative of Farmers and Small Land Owner acknowledged that forest management had become more relevant than ever, saying that the best way to secure forests was to place it at the core of sustainable forest management policies.  Secure land-tenure rights and good governance were also among the cornerstones of sustainable forest management.  The ability of policies to deliver was also vital, as were streamlined and coordinated implementation programmes.


Funding programmes and financing mechanisms must be accessible and designed to support the policy framework of sustainable forest management, he said.  They must also be friendly to community land owners and address land-tenure rights.  It was important to address the profitability of forestry management in a holistic manner, and transparent and meaningful ways to achieve that should be developed in the global financial process.  If such mitigation efforts were acknowledged, the Forum would be heading in the right direction.


As the dialogue unfolded, one country representative said the statements by the major groups provided much food for thought as several participants identified with the issues raised, including those of women’s participation and agro-forestry.


Speakers also shared their national experiences of involving major stakeholders in forest policies.  The representative of Uruguay highlighted his country’s experience in cooperating with people involved in forest-related activities, who had much to contribute to the dialogue on forest policy.  Groups of forest workers in Uruguay got together to exchange views and experiences, and their organization had issued a number of significant forest-related documents.


The representative of Peru, commenting on the involvement of indigenous peoples in the management of his country’s forests, said community forests had been set aside and some 70 per cent of the forest service was under voluntary forest certification.  There was entrepreneurial cooperation between forest enterprises and indigenous groups, as well as national legislation and mechanisms to promote sustainable forest management.  Forest management councils and associations were being established, with the participation of major stakeholders, including indigenous peoples and other rights holders.


A representative of Indigenous Peoples said they were standing up to ensure respect for their rights, but the problem of exclusion persisted.  Peru’s representative, in particular, should transmit to his Government the need to respect the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Countries must endorse it and give effect to those rights.


Commending the positive role of non-governmental organizations, Fiji’s representative said that small countries considered their support very important, especially valuing their skills and close ties with local communities.


Several speakers, including the representative of Mauritania, also emphasized the need to strengthen the capacity of non-governmental organizations and coordinate their efforts with centralized national forest policies.  Lebanon’s representative said non-governmental organizations benefited from funds greater in some cases than those allocated to the public sector.  Unfortunately, those funds were scattered among projects and there was much duplication on the ground.  In many cases, their work also depended on trends rather than real needs on the ground.  Non-governmental organizations should be putting more effort into collaborating with Government institutions, shifting from the idea of individual projects to a master plan on forests, which would coordinate all efforts.


A representative of Non-Governmental Organizations agreed with those concerns, stressing the importance of incorporating different projects into a unified programme.  It was important that Governments work with non-governmental organizations in creating such programmes.  The capacity of non-governmental organizations to work on implementation of the non-legally binding instrument should be improved, and the money for implementation of national forest programmes should come down to the local level.


A representative of Indigenous Peoples said that, like everyone else, they needed basic, minimum standards of human rights in order to make any meaningful contribution to agro-forestry management efforts.  Those minimum requirements must be acknowledged.


The representative of the Dominican Republic acknowledged that indigenous people held an important place in the debate on forests because they had in fact been there before anyone else.  Being part of the same general population, the segregation of indigenous peoples, whether on religious, ethnic, racial or any other grounds, would therefore not be useful.


A representative of Women said they cut across other major groups because their involvement was to be found in all of them.  Their participation and contribution were, therefore, important.


A representative of N on-Governmental Organizations stressed the importance of including the rights of indigenous peoples in agro-forestry management programmes.


The representative of Fiji noted that, in some countries, indigenous peoples constituted a small minority, whereas in small island States, they constituted the majority.  It was, therefore, vital to involve them in any formulation of policies focusing on sustainable forest management.


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For information media • not an official record