|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
United Nations Forum on Forests
4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)
Delegates Call for Empowerment of Local Communities to Participate
in Governance as Forum on Forests Continues Ninth Session
The ninth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests continued today with resounding calls for the empowerment of local communities — including indigenous and other vulnerable groups — to participate in forest governance.
Forest livelihoods and poverty eradication were among the main topics of discussion as delegates also addressed related issues, ranging from community-based forest management to forest land tenure and social development for marginalized forest-dwelling groups.
Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, introducing three reports of the Secretary-General for the Forum’s consideration, said that, while many forests were sources of recreation, they also played a crucial spiritual role and were often sacred for hundreds of millions who lived in them. “To many people, forests are their life,” she added.
During the morning’s general debate, many delegates noted that those with the largest stake in sustainable forest management, especially indigenous populations, often suffered from a limited ability to be heard on that very issue. Similarly, developing nations — where the direct use of forest resources was often most critical to communities — frequently lacked the technical and financial resources needed to take part in global discussions on forests or to implement sustainable forestry initiatives.
“The [least developed countries], due to their lack of technical and forest capacity, have experienced great difficulty in their attempts towards sustainable forest management,” Nepal’s representative said. He called for the fulfilment of commitments to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, including funding for sustainable forest management, through more direct, dedicated and predictable mechanisms. The establishment of a Global Forest Fund could realize those goals, he said, adding that sustainable forestry was interlinked with adaptation to and mitigation of climate effects.
Some delegates, including the representatives of Brazil and Ghana, described community-based forest management programmes that their countries had successfully implemented, while others noted that forests were closely tied to both rural and urban communities all over the world — a fact that often complicated forest management further. “A challenge for forest policymakers is to link forest governance to the governance of cities,” Hungary’s representative said, speaking on behalf of the European Union. Shared stakes in water, energy and timber supply must be kept in mind when considering forest management, he added.
After concluding its general debate, the Forum held a panel presentation on “Regional and subregional perspectives on forests for people, livelihoods and poverty eradication”. Moderated by Paola Deda, Chief of the Forestry and Timber Section of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), it featured panellists Jean-Jacques Zam, a Member of Parliament from Cameroon and Coordinator of the Parliamentary Network for Sustainable Forest Management of the Congo Basin; Peter Besseau, Head of the Secretariat of the International Model Forest Network; and Doris Capistrano, Chair of the External Advisory Group on the World Bank’s Forest Strategy.
Ms. Deda opened the panel discussion by reiterating the importance of sustainable forest management in the regional context and explaining that the panellists had been selected for their expertise, as well as their involvement in successful and replicable regional initiatives.
Mr. Zam said 10 Central African States were engaged in efforts to protect the subregion’s forests, which were a vital source of life, as well as goods and services. Some 30 million people in the Congo Basin lived in forests, including native groups and Bantu farmers located on the forest edges, he said. Deforestation and forest degradation in the Congo Basin were closely linked to agriculture and the depletion of certain species, he said, noting that the negative trend also affected food security.
Mr. Besseau said the social dimensions of forest management were the most complicated, but community involvement was crucial, as were resource agencies. Openness to new strategies was beneficial, he said, adding that a clear economic dividend must be provided to local stakeholders, while keeping in mind the extra-monetary dimensions of the enterprise.
Ms. Capistrano emphasized the importance of participatory approaches and transparency in forest management, as well as the need to include marginalized groups such as women and indigenous communities. Recommendations emerging from a series of regional workshops held since 2004 had proposed, among other things, the elimination of barriers preventing local communities from accessing markets and forest revenues, she added.
Also speaking today were representatives of Guatemala, United States, Malaysia, Switzerland, Turkey, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Fiji, Chile, China, India, Grenada, Republic of Korea, Kenya, Jamaica, Canada, Peru, Norway, Jordan, Senegal, Indonesia, Iran and Mexico.
Representatives of the Economic Community of Central African States and the European Union also delivered statements.
Other speakers were representatives of the Canadian Environmental Network (on behalf of major civil society groups), Asia Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management, Central African Forests Commission, Forest Europe and the Secretariat of the Tehran Process for Low Forest Cover Countries.
The Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 26 January, to hold its biannual multi-stakeholder dialogue.
The United Nations Forum on Forests met this morning to continue its ninth biennial session. (For background information, see Press Release ENV/DEV/1178 of 21 January.)
RAFAEL RODRIGUEZ PALMA ( Guatemala), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, affirmed the importance of sustainable forest management in improving the lives of people living in and near forests. Guatemala was working to increase reforestation and improve forest management, having reclaimed 100,000 hectares through recent programmes. The Government had also been developing funding mechanisms for those programmes although they still faced a shortfall. Communities were being empowered and illegal logging discouraged, he said. With 17,000 hectares being converted to farming land each year, local communities should have a role in preserving forests, he noted, emphasizing the particular importance of sustainable forest use in that context.
GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, noted that 1.6 million people, most of them poor, still depended on forests for their livelihoods. The financial and climate crises had made it even more important to realize the link between sustainable forest management, poverty eradication and other important efforts, but poor countries had to struggle to better manage their forests for those purposes. “The [least developed countries], due to their lack of technical and forest capacity, have experienced great difficulty in their attempts towards sustainable forest management.” He called for the fulfilment of commitments to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, including funding for sustainable forest management, through more direct, dedicated and predictable mechanisms. The establishment of a Global Forest Fund could realize those goals, he said, adding that adaptation and mitigation of climate effects were interlinked with sustainable forestry.
Speaking in his national capacity, he said Nepal’s national programmes sought to involve local communities in forest management, which was crucial for poverty reduction. A long-term plan was being formulated, through multi-stakeholder consultation, in an effort to reduce forest degradation, he added.
CHARLES BARBER ( United States) said 2011 brought opportunities to highlight the importance of forests, but there was also a heightened responsibility to reach agreement on key issues. He hoped the Forum would be able to adopt proposals on financing, land tenure, local participation, social dimensions, combating illegal logging and an enabling constitutional environment to enable the achievement of all those goals. The United States valued the participation of many organizations and different types of stakeholders in the Forum, and also looked forward to regional input.
ZURINAH PAWANTEH (Malaysia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the sustainable management of forests in her country was crucial for development and poverty eradication. Under the policy guidance of the relevant sectors of ASEAN, Malaysia was working at both the national and regional levels to promote sustainable forest management and economic growth, she said. In the area of financing, she expressed her support for the notion of a Global Forestry Fund.
SIBYLLE VERMONT ( Switzerland) said the present session was a unique opportunity to take the Forum’s message to the highest international level at the Rio+20 Conference in 2012. Discussions were needed on timber and non-timber products, sustainable forest management and other core topics. While some communities were more dependent on forests than others for their direct livelihoods, the value of forests and forest products was essential to the international economy. Nonetheless, the international community’s work on forests was not well balanced, she said, adding that it was now time to talk about all types of forests, not just tropical ones. Sub-tropical and other types of forests were also essential in mitigating climate change and must be included on the Forum’s agenda, she emphasized. In addition, specific decisions must be taken during the current session in recognition that forests were an integral part of all human lives.
ALHASSAN ATTAH (Ghana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, stressed the need to reach a consensus on forest financing, adding that one way to achieve it was to create an interim mechanism that would evolve into a permanent forest-financing mechanism. Ghana hoped to engage in constructive discussions on that matter during the present session, he said, adding that it was important to send a strong and positive message on forests to the Rio+20 Conference. The present session’s theme, “Forests for People”, highlighted the balance needed between forest use and sustainable forest management, he said. The “ Ghana approach”, focusing on strong monitoring and evaluation of forest management and policies, could be useful in the current consultations. The success of Ghana’s forestry programme was based in large part on strong partnerships among stakeholders and the existing strong national forest structure, he said.
PAULINO FRANCO DE CARVALHO NETO ( Brazil), noting that it was a great responsibility to defend common forest interests, associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, remarking that it comprised a long list of developing States. Following the success of recent international meetings on climate change and related matters, including the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Cancun, the Forum “could not afford to stall discussions” on sustainable development and poverty eradication, he said, stressing that it must send a clear message, and its discussions must lead to creative and realistic solutions for the establishment of a Global Forest Fund. The Forum’s outcomes would constitute a political message to be sent to the Rio+20 Conference in 2012.
ISMAIL BELEN ( Turkey) said that conserving biodiversity, dealing with climate change and achieving the Millennium Goals would be impossible without taking the role of forests into consideration. Turkey had invested considerably in protecting and developing its forests in the last three decades, he said, adding that all national forests were run in accordance with forest management plans. The country had demonstrated its interest in the International Year of Forests, 2011 initiative by launching the Year officially at the national level and by preparing and starting to implement its “Forests 2011 Action Plan”. The Turkish delegation was also participating actively in the Forum, including by organizing a side event and hosting a high-level event with the participation of the Minister for Forestry and Environment, he said, adding that his country had signed bilateral forestry agreements with 20 countries.
TAKESHI GOTO ( Japan) said it was important that the international forestry community take advantage of this year’s opportunities and make progress on key issues. Much institutional progress had been made in past decades but deforestation remained an urgent problem. Since forests were critical for many areas of life, it was important to empower communities to implement sustainable forest management, he said, adding that there was also a need for the broad participation of a variety of actors, including the private sector, and for good governance. For that reason, he encouraged regional, international and other organizations to make a full analysis of financing mechanisms and other processes, pledging his country’s continued involvement in those efforts and in working constructively for progress during the present session.
BEN MITCHELL ( Australia) said that the session was a good opportunity to develop mechanisms for effective forest management. Describing his country’s efforts to stem the trade in illegal logging products, he said they could have positive effects in a range of areas. Australia was working with regional and other organizations to develop a consistent system to stop illegal logging and encourage sustainable forest management, he said.
MOSHIBUDI RAMPEDI ( South Africa), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said South Africa had a long legacy of sustainable forest management, even though it was a water-stressed country. It hosted many world gatherings on the subject and had signed on to related international instruments. South Africa had also adopted the Forestry Transformation Charter, which allowed more people to participate in the forestry sector, she said.
SAMUELA LAGATAKI ( Fiji) welcomed the opportunity to be one of the countries included in a Case Study on Forest Financing, representing small island developing States under the United Nations Forum on Forests Facilitative Process. Findings from the study, the first of its kind, would help the Government of Fiji revise and consolidate its revenue streams from the forest sector. Following the passing of new national legislation in 2007, Fiji had continued to implement policies based on sustainable forest management, he said. They included the Fiji National Forest Programme, launched in 2009, and the revised Fiji Forest Harvesting Code of Practice, launched in 2010. Despite those strides, he said, Fiji continued to face technical capacity issues and resource constraints, especially in terms of monitoring and reporting progress on the implementation of the non-legally-binding instrument and the four global objectives on forests. Fiji would, therefore, support the Forum’s efforts to support the ability of small island developing States to make submissions in such areas, he said, adding that it would be ideal if such assistance were carried out in collaboration with the Forum’s regional counterpart, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
ANGELO SARTORI ( Chile) said his country attached great importance to aligning national actions with the four global objectives on forests currently under examination by the Forum. Chile was working to reduce rural poverty through efforts to protect its most vulnerable populations, as well as national training and awareness programmes on forests and the creation of better channels for wood-based and other forest products. Making forest management a core part of sustainable development would require joint efforts at the international and national levels, he said.
LAMBERT OKRAH, Canadian Environmental Network, speaking on behalf of major civil society groups, said all such groups had a strong investment in seeing strong outcomes from the present session, both for the sake of improving the livelihoods of forest-dependent people and for the sustainability of forests. It was crucial that the Forum produce strong outcomes because the loss of forests and the need for their sustainable use by dependent people were becoming more critical over time. The Forum must be ambitious and willing to back strong initiatives with financing, he said, adding that such messages would be amplified at the multi-stakeholder dialogue later in the session. Describing the results of a recent civil-society conference in Accra, Ghana, he said forests and forest-dependent people deserved the international community’s full attention and support.
Introduction of Reports
JAN MCALPINE, Director, United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, introduced reports on Community-Based Forest Management (document E/CN.18/2011/4), Cultural and social values of forests and social development (document E/CN.18/2011/5) and Conclusions and recommendations for addressing key challenges of forests for people, livelihoods and poverty eradication (document E/CN.18/2011/6.
She said that only by linking people’s forest-related needs, desires and value systems could a way be found to support both the economic and environmental aspects of forest management. While many forests were sources of recreation, they also played a crucial spiritual role and were often sacred for hundreds of millions who lived in them, she said, adding: “To many people, forests are their life.” Such stakeholders also had the least-heard voice in decision-making and some current forms of forest management excluded them, she noted, stressing that effective, inclusive and transparent forest governance and land tenure were essential components in managing forests for all.
There was also a need for business models that would take into account the non-cash benefits accruing to local communities, she said. Community-based forest management entailed the involvement of local stakeholders, and took more time, effort and resources to set up than centrally controlled forestry, while providing great benefits. Associations linking communities with timber companies had provided benefits, she said, adding that community-based forest management was linked to many other programmes in the fields of development, climate change and other major parts of the international agenda, opening up greater opportunities for partnerships and financing.
Amid discussion of the reports, the representative of Hungary, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said forests were not only natural systems, but the result of interactions with social systems of which they were a part. The cultural value of forests and trees was expressed in countless ways through oral traditions, literature, poetry and art, he said. Regarding the management of urban and peri-urban forests, the challenge for policymakers was to link forest governance to that of cities, bearing in mind their interlinkages, such as water, energy and timber supply, the need for public access to forests, and the loss and fragmentation of natural spaces as a result of urban expansion. Social concerns should also form an integral part of the international community’s consideration of the green economy, in which forestry and forest industries could play a significant role, he said.
The representative of China said her country’s national forest policies were based on protecting people’s livelihoods. Related initiatives had been undertaken in four main areas: forestry reform on the basis of collective ownership of forest lands; returning farmland to forestry; encouraging communities to take part in forest management and providing them with open paths to do so; and an emphasis on the cultural values of forests, which was a part of China’s national cultural policies. China considered forests a “comprehensive issue” in the improvement of livelihoods, she said, calling for informed participation by local communities in forest management policy, as well as increased technical and financial support for forest management, among other things.
The representative of India said community-based forest management in his country had proved successful, with an increase in forest cover and income derived from forests. The rights of traditional forest dwellers were protected by law. India had enacted the Biological Diversity Act and proposed the Green India initiative, taking a holistic view of forestry with the aim of encouraging the convergence of various related sectors.
The representative of Grenada, affirming that forestry and people were inextricably connected, said the Forum must continue to advocate for the integration of local communities into forest management. Noting the absence of some representatives of small island developing States, he said the full participation of all parties was crucial, particularly since small island developing States were at a disadvantage in implementing sustainable forest management. For that reason, the Forum should include a focus on their problems during the present session, he said.
The representative of the United States, noting that sustainable forest management required multiple approaches, said practical ways must be developed to reward communities that were good stewards of forests. She agreed with proposals for the creation of an enabling environment for community-based forestry, while also addressing the drivers of forest degradation that lay outside the community.
The representative of Brazil described a successful community-based forest management programme that his country had been implementing since the 1990s. Based on the extraction of timber without using expensive equipment, it provided sustainable work for local farmers and was carried out using traditional methods, he said, adding that the project was part of a general national policy that emphasized the protection of forest areas and eco-services.
The representative of the Republic of Korea recalled that forest degradation had had a negative impact in the past, leading to the loss of food production. Today the country was pursuing a course of action that emphasized increased use of public resources and worked to improve local incomes while preventing illegal logging, among other goals. The Republic of Korea supported the use of alterative energy sources and community-based approaches to forest management, as well as the protection of those whose livelihoods depended on forests. The country’s experience could be instrumental in discussions on such matters, he said, noting that knowledge-sharing would be crucial to the Forum’s work.
The representative of Japan said it was crucial to improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent people, with the forests also providing a safety net for many other people living in poverty. In that way, sustainable forest management was important for human security. Land-use rights, access, training and education of forest-dependent communities were important for community-based management and an appropriate basis for sharing benefits, he said. He agreed with the broad perspective taken by the Secretary-General in community forestry. The value of planted forests must be recognized, he said, adding that a long-term perspective was also needed on forest-related supply, demand, ownership and impact. Planted forests occupied 40 per cent of forested areas in Japan, which had devised an integral management system that took into account smallholders, many of whom had withdrawn from active management over time.
The representative of Switzerland called attention to the results of intergovernmental workshops on the current topics, saying they had been held on four continents over the last six years and were now available as a report of the Forum. The decentralization of forest management could yield results, subject to certain conditions, including the empowerment of local communities, restricting corruption, increasing transparency and proper land use, he said, welcoming the coordination between the Forum on Forests and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues regarding community-based forest management.
The representative of Kenya, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his country had embarked on an ambitious programme to increase forest coverage by 10 per cent by the year 2030. There were many challenges, including that of maintaining farming output, which required an integrated agricultural initiative to ensure that farmers saw the value of planting trees next to farm land. Those initiatives had been “very challenging” for Kenya, he said, adding that the country would highly value the creation of a Global Forest Fund.
The representative of Jamaica said that, in the last 12 years, her country had been focused on developing local forestry groups governed by a strategic national forestry plan. Eight such groups had been established and they worked closely to manage forests in a sustainable manner, through a decentralized system. The groups actively participated in national policy through community meetings, providing advice and generating ideas on forest management plans and regulations, she said, adding that they also helped with alternative livelihood development projects and related matters. Jamaica was also holding community-based activities, workshops and seminars as part of the International Year of Forests, 2011, she said, urging the Forum to explore ways in which small island developing States could build capacity and contribute actively to international discussions on topics relating to forests.
The representative of Canada said that, while his delegation supported the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report, Member States must maintain a “proper balance” when requesting actions and further work from the Collaborative Partnership on Forests. As a member of the Forum, the Collaborative Partnership was already engaged in forest-related international discussions on many levels, he pointed out.
The representative of Peru said his country had been working with indigenous communities to prevent further forest degradation, with the main instrument being payments used as a first step to leverage additional funds for investment in sustainable activities. Communities had to commit themselves to such efforts, including forest-management training, while also working in productive activities, he said, adding that the programme had a 10-year monitoring plan.
The representative of Malaysia, noting the specificities of her country’s timber-certification scheme, objected to recommendations that called for reforming national legislation. She said most of Malaysia’s forests were State-owned, though some were designated for indigenous communities. The recommendations for reforming forest-related laws, along with reporting requirements, would hinder information gathering and sovereign rights, she stressed, asking other delegates to set aside differences in such areas as timber-certification schemes and work to allow various ways to accomplish the goals of sustainable community forest management.
The representative of Norway highlighted three areas of importance: involvement of local communities in forest management and forest policies; protection of indigenous people and their livelihoods; and the linkage between forests and agriculture. Those were essential aspects of productive forest management in the future, he said.
The representative of Jordan emphasized the need for policies to support poor countries, especially those vulnerable to desertification, saying such policies should also encourage scientific research into reducing desertification. Jordan had made “great steps” in conserving forest coverage and supported the recommendations discussed during the present session, he said.
Ms. MCALPINE, Director, United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on Enhanced Cooperation and Policy and Programme Coordination (document E/CN.18/2011/10) and the text on Collaborative Partnership on Forests Framework 2009 and 2010 (document E/CN.18/2011), saying reports on cooperation had become redundant because the information they contained had already been integrated into substantive papers. However, there was a long way to go towards integrating forest issues with related climate-change, indigenous and post-conflict issues, in addition to questions of post-natural disaster management and preparations for the Rio+20 Conference.
Citing an example of the need for better integration, she said that, after the Haiti earthquake of 12 January 2010, she had proposed the use of natural resources because survivors would be looking for fuel to cook their food, but had been told that such issues would have to wait some three years as there was no time to consider them during an emergency. The Forum Secretariat was working to change that mindset, she said.
It had already obtained good results in broader coordination with members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, particularly the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). In addition, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) had provided financing to facilitate work in Low Forest Cover Countries, she said, expressing hope that more specific integration of financing would come out of the present session.
Regarding cooperation with stakeholders, she cited the Major Group-Led Initiative, which brought together stakeholders from diverse sectors, as well as side participation in the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Financing, before going on to describe country- and organization-led initiatives. Looking to the future, she said the Forum might wish to invite the Collaborative Partnership on Forests to continue to develop the framework and implement joint activities on the International Year of Forests, 2011. While the financial crisis had impacted joint activities, the means had been developed to mitigate its impact, she said.
The representative of Brazil said the Amazon Protected Areas Programme had created four major protected areas in her country since its inception. The programme was implemented by State environmental agencies, in partnership with other institutes, funds and non-governmental agencies, he said, offering to engage in a mutual exchange of information on the programme with other delegations.
The representative of Hungary, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said stakeholder engagement was critical to implementation of a forestry instrument. Efforts to strengthen the multi-stakeholder approach — which had been a main focus at a recent meeting in Accra, Ghana — had been very successful, he added, welcoming the creation of draft guidelines for country-, region- and Major Group-led initiatives in support of the Forum. The European Union also welcomed the collaborative efforts on the International Year of Forests, 2011, between the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, Member States and regional groups.
The representative of Turkey outlined some activities on which that country was collaborating with the FAO concerning adaptation of the forestry sector to climate change and other areas.
The representative of Senegal called for support to sub-Sahelian partnerships of Low-Forest Cover countries, and thanked the GEF, the FAO, the European Union and other donors, requesting them to help similar programmes to be set up under the best conditions possible.
The representative of the United States supported recommendations on the Collaborative Partnership and on support of the facilitative process. He also supported the Partnership’s development of priorities for joint efforts and joint messages. He requested an overview of the Forum’s overall planning and funding for the next few years, or a kind of “business plan”, in order to help raise funding.
The representative of Canada, aligning himself fully with the comments by the delegates of Switzerland and the United States regarding the Forum’s priorities, said competition for resources was very strong, and it was important to do the best work possible. Canada recommended that the draft guidelines for country-, region-, and Major Group-led initiatives in support of the Forum aim to maximize flexibility, as new and relevant issues might emerge. Finally, he questioned the requirement for financial reporting, suggesting that financial reports might be presented on a voluntary basis.
The representative of India said that, while the Collaborative Partnership’s efforts on implementing financing for sustainable forest management were admirable, countries also needed to address that issue on their own. India had established a national mechanism for forest funding and had diverted dedicated forest land under that mechanism. So far $3 million had been collected and was being spent on wildlife and nature conservation, among other related types.
The representative of Jordan said his country was continually attempting to preserve its scarce forest cover and had made various efforts to mobilize support for increasing its green cover, including the establishment of a network of natural reservations. Those efforts were aimed at involving the largest possible number of people, he said, expressing hope that the Forum would work to establish a data and information network for use by countries with similar climates, as it had become clear that climate change was affecting forests worldwide.
The representative of Japan echoed Canada’s statement calling for maximum flexibility in the drafting of guidelines on country-, region- and Major Group-led initiatives in support of the Forum.
The representative of Brazil said the question at hand was not merely a matter of competition for resources, but a political issue. Flexibility and creativity were needed, in addition to market solutions, he said, pointing out that one mantra could not be substituted by another.
Ms. MCALPINE, responding to delegates’ comments, said the average expenditure for a country-led initiative was half a million dollars and the methods for reporting such initiatives were being developed.
She then introduced the report of the Secretary-General on Regional and subregional inputs (document E/CN.18/2011/3), a new part of the multi-year programme on work. Inputs had been received from 17 regional partners, she said, adding that they were insightful and provided clarity on the relationship between the regional and universal character of forestry issues. Input for the current session focused on the theme “Forests for People”, she said, adding that a further engagement with regional banks was desired as part of the focus on financing options.
ARVIDA OZOLS ( Latvia), Chair of the Forum, then introduced a panel on the kind of regional and subregional inputs received. Moderated by Paola Deda, Chief of the Forestry and Timber Section of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), it featured panellists Jean-Jacques Zam, Member of Parliament from Cameroon and Coordinator of the Parliamentary Network for Sustainable Forest Management of the Congo Basin; Peter Besseau, Head of the Secretariat of the International Model Forest Network; and Doris Capistrano, Chair of the External Advisory Group on the World Bank’s Forest Strategy.
Ms. DEDA opened the panel discussion by reiterating the importance of sustainable forest management in the regional context and explaining that the panellists had been selected for their expertise, as well as their involvement in successful and replicable regional initiatives.
Mr. ZAM said 10 Central African States were engaged in efforts to protect the subregion’s forests, which were a vital source of life, as well as goods and services. The involvement of community groups in forest management was, therefore, vital. Some 30 million people in the Congo Basin lived in forests, including native groups and Bantu farmers located on the forest edges, he said. Deforestation and forest degradation in the Congo Basin were closely linked to agriculture and the depletion of certain species, he said, noting that the negative trend also affected food security.
So far, no country in Central Africa had signed the International Labour Organization (ILO) convention guaranteeing the rights of native peoples to their land, he said, adding that widespread poverty had resulted from the commercial exploitation of the forests “without regard for good governance”. Strong efforts to solve the problems of the Congo Basin and protect its forests should be further enhanced, he said. Specifically, new mechanisms could be developed to protect the rights and livelihoods of native persons.
Mr. BESSEAU showed a map of the regional networks comprising the International Model Forest Network, a partnership to achieve sustainability on landscapes through appropriate governance structures. Chile’s Alto Malleco Model Forest, for example, was an inclusive governance model for indigenous communities, he said, adding that people dependent on the Ulot Model Forest in the Philippines had developed the production of pili nuts, cocoa coir fibre in addition to rattan processing. In Cameroon’s model forests, platforms for women and indigenous peoples had been created to decide on sustainable income-generating activities, he said, noting that what they all had in common was community-based governance and decision-making.
He said the social dimensions of forest management were the most complicated, but community involvement was crucial, as were resource agencies. He said he had also learned that there was high value in working on a large physical scale and across disciplines with many partners. Openness to new strategies was also of benefit, he said, adding that a clear economic dividend must be provided to local stakeholders, while keeping in mind the extra-monetary dimensions of the enterprise. In that vein, well-targeted funds were sometimes better than large investments, he said, concluding with an affirmation of the value of networking in forest management issues.
Ms. CAPISTRANO recalled that a series of workshops held from 2004 had been motivated by interrelated realities between regions. They had all featured a mix of stakeholders, including community organizations, organized around key aspects of forest-management decentralization, as well as the cross-cutting issues of livelihoods, equity and sustainable development.
The first workshop in that series, held in Switzerland, had found that decentralization was a non-linear process that needed to take each particular local context into account. It had also found that decentralization required certain critical elements, including transparent, inclusive decision-making and effective capacity-building. The second workshop, held in Indonesia, had reinforced the findings of its Swiss counterpart, in particular the importance of local context in the pace of decentralization. It had also found that corruption was a major impediment to decentralization in the Asian context. Two additional workshops had then been held in South Africa and Mexico, she said.
Noting that several themes had cut across all the regional workshops, she said they included the importance of participatory approaches and transparency, and the need to include marginalized groups such as women and indigenous communities. Recommendations emerging from the workshop series had proposed, among other things, the elimination of barriers preventing local communities from accessing markets and forest revenues, and the strengthening of national capacities to meet market demands for forest products and services.
The representative of Indonesia shared recent progress on networking for sustainable forest management within ASEAN.
The representative of Turkey said his country was sharing its experience in fighting desertification with other nations, adding that problems in forestry would be discussed at the upcoming United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, to be held in Istanbul. Inviting the Forum to attend, he announced a model forest project involving honey production.
A representative of the Asia Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management introduced the new regional organization, which had the goal of increasing forest cover by at least 20 million hectares by 2020. Among many other activities, it had provided training to forest management professionals and held many workshops and awareness-raising events in the last three years, she said.
A representative of the Central African Forests Commission said the region was full of paradox, because it was rich in forests but most of its inhabitants were poor. Using forests for the benefit of people was, therefore, the Commission’s priority. Efforts to that end were being made at both the national and subregional levels, including the development of infrastructure and advocacy for better distribution of benefits and sustainability. It was important for initiatives everywhere to pursue the same goals, he said.
A representative of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) said the regional grouping was working to build a stable and prosperous Central Africa around three priority areas: security and stability; infrastructure; and water. It had developed a general environmental policy, part of which dealt with forestry and forest matters, he said, noting that it focused in that regard on several priority areas, including a regional approach to environmental programmes, outreach actions stressing the importance of the value of the Congo Basin forests, and financing, among others. The Community was also providing technical and financial support for various Central African projects. Nonetheless, the subregion faced setbacks, including a lack of human resources, a dearth of qualitative and quantitative knowledge of forests, and a shortage of policies to improve timber market conditions. ECCAS, therefore, requested the Forum to place those matters on its agenda.
A representative of Forest Europe, noting that European forests had the potential to help mitigate climate change, said that potential should be put to use while minimizing the region’s ecological footprint. Forest Europe had been working for 20 years to establish sustainable forest management programmes and was committed to further such action, he said, adding that its next ministerial conference would be held in Oslo, Norway, in June.
A representative of the United States, which currently chairs the Montreal Process on Temporal and Arboreal Forests, outlined its membership and purposes, saying its themes and indicators were directly relevant to the Forum’s concerns in the economic, cultural and social realms. She added that she looked forward to working with new partners and sharing results in 2011 and beyond.
Ms. CAPISTRANO then introduced the ECE’s joint timber project with the FAO, and outlined the Commission’s efforts in sustainable forestry management. The ECE worked with Forest Europe and helped to develop criteria for sustainable management, among other endeavours, she said.
A representative of the Secretariat of the Tehran Process for Low Forest Cover Countries noted that, in his reports, the Secretary-General identified many of the risks facing low forest cover countries. Through significant international work and cooperation, the Secretariat had identified priority actions and guidelines for good forestry practices in the Near East and other regions. A meeting on urban and peri-urban forests had been held in 2003, in addition to several workshops and meetings to consider themes and strategies for low forest cover countries. The importance of the Low Forest Cover Countries Secretariat had also been highlighted at many recent meetings of international environmental processes, he said.
The representative of Iran said his country was willing to cooperate with the Forum and agreed with the statements by the Secretariat of the Tehran Process for Low Forest Cover Countries.
The representative of Mexico spoke of regional initiatives including the Meso-American Biological Corridor, peninsular initiatives supported by REDD Plus and regional workshops held in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2010.
A representative of the European Union said the bloc was involved in cross-border and multilateral cooperation, but also with awareness-raising and planning for forestry issues. One of the options under discussion was a pan-European binding agreement on sustainable forestry. Extensive regional initiatives within Europe were also under discussion, he said, adding that the protection of forests was a major concern in light of climate change. He expressed hope that the current session, and the International Year of Forests, 2011, would be major opportunities to integrate the work of regional and subregional organizations into that of the Forum.
* *** *For information media • not an official record