Negotiators gather at UN to draft new agreement to manage world’s forests

11 December 2006 –

After years of deadlocked discussions and fragmented management of the world’s forests, representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society today began drafting a new agreement on international forest policy at a United Nations meeting in New York.

The negotiations this week on the pact by the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) will result in a non-legally binding instrument that will be adopted by the Forum next April. It will spell out an international forest policy to promote public awareness, provide a framework for sustainable forest management, serve as a practical guide for implementation, and provide a global platform for closer cooperation.

“This is indeed a giant leap forward for the international forest policy arena,” according to Hans Hoogeveen, Director of International Affairs for the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food, who is chairing the drafting process.

Forests cover 30 per cent of the world’s land area, and over 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on the forests for their livelihoods. Ambassador Hamidon Ali of Malaysia told a press briefing in New York that more than 800 million people live in or near tropical forests and are dependent on them for their subsistence. Most of them, he said, work in the informal sector.

“These communities are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable, and improving their plight requires urgent action,” he said. The only way to succeed in these efforts, he added, is through a well-coordinated mechanism connecting actors at all levels, from the Forum on Forests to local level practitioners.

“Well-managed forests contribute to disaster prevention, proper water resource management, carbon sequestration, protection of genetic resources, food security, as well as recreation and tourism,” Ambassador Ali observed.

The world is losing 13 million hectares of natural forests every year, largely because of human activities such as unsustainable harvesting of timber, unsound management of land, and the creation of human settlements, according to Pekka Patosaari, the Director of the UNFF Secretariat. The World Bank estimates that over $10 billion is lost every year due to illegal logging and trading.

Mr. Patosaari said that good governance, improved resource management, and effective rural development services are integral in efforts towards poverty reduction, sustainable growth, environmental protection, and the fight against corruption.

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