Pekka Patosaari
UNFF Secretariat
photo courtesy of ENB/IISD

Last month our Forum reached an important milestone. The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the organ to which the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) reports, approved the outcome of the sixth session of the UNFF, thus confirming the expansion of the principle functions of the international arrangement on forests and the four Global Objectives on Forests. This decision, in the form of an ECOSOC resolution, also confirms our path toward the negotiation of a non-legally binding instrument on Forests.

It is obvious that this cannot be done without close collaboration with all actors, and it puts additional stress on the UNFF Secretariat to facilitate coordination cross-sectorally. This call to action reiterates decisions taken by Heads of State at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) - to take immediate action on domestic forest law enforcement and illegal trade in forest products, while improving sustainable forest management (SFM) practices.

The decision included two minor changes: UNFF will now host an Ad Hoc Expert Group to consider the content of a non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests, instead of a Working Group as initially envisaged. This change in technical terms will enable greater flexibility in the use of funds for the participation of representatives from developing countries and assuage any concern regarding budgetary implications. We at the Secretariat are working to ensure that the meeting meets the expectations embodied in the resolution and look forward to beginning negotiations on the non-legally binding instrument in December.

In addition to this change, ECOSOC recommended that the International Year of Forests take place in 2011, rather than in 2010. This proposal will now be taken up by the General Assembly in the fall. The prospect of an international year dedicated to raise awareness on forests and Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) provides an excellent opportunity to bring greater public attention to the multiple values of resources embodied in forests and we look forward to its adoption.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the delegates, organizations and countless individuals that continue to support the work of the UN Forum and Forests. The next six months will be critical to ensuring that the priorities and ambitious goals outlined in the ECOSOC resolution negotiated at the sixth session are expanded into a robust, innovative and viable non-legally binding instrument and program of work that will ensure the continued expansion of sustainable forest management around the world. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure the continued success of this important process.



Changes to UNFF6 decision made by ECOSOC before adoption:
  1. UNFF will now hold an Ad-Hoc Expert Group on the non-legally binding instrument rather than an Ad-Hoc Working Group.

  2. ECOSOC recommended to the General Assembly that the International Year of Forests take place in 2011, instead of in 2010 as originally proposed.


Compilation of Proposals on NLBI Available for Comments

The ECOSOC resolution on the outcome of the sixth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests calls for the conclusion and adoption at the seventh session of the UN Forum on Forests of a non-legally binding instrument (NLBI) on all types of forests. The resolution contains an annex with six proposals provided by the African Group, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union and the United States of America on possible elements for the non-legally binding instrument. Following the sixth session, an additional 10 proposals were submitted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States of America. Australia, Brazil and the United States of America submitted a second set of proposals. In addition, two major groups--Children and Youth and Women--also provided inputs.

The UNFF7 Bureau invites member States and relevant organizations to submit comments on the proposals no later than 15 September 2006. These comments can be sent to the UNFF Secretariat. All comments will be made available on the UNFF website and circulated to member States.

UNFF7 Bureau Meeting

The UNFF 7 Bureau held its second meeting at UN Headquarters, New York, on 24 -25 August 2006, under the chairmanship of Mr. Hans Hoogeveen. Bureau members considered, among other matters, the outcome of the 2006 ECOSOC session as regards the amendments on the UNFF6 report and the preparations for the ad hoc expert group (AHEG) meeting on the non-legally binding instrument (NLBI), including the compilation of country proposals on the elements of the NLBI. In order to solicit more comments on the compilation, the Bureau decided to extend the date for receiving comments from member States to 15 September 2006. The dates and venue of the AHEG meeting were confirmed as 11 to 15 December 2006 in New York.

The Bureau also considered the substantive topics of the Seventh Session of the UNFF (16-27 April 2007, New York), particularly, the multi-year programme of work, interagency collaboration, regional aspects and scheduling of future meetings of the Bureau. The Bureau welcomed the Country Led Initiative (CLI) being organised by the Government of Indonesia with support from the Government of Germany and other potential donor countries and organisations. The CLI will be held in February 2007 in Bali, Indonesia.

The next meeting of the Bureau is scheduled for the 12th of October 2006. For more information on the UNFF 7 Bureau.

Online Forum on Forest Governance

The Forum Secretariat organized the second online discussion forum from 11-18 August 2006. These discussion forums are intended to provide a space for the wider online community to discuss emerging issues.

Recognizing that forest governance is not an either/or issue, the Secretariat, nonetheless, provided two intentionally polarized perspectives as an effort to spur discussion, one highlighting the benefits of a centralized regime and the other the benefits of a predominantly local regime.

The Secretariat also invited Dr. Arnoldo Contreras to provide a hybrid approach to forest governance. He argued that there are efficiency gains to be made if responsibility is devolved to the lowest level where an informed decision can be made. The difficulty lies in identifying which responsibilities should be devolved and how. He further stated that countries should consider which functions should be discharged by governments and which are better left to non-government institutions based on comparative advantage and gaps in activity. Dr. Contreras emphasized the importance and difficulty in devolving both responsibility and power simultaneously. He stressed the potential for local communities to hold local governments accountable for decisions if delineation of responsibilities and authority are clear.

The responses to these introductory pieces revealed a diverse set of approaches and concerns. Readers seemed to agree that decentralization is not a “panacea” and that the approach taken should rely heavily on the local context. One participant from Thailand argued that the success of decentralization in developed countries may be correlated to high levels of education at the local level. A stronger central governance regime may be more favorable in developing countries lacking high levels of education in rural areas. A participant from Lebanon cited high levels of corruption and the lack of understanding of the diverse values of forest resources as the main causes of deforestation and degradation, stating that misguided policies and abusive exploitation inhibit the potential of forests to provide sustainable economic and social development in rural areas. He stated that many governments lack the capacity to create and implement participatory approaches to decision making and forest management.

Mr. Ryo Kohsaka of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity shared views expressed by Parties to the Convention in national reports. He stated that there are no recognizable trends regarding decentralization either within regions or according to levels of economic development. Parties expressed significantly divergent views regarding the roles of local and indigenous communities with some arguing that the involvement of local and indigenous communities is essential for sustainable management of resources and others reporting that a lack of awareness among local communities is leading to the proliferation of unsustainable practices. Many Parties noted the importance of non-governmental organizations in facilitating the transfer of authority.

More than 250 people viewed this month’s discussion.

Forest products at the market
place in Brazil.
Photo courtesy of Catherine Chase.
July 2006

Upcoming Activities and Events

Ad Hoc Expert Group on the Consideration of Content of the Non-legally Binding Instrument
11-15 December 2006, New York

The ad hoc expert group is intended to provide the content of a non-legally binding instrument for the consideration of the Forum at its seventh session. The work of the ad hoc expert group will take into account the compilation of the draft indicative elements and other proposals submitted by member States during the sixth session of the Forum, as well as proposals submitted after the session and all respective comments. All proposals are now available on the UNFF website and member States are invited to submit comments.

It will be composed of experts designated by Governments of the member States of the Forum. These experts should have well-recognized scientific and technical expertise on the forest regime and the Rio conventions as well as knowledge of the intergovernmental forest policy deliberations of the Forum and IPF, IFF.

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests shall be invited to make scientific and technical contributions to the work of the ad hoc expert group in a resource capacity.

Intergovernmental organizations and representatives of major groups, with relevant expertise, may participate in the meeting, in accordance with the rules of procedure of the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council, as well as practices established by the Forum, the Commission on Sustainable Development, IPF and IFF. They may be invited to make scientific and technical contributions.

Travel support and a daily subsistence allowance will be provided to one country expert from each developing country, as well as to one country expert from countries with economies in transition, in the most cost-effective manner, to the maximum extent possible from the budget, supplemented by voluntary extra-budgetary contributions.

Country-led Initiative in Support of the United Nations Forum on Forests "Multi-Year Programme of Work of the United Nations Forum on Forests: Charting the Way Forward 2015"

The Government of Indonesia announced in July its intention to host a country-led initiative in support of the UN Forum on Forests. The meeting is intended to provide an opportunity to explore, elaborate and develop a broader understanding of the possible concepts and elements to be included in the new multi-year programme of work (MYPOW) of the UN Forum on Forests. Expected outputs of the meeting include recommendations to UNFF-7 regarding the structure and substance of the MYPOW; inter-linkages between the MYPOW and the non-legally binding instrument on Forests; strengthening the regional dimension in the work of the international arrangement on forests through the MYPOW; and possible approaches to accomplishing the global objectives on forests and the new principal functions of the UN Forum on Forests.

The meeting will take place in Bali, Indonesia from 13/14-16 February 2007. Participants will include experts from UNFF member States, relevant inter-governmental organizations and representatives of major groups. For more information, please contact Mr. Tri Tharyat, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the United Nations.

POSTPONED - Seminar on Science, Policy and Practice: Improving Forest Governance

The seminar on science, policy and practices: improving forest governance to be held in October at UN headquarters has been postponed due to resource constraints. It is anticipated that the seminar will take place early next year. The seminar is expected to contribute to the Secretariat's efforts to define its approach, scope and strategy at the international level for promoting implementation of internationally agreed decisions on forests and governance.

Thanks to all who have expressed interest in this event. Please continue to send ideas, comments and expressions of interest to Ghazal Badiozamani.

Next On-line Discussion Board: "Ownership and Sustainable Forest Management"

The next UNFF on-line discussion board will be open from 6-13 October and will focus on the link between “Ownership and Sustainable Forest Management”.

The discussion boards will also be used from October to December by the Major Groups to gather and assess input to the discussion papers to be presented at the seventh session of the UNFF. Please stay tuned for more details.

UNFF Calendar of Events

For information on upcoming forest-related events, please visit our website.

Ambassador Bahemuka Bids Farewell to New York

The Chairwoman of the sixth session of the UN Forum on Forests, H.E. Ambassador Judith Mbula Bahemuka, has completed her tour of duty as the Permanent Representative of The Republic of Kenya to the United Nations in New York. Her presence will be greatly missed by the Forum. We wish her all the best in her new position as Kenya’s High Commissioner to Canada in Ottawa.

Photo courtesy of IISD/ENB

UNFF Staff Update

We in the Secretariat would like to extend our most sincere apologies for not including our farewell to Mr. Peter Csoka in our last newsletter. Mr. Csoka left the Secretariat in May 2006 to resume his duties as Director-General of the State Forest Service of Hungary after more than two years of service with the UNFF Secretariat. We quickly came to rely on his steady leadership and ever-calm demeanor, so much so that we were perhaps still in denial about his absence. We wish him all the best and look forward to seeing him at future sessions of the UNFF.

We would also like to express our appreciation to Ms. Njeri Kariuki, Programme Officer, as she leaves the Secretariat and journeys to Sudan to join the UN Peacekeeping Mission as a Political Affairs Officer. Ms. Kariuki joined the Secretariat two years ago to lead our outreach and communications efforts and was instrumental in reviving our newsletter and maintaining continuous contact with the international and environmental media. We wish her a safe and successful mission.

And we would like to welcome Ms. Mita Sen to the Secretariat. Ms. Sen joins us from the Division for Sustainable Development as a Programme Officer where she was active in the preparations of the World Summit for Sustainable Development in 2004 and subsequently was instrumental in developing the Partnerships for Sustainable Development programme. We are confident that she will make an excellent addition to our team.

Reminder to Member States: Please Update National Focal Points

We would like to invite all member States who have not yet done so to ensure that the name and contact information listed on our website is correct and up to date. Minor corrections can be sent via email to the UNFF Secretariat. New nominations should be sent in hard copy through mail or fax (+1 917 367 3186). Please contact us if you would like copies of past communications regarding this matter and for templates of nomination letters.