Pekka Patosaari
UNFF Secretariat
photo courtesy of ENB/IISD

One of the most encouraging outcomes of the sixth session was the strongly re-affirmed commitment to improved forest governance at all levels. Holding not only Governments, but also corporations and stakeholders accountable for good forest governance reflects the need for development and implementation of plans to address illegal practices and illegal international trade in forest products. This can be done through the promotion of forest law enforcement and governance, which should also include intensive awareness-building and establishment of higher ethical standards throughout the forest sector.

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.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed forest law enforcement and governance issues gain increasing political attention in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Regional Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) processes, as well as other processes and initiatives related to natural resources and peace-building undertaken by governments, inter-governmental agencies and NGOs, have all been fundamentally important in gaining trust and commitment for international action in support of good forest governance. I have followed these developments closely. It is my firm understanding that we should build on these promising processes, and carefully study ways to address these issues, as part of the UN Forum on Forests' future agenda. This should happen with the aim of enhancing our contribution to improved governance at the national and local levels. To that end, the Secretariat is already in the process of assessing the key elements for successful governance regimes and the relationship between governance and sustainable forest management.

Good forest governance, as part of our future agenda, could address several issues related to sustainable forest management, ranging from norm-setting and decision-making to forest law enforcement on the use of forest resources. My intention is to continue our efforts to contribute to existing regional processes, to support ongoing research, such as those conducted by CIFOR, and to collaborate with international and regional processes in order to promote progress on this important building block of sustainable forest management.
UNFF7 Bureau Meeting
The first meeting of the UNFF 7 Bureau was held on Wednesday 21 June 2006. Bureau members nominated Mr. Hans Hoogeveen, Director of International Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Netherlands, as the chairman of the UNFF 7 Bureau. The Bureau discussed the on-going preparations for the Open-Ended ad hoc Working Group and decided that it would meet from 11 to 15 December 2006 at UN Headquarters, New York. The Working Group is expected to consider the content of a Non-Legally Binding Instrument prior to the seventh session. The second Bureau meeting will be held in August this year.
UNFF 7 Bureau members:
  • Chile:
    H.E. Mr. Cristian Maquieira
    Director of Environmental, Antarctic and Maritime Affairs
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Gabon:
    Mr. André-Jules Madingou
    Technical Adviser
    Ministry of Forests, Water, Fisheries and National Parks
  • Latvia:
    Mr. Arvids Ozols
    Deputy State Secretary
    Ministry of Agriculture
  • Malaysia:
    H.E. Mr. Hamidon Ali
    Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
    Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations
  • The Netherlands:
    Mr. Hans Hoogeveen
    Director of International Affairs
    Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality
Online forum on "Root Causes of Deforestation"

The Forum Secretariat launched the first online discussion forum from 22-26 May. The discussion forum was intended as a means to reach the wider online community. During the one-week period, a wide range of participants contributed their views on what constitutes the root causes of deforestation.

Overall, most participants stated that the deforestation was caused by a combination of human activities such as unsustainable forest practices, poverty, lack of secure land tenure, lack of effective governance, and natural disasters. Participants noted that forests provide goods and services that are not valued at the market level. They identified the lack of economic incentives as a major contributor to deforestation. "Forests should be seen and managed taking in account its biodiversity, cultural meaning for indigenous people and communities living in it and depending on it, with all its cultural, biological, sociological and economic significance" one participant stressed.

The next online forum discussion will be held from 14-18 August and will be on "Improving forest governance".

Roundtable on Increasing Employment Opportunities and Productivity of Labour for Low Income Groups in Rural and Urban Areas (4-5 April, New York)
A roundtable on raising employment opportunities and productivity of low income groups in rural and urban areas was held as part of preparations for the High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Discussions revolved around the situation of working poor in rural and urban informal economies and highlighted among other things, the important and often overlooked role that the forest industry plays in promoting decent work opportunities for them.

Dr. David Kaimowitz, Director General, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), informed the Roundtable that forest-based activities were neglected because when discussing forests, people generally tended to think about the environment and forgot how important fuelwood, medicinal plants, wild meat and construction materials were to poor people. At the same time, many informal forest-related activities were deemed 'illegal' and tended to get neglected because they involved poor people, ethnic minorities, women, and other marginalized groups that did not normally get a lot of attention.

Despite the neglect, informal forest-related activities had the potential to generate more and relatively better jobs. Dr Kaimowitz proposed the following six specific suggestions addressed to governments, and grass-root forestry organizations:

photo above and banner photo courtesy of FAO, Roberto Faidutti, #CFU000304
  • National governments needed to continue to promote forest tenure reform, and give small farmers and local communities greater access to publicly-owned forests
  • The various explicit and implicit subsidies governments currently give to large-scale forest-related activities and poorly managed forest rehabilitation efforts had to be redirected to activities designed to truly improve livelihoods
  • Forest-related laws and regulations needed to be redesigned to stop criminalizing the poor and to encourage more participatory approaches to making forest management more sustainable
  • Micro-enterprise development projects needed to make specific efforts to support forest-based activities, and they needed to work with producers to make those activities more sustainable
  • There was a need to work closely with grass-roots forestry organizations, and
  • The five above-mentioned points needed to be fully reflected in Poverty Reduction Strategies with concrete measures to help poor people.

Forests are extremely important, providing a significant share of household income and they could be a lot more important if the right national policies were in place, Dr Kaimowitz concluded.

Further information on the Roundtable
Study on Forest Ownership and Governance
As part of a broader study on forest governance, the Forum Secretariat is in the process of preparing a background study on forest ownership and governance.

Although more than four-fifths of the world's forests are publicly owned, a shift towards decentralized ownership is developing. Many countries have initiated the process of transferring titles and tenure rights for some government-owned forest areas to local communities, indigenous groups, and private households. In developing countries, this transition has been due to, among other things, government recognition of the legal rights of indigenous communities to forest resources; and an increased awareness that local ownership may result in more effective protection, efficient use of resources, improved livelihoods, and in providing incentives for long-term investments in SFM. Similar shifts in countries with economies-in-transition have resulted in a major increase in private ownership in Europe.

While government ownership of forests will remain a dominant pattern, understanding forest ownership and tenure will no doubt help in developing strategies for the successful sustainable forest management and the forest-based poverty reduction policies. The study is expected to be completed and published in late 2006.
CPF Follow-up to UNFF6

The sixth session demonstrated support for strengthening international- and national-level collaboration for achieving the four Global Objectives on forests. The Forum Secretariat has contacted the thirteen other partner organizations that make up the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), requesting their direct and substantial support in the preparatory work for the seventh session. CPF participation is especially important now that an Open-Ended ad hoc Working Group will be convened in December this year to consider the content of a Non-Legally Binding Instrument (NLBI) and a new multi-year programme of work (MYPOW) for the Forum. In turn, close collaboration will assist CPF members’ deliberation over these issues in their respective governing bodies.

Further information on the CPF

Upcoming Activities and Events

Seminar on Science, Policy and Practice: Improving Forest Governance
to be held in October 2006 (UNHQ, New York)

The Forum Secretariat will hold a seminar on science, policy and practices: improving forest governance in October at UN headquarters. The seminar will 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.

Participants will include staff of other UN bodies working in this field, CPF members, relevant NGOs and interested member States. For more information, please contact Ghazal Badiozamani.

UNFF Calendar of Events

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

UNFF Staff Update

We in the Secretariat would like to wish Dr. Michel Laverdiere, Forest Affairs Officer, farewell as his tour of duty with the Secretariat comes to an end. Dr Laverdiere has been with us on secondment from FAO for the past two years. We wish him all the best in his new position as Regional Forestry Officer of the Regional FAO Office in Accra, Ghana.