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Support for Measures to Curtail Illegal Logging Trade Voiced at UN Forum on Forests

4 March 2002, New York – Alarmed that deforestation is continuing despite an increase in efforts to protect forests, delegates attending the second session of the United Nations Forum on Forests called for new measures that would address the substantial illegal trade in forest products.

The need for improved law enforcement was cited by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in one of the reports prepared for the Forum, as an emerging forest issue that must be addressed. Other emerging issues include insecure forest property rights, environmentally damaging subsidies that lead to unsustainable timber harvesting, and other land use practices that accelerate forest loss.

Venezuela, representing the Group of 77— a group of more than 130 developing countries— told the opening session of the Forum that it would support the establishment of mechanisms that would stem the illegal trade in forest products. And Spain, speaking for the European Union, called on the Forum to address issues of forest law enforcement and governance aimed at illegal logging and the related trade in forest products.

The results of this session of the Forest Forum, being held in New York from 4 to 15 March, will be considered at the World Summit on Sustainable Development that will take place this August in Johannesburg. To sharpen the focus and to raise the profile of forest issues at the Summit, a high-level session of Ministers will meet on 13-14 March to discuss a possible message to send to Johannesburg.

Johannesburg Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai told the Forum that the next Preparatory Committee meeting for the Summit will carefully consider the outcome of the Forum. He noted that the protection of forests hinged on many diverse factors, including the problematic issue of financing forest protection.

Indonesia, whose forests are home to 40 million people and which account for 10 per cent of the world's remaining tropical forests, said urgent attention must be given to combating illegal logging, controlling forest fires, restructuring the forest industry, promoting forest plantations and decentralizing forest management. "Like many developing countries," it said, "Indonesia still faces major financing constraints in its efforts to develop and implement its national forest programmes."

The UN Forum on Forests is now the focus of global efforts to promote sustainable forest management. The Forum will review current trends and practices to determine what is working, what can be done differently, and how additional resources can be mobilized to stave off further deforestation and forest degradation.

The growing recognition of the crucial role forests play in poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihoods, according to Forest Forum Chairman Knut Øistad of Norway, "gives forests an important place on the sustainable development agenda that will be discussed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development."

Several years of negotiating a common global approach to forest issues have generated many proposals for action. According to Jagmohan Maini, who heads the Forum Secretariat, close to 300 proposals for action were agreed upon by the Forum's predecessors, the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests. These proposals for action represent an international agenda for working toward sustainable forest management. "Now, we have to implement these proposals," Maini commented.

One of the primary goals of the Forum is to increase the political commitment of countries to forest issues. For effective programmes, Maini said, "widespread support, political clout and money are needed."

Forest issues have assumed new importance in the negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In those talks, countries have discussed creating a mechanism whereby governments would be compensated for promoting the growth of forests, which absorb carbon dioxide, in order to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. Under the proposals, developed countries, which typically have far higher emissions, would buy credits from developing countries for forest growth. Although the plan is still being worked out, Forum officials say such a transfer of resources is potentially "very significant."

The Forum will also look at other issues that affect deforestation. It will consider the impact of trade on logging, and representatives from the World Trade Organization will contribute to the discussions for the first time. Related to the issue of trade is that of certification of forest products, whereby forest owners who have implemented sound forest management practices seek market leverage for their products. Although certification has been promoted as a way to encourage sustainable forest practices, over 90 per cent of the certified forests are in developed countries. Very few forests in the tropics-where deforestation is most acute-have been certified. Moreover, countries are concerned that certification not be used as a means of imposing a disguised restriction on trade.

It is expected that the Forum will establish three expert groups to prepare recommendations on the critical areas of finance and the transfer of environmentally sound technology; monitoring, assessment and reporting; and consideration of a legal framework on forests.

The Secretary-General's report highlights several areas in which there has been concrete progress over the past decade. For example, new policies in many countries have helped increase dialogue with various citizen groups that are affected by decisions concerning forests. Criteria and indicators for assessing progress toward sustainable forest management have also been developed and are being implemented in about 150 countries. Most countries now have a national forest programme, or a comprehensive forest policy process that can be used as a suitable framework for the implementation of the internationally agreed proposals for action. Overall, notable progress has been made in managing forests, not only to promote their economic viability, but also to safeguard and enhance their environmental, social and cultural benefits. Still, heightened political commitment and sustained financial support will be essential to conserve forests and ensure continued progress toward sustainable forest management.

Canada, addressing the Forum, said, "Ultimately, the success of the Forum will depend on what happens when we leave the UN conference halls." If the world's forests are in a better state in three years than they are now, Canada added, "and we can prove it to the world, then we will be in a position to be proud."

The Secretary-General's report and additional information is available at www.un.org/esa/sustdev/forests.htm.


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24 August 2006