Ministers' Message to Johannesburg Summit Calls for More Support to
Sustainable Forestry Initiatives
15 March, New York Ministers attending the United Nations Forum on
Forests have issued a call today for the World Summit on Sustainable
Development to advance sustainable forest management as a way to alleviate
poverty and stem land and forest degradation.
The Summit, which will take place in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4
September, is expected to result in action-oriented initiatives that promote
sustainable development based on the interdependence of decision making on
economic growth, social development and environmental protection.
Forestry issues, the ministers agreed, must be considered as a priority agenda
item at the Summit, and they called for an "enhanced" political
commitment to promote sustainable forest management. They also emphasized the
importance of financing to progress toward sustainable forest management, as
well as partnerships to help transfer environmentally sound technologies to
help countries manage their forests sustainably.
Although forests cover roughly a third of the Earth's land surface, the world's
forests are continuing to decline, especially in the tropics. In the 1990s, the
world lost about 9.4 million hectares of forest, or two per cent of total
forests-an area the size of Venezuela.
The ministers called for new initiatives that confront some of the root causes
of deforestation, such as the direct relationship between high levels of
poverty and areas that suffer the greatest rates of deforestation, such as the
tropical forests. The illegal trade in forest products was a major concern to
the ministers, who called for immediate action to beef up domestic forest law
"We've discussed forest issues for over a decade now, and we know what
needs to be done," according to Nitin Desai, Secretary-General of the
Johannesburg Summit. "What we need now are actions and initiatives that
can help meet the needs of the people who live in or around the forests while
protecting and preserving our forest ecosystems."
He added, "The strong message that the ministers at the Forest Forum are
sending to the Summit indicates that it is urgent that the international
community and national governments show even greater resolve to move the forest
agenda forward so we can get results."
Representatives from several developing countries reported that although
programmes had been formulated, tight resources limited what they could
accomplish. R. K. Bamfo of Ghana's Forestry Commission said, "One of the
implications is the stretching of financial resources in the light of competing
needs from other sectors of the national economy, such as education and health.
The need for additional financial resources to achieve the goal of sustainable
forest management is therefore pressing for countries such as Ghana."
Ludolf Shati, Malawi Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Affairs said that the 65 per cent poverty level in his country had a direct
impact on deforestation. "This has led to overdependence on fuelwood as a
source of energy and income, which contributes to high levels of
Malaysia's Deputy Minister of Primary Industries, Datuk Anifah Aman, said that
"unending allegations, attacks and misinterpretations" had led an
increasing number of municipalities and local governments in developed
countries to ban or restrict the use of tropical timber. He said, "Crying
foul over some areas of abuse and generalizing that deforestation can best be
combated through such unilateral actions reflect the lack of understanding of
the larger and more fundamental issues of poverty, indebtedness and
unemployment which drive populations to resort to the forest for
livelihoods." He added that Malaysia "would like to underscore that
timber certification should not be used as a non-tariff barrier, as it is
against the principle of free trade."
Not everyone thought the ministerial statement went far enough. Gudrun Henne of
Greenpeace said that "this is bad news for indigenous peoples, forest
animals and the environment," adding that only 20 per cent of the world's
original forest remains as large, intact tracts of ancient forest. Forest
ministers, she said, "not only failed to take concrete action, but
encouraged their destruction."
The ministers issued their statement at the second session of the UN Forum on
Forests, which will meet annually to promote efforts to implement a wide array
of sustainable forestry management proposals.
Copyright © United
Department of Economic and
Comments and suggestions
24 August 2006