MINISTERS EXAMINE WAYS TO STRENGTHEN SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF FORESTS AS UN FOREST FORUM CONCLUDES TWO-DAY HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT

26 May 2005
ENV/DEV/858

MINISTERS EXAMINE WAYS TO STRENGTHEN SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF FORESTS AS UN FOREST FORUM CONCLUDES TWO-DAY HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT

26/5/2005
Press ReleaseENV/DEV/858

United Nations Forum on Forests

Fifth Session

9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)*

MINISTERS EXAMINE WAYS TO STRENGTHEN SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF FORESTS

AS UN FOREST FORUM CONCLUDES TWO-DAY HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT

Chairman Will Prepare Summary of Policy Dialogue,

With No Agreement Reached on Proposed Ministerial Declaration

Concluding the high-level segment of its fifth annual session, the United Nations Forum on Forests this afternoon decided to include a Chairman’s summary of the two-day policy dialogue in the body’s report to the Economic and Social Council.

The resort to a summary -- which was to note that significant differences continued to exist in regard of many points on the forestry agenda -- resulted from the disappointment expressed by several delegations over the text of a draft Ministerial Declaration, submitted for their approval at the close of the meeting.

The text, which would have called upon the United Nations system, international and regional organizations, all sectors of civil society including non-governmental organizations, and the people of the world to commit themselves to sustainable forest management in order to intensify forests’ contribution to achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, was judged too weak by the representatives of Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union), Japan, Cuba, Switzerland, Iran, Norway, Canada, and Mexico.

Thus, in a compromise proposed by Forum Chairman Manuel Rodriguez Becerra (Colombia), the draft Ministerial Declaration was withdrawn from consideration, to be replaced by his summary of the foregoing policy dialogue.

The representative of the United States also commented on the text.

In closing comments, before the decision to withdraw the draft declaration, Mr. Becerra expressed the hope of all present that the commitment made by the high-level ministers regarding sustainable forest management would be strictly implemented.  He also assured the Forum that it was his intention to work through the night, and all the next day, in order to achieve agreement on the outcome document of the Forum’s fifth session.

On behalf of United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, Pekka Patosaari, Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests, said participants in the high-level segment had candidly discussed the current challenges of sustainable forest management, so that the international community now knew what was necessary to get countries on track to meet the development commitments.  He was pleased to acknowledge that members had agreed to forward an input to the September Millennium Summit review.

Throughout the day’s discussion, speakers had addressed the issue of what the future international arrangement on forests should look like, with opinion dividing as to the desirability of elaborating a legally binding instrument on sustainable forest management. 

Octavie Modert, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said the Union had been clear that the main element of a strengthened international arrangements on forests, which could demonstrate the crucial role played by forests, was the elaboration of a legally binding instrument, and the establishment of clear goals and targets on forest-related issues.  Without a clear message to the Millennium Summit, those attending the Forum would effectively relegate the global forest dialogue to the fringes of global policy dialogues. 

On the other hand, some felt that the implementation of the agreed forestry objectives could be achieved through resolute political will, rather than through a legally binding or non-binding instrument, as affirmed by Syed Mahmood Nasir of Pakistan.  The global forest agenda could only be achieved through international cooperation and the provision of adequate financial resources for the promotion, conservation and sustainable development of forests, and political commitment must be strengthened to that end.  The creation of a global forestry fund and the opening of a new window for financing implementation of sustainable forest management were supported. 

A third position was represented by those participants who expressed their countries’ preference for a legally binding instrument, but who, given the lack of consensus, agreed to focus attention on strengthening the current international arrangement on forests, while guarding the future possibility of elaborating an binding instrument. 

Underscoring the compromise nature of that position, Beat Nobs, Head of the International Affairs Division of the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape, warned that any alternative to a legally binding agreement must be ambitious and substantial.  It must lead to a stronger framework, he averred, not just to stronger lip service.

Also addressing the Forum during today’s high-level discussion were Government ministers from New Zealand, Malaysia, South Africa, Russian Federation, India, France, Gabon, Trinidad and Tobago, Finland, United Kingdom, Latvia, Lesotho, Argentina, China, Colombia, Lebanon, Hungary, Netherlands, Nigeria, Bolivia, Norway, Zimbabwe, United Republic of Tanzania, Iran, Poland, Peru, Croatia, Zambia, United States, Philippines, Japan, Serbia and Montenegro, Italy, Nepal, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Guyana, Cambodia, Chile, Cuba, and Honduras.

Members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) participating in today’s discussion included the Assistant Director-General of the Partnership itself, as well as the International Tropical Timber Organization, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Environment Programme.

Representatives of the women’s, youth and children, labourers and trade unions, non-governmental organizations, small forest landowners, and indigenous major groups also spoke.

The Forum will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. Friday, 27 May, to conclude its fifth session.

Background

The United Nations Forum on Forests met today to conclude the high-level segment of its fifth annual session, continuing its policy dialogue with government ministers, heads of Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) organizations, and high-level representatives of major groups.  (For additional background information on the Forum’s fifth session, please see press release ENV/DEV/851.)

Statements

OCTAVIE MODERT, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said the Union wished to express its concern about the lack of progress in negotiations on the future international arrangement on forests.  Only two days remained in the Forum’s session.  The European Union had been clear that the main elements of a strengthened arrangement, which could demonstrate the crucial role played by forests, was to elaborate a legally binding instrument and to establish clear goals and targets on forest-related issues.  Many countries had also expressed the need for strengthened arrangement.  Without a clear message to the Millennium Summit, those attending the Forum would effectively relegate the global forest dialogue to the fringes of global policy dialogues.  The future of forests was in the hands of those assembled here.  If they failed to agree on targets, they would have lost the possibility for a satisfactory outcome to negotiations.  Then, there would be no possibility other than to postpone a decision on those crucial issues to a later stage.

JIM ANDERTON, Minister of Forestry of New Zealand, said there was agreement that the current international arrangement on forests had not done enough to raise the political profile of forest issues.  Implementation proposals for action had lagged behind expectations.  Change must include a redefinition of forestry in terms of other political agendas, and the future international arrangement must do more to promote implementation, as well as combat deforestation, degradation, and illegal activities.  In considering what type of international arrangement on forests would best serve everyone, he said that New Zealand had remained open to the possibility of a legally binding option, where it commanded widespread support.  However, it was clear that that was not yet the case.  Alternatives, therefore, must meet new needs of all stakeholders.

It was necessary, he continued, to include such components as a high-level political forum to provide leadership, commitment, coordination and direction to the forest-related agenda, which would meet every second year; biennial regional meetings, which could lay the groundwork for the global ministerial meetings; and concise overarching objectives that encapsulated the purpose and allowed for reflection on progress.  Increased resources were also needed from all sources devoted to forest issues.  Part of the answer lay in accessing new funding arrangements, including identifying and valuing the wider contributions to sustainable development derived from forests.  He added that it should also include identifying market opportunities for investment, including by the private sector, in ecosystem services provided by forests.

DATO SRI HAJI ADENAN BIN HAJI SATEM, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Malaysia, acknowledged that, over the past 13 years, the international community had achieved much progress on forest-related issues through sustained dialogue.  Yet, deforestation, forest degradation and environmental deterioration continued.  The earlier proposals for action outlined how to move sustainable forest management forward from dialogue to action, and implementation of those proposals remained an ongoing effort.  For its part, Malaysia had made its national forest policy part of its national sustainable development strategy, and an integral component of the national integrated land management strategy.  Sustainability in the management of forest resources would continue to be the main thrust of public policy.

However, progress in implementing proposals for action remained unsatisfactory, due to lack of financial resources and technical and institutional capacity, he noted, especially in developing countries.  The future international arrangements on forests must be able to mobilize much needed resources and expertise to assist developing countries to enhance sustainable forest management.  Thus, the mandate of the future international arrangements on forests should incorporate six principle functions:  promotion of implementation of earlier proposals for action; provision of a forum for continued policy development dialogue; promotion of cooperation and policy and programme coordination; promotion of international cooperation; monitoring and assessment of progress through reporting; and strengthening of political commitment.  Criteria and indicator frameworks should be elaborated in order to facilitate progress towards sustainable forest management.

BUYELWA SONJICA, Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry of South Africa, said the current session was an important opportunity to reflect on the future of the international arrangement on forests.  Forests continued to play an important role in the development of countries through their ability to provide a range of social, economic and environmental benefits.  She said that, like other delegations, South Africa was concerned that the debate on forestry at the global level had not yet resulted in practical implementation of sustainable forest management.  Despite the commitments that had been made, the forestry agenda continued to be marginalized, and there was continued loss of forest cover and increased rates of forest degradation.  There was also little demonstrable benefit to those people who depend most heavily on forests.

If Member States aimed to be the champions of forest issues, they should demonstrate the will to move forward in the current session, she said.  South Africa fully supported the need for a strengthened international arrangement on forests, and believed that its aim should be to raise the profile of, and awareness of, the importance of forestry internationally.  It should also identify concrete ways in which forests could contribute to poverty alleviation and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and catalyze actions to support developing countries to implement their national forest programmes.  Furthermore, she added that the trend of a decline in official development assistance (ODA) to the forestry sector needed to be urgently reversed, and market access for forest products needed to be enhanced.

VALERY ROSHCHUPKIN, Head of the Forestry Agency, Ministry for Natural Resources of the Russian Federation, said that the truly historic nature of the current session could not be overemphasized, as the decisions to be taken by the Forum would determine the long-term prospects of the forest dimension of the United Nation’s work.  The main thrust of Russia’s efforts was aimed at promoting the development of effective global forest policy based on the outcomes of Rio and Johannesburg, and on enhancing its successful implementation.  His country’s objective was to consolidate the consensus basis of the global forest policy and to further promote the international process on forests.

Given the scale and diversity of tasks on the international forest agenda, as well as their relevance in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and alleviating poverty, he said that there was a need to strengthen the Forum -- including its Secretariat -- and to enhance the Forum’s role in policy development and coordination.  Such action was a fundamental prerequisite for promoting the forest agenda of the United Nations in an integrated and coordinated manner, and for bringing it to a level commensurate with the vital socio-economic, environmental and cultural role that forests played globally.  Such an approach would also enhance the international consensus that was essential for promoting the forest process further, through synergies among all stakeholders involved in the advancement of the international forest agenda, including governments, agencies and organizations of the United Nations system, international financial institutions, business, the scientific community, and all other major groups.

SHRI NAMO NARAIN MEENA, Minister of State for Environment and Forests of India, said his country’s national forest policy had been formulated four years before the Rio Summit, and embodied the principles of sustainable forest management.  He also noted that national forest programmes had been formulated in many countries, in conformity with the proposals for action.  Forests were inseparably linked with the livelihoods of the people living around them, and were essential to poverty alleviation.  Thus, joint forest management principles had become the cornerstone of India’s private sector involvement in sustainable forest management, and had contributed towards alleviation of poverty.

Regarding a future international arrangement on forests, he noted that the debate revolved around whether to elaborate a legal framework or to take serious steps to address the existing gap between dialogue and implementation of proposals for action.  The main challenge remained to collectively renew the commitment to sustainable forest management, and to take the necessary steps to build on the progress achieved thus far.  The existing international arrangements on forests should be strengthened, including through identification of priority areas on which to focus attention at the international and national levels.  Sufficient financial resources must be provided to developing countries to assist them in building capacity.  The Forum should be strengthened as the leading international body on forest-related issues.  National forest programmes should remain the main conduit for sustainable forest management, and should receive support from donorStates and organizations.  The Forum could play a key role in promoting complementarity among States on forest-related issues.

NICOLAS FORISSIER, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Rural Affairs of France, said sustainable forest management figured at the heart of his country’s forestry policy.  Sustainable forest management criteria and indicators had been adopted for its 15 million hectares of temperate forest and 8 million hectares of tropical forest in overseas departments and territories.  Furthermore, France’s bilateral cooperation provided support for the management and conservation of major tropical forest blocks, particularly that of the Congo basin.  The commitment of 50 million euros to the Congo Basin Forest Partnership reflected the country’s seriousness regarding sustainable management of the world’s forests.

The position on the future international arrangement on forests must remain ambitious, yet flexible and open, he urged.  Thus, while the possibility of elaborating a binding legal instrument should be maintained if consensus was achieved, the focus at the present time should be to improve the existing mechanism.  In particular, the CPF should be reinforced to redress the scarcity of resources for sustainable forest management in developing countries.  It was important to underscore the crucial role played by forests economically, ecologically, and socially.  The message sent to the Millennium Summit review must insist on the absolute need to reverse the diminishment of forests, and demonstrate the Forum’s capacity to create a coherent international measure by which to handle forests.

ALEXANDRE BARRO CHAMBRIER, Vice-Minister for Forest Resources, Water, Fisheries and the Environment in charge of the Conservation of Nature of Gabon, said he was speaking on behalf of the Commissioner of the Forest of Central Africa, which represented 10 countries, and of which Gabon was president.  He said that the importance of forests in Central Africa, which, at 240 million hectares was the second-largest tropical forest area in the world, after Amazonia, had been emphasized during the session.  Very strong commitments had been taken, and his country entirely endorsed the new impetus that should be given to the forests of the CongoBasin and hoped a special reference would be made at the session to reiterate the will of MemberStates and different partners to support efforts.  Additional means for a global plan for convergence and to fight against poverty were needed, and although he commended the progress that had been made during the last six years in achieving subregional cooperation, he said it was necessary to go further in order to met the demands of the international community.

It was also necessary to guarantee sustainable forest management for future generations, given the huge challenges of the fight against poverty and the fight against illegal logging, he said.  At the same time, the products of his region were faced with difficult access to international markets and insufficient payment.  As such, it was necessary to establish a global solution to fight against poverty; streamline the financing of projects; fight against illegal logging of forest products; and to ensure capacity-building and the effective transfer of technology.  He said that the convergence plan adopted at Brazil seemed to be an onset of those challenges, but that it was clear that achieving such a plan would require additional financial resources, both from States and from the donor community.  He urged the international financial community to meet its commitments, and to mobilize additional funds with a view to allow for the implementation of the priorities of the plan.  That, he said, would guarantee the conservation and sustainable management of forests in Central Africa.

PENNELOPE BECKLES, Minister of Public Utilities and the Environment of Trinidad and Tobago, said that deforestation continued to be a global problem, and that Trinidad and Tobago -- like many other countries -- had been affected by deforestation, as a result of overexploitation of forest resources, forest fires, “slash-and-burn” agricultural practices, quarrying, squatting, and inappropriate land use practices.  Her Government had been pursuing several initiatives aimed at mitigating the effects of deforestation, including such action as strengthening the capability of the forestry division; implementing a national reforestation and watershed rehabilitation programme; ensuring that new development projects conformed to acceptable environmental standards; encouraging community participation in forest management; and establishing partnerships with the private sector.

With regard to the vulnerability of small island developing States, she suggested that special consideration be given to such States in the global reforestation effort.  She added that the Forum was strategically poised to take the challenge of restoration of the world’s forests to the General Assembly at its meeting in September to stimulate global action.  In the interim, however, members should avail themselves of the existing regional United Nations organizations to be the catalysts for intensifying the global reforestation effort, which would benefit all of mankind.  She also reaffirmed her Government’s commitment to sustainable forest management through accelerated reforestation by the State, civil society and the private sector, as members continued to abide by the Forum process for advancing the cause of forestry worldwide.

JUHA KORKEAOJA, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, said the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), International Forum on Forests (IFF) and United Nations Forum on Forests had been successful; forests had been given high political status, and common understanding of the protection and sustainable management of forests had improved.  However, the United Nations Forum alone had been unable to protect the global forest cover, which continued to decrease.  Further, it had not been strong enough to reverse deforestation and forest degradation, which was essential to attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  In order to be credible, the Forum must be empowered to take stronger actions globally and locally.

Elaboration of a legally binding instrument would be the strongest message the Forum could send for the protection and sustainable management of forests, he said.  Thus, it was disappointing that there had been no agreement to launch a negotiation process for such an instrument.  The minimum required was, for the next phase of the Forum, to incorporate a negotiation process for an international forest agreement with measurable targets.  Those targets must be clear, and should aim to reduce the rate of deforestation by 50 per cent by 2015; to reduce by half the proportion of forest-dependent people in poverty by 2015; and to double the area of forests under sustainable management by 2015.

ELLIOT MORLEY, Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom, noted that, in four months, the world would gather to review implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  That event would allow those present today to send a clear message about the importance of forests.  Thus, the Forum should clearly and decisively link forest-related objectives and goals to the Millennium Development Goals, and should provide strong leadership to the international community on how to deliver on forest issues.  While respecting national responsibility for forest management, he stressed that deforestation, forest degradation, and illegal logging and associated trade affected the entire world.  There was a shared responsibility to combat those phenomena. 

It was clear that the international community must work together at the global level to identify common ground, he continued.  Thus, while the United Kingdom, like many others, had wanted to elaborate a legally binding instrument, it would, in the spirit of progress, leave that option for a future time.  However, the current international arrangement on forests format was not acceptable.  Little time remained to make progress, but it was to be hoped that in the short time that remained a meaningful and clear agreement could be reached, by which to strengthen the international arrangement.

MĀRTIŅŠ ROZE, Minister of Agriculture of Latvia, said that every country valued efficiency and the contribution of forest-related international arrangements and organizations through their national experience in implementing sustainable forest management.  He believed that sustainable forest management meant the balance of ecological, economic, and social functions of forests.  Furthermore, forests and forest management were increasingly influenced by policies outside the forest sector, and achieving sustainable forest management had really become a cross-sectoral issue.

Forests and the forest sector had made a significant contribution to the development of Latvia, and through that process the country determined that, in order to achieve sustainable forest management and improve the efficiency of use of available national and international resources, certain principles should be observed.  Those principles included defining the role and functions of the State in achieving sustainable development in general, and sustainable forest management in particular; agreeing to goals to be achieved; and identifying responsible parties and basic principles in achieving set goals.  As a first step, members should target discussions on the essence and content of the future international arrangement on forests, without compromising principal values.  The next step would be to decide on the form an arrangement would take, and such a step would be easier when the draft proposals were on the table and when there was a common understanding in all minds.

LINCOLN RALECHATE ‘MOKOSE, Minister of Forestry and Land Reclamation of Lesotho, said his country was implementing the IPF/IFF proposals for action, which were relevant to national conditions.  However, national forestry programmes had been originated in 1978, at which time the Forest Act had been enacted to support the development of woodlots and forest reserves.  Subsequently, in 1996, the country finalized its National Forestry Action Programme, which comprised 19 possible projects for consideration by donors.  It also contained 13 strategies by which to overcome constraints to forestry development.  Most of these projects and strategies were included within the IPF/IFF proposals for action.

Lesotho’s first forestry strategy was to create a policy and legal environment to enable and facilitate local initiatives in forestry development, he said.  The second was to develop and disseminate technologies and approaches to forestry development appropriate to people’s objectives and local conditions and circumstances.  The three most important action programmes concerned rural household energy security in mountain districts, transfer of State forest reserves to community management, and strengthening of non-governmental organizations’ capacity in forestry development.  The national forest policy also accepted gender equality as a fundamental human right, and encouraged equal representation of women and men in decision-making structures at all levels, as well as women’s full access to, and control over, productive resources such as land, credit, modern technology and forestry resources development.

ATILIO SAVINO, Secretary of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, said that the environmental, social and economic importance of all types of forests, due to the diverse services they provided, had already been stated in the Forum.  He stressed, however, that the issue of forests was related to the larger issues of the threats and concerns addressed by the different international conventions, especially the one on climate change.  Regarding the measures to be adopted on sustainable forest management at the international level, he said Argentina had traditionally stated a position in favour of a framework legal instrument, like the ones existing in other areas.  Nevertheless, bearing in mind the need to achieve satisfactory results for all countries, he was ready to support that the Forum establish the basis for the preparation of a political document of common commitments that countries could voluntarily access.

Any document, he continued, should at least contain time-bound global objectives; the integration of regional and subregional objectives set from common interests; national commitments to adopt measures, policies and targets consistent with the sustainable management of all types of forests; and the means of implementation and cooperation, including financial assistance and economic incentives.  It should also strengthen national forest programmes, and include a public-private synergy to integrate civil society and the scientific sector.  In the event that such a minimum agreement was not feasible, he said Argentina was ready to consider all possible options in the institutional field in order to ensure the sustainability of forests.

ZHU LIEKE, Vice-Minister, State Forestry Administration of China, said sustainable forest management remained the foundation for social, economic and ecological sustainable development.  After ten years of discussions, some consensus had been reached on some aspects of sustainable forest management, such as the IPF/IFF proposals for action.  Now, it was the time to strengthen the Forum.  However, differences continued to exist among countries regarding some key elements, for which reason it was premature to enter into negotiations on a legally binding international instrument.  Instead, international dialogue should be strengthened to achieve consensus for a legally binding instrument.

Among the elements to be stressed in future international dialogues, he cited, integration of national sovereignty over sustainable forest management; full consideration for governments’ role in developing and implementing national forest programmes, strengthening law enforcement and protecting and increasing forest resources; enhancement of international cooperation to achieve common development; participation of forest-related major groups in multilateral environmental agreements and capacity-building and financial resources-raising; achievement of consensus on key elements, such as future strategic objectives to combat deforestation, degradation, reduction of poverty, forest legislation, and law enforcement; and eradication of barriers to economic and social sustainable development.  For its own part, his country had made progress in sustainable forest management.  The Chinese Government had made a commitment to sustainable forest management and had decided to speed forest development, setting up ambitious national goals for sustainable forest management.

SANDRA SUÁREZ PÉREZ, Minister for Environment, Housing and Territorial Development of Colombia, said Colombia took its responsibility very seriously regarding the conservation, use and sustainable management of its forests.  Numerous actions had been made for the conservation and sustainable management of the country’s forests, which were all part of the national plan for forest development.  The plan, which included a strategy for 25 years, sought to place forests as a strategic resource for national development, and was also one of the focal points of the strategy of international cooperation of Colombia.  She said the plan was based on alliances with communities and local governments, as well as international partners.

Among the results Colombia’s forest plan had achieved was the consolidation of the property rights of indigenous communities; the promotion of radical and horizontal integration of the forest sector; norms for the governability of forests; and the assignment of resources depending on efficiency.  Colombia, however, was faced with a formidable challenge regarding its forests, which required renewed political and financial support from the international community.  She added that she was aware that in order to mobilize support, it was necessary to have a new consensus on forests.  In order to achieve the reversal of the destruction of the world’s forests, members needed to recognize the value of their national resources, particularly their forests.

TRAD HAMADEH, Minister of Agriculture of Lebanon, said his country was the repository of one of the most ancient forests in the world, which was now endangered.  As the CPF was the only success of the current international arrangement on forests, donor countries for sustainable forest management must continue to work with it, and stay away from the bureaucracy of the United Nations.  Regional activities should be promoted, on the condition that they remained under the aegis of the regional groups organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), so as not to exhaust resources and destroy the forests.  United Nations Forum on Forests meetings should be held every two years, on the condition that resources be provided to assist regional activities for development. 

During the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, he added, the trees had faced Israeli aggression, with entire regions being burned.  The international community must speak out against that aggression, and assist in the reforestation of the region.  The cedar tree had been taken as the symbol of that effort.  With international help, Lebanon would succeed in reforesting those areas, and preserving them within protected areas.  Forest fires were also a severe threat to the country.  Moreover, there was also a need for assistance to reforest the Bekaa region, which was particularly susceptible to desertification.

IMRE NÉMETH (Hungary) said he believed that forests, as a biological habitat and an important factor in the maintenance of biodiversity, should remain a significant resource of renewable raw materials.  Timber production and all other functions relating to forests, therefore, must be kept in harmony.  It was necessary to review the practice of forest management, and determine the priorities in the medium term, which was already in progress.  As a country with an economy in transformation, Hungary considered it a key objective to inform and support new forest owners and to provide assistance in developing private forest management.  In view of the significant changes in the scope of those in charge of management, it was essential to maintain the planning system covering the entire forest area, as well as the forest authority, so that forests would be preserved and a proper framework could be provided for sustainable forest management.

The rate of global deforestation gave rise to concern, he continued.  The most important contribution to the Millennium Development Goals was to increase the proportion of forests managed in a sustainable manner, which might also help the rural population in obtaining legal revenues.  Priorities must be determined, and measures should be taken, mainly at the national level.  However, the global nature of problems required the discussion of forestry-related issues at the high level.  In view of the need for increasing the proportion of forested area managed in a sustainable manner, he added that Hungary also supported that members take that responsibility voluntarily, at the level of agreed upon guidelines.

ANDRÉ VAN DER ZANDE, Director-General for Nature and Biodiversity in the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands, said the global forest community stood at a critical crossroads; although the current international arrangement on forests and its predecessors had made some progress, deforestation and forest degradation continued at an alarming rate.  The outcome of the present meeting would not only determine the extent to which forests remained on the international political agenda, but the extent to which the world was able to keep its forests in permanent existence through sustainable management, conservation and development.

The international arrangements on forests must be strengthened, he affirmed, with strong leadership, vision and courage.  Securing long-term political commitment and accountability for forests required elaborating a clear agenda, one crucial element of which was to set clear and ambitious overarching objectives related to specific and measurable global and national goals, which took full account of Member States’ sovereign rights and responsibilities.  That agenda should also strengthen national and regional policy frameworks and institutions, and should demonstrate how forests contributed to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Finally, the current international arrangement on forests could not be strengthened unless a collective decision was taken to adopt a legally binding instrument on all types of forests, or an alternative international instrument.

HOSNY EL-LAKANY, Assistant Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization, Forestry Department, and Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), speaking on behalf of the member organizations of the CPF, said that since its establishment four years ago, CPF members had demonstrated their strong support for the Forum.  They had also enhanced collaboration and coordination on forest issues, especially regarding assistance to countries in their endeavours to achieve sustainable forest management.  As part of the international arrangement on forests, CPF members had assisted country-led efforts, among them being better recognition of the contributions that forests made to sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals; rehabilitation and restoration of degraded forest lands, particularly in low-forest-cover countries; new financing mechanisms to capture the value of environmental services from forests; and new efforts to improve forest law enforcement and governance.

Based on feedback from the Forum, he continued, he believed that the CPF had provided a useful mechanism to enhance cooperation and coordination on forest issues and avoid duplication of work among its members.  He said its success could be attributed to such factors as guidance from the Forum; strong commitment of member organizations to work together; support from their respective governing bodies; and the voluntary and informal nature of the partnership.  Despite those achievements, the CPF members felt that there was considerable room for improvement.  Members wanted more of a focus on supporting national and regional efforts for implementation in a more coordinated and synergistic manner, in particular by making the linkages between forests and reduction of rural poverty more explicit.  Also, they were committed to developing joint and cross-sectoral activities relevant to the priorities of the international arrangement on forests, as well as to building greater collaboration with the major groups of civil society.  In order to make full use of CPF’s potential, he added that its work would require financial resources and continued guidance from a high-level policy forum on forests.

MANOEL SOBRAL, Executive Director, International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), said that forests had not been hogging the headlines, and that was a good thing.  While deforestation remained single most important challenge, the rate of forest decline had waned in recent years.  In tropical areas, forest degradation remained a formidable issue, but that decline was concentrated in specific areas.  The decreasing rate of forest decline indicated that things were moving in the right direction and that some progress had been achieved.  That reflected increased commitment to sustainable forest management, including through national forest programmes, guidelines, criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management and private sector involvement. 

In spite of the progress achieved, he added, there was a lack of capacity, awareness and support for forests.  Additional policy implementation was needed at the national, regional and international levels and, when considering future action, the most crucial issue must be to ensure concrete action on the ground and in the forests.  Thus, his organization had prioritized implementation of sustainable forest management objectives, and had extended $270 million in grants to fund 700 projects, of which 170 were currently operational.  Overall, the international community must focus its energy on the loss of tropical forest areas, which were treated as public goods.  Yet, the problem with public goods was that, while it was in everyone’s interests to have them, it was in no one’s interest to pay for them.

HAMA ARBA DIALLO, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, said that the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg recognized the convention as a major instrument that could contribute to poverty eradication.  That summit also underlined the importance of the Convention by acknowledging that its timely and effective implementation would help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals on poverty and hunger.

It was well known, he continued, that wherever forests grew, desertification and moving sand dunes would stop them, which would unavoidably be followed by poverty.  Consequently, the eyes of people who lived in dry lands turned to forests for their means of survival and for their livelihoods, and exploited land for food and energy.  Poverty forced people of dry lands to extract as much as they could from forests, and to produce for the short term in order to sustain their survival, he said.  Without addressing the underlying causes a proper solution could not be reached.  Afforestation and reforestation constituted the most important means to combat desertification, and all national action plans called for increased activities in those areas.  He added that any policy on sustainable forest management must aim at preserving existing forests, and ensure that reforestation and afforestation policies were addressed and promoted.

Mr. HUNTE, of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said the parties to the Convention had adopted a strategic plan, the mission statement of which had committed them to achieving a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss at the national, regional and international levels by 2010.  To achieve that effort, due consideration must be given to biodiversity and its sustainable use.  Moreover, biodiversity was linked directly to the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those related to poverty eradication, global partnership for development, and environmental sustainability.  The 2010 commitment required significant contributions of financial and technological resources, and capacity-building.  Indicators by which to measure support for the 2010 target were being incorporated in reporting on progress, including on forest area coverage, protected areas and effective development assistance.

A recent report, he acknowledged, had stated that unprecedented efforts would be necessary to achieve the 2010 target.  Moreover, for some components, it could not be met.  However, the report did note that the 2010 biodiversity target could be tackled in an integrated manner in the time frame of the 2015 objectives.  In conclusion, he stressed that biodiversity loss must be controlled, even though poverty reduction could led to biodiversity loss.

STEVE LONERGAN, Special Advisor to the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), speaking on behalf of Executive Director Klaus Topfer, said that the recently launched Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which was undertaken by more than 1,300 scientists from more than 90 countries, concurred that 60 per cent of the services provided by the world’s ecosystems that supported human well-being, including forests, were either degraded or would soon be.  That was particularly relevant for the poor, most of whom depended on such services and who were the first to be adversely affected by its degradation.  The international arrangement on forests could be held accountable for its actions on what it had achieved so far on sustainable forest management.  While there was agreement on such facts that forests and achieving sustainable forest management were important, and were a common interest, he wondered why such common interests could not bring members together to act.

The draft text of the chairman, he continued, could be viewed as an expression of what tied Forum members together.  The United Nations Environment Programme was eager to continue its support to the Forum, but said that, besides implementation efforts, his organization believed that the international arrangement on forests continued to need policy direction.  He stressed that if governments should decide to develop a code, guidelines or international understanding, UNEP would be willing to bring its expertise in that area in order to assist the process.

JEANETTE DENHOLM GURUNG, the representative of the women’s major group, recalled that, 10 years ago, nearly every page of Agenda 21 had included a reference to the role of women in sustainable development.  Today, however, there were fewer references to women in international texts, and many of those that were included spoke of women as contributors, without referencing the need to change relationships and paradigms.  And, while women had begun to see the possibility that the situation would change again, when they had been awarded a major group at the Forum, there had been little more than a very few statements explicitly addressing the gender perspective of forestry issues.  That was in spite of the two side events organized by women, which had tried to raise awareness of the problems faced by forest-dependent women, including with regard to the scourge of HIV/AIDS.  It was disappointing that women had not been recognized as an integral part of efforts to consider linkages between forests and the Millennium Development Goals.  Women had only been referred to once in the draft Chairman’s text currently under discussion. 

RICHARD MODLEY, speaking on behalf of the youth major group, said that the goodwill to foster agreements on forests seemed to have slowly disappeared during the last 13 years of negotiations.  He feared that members of the current Forum would send the message that governments had failed to decide on a powerful agreement on forests at the global level during the session, because they had been unable to agree on a common target on the responsible uses of forests.  Stating that young people tended to be the most vulnerable group of society, he said that joint efforts were needed to link youth issues with forestry.  That could be achieved through education, and through the continuation of the trust-building process between governments and major groups.  He added that his group hoped that decisions would be made that would result in a successful transition from dialogue to an implementation plan.  Youth around the world were willing to accept the challenge to make that happen, and to make progressive change a reality.

JAMES EARNEST JONES, the representative of the labourers and trade unions major group, said restoring the world’s forests required decreasing the rate of deforestation and increasing the percentage of the world’s forest cover.  As a New Zealander, and living in a country with a major agricultural sector, he was well aware of the effect of agriculture on the forest sector.  However, he did not agree that it was inevitable that agricultural activities would be preferred to forestry activities.  Instead, the adoption of pro-agricultural policies that were more advantageous than forestry policies led to a shift towards agriculture.  Sustainable forest management was an issue of social justice and greater economic equity.  He also stressed that illegal forest activity must be combated, and that it was as much an issue of social justice as law enforcement.  Both the seller and the buyer of illegal timber played a role in such activities.  Those engaged in the timber trade must agree to purchase at rate that could sustain legal forest management.  Then legal operators would be able to compete with illegal ones.  Private profits could not be the sole determinants of standards and ethical behaviour.

MIGUEL LOVERA, the representative of non-governmental organizations, said members had engaged in policy talks for too long while deforestation continued unabated and unchallenged.  Policy dialogues that focused on the negotiation of a legally binding instrument had hampered the implementation of commitments already in place, as well as the support of indigenous rights.  His group also believed that governments must adopt clear, measurable targets, as well as provide the necessary resources to implement actions to achieve them.  Any future international arrangement on forests must ensure the broadest participation of non-governmental organizations and indigenous people.  He added that there were already many legal binding instruments on forests, the most relevant one being the Convention on Biological Diversity.  In addition, without clear, quantifiable and time-bound targets, most non-governmental organizations would not participate in any international arrangement on forests, because they would not consider it an adequate vehicle to stop forest degradation.

The representative of the small forest landowners major group said the people she represented owned an average of 13 hectares and came from around the world.  Some small forest landowners had held their forests in their families for 1 to 2 hundred years, which demonstrated their commitment to sustainability.  However, Government policy had lost interest in the productive capacity of forests; forests were of interest for the ability to recycle carbon and maintain biodiversity.  There was little consideration for the holistic aspect of forests.  Yet, forests remained the source of livelihoods for millions of people, who must have faith that the United Nations was taking their concerns seriously.  There was a need for framework conditions to govern forest use and maintenance.  The small landowners must trust that they had secure property rights and land tenure, in order to remain motivated for sustainable forest management. 

VICTORIA CORPUZ, representing indigenous people, said she regretted that the existing draft of the chairman did not address many of the concerns of indigenous people, in particular regarding their rights.  The draft also failed to recommend the adoption of the human rights approach in achieving worthwhile decisions for the session.  Her group recommended that any document on forests should reaffirm commitments to promote human rights, including the rights of indigenous people in forest policymaking and implementation, as well as reaffirm the vital role of traditional forest knowledge to promote community-based forest management.  On a global level, her group thought it was necessary to ensure the respect of indigenous people and other forest-dependent communities.  The group also recommended that the Forum should improve participation mechanisms for indigenous people and other major groups.

Summarizing the morning discussion, Forum Chairman MANUEL RODRÍGUEZ BECERRA (Colombia) said that the dissatisfaction with the working of the current international arrangements on forests reflected the tragedy of deforestation and degradation of natural forests.  Some forest ecosystems had disappeared entirely, and the major forests that had survived were greatly threatened.  Moreover, there were many countries which had lost their forest cover, or which had low forest cover, such as Colombia.  Such forest degradation had had severe impacts, including on the lives of indigenous peoples.  All agreed that the great challenge to the international arrangements on forests and the United Nations Forum on Forests was to reverse deforestation and forest degradation, to reforest those areas, to eradicate poverty in forests, and to create the means of implementation to confront those challenges.  Yet, there was much disagreement about how to confront the challenges.  All should take advantage of the afternoon’s session to seek agreement.  Confronting the challenges required enormous leadership and vision.

At the afternoon session, BALA MANDE, speaking on behalf of MA OYEBO, Director of Forests, Federal Ministry of Environment of Nigeria, said that Nigeria was convinced that the sustainable management of forests and conservation of biodiversity were essential for the realization of strategic national development objectives.  He supported the strengthening of an intergovernmental body that would provide policy guidance for the effective implementation of the internationally agreed actions on forests at the national, regional and global levels.  Such a body should remain within the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and should continue to report to the General Assembly through ECOSOC.  A strengthened international arrangement on forests should elicit a corresponding political commitment that was backed with predictable and adequate financing for the implementation of the agreed actions.  That would, he said, be the best way to enhance the capacity of developing countries to undertake actions aimed at achieving sustainable forest management.

Nigeria would support a high-level political segment every two years, he continued, including an arrangement for regional dialogues under the overall guidance of the Forum.  In that context, his country would favourably consider the use of regional commissions, including the Food and Agriculture Organization regional commissions for regional processes on forests.  He also believed that the Collaborative Partnership on Forests should be strengthened to avail them the opportunity of facilitating the implementation of the Forum decisions, and to make greater use of the partnership in carrying out joint, collaborative programmes.  He also called for the provision of requisite means of implementation on forest-related commitments.

ERWIN ANGEL AGUILERA ANTÚNEZ, Minister for Sustainable Development of Bolivia, said his country figured number one in terms of voluntary forestry certification of natural forests.  The implementation of a framework for forest good governance policies had allowed the country to reduce conflict.  The key elements of that framework included the democratization of access to forestry resources, provision of equal opportunities for all men and women, and recognition of traditional users.  Significantly, recognizing traditional owners and communities had relieved conflict.  Another factor was seen in the legislation regulating use of natural renewable resources.  For instance, public assistance had been granted to forestry professionals responsible for reporting on private enterprises.  Moreover, all forestry management entities had an obligation of accountability and provision of annual reports to the presidency, which allowed for transparency and legitimacy in forestry activities. 

However, the continued threat of deforestation made it necessary to establish fora for international cooperation, which included all interested stakeholders, he said, in order to ensure the conservation of forests, and to create a new culture of sustainable development.  Support should be directed to conservation of natural forests, to facilitate access to resources, provide incentives for sustainable use of forests, and promote products from certified programmes.  The United Nations Forum on Forests should be the place where the global forest community could agree on strategies and objectives to preserve forests on a global scale.

LARS SPONHEIM, Minister of Agriculture and Food of Norway, said that despite progress in some areas, the Forum had not been able to translate all of its good intentions into satisfactory development on the ground.  He was deeply concerned by the reports on continued loss and degradation of forests.  It was necessary to considerably strengthen the long-term commitment and support to forest management at the national and international levels, and to accelerate the implementation of agreed actions, improve monitoring and assessment, and channel more resources to sustainable forest management.  Member States knew the crucial role forests played in the daily life of millions of people, and it was their task to ensure that the future international arrangement on forests was able to make that role clearly visible to other sectors that affected the management and conservation of forest resources.

It was also necessary for the Forum to decide on ambitious goals for the future international arrangement on forests, he continued.  Those goals should be clearly linked to the relevant Millennium Development Goals.  He also saw merit in establishing global targets and timetables to achieve those objectives.  A global high-level forum on forestry should have a clear focus on the policy issues, and should proactively form partnerships with other relevant sectors, as well as influence deliberations in other forest-related fora.  He added that, like the European Union and other delegations, he was very concerned about the lack of progress in the negotiations that had been going on the past two weeks.  Members could not allow an unsatisfactory result from the current sessions and, therefore, should use the opportunity to strengthen the international arrangements on forests with ambitious goals.

FRANCIS D. NHEMA, Minister of Environment and Tourism of Zimbabwe, said the focus of the fifth session of the Forum was of great importance to his country, due to its need to sustainably manage its forests.  Forests covered 66 per cent of the national territory and provided a range of goods and services necessary to the livelihoods of many.  Zimbabwe faced key challenges, including the need to implement sustainable forest management to combat high indebtedness, poverty, high unemployment rates, drought and other natural disasters, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  In line with the Johannesburg Plan of Action, the country had embarked on a sustainable development programme in forestry management to improve the people’s lives and to eradicate poverty.

The current session must work towards a future international arrangement on forests focused on implementation of agreed objectives, he continued.  There must be support, including financial resource provision, for the IPF/IFF proposals for action.  That should take the form of a reversal in the decline of official development assistance, the creation of a global forestry fund, and the opening of new funding window to facilitate implementation of new sustainable forest management programmes.  Zimbabwe remained committed to working with the international community, in line with internationally agreed objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals.  It was time to focus on implementation, if deforestation was to be halted and if forests were to contribute to eradicating poverty and improving the lives of millions of people.

TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said forestry supported the livelihoods of all Tanzanians, to varying degrees.  More than three quarters of the population lived in rural areas where livelihoods depended on forests and forestry products.  Wood energy consumption was estimated at 92 per cent of total energy consumption.  Additionally, more than 90 per cent of the population used wood for domestic purposes.  The forestry sector employed approximately 3 per cent of paid labour, and a much larger share of the informal forestry-related sector.  Forests also contributed some 3 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and offered considerable support to the tourism sector.

One major feature of the national forest policy was the participation of all stakeholders in the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests, he said, including communities and civil society.  The forestry sector faced increased pressure, as human settlements expanded and ever more agricultural land, fuel wood, fodder and timber were needed.  Rapid population growth had contributed directly to that pressure, and deforestation was taking place at a rate of 91,200 hectares per year.  Additionally, external factors had contributed to the problem, including through the influx of refugees.  In the midst of those challenges, the country remained committed to:  mobilizing domestic resources; good governance; accountability for macroeconomic reforms; and poverty-reduction strategies, including forestry conservation programmes.

MAHMOUD HOJJATI, Minister for Agriculture of Iran, reaffirmed his Government’s commitment for the realization of the global objectives on the sustainable management of forests.  He emphasized the importance of political commitment and the need to respect the common but different responsibilities and the national sovereignty of States over their natural resources as key principles in the approach to forests.  His Government believed that setting limited, measurable and achievable goals, in line with the content of the Millennium Declaration, would help in making progress faster and in assessing the achievements with more accuracy.

The formulation and adoption of an international legally binding instrument could contribute to regulating the interactions, as well as to promoting international cooperation on forests, he said.  To that end, States should make the utmost effort to reach an understanding on drafting and adopting appropriate legal instruments on forests at the international level.  He added that any international effort toward sustainable forest management should be encouraging, supportive, and complementary to national efforts.  It should also address the root causes of degradation, such as poverty.

TOMASZ PODGAJNIAK, Minister of the Environment of Poland, said the international dialogue on forests had played a fundamental role in the protection of forest resources on the planet.  The dialogue established at Rio, and continued through the IPF, IFF and the United Nations Forum on Forests, had contributed to the present moment, at which the global forest community was expected to make a decision on the future of the international arrangements on forests.  Globalization and the fast developing world had brought new challenges for forests, and all had a common responsibility for the proper management and preservation of forests.  For its part, Poland had continued its active role in the regional policy dialogue by co-leading the recent ministerial conference on the protection of forests in Europe. 

Forests could not be reduced to a factor in rural development alone, he stressed.  They constituted a multidimensional element that ensured the sustainable development of human civilization.  Prompt and effective response measures were needed to prevent illegal harvesting in forests, including the introduction of clear certification systems and other legally binding instruments.  Those efforts should lead to a strengthened role for the CPF and the FAO and its regional bodies.  The Forum on Forests continued to be the most appropriate space in which to continue and develop the international dialogue on forests.

LEONCIO ÁLVAREZ VÁSQUEZ, Minister of Natural Resources of Peru, said that 70 per cent of the land of his country was covered with forests, a fact that made the current Forum of the greatest importance.  He informed the Forum of the progress that had been achieved in the sustainable management of forests, which included giving 14 million hectares to indigenous peoples, as well as recognizing their ancestral rights to forests.

He said it was also necessary to emphasize illegal cutting, which his country was decisively confronting, despite its scarce resources.  He added that the increasing demands of developing countries called for a common commitment to the sustainable development of forests.

SYED MAHMOOD NASIR, of Pakistan, said his country attached great importance to the protection, conservation and sustainable management of its forests.  The national forest and environmental policies were geared to achieve the objectives of sustainable forest management through national means, and in collaboration with other partners.  The implementation of country-led programmes had contributed to achievement of major thematic objectives for sustainable forest management, and the Government had assigned high priority to promoting an effective environmental agenda through sectoral policies and poverty reduction strategies to reduce dependence on natural and planted forests. 

The global forest agenda could only be achieved through international cooperation and the provision of adequate financial resources for the promotion, conservation and sustainable development of forests, he added.  Political commitment must be strengthened, to that end.  Pakistan also supported the creation of global forestry fund, and the opening of a new window for financing implementation of sustainable forest management.  In that regard, low forest coverage countries required priority consideration.  The CPF should continue its good work in promoting the global forest agenda, and Pakistan also recognized the merit of regional forestry mechanisms.  The latter should promote closer technical cooperation and exchanges of information.  All those objectives could be achieved through resolute political will, rather than through a legally binding or non-binding instrument.

IVICA GRBAC, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management of Croatia, said that it was the responsibility of the Forum to set a clear goal for sustainable forest management, and to raise the status of forest-related issues on the international agenda, so that the forestry sector could fully contribute to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration.  For that to be accomplished, there was a need to further strengthen the effectiveness of the international arrangement of forests.  Future actions should promote the protection and sustainable management of all types of forests, as well as the achievement of internationally agreed development goals.

In that context, he continued, it was necessary to renew the pledge to make progress toward sustainable forest management by reducing the rate of net deforestation, maintaining forest functions, restoring degraded and unmanaged forest landscapes, conserving natural forests, and improving the livelihoods of poor people living in and around forests worldwide.  He added that raising the awareness of forestry issues and linking them with the global development agenda should be a priority.  In order to achieve that, he proposed an International Year of Forests.

NEDSON NZOWA, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Tourism Environment and Natural Resources of Zambia, said that Zambia regarded the Forum as an instrumental vehicle in the promotion of sustainable forest management.  His Government recognized the major contributions that natural forests made to the economic, environmental and social well-being of his country at national, local and household levels.  Forests were essential to the livelihood of the majority of Zambia’s rural poor population, through the provision of various forest products and services, and also as a source of income.  Poverty in Zambia was widespread, and that had serious implications for sustainable forest management and the overall economic development of the country.

Zambia was strongly committed to international cooperation to achieve strong and effective international arrangements on forests, he continued.  The session, therefore, had the crucial role of addressing the challenges, and providing a clear, comprehensive and effective framework of goals and targets.  The session should also provide a framework for monitoring progress, deliberating policy, strengthening political commitment, and catalyzing cooperation and concrete action.  Member States should use the tremendous opportunity of the Forum to be realistic and pragmatic in deliberations on the future, strengthened arrangement on forests, and the contributions that forests provided to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.

CLAUDIA MCMURRAY, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment of the United States, said the Forum and the CPF had made definite strides in facilitating national action on forests and coordination among the many international organizations, treaties and financial institutions with major forestry programmes.  The Forum had offered a holistic forest policy dialogue, and had strengthened the innovative tradition of country-led expert meetings and other intersessional forms of work.  It had also taken steps to mainstream major groups into the forest dialogue.  Additionally, the Forum had made progress in generating political commitment for sustainable forest management and good governance, while the CPF had undertaken joint initiatives to streamline national forest reporting to CPF members.

However, the two bodies had not realized their full potential, she noted.  They must be strengthened and made more effective.  The Forum needed a more cohesive approach to catalyzing political commitment and national and international action, a more focused agenda, and greater regional orientation to reflect the regional nature of many forest issues.  The CPF needed to address costly and counterproductive duplication in forest work and better integrate members’ forest-related activities and priorities.  Working closely with the CPF, the Forum should incorporate regional meetings.  It should meet every two years, alternating with FAO’s Committee on Forestry.  A voluntary fund should be established to foster greater collaboration among CPF members, especially at the regional level.  And a voluntary code for sustainable forest management should be elaborated, based on the seven thematic elements for sustainable forest management.

RAMON JP PAJE, Under-Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Philippines, reaffirmed support for the implementation of internationally agreed commitments for sustainable forest management, as well as commitment to the achievement of the internationally agreed development objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals.  Consistent with that commitment, he said he subscribed to the full implementation of sustainable forest management at the national, regional and international levels.  He was convinced, however, that the implementation of those commitments should be coupled with effective forest law enforcement and governance.  In that regard, the Philippines strongly supported the regional cooperation on forest law enforcement and governance in Asia.

The success of sustainable forest management was significantly anchored on various efforts to reduce poverty in the upland regions, he said, with particular emphasis on the well-being of indigenous compatriots living in those areas.  As a result of abject poverty, the number of people living in and around the upland regions today -- especially in Asia -- had dramatically increased.  Without effective forest management and governance, therefore, the wood requirement alone of the upland population was already enough to decimate the remaining forest cover in the country.

BEAT NOBS, Head of the International Affairs Division of the Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape of Switzerland, said that because of multiple, cross-sectoral and international interdependencies, sustainable forest management could only be achieved through concrete action on national, regional and local levels.  Regarding an international arrangement on forests, he believed that a legally binding instrument was the best guarantee to obtain resources, because a soft law meant soft resources, as had previously been mentioned.

Given the lack of consensus in the Forum, he said his Government was ready to explore other possibilities.  However, any alternative to a legally binding instrument had to be ambitious and substantial, and also had to lead to a stronger framework, and not just to stronger lip service.  Also necessary were a limited number of visionary and time-bound global goals, to ensure that the Forum would send a forceful message to the outside world that forests did matter and that sustainable forest management was taken very seriously.  Settling for less, he added, could not be satisfactory to anyone.

MUTSUYOSHI NISHIMURA, Ambassador for Global Environmental Affairs of Japan, said that despite efforts, deforestation and forest degradation were still advancing globally and at an alarming rate.  Never before had the notion of sustainable forest management required such priority attention at the national, regional and local levels, involving all actors, stakeholders, politicians, business people, and ordinary citizens.  However, sustainable forest management was not a novel option, and members needed to proceed differently, if they were to overcome their frustration.  It was necessary to avoid duplicating work, and there needed to be a focus on a smaller number of key issues, such as illegal logging.

The Forum also needed to be more action-oriented, he continued.  It needed to pay greater attention to regional characteristics and, above all, to strengthen its political commitment.  For those reasons, he felt there should be a new, invigorated, but simple and effective mechanism to spearhead global efforts for sustainable forest development.  Therefore, he advocated a new, simple and well focused United Nations forum to replace its present one.  He also preferred that members pursue a practical and effective course, which could begin by working together to compile a list of bona fide actions and reliable practices.

DUASON JOVIC, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management of Serbia and Montenegro, said his country’s main interest was to achieve strategic goals for full integration into the international community in the short and medium term, and to establish a self-sustaining economy and integrate into the European Union in the long term.  Hence, the country was implementing a transitional reform process that aimed to meet three interdependent, medium-term goals:  restoration of macroeconomic stability and external balance; stimulation of growth and creation of sustainable capacity to supply basic goods and services; and improvement in social well-being for the most vulnerable segments of society.

Thus, the institutional aspects of the country’s forestry sector spread across a number of interrelated areas, including policy and legislation, organizational restructuring, education and human resource development, and research, extension and public services, he said.  Decentralization of decision-making was part of the Government’s democratization efforts, and participatory forestry and joint implementation of forest policy remained key to sustainable development.  Capacity-building in the forestry sector had created a planning nucleus that was soon to come up with a forest policy and revised forest law.  Efforts were also under way to begin a negotiating process to come up with a comprehensive multilateral forest agreement. 

GUIDO SCALICI (Italy) said it was time for the Forum to take bold decisions, in order to complete the process initiated at Rio more than 10 years ago, which was still far from being concluded.  He was convinced that members should continue to recognize the centrality of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, whose functions, mandate and structure should be further strengthened under the leadership of the FAO, building on the significant results accomplished so far. Recognizing the different needs of various groups of countries, he defended the merit of working towards the adoption of a legally binding instrument.  He said he was confident that such action still remained the most effective option, while it did not prevent the needs of individual countries from being adequately addressed.

He also supported the idea of holding subsidiary regional meetings of the Forum, focusing on the specific needs of the different geographical areas.  He also believed that scientific research and technological transfer were essential tools for improving forest management policies.  The establishment of a network of centres of excellence, based in both developed and developing countries, could facilitate that process.  He added that Italy attached special importance to the issue of forest governance and law enforcement, including the fight against illegal logging.

ANANTA RAJ PANDEY, Secretary, Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation of Nepal, said the national forests had contributed significantly to the livelihoods of the country’s population, including through provision of fuel wood, fodder, herbs and medicinal plants.  They housed watersheds and served as parks and reserves of genetic resources and biodiversity.  However, poverty had long been an overriding concern for the country, and the rapid growth of the population and the force of urbanization had lead to increased rates of forest and land degradation.  The Government remained committed to generating better livelihood opportunities for the population to reduce poverty, and had undertaken efforts for the social, economic and environmental sustainability of forest management.  Community and leasehold forest management endeavours, based on partnership and collaborative approaches, had been effective for sustainable forest management.  Such approaches included partnerships and collaboration among Government bodies, local communities, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, and civil society.

The Government also remained committed to internationally agreed objectives on forests, he said, and held that cooperation with the international community world be instrumental in implementing national plans and policies for sustainable forest management.  The high-level segment should convey to the General Assembly that world leaders should renew their commitment to sustainable forest management by enhancing international cooperation to that end.

SINIKKA BOHLIN, Member of Parliament and Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Environment of Sweden, said that forests were pillars of the national economy of Sweden.  The country realized the importance of sustaining forests.  The experiences of Sweden regarding forests were part of the reason for its participation in the current session.  She felt it was important to build and learn from experiences.  FAO had reinforced its role, with such actions as regional forums, and in its efforts to strengthen the international arrangement on forests, members could also learn from work of the FAO.

She also stressed the importance of women in forests, and said that in Sweden, one-third of forest owners were women, and that they had been successfully targeted in Sweden’s campaign. Sustainable forest management was also necessary to combat world famine. She added that the United Nations was presently in an important process, and actions taken should strengthen the international arrangement on forests.

JOHN TALBOT, Acting Assistant Secretary, Forest Industries Branch, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry of Australia, said his country was committed to promoting and implementing sustainable forest management nationally and internationally, especially through regional cooperation to achieve practical outcomes.  There was a need for a global forestry policy forum, but it should be one supported by practical work on the ground and based on country and/or regional priorities.  The Australian Government also supported forest certification schemes, both for native forests and for plantations.  The Australian Forestry Standard had been developed for native forests and plantations, and Australia would work with developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region to develop similar, credible certification systems.

Regarding targets, he said they could be efficient if the data required were simple to collect.  It should be harmonized, as far as possible, with other data collection and reporting, such as that required under the Montreal Process.  Targets should also be practical and relevant in terms of implementation of sustainable forest management and subject to national circumstances.  Illegal logging was an important issue, internationally and within the Asia-Pacific region.  It undermined countries’ attempts to sustainably manage their forests and distorted world market prices for wood products.  Australia was working, on a bilateral and multilateral basis, to increase capacity in the region to combat illegal logging.

JIM FARRELL, Director General of the Policy, Economics and Industry Branch of Natural Resources of Canada, said that his country attached great importance to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and shared the view that those goals were inextricably linked with forests, and they were mutually supportive.  Canada had a great deal at stake during the current session, as it accounted for about 10 per cent of the world’s forests.  As a member of the global forest community, he expected that all other countries would also assume similar commitments.

A strong, legally binding instrument, he continued, was the best way forward to secure increased political commitment and raise the profile of forest issues.  Such an instrument was also the best way to increase finances, internalize global forest goals, and accelerate on-the-ground action in support of sustainable forest management.  Realizing that there was no consensus on that issue at the time, he said he reached out to other countries to exchange views.  If members fell short of its original vision of an influential and action-oriented Forum, he said Canada would be obliged to consider other fora and processes, including with like-minded governments, to address such issues as the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation.

JAMES SINGH, Commissioner of Forests of Guyana, said his Government had a firm commitment to utilize its forest and other renewable natural resources in a manner compatible with internationally accepted environmental standards, and which promoted the maximum social and economic benefits.  To that end, several guidelines had been established to promote sustainable forest management, including a national forest policy and forest plan, revised forestry legislation, codes of practice for forestry operations and selected non-timber forest products, and guidelines for conducting forest inventory and preparation of forest management and annual operational plans.  Additionally, a Forestry Training Centre for Reduced Impact Logging had been launched, and a Forest Products Marketing Council would soon be established.  Furthermore, a national forest certification standard was being developed.

Guyana had also been an active participant in the process of developing a regional certification standard under the auspices of the Amazonian Cooperation Treaty, he noted.  The formation of community forestry organizations countrywide had been coordinated, and those groups had been issued prime forested lands to be used in conformity with established guidelines.  The totality of national experience pointed to the need for guaranteed and timely financial assistance to complement measures to promote sustainable forest management.  Clearly, such assurances could assist deliberations on a consensual approach to developing a binding international instrument on forests.

TY SOKHUN (Cambodia) said forests had been globally recognized as being of key importance to the economic, social and ecological development of the world.  They were home to more than 1 billion people, harboured biological diversity, protected the soil, ensured a sustainable water supply, and provided employment.  Yet, forest sector development continued to face challenges, including the illegal harvesting of timber, which had a significant impact on deforestation.  It was important to address the root causes of such illegal activities effectively, including through law enforcement, governance, restructuring of forest industries, effective customs cooperation, and revised procurement policies, among other initiatives.

Cambodia had suffered a long history of war during the past 30 years, he continued, during which the country’s forests had suffered exploitation through anarchic logging and trafficking in timber.  The Government was now committed to the conservation and sustainable management of national forest resources, and was endeavouring to implement the IPF/IFF proposals for action, as well as the Forum’s decisions on international forest management standards.  Since 1998, the Government had been moving ahead with a comprehensive forest reform programme aimed at combating illegal activities and managing logging concessions in a sustainable manner for the benefit of present and future generations.  Among options for the future international arrangements for forests, Cambodia preferred a legally binding instrument, but would accept a compromise solution.

CARLOS WEBER (Chile) said that while a great deal remained to be done for forests, at the same time progress had been made.  There had been an emphasis in all statements on the importance of forests, but the same unanimity did not exist when solutions were proposed.  He believed it was important that members analyze the underlying causes of disagreement.  The reasons for such disagreement were complex, but it was important to remember that forests needed be looked at as a whole.

The common objectives of sustainable forest management had to be achieved in different ways; as a single course, or a sort of recipe, did not exist that could be applied for all countries equally, he continued.  Each country had different characteristics, such as the different qualities and quantities of their forests, and that must be recognized.  He added that it was clear from debates -- particularly those during the ministerial segment -- that there was no agreement that would result in a convention on forests.  It was, therefore, necessary to recognize and strengthen the existing instruments, because those had allowed members to make significant progress.

RODNEY LÓPEZ CLEMENTE (Cuba) said that, while the first five-year cycle of the Forum on Forests was concluding amid only discreet advances, it had clearly proved that there were indispensable elements for developing countries, without which progress would not be made.  For instance, despite promises in 2001, developing countries had not received the means of implementation necessary to carry out the IPF/IFF action proposals at the national level.  An important level of political visibility had been achieved when the Forum was established, but it had not been capitalized upon.  Dialogue had not been translated into concrete action.  The means of implementation remained key to the process as a whole.  Developing countries required new, additional, adequate, and predictable financial resources, as well as transfers of environmentally adequate technologies under favourable conditions.  

For its part, Cuba had made great efforts to honour its commitment to sustainable economic and social development, he noted.  The country had reversed its rate of deforestation from 40 years ago, and had achieved a positive rate of reforestation.  That had been achieved under the aegis of well-defined national priorities and well-designed and implemented Government decisions.  The future international arrangements on forests should comprise a process inclusive of all countries and kinds of forests, characterized by a legally-binding instrument that would provide for a required means of implementation, technology transfers, and human resource development.

MANUEL ACOSTA BONILLA (Honduras) said that the theme of forests had occupied the highest attention of Heads of State and governments.  The Central American countries that he represented preferred a legally binding instrument.  Such an instrument should be based on an open convention for all States, which respected the sovereignty and decisions of all countries.  It should also possess clear and quantifiable strategies for all governments.

He realized, however, that for the time being, the option of a legally binding instrument had not met with a general consensus.  As such, the countries of Central America were open to an intermediate and balanced agreement.  Such an agreement would have to include solutions to manage illegal logging and the illegal trade of forests products.  It was also necessary to have strategies and mechanisms for viable funding.  The Central American countries believed that there was a link between the global objectives and themes of implementation.  Any agreement would have to include adequate financing for sustainable forest management, as well as the transfer of technologies, as key elements.

Closing Remarks

PEKKA PATOSAARI, speaking on behalf of Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, thanked the high-level authorities that had come to participate in the high-level segment.  The participants had all discussed candidly the current challenges of sustainable forest management, so that the international community now knew what was necessary to get countries on track to meet the development commitments.  He was pleased to acknowledge that members had agreed on forward inputs to the September summit.  The Secretary-General’s report, “In Larger Freedom”, described the management of forests, which was an integral part of efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

The themes of the round tables, he continued, underscored the need for a renewed commitment to preserve forests, which had a significance that went far beyond the forest sector.  The plenary sessions today, which described actions for the future, touched on the need to strengthen efforts for forests at regional and global levels as well.  He added that biannual meetings, as well as a strengthened international arrangement on forests, were both interesting possibilities.  Beyond the forum’s universal membership, the level of cooperation had added much to the unique character of the international arrangement on forests.

Also making closing remarks, Forum Chairman MANUEL RODRIGUEZ BECERRA (Colombia) said the great challenge now was to narrow the gap between words and action.  All hoped that the commitment made by the high-level ministers present today regarding sustainable forest management, and with the intention of linking forests to the Millennium Development Goals, would be strictly implemented.  The priority challenges to be confronted included reversing deforestation and land degradation, and ensuring provision of adequate financial and technological resources to implement sustainable forest management policies; they were large challenges, but they must be surmounted.  It was his intention to work throughout the night, and all the next day, in order to achieve agreement on the outcome of the Forum’s fifth session.

Introduction of Ministerial Declaration

Forum Rapporteur REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) then introduced the text of the draft ministerial declaration on the high-level segment of its fifth session, which noted that ministers responsible for forests had gathered to review the effectiveness of the international arrangement on forests, to make it more dynamic and adaptable, and to address the institutional framework of the Forum with the United Nations system.  The text called upon the United Nations system, international and regional organizations, all sectors of civil society including non-governmental organizations, and the people of the world to commit themselves to the objectives of sustainable forest management in order to intensify the contribution of forests to achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.  The Forum also expressed its determination to strengthen the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of future generations, including by enhancing international cooperation so that trees and forests contributed to fulfilment of those development goals.

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*     The 8th meeting was covered in Press Release ENV/DEV/857 of 25 May.

For information media. Not an official record.