|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
United Nations Forum on Forests
2nd & 3rd Meetings* (AM & PM)
CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR ‘BREAKTHROUGH’ IN TRANSLATING CONCEPT INTO REALITY
AS UNITED NATIONS FORUM ON FORESTS OPENS EIGHTH SESSION
“We must achieve a breakthrough in this Forum,” Boen M. Purnama (Indonesia), new Chairman of the United Nations Forum on Forests, emphasized today in reference to its task of moving the landmark 2007 non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests from the realm of concept to that of practical reality.
Speaking after his election, and as the Forum opened its two-week-long eighth session, he said that the political commitment shared by all members called for concrete actions, concrete resources and concrete timelines.
Mandated to forge agreement on an appropriate and effective financial mechanism to ensure full implementation of adopted instruments, the Forum meets biennially in New York, with each session focusing on clusters of specific thematic and cross-sectoral issues, as set forth in its multi-year programme of work (2007-2015). The thematic focus of the current session is on “Forests in a changing environment” and “Means of implementation for sustainable forest management”.
Echoing the first theme, Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, emphasized the need to recognize the change in the environment, noting that the management of the world’s forests was a critical factor in developing integrated solutions to today’s unprecedented “cascade of crises”. Forests were the lungs of the planet and billions of people relied on them for income, food, medicine and shelter.
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, with financial and technical support from development partners, would contribute both to fighting climate change and promoting sustainable livelihoods, he continued. That had been recognized in the Bali Action Plan and, as preparations continued for the Copenhagen Conference later this year, the Forum could send the message that the full scope of forests must be considered in addressing the issue of forests and climate change. Forests provided much more than the carbon sequestration services valued in the context of climate change.
Taking up the second theme, “Means of implementation for sustainable forest management”, he said the decisions that the Forum faced this year would challenge the ability of participants to be creative, to persuade those concerned with other crises that forests needed resources now, and that investing in forests would generate dividends for sustainable, inclusive and green growth for decades to come.
“We now have a chance to do things differently,” he continued, referring to the experience of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, when large areas of forest had been converted to other uses. The current global financial and economic crisis provided an opportunity to develop innovative solutions and strategies for investment in green technology approaches, and to build towards an economic recovery that would include long-term sustainable development gains.
Also addressing the Forum was Jan Heino, Assistant Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, which was formed in 2001 to support the Forum’s work and enhance cooperation and coordination on its issues. The Partnership had been established with the secretariats of 14 forest-related organizations, institutions and instruments.
He stressed the need to send clear messages to decision makers and stakeholders both within and outside the sector about key issues before the Forum. No longer could anyone deny the importance of forests and trees in mitigating and adapting to climate change, combating desertification, reversing land degradation and increasing agricultural productivity or conserving biodiversity. Similarly, no one could disagree with the need for significant new and additional financial resources to help countries implement forest and other related commitments.
Moving from words to action had been “far too slow”, he said. What was needed was an arrangement that had all mechanisms and funds related to forests working together to implement sustainable forest management worldwide. “We must also address the serious gap in forest financing to combat land degradation and desertification, as evidence has shown.” Another priority was implementing the Collaborative Partnership’s Strategic Framework on Forests and Climate Change, in addition to work already started.
As the Forum proceeded to discuss the issues before it, the representative of the Sudan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, proposed the establishment of a global forest fund to tap all sources of financial support to promote sustainable forest management, in order to provide new and additional financial resources to developing countries. The Group called for funding from all sources, including voluntary ones, for the promotion of sustainable forest management, and urged donors to increase funding for all types of forests.
Similar issues were addressed as the Forum began debate on finance and other means of implementation for sustainable forest management, including three options contained in Economic and Social Council resolution 2007/40: global financial mechanism, portfolio approach and forest financing framework.
Among the related recommendations presented in the Secretary-General’s report on the matter was the establishment of a facilitative mechanism to catalyse the implementation of bilateral and multilateral development assistance programmes relevant to sustainable forest management. Such a mechanism could also help in the exchange of information, link sources and beneficiaries, contribute to cooperation and coordination, and mobilize new and additional financing from all sources, including the private sector, to advance the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument.
Other speakers were representatives of the Czech Republic (on behalf of the European Union), Papua New Guinea (on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum), Croatia, Angola, Suriname, Nepal, Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Indonesia, Brazil, Colombia, China, United States, India, Chad, Pakistan, Cuba, Iran, Argentina, Japan, Chile, Australia, South Africa, Dominican Republic, New Zealand and Norway.
A representative of the indigenous people also addressed the Forum, as did a delegate speaking on behalf of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General and other documents, before members.
Also today, the Forum held a panel discussion on the global financial crisis and sustainable forest management, which covered its impact on forests, financial flows and investment opportunities in forests; livelihoods and environmental sustainability; as well as means to mitigate its effects.
In other business today, the Forum completed the election of its Bureau by electing, by acclamation, Glen Kile of Australia for the remaining position of Vice Chairman of the session. It also agreed on its agenda and organization of work, and decided to provide accreditation for the African Forest Forum to participate in the session as an intergovernmental organization.
The Forum will continue its work at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 21 April, when it is expected to take up the issues of forests in a changing environment and hold a panel discussion on forests and biodiversity, climate change and desertification.
As the United Nations Forum on Forests, the only global body for comprehensive deliberations on international forest policy, opened its two-week eighth session this morning, it was expected to focus on two key concerns: the financing of sustainable forest management; and the inter-relation between forests and such major environmental issues as climate change, desertification and biodiversity loss. For background information, see Press Release ENV/DEV/1033 of 17 April.
BOEN M. PURNAMA ( Indonesia), newly-elected Chairman of the Forum on Forests, said it would be pursuing realistic objectives during the session, which was being held at a historic juncture. The 2007 adoption of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests by the seventh session and the General Assembly had been a great leap forward symbolizing international political commitment and willingness to cooperate towards the achievement of sustainable forest management. Also, the Forum had itself entered a new phase on account of its new multi-year programme of work and the adoption of the non-legally binding instrument. It had become a unique international policy body that would provide a comprehensive perspective on forests. Its foundation was sustainable forest management, full participation of all Member States and the active engagement of international and regional organizations, processes and other stakeholders.
Growing recognition of the role of forests in the climate change negotiations represented an ever-deepening appreciation of the great environmental value of forests, he continued. It was, therefore, very timely that one of the session’s two main themes was “Forests in a Changing Environment”. The other important theme was a decision on “a voluntary global financial mechanism/portfolio approach/forest financing framework”. Members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests had, as always, played a very important role preparing the Ad Hoc Expert Group on financing issues and for the session. The responsibility given to the session was huge and of very long-term impact. The Forum’s task was to address the means of moving recently-adopted instruments from the realm of concept to that of practical reality. Its mandate required it to forge agreement on an appropriate and effective financial mechanism to ensure their full implementation.
“As a result, we must achieve a breakthrough in this Forum,” he stressed, noting that the political commitment that everybody shared meant concrete actions, concrete resources and concrete timelines. Without an effective and unambiguous decision, the Forum would never reach its destination of forest sustainability. The current financial crisis should not prevent participants from developing the financial mechanism to fulfil the mandate, which incorporated four key global objectives on forests. It was necessary to seize that opportunity in order to demonstrate their commitment to implementing sustainable forest management as an important pro-Millennium Development Goals milestone. “We must act to build the infrastructure necessary to help manage our forests in a more sustainable manner that can benefit all our people.” The decision on the financial mechanism to implement sustainable forest management was a central pillar of that infrastructure.
SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, described the management of the world’s forests as a critical factor in developing integrated solutions to today’s unprecedented “cascade of crises”. Forests were the lungs of the planet and billions of people relied on them for income, food, medicine and shelter. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, with financial and technical support from development partners, would contribute both to fighting climate change and promoting sustainable livelihoods. That had been recognized in the Bali Action Plan. As preparations mounted for the Copenhagen Conference later this year, the Forum could send the message that, in addressing the issues of forests and climate change, the full scope of forests must be considered: they provided much more than the carbon sequestration services valued in the context of climate change.
Two years ago, the long-awaited adoption of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests had signalled the beginning of a new era in international forest policy. Everybody agreed that forests had significant contributions to make in realizing a more sustainable and equitable future. Now was the time to build on that shared political commitment and translate it into collective and concrete action -- to implement sustainable forest management and the global objectives.
First, as suggested by one of the Forum’s two themes for the session, it was necessary to recognize the change in the environment, he said, adding that, with the discussion of many issues on the Forum’s agenda -- from the environmental aspects of biodiversity to climate change to desertification -- having started as early as the Rio Summit in 1992, he looked forward to hearing from two of the three Rio Convention Executive Secretaries present at the session. “We have a wealth of experience, many best practices and some glorious failures to learn from.” While the interconnections between those issues had become clearer, what had really changed was the international context and the political will to act.
Regarding the session’s second major theme, “Means of implementation for sustainable forest management”, he said that the decisions the Forum faced this year would challenge participants’ ability to be creative, to persuade those concerned with other crises that forests needed resources now, and that investing in forests would generate dividends of sustainable, inclusive and green growth for decades to come. Experience showed that, in times of financial crisis, the impacts on forests were direct and dramatic. During the 1997 Asian financial crisis, large areas of forest had been converted to other uses. Entire communities had struggled to survive, in the face of unemployment and economic ruin.
“We now have a chance to do things differently,” he continued. The current global financial and economic crisis provided an opportunity to develop innovative solutions and strategies for investment in green technology approaches, and to build towards an economic recovery that would include long-term sustainable development gains. The Forum had a universal membership comprising all 192 United Nations Member States and a comprehensive 360 degree view of sustainable forest management. It took into account the full scope of forest issues, in a cross-sectoral and integrated manner.
The Forum had a unique responsibility to translate that comprehensive view into leadership and guidance on the implementation of forest-based solutions to global development challenges, he said in conclusion, emphasizing that the time had come for decisive action. The fate of forests and the billions who depended on them rested in the delegates’ hands. In today’s increasingly globalized and interconnected world, the only sustainable solution lay in working in a true spirit of partnership with all stakeholders, at all levels. The contributions of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests provided an excellent example of what Member States could achieve together.
JAN HEINO, Assistant Director-General, Forestry Department, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, highlighted the multiple roles of forests and trees, noting that, in many ways, the eighth session would advance significantly the international forest dialogue if it sent clear messages to decision makers and stakeholders both within and outside the sector regarding key issues before the Forum. No longer could anyone deny the importance of forests and trees to mitigating and adapting to climate change, combating desertification, reversing land degradation and increasing agricultural productivity or conserving biodiversity. Similarly, no one could disagree with the need for significant new and additional financial resources to help countries implement forest and other related commitments.
While those facts were undeniable, moving from words to action had been “far too slow”, he said, calling for an arrangement whereby all mechanisms and funds related to forests would work together to implement sustainable forest management worldwide. “We must also address the serious gap in forest financing to combat land degradation and desertification, as evidence has shown.” Another priority was implementation of the Strategic Framework on Forests and Climate Change of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, in addition to work already started. Immediate focus was on preparing for the ninth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification in October and the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December.
He noted that, as part of its five thematic programmes, the International Tropical Timber Organization had this month launched its “Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Enhancing Environmental Services in Tropical Forests”, a programme managed jointly by FAO, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) of the World Bank. They were collaborating closely to support national strategies; systems for measuring, assessing, reporting and verification; and the engagement of indigenous peoples and civil society. In that regard, they were drawing on the experience and expertise of the entire United Nations system and other members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests. Furthermore, the Forest Investment Programme was being designed to provide upfront bridge financing reforms and investment in readiness for deforestation and degradation programmes.
He said another good example of teamwork was the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the financial mechanism of the three forest-related Rio Conventions –- the Convention on Biodiversity, the anti-desertification Convention, and the Climate Change Convention. There would be no sustainable forest management without means of implementation and all that it implied -– financial resources, technology transfer and capacity-building. The Collaborative Partnership on Forests was ready to support the Forum’s work and enhance collaboration and coordination on forest issues at the global, regional, subregional and national levels.
Introduction of Reports
JAN MCALPINE, Director, Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General on achieving the four global objectives on forests and implementing the non-legally binding instruments on all types of forests (documents E/CN.18/2009/2); and on enhanced cooperation and policy programme coordination (document E/CN.18/2009/10). Although based on a limited number of country responses -– which made the sample too limited to draw far-reaching conclusions -– the first report nevertheless provided valuable information on implementation and progress. From the responses and information gleaned from regional inputs, it was evident that countries had a positive outlook on the non-legally binding instrument and the four global objectives on forests therein as a basis for promoting sustainable forest management. The responses suggested that the non-legally binding instrument had considerable potential to achieve its set objectives.
She said that the report, intended to facilitate the Forum’s consideration of progress made in implementation of the non-legally binding instrument, in addition to reaching the global objectives on forests, pointed out that the short time that has elapsed since the adoption of the forest instrument limited the opportunity of countries to initiate new actions. Nevertheless, the report provided valuable insights into actions taken and progress made in implementing the instrument, and the responses suggested it had considerable potential to achieve its set goals.
However, countries have also identified a number of areas that needed to be addressed more efficiently in order to realize that potential, she said. They included pressure on limited forest resources, missing valuation of forest products and ecosystem services, inadequate financial resources, and lack of appropriate capacities, institutions and effective governance. It was also noteworthy that a number of countries found national forest programmes to be the main vehicle for implementing the non-legally binding instrument, and that several of its provisions were being implemented as a result of initiatives taken before its adoption.
Mr. HEINO then introduced the Collaborative Partnership on Forests Framework 2008 and 2009 (document E/CN.18/2009/12), saying that other new initiatives included financing for sustainable forest management, forest and climate change, global expert panels on forests, forest degradation and preparations for the observance of the Year of Forests, 2011. Also, given the attention that climate change was currently attracting, a number of activities and meetings were being considered for 2010. Members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests were also working to streamline reporting, an area that could use improvement.
ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMED (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the mutually reinforcing global crises had exacerbated the challenges and impediments faced by developing countries in pursuing the internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to eradicating poverty and hunger and sustainable development. Developing countries hosted most of the world’s forests, which played a critical role in the lives of the rural poor and forest-dependent communities. Among other things, the important contribution of forests as water regulators, carbon sinks and in the conservation of biodiversity was also evident.
He said that the adoption of the non-legally binding instrument in 2007 constituted the highest expression of the importance that the international community placed on forests issues, as well as the recognition of the will to raise the profile of forests, based on their importance, especially to sustainable development. The Secretary-General’s report on forests in a changing environment rightly stated that low forest cover countries in arid and semi-arid areas were particularly susceptible to land degradation and desertification. Seventy-one countries were characterized by low forest cover, with less than 10 per cent of their land area covered by forests. Low forest cover countries, as identified in the reports, had not received proper international support.
Turning to the small island developing States, which were among the richest in biodiversity, he said they were highly vulnerable and it was ironic that they had historically not benefited from support for forests, a fact borne out in one of the Secretary-General’s reports. That matter warranted increased attention. In addition, Africa had been identified as lagging behind in international support for forest management, but the success of many poverty reduction and economic growth strategies in the poorest African countries was inextricably linked to the sustainable provision of forest goods and services. High and medium forest cover countries, which possessed much of the Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity, faced important challenges in implementing sustainable forest management and promoting forest law enforcement, thus integrating forests into broader sustainable-development policies. The current session must seriously address the challenges faced by all those categories of countries.
Forests were able to become the catalysts of recovery by providing the means for a greener, more sustainable pattern of growth, he said, adding that they should be encompassed in the global response to the multiple crises affecting the world economy. Financial support for sustainable forest management, consistent with the economic, social and environmental needs of developing countries, was a key aspect of building resilience in those countries as part of the broader counter-cyclical measures to be adopted. The primary barrier to sustainable forest management in developing countries was insufficient funding, and the financial gap could only be addressed by dedicating resources to support implementation of sustainable forest management, achievement of global objectives on forests, and implementation of the non-legally binding instrument.
Welcoming the dedication of a separate agenda item on means of implementation, he proposed the establishment of a Global Forest Fund, which would tap all sources of financial support to promote sustainable forest management, including through funding afforestation and reforestation activities, in order to provide new and additional financial resources to developing countries. The Group of 77 and China called for funding from all sources, including voluntary ones, for the promotion of sustainable forest management, and urged donors to increase funding for all types of forests. The proposed fund would complement rather than replace existing financial mechanisms.
TOMÁŠ KREJAZAR (Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union, stressed that, while the non-legally binding instrument represented a historical milestone in the international forest policy dialogue, it was now time to create favourable conditions for its effective implementation in cooperation of the Forum Secretariat, Member States, major groups and members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests. Sustainable forest management, covering the multiple functions of forests, contributed in an integrated way to sustainable development and to reaching international agreed development targets.
The non-legally binding instrument and national forest programmes were appropriate means for actions aimed at reaching those goals, he said. The current session should give policy guidance by clarifying and communicating the specific contributions that sustainable forest management could make to internationally agreed goals, so that it was fully taken into account in the policies and decisions of multilateral agreements and processes, in particular those directed towards mitigating and adaptation to climate change, combating deforestation, forest degradation and desertification, biodiversity conservation and poverty eradication.
The upcoming sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the Rio Conventions were an excellent opportunity that should not be missed, he said. The current session needed to contribute significantly to strengthening the integration of environmental aspects into forest policy dialogue and sustainable forest management at all levels. The session must create the conditions for further improvement of cooperation and coordination in addressing forest-related issues, including through targeted joint activities by members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.
Similarly, he underlined the need for the session to decide on the future financing arrangements for sustainable forest management, noting that the European Union considered such a decision indispensable for successful implementation of the non-legally binding instrument and achievement of the four global objectives on forests as a contribution to sustainable forest management. Good governance and forest law enforcement, including secure land tenure rights, were prerequisites for achieving the global objectives on forests and the effective use of financial resources. The European Union, therefore, called for the issue to be addressed properly in discussions and decisions both on the theme of forests in a changing environment and on the future financing arrangement for sustainable forest management.
RUTH TURIA (Papua New Guinea), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum, stressed that members of the group had made every effort to manage their forests in a sustainable manner, but it was a Herculean task, given the serious resource constraints. Those countries were also faced with a major threat as a result of continuing climate change and unsustainable forest practices. Many Pacific countries had not had much presence during the Forum’s previous sessions, but they were pleased with a number of attractive features of the non-legally binding instrument. It provided a new emphasis on regional involvement, which gave the Asia-Pacific region an opportunity to influence the Forum’s work programme to take its needs and aspirations into account.
One of the very innovative mechanisms that had emerged from the Forum on Forests process had been the establishment of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, she said. Since inception in 2001, it had achieved a lot in avoiding duplication of efforts, among other things. Sill, there was a long way to go since only two international organizations were now using the joint questionnaire mechanism to seek information from countries. The Pacific Islands Forum called on members of the Collaborative Partnership to expand use of that facility so as to reduce the reporting burden, especially on smaller developing countries. While members of the Pacific Islands Forum benefited from the current grouping, their forest circumstances and issues were different from those in the broader Asia-Pacific region. To better represent their position, the Forum should consider Pacific island countries as a separate group. It was also requested to register the Secretariat of the Pacific Community as a regional focal point for the Pacific region.
PETAR COBANKOVIC, Minister for Regional Development, Forestry and Water Management of Croatia, said that, following the landmark adoption of the non-legally binding instrument in 2007, the Forum should be very careful to prevent that agreement from becoming a mere exercise in rhetoric by translating it into action on the ground. Any action by the Forum should strive to enhance the instrument’s effectiveness in using sustainable forest management to increase forestry responses in mitigating and adapting to climate change. However, added value to the instrument would be difficult to achieve if existing financing levels for sustainable forest management were not pragmatically addressed during the current session.
He said that, for its own part, his country had long recognized the importance and value of sustainable forest management and was proud of its long-standing tradition of sustainable forestry that dated back more than 250 years. Today, Croatia possessed some of the most extensive, healthy and naturally self-sustaining forests in Europe, covering almost half of its territory. The country also enjoyed rich biodiversity, with 4,500 plant species and subspecies, 260 indigenous tree species and more than 100 forest plant communities thriving on 2.7 million hectares of forest and other wooded land.
He went on to describe his country’s nature-friendly techniques of natural regeneration, normative standards on selective tree felling and introduction of a “green tax” for publicly used non-timber forest services. All State-owned forests, comprising more than 2 million hectares, had been accredited with the certificate of the prestigious Forest Stewardship Council. At the same time, many areas continued to be used in a sustainable manner for wood production or as sustainable hunting reserves, bringing in economic gains, jobs and additional income to local communities.
In 2007, following Croatia’s initiative, the General Assembly had designated 2011 as the International Year of Forests, he said. Hopefully the Year would highlight the sufficient contribution that forests could make to carbon storage, the provision and purification of air and water and to renewable energy resources. As its contribution to the activities in connection with the Year of Forests, Croatia planned to host an international conference on sustainable forest management and biodiversity and had designed, pursuant to the goals of the Year, an ambitious plan to have 100 per cent of its forests maintained by sustainable forest management methods. The country had also undertaken a National Forest Inventory.
ANDRÉ DE JESUS MODA ( Angola), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the Forum was meeting at a unique period in history when the world was experiencing a several global economic crisis that would adversely impact the Millennium Development Goals as well as international efforts to implement the non-legally binding instrument. That was a major challenge and the international community must position itself to bolster its political commitment to harnessing all its energies in efforts to reduce the effects of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and forest degradation. Those efforts were not only important in protecting biodiversity and the environment, but also in combating poverty.
He commended FAO and UNDP for their hard work in developing and launching the Integrated Drylands Development Programme, which had not only been good for building confidence in developing countries, but had also been valuable in forest preservation by contributing to livelihoods. Aware of its responsibilities in that regard, Angola had developed programmes to strengthen national forestry laws and wildlife policies. Further, the country was strengthening national capacity and supporting enhanced technology transfer.
MICHAEL JONG TJIEN FA (Suriname) expressed his appreciation to those Member States that had recognised his country as a partner in its efforts to achieve sustainable forest management, and chosen it as the next host of the Country Led Initiative meeting on “Financing for Sustainable Forest Management: The Paramaribo Dialogue”. Suriname had a long history of nature conservation, biodiversity protection and sustainable forest management. Over the past 50 years, it had required considerable national efforts to develop and enforce legislation for protected areas and sustainable forestry. With more than 90 per cent of forest cover and negligible deforestation, the country took pride in being one of the few countries on Earth with an abundance of standing pristine forests, which provided the global community with crucial ecological services as a “carbon sink”, among others, but so far without any fair compensation in return.
As a high forest cover, low deforestation country, Suriname needed international support for compensation of existing carbon stocks in standing pristine forests, he said. That could be achieved by including forest conservation in future deforestation- and degradation-reduction mechanisms, as part of efforts to further promote sustainable forest management. Suriname strongly emphasized the importance of sustainable forest management in the eradication of poverty, reaching the Millennium Development Goals and contributing to climate stabilization.
KIRAN GURUNG, Minister for Forests and Soil Conservation of Nepal, said the Himalayas, often called the planet’s Third Pole, played a significant role in maintaining the global environment and ensured drinking water for millions of people. Because of global warming, glacial lakes were close to bursting and posed a danger of flash floods that could bring disaster to South Asia, while the rapid melting of glaciers might result in widespread water shortages across the region. Nepal proposed that the international community start saving the Earth beginning at the top of the world -– the Himalayan ecosystem -– in order to secure the future of billions of people.
About one third of Nepal’s population was engaged in managing forest land, he said. Forest development programmes had been carried out through local empowerment, which had led to increased forest cover on previously degraded land. Committed to its motto, “New Nepal Green Nepal”, the country had been selected for the Forest Carbon Facilities Programme and was currently formulating strategies for forest carbon accounting and trading. However, unless pervasive rural poverty was eradicated, the conservation of forest resources could not be effective. Nepal had launched a “Green Job Programme” that would create 100,000 extra jobs a year through the promotion of forest-based enterprises.
In Nepal and across the world, local and indigenous communities were the custodians of forest biodiversity, he said, stressing that more attention should be devoted to the question of whether they were getting their fair share of benefits and whether the existing global instruments were sufficient to maintain current levels of forest resources. Nepal, together with the National Trust for Nature Conservation, would celebrate 2009 as “Nepal Nature Conservation Year” and, from 1-3 December, the country would host an international conference on “Conservation in Changing Climate in the Himalayas”.
ABDUL WAHID ABU SALIM (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, particularly on the establishment of the a global forest fund, reiterated ASEAN’s commitment to continued implementation of activities to promote sustainable forest management, enhance capacity-building and human-resources development, strengthen cooperation and joint approaches in addressing international and regional forestry issues, and promote trade in forest products as well as private sector participation.
ASEAN had embarked on strengthening its institutional capability and building infrastructure to strengthen and support cooperation, he continued. It was putting tools in place to evaluate efforts towards achieving global forest objectives and the Millennium Development Goals. To that end, senior ASEAN forestry officials had established a regional expert group on international forest policy processes which would function as a dialogue mechanism to support implementation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and proposals by the Forum on Forests in addition to enhancing member countries’ national forest programmes. ASEAN looked forward to closer cooperation with countries, regional and international bodies to support its efforts to meet regional and international commitments.
MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that, while the non-legally binding instrument was the first global agreement ever in the area of forest, it was merely the starting point for much more challenging work ahead -- translating international commitment into real action. That called for stronger will and greater collaborative efforts.
Commitment to forest instruments in many developing countries was embedded in their policies and legislation, he said. That commitment had been demonstrated at the highest political level in 2007, when the President of Indonesia had taken the initiative with other leaders of rainforest countries to establish a group of tropical rainforest countries known as the Forest-11, or F-11. The group sought to promote cooperation in slowing, stopping and reversing the loss of forest cover as well as the rehabilitation of degraded forest lands, forest management and conservation. The F-11 was now finalizing its cooperation framework.
To implement the four global objectives contained in the non-legally binding instrument, many developing countries must overcome serious hurdles, he continued, noting the absence of effective legal and policy frameworks and inadequate financial resources. It was regrettable that lack of agreement on a financial mechanism and other means of implementation during the Forum’s seventh session had undermined national efforts to implement forest instruments. As a result, two years of opportunity to embark on implementation had been lost.
He urged development partners to fulfill their commitments to support developing countries in implementing forest instruments through financial assistance, capacity-building, research and development, as well as transfer of appropriate environmentally sound technologies. As mandated by Economic and Social Council resolution 2007/40, the Forum should try to make history by taking the right decision on a financial mechanism. As for the submission of voluntary national progress reports, they should not only address the state of implementation of forest instruments, but also refer to efforts to strengthen capacity in developing countries. Indonesia recommended that those reports replicate the model of the Economic and Social Council’s Annual Ministerial Review.
FERNANDO COIMBRA ( Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, noted that his country had the largest tropical forest cover in the world. Forests were an essential foundation of life as they provided important ecosystem services and livelihoods, especially for the rural poor, indigenous and local communities. There was thus an urgent need to integrate forests into national sustainable development policies so as to combat deforestation and promote sustainable forest management at the local, national regional and international levels.
He said that, as part of its strong commitment to the promotion of sustainable forest management, his country had recently established the Amazon Fund, which aimed to mobilize financial resources based on actual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. The National Plan on Climate Change, launched last year, also set two national targets related to forests: gradual reduction of the average deforestation rate until zero illegal deforestation was achieved by 2017; and stopping the net loss of forest cover by 2015. Those tools would strengthen Brazilian policies for fostering the sustainable production of both timber and non—timber forest products while combating deforestation and establishing protected areas.
As the sole universal body dedicated to discussing political issues relating to all types of forests at the international level, the Forum had already contributed significantly to the promotion of international cooperation towards sustainable forest management, particularly through the adoption of the four global objectives on forests and the non-legally binding instrument. Nevertheless, the lack of financial resources for sustainable forest management in developing countries, which owned most of the world’s forests, was a chronic impediment to the full attainment of that goal. A global fund would be instrumental in addressing properly the scarcity of financial resources available for developing countries.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia), supporting the Group of 77 and China, underlined the importance of sustainable forest management for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and sustainable development. Colombia recognized the role of forests in the conservation of biodiversity, water regulation and as carbon sinks. The country was blessed with more than 600,000 square kilometres of forests and was committed to protecting that natural wealth. In recent years, for example, it had been working on conserving, restoring and managing forests and biodiversity at the level of ecosystems, implementing strategies such as the consolidation of the System of Protected Areas, which covered 11 per cent of the national territory. Colombia’s efforts to develop sustainable and productive alternatives included the “Forest Keeper Families” initiative, which engaged more than 90,000 low-income families in forest conservation.
She said the Forum provided an opportunity for the international community to recognize and support enormous efforts of countries like Colombia in terms of human, technical and financial resources for sustainable forest management. The adoption of the non-legally binding instrument was an important step forward in terms of policy options. It also implied an unfinished task with regard to concrete commitments to ensure international cooperation resources, for supporting measures at the national level.
The discussion on the global financing mechanism for forests, unfulfilled at the seventh session and postponed for a year, should be assumed with determination, she said. Colombia was conscious of the serious financial constraints that the current economic global context entailed, but the international debate on policy options related to sustainable forest management could become meaningless if it did not produce significant agreements with respect to means of implementation. New and additional financial resources and cooperation were essential, as were technology transfer and the widening of capacity-building.
QU GUILIN ( China) said the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument and achievement of the global objectives on forest depended on the political commitment and actual actions of all countries. The Asia-Pacific region had strengthened its political commitment to sustainable forest management, integrating it into some regional political documents, such as the Sydney Declaration emanating from the fifteenth session of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit and the Singapore Declaration on Climate Change, Energy and Environment.
He said the Government of China paid much attention to the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument, taking such measures as increasing forest investment, improving forest legislation and policies, integrating forestry development into national development strategies and plans, promoting key national forestry programmes on a large scale, enhancing forest management and tree-planting, advancing forestland tenure reforms and strengthening forest law enforcement. China had also taken measures to further strengthen international cooperation and its proposal to establish an Asia-Pacific forest rehabilitation and sustainable management network had been translated into action last year after consultation with its co-sponsors, the United States and Australia.
Among other things, forest law enforcement and good governance had been listed on the agendas of the Sino-United States Strategic Dialogue on Economy and the Sino-European Summit Meeting, he said, adding that China had signed a cooperation agreement on cracking down on illegal logging and related trade with the United States and Europe respectively. Implementation of the non-legally binding instrument should take into account a combination of national action and international cooperation, while providing financial and technical support for developing countries, especially the least developed ones. It should also consider the balance of the multiple functions provided by forests to ensure the integrity of forest ecosystems, and promote multiple forest functions so as to meet the diversified demands of society. In order to advance implementation of the instrument, China planned to host an initiative in support of the Forum, with support from Finland, Germany, Austria and the National Forest Partnership.
JOHN MICHAEL MATUSZAK ( United States) said that the world was challenged on a global scale by climate change, unparalleled loss of forests and biodiversity, and greater demand for materials than had ever been seen. At the same time, the present era was one of great opportunity. Greater attention was being paid to the environment and development issues, driven by greater awareness of climate change. New approaches and ideas were being explored while leaders, key institutions, non-governmental organizations, communities, the private sector and Governments sought new ways to tackle deforestation and improve standing forests. The United States was pleased to be part of those efforts and would be examining them for effectiveness and robust standards, which was the only way to build the investor confidence needed to advance sustainable forest management in the future. It also wished to see a focus on eliminating the drivers of deforestation, which was key to securing the health and future of the world’s forests.
Everybody approached forest issues with different perspectives, he continued, stressing the importance of sharing experiences and harnessing technology and political will in working together to promote sustainable forest management. Also of great importance were regional partnerships such as the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, the Global Forest and Trade Network, and the Asia-Pacific Forest Network, as well as institutions like the International Tropical Timber Organization, FAO and the National Forest Partnership. The United States was working bilaterally through the Tropical Forest Conservation Act and other bilateral initiatives with such countries as Indonesia, China, Brazil and Bolivia. It was also important to work across sectors to address illegal logging.
Emphasizing that no country could solve forest challenges alone, he said it was important to learn from each other, adding that his delegation had hoped to see more interactive discussions and less focus on negotiations. The session could serve more effectively as a forum for dialogue and not only negotiations. Nevertheless, it was to be hoped that practical, results-focused interactions would be guided by a spirit of cooperation and constructive engagement. It was understood that the working group on finance and other means of implementation had a mandate to negotiate voluntary global financing for sustainable forest management. The United States expected it to concentrate on a wide exchange of views that would take into account recent developments in that arena. Regarding the work on forests in a changing environment, there was a real opportunity for the working group to focus on substantive discussions. That could best be captured in a Chair’s summary, leaving room for a short, succinct resolution, if one was deemed necessary.
RAJAN SEHGAL ( India), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country was committed to sustainable forest management, achieving the four global objectives on forests and implementing the non-legally binding instrument. India’s National Forest Policy of 1988, formulated four years before the Rio Summit, embodied the principles of sustainable forest management, involvement of local communities, empowerment of women and increased forest and tree cover. Its resulting forestry-management practices were being fine-tuned according to sustainable forest management principles, with their basic thrust aimed at involving local communities in forest protection, afforestation and reforestation. Today India’s total forest and tree cover was estimated at 23.4 per cent of total geographic area.
At the global level, he said, the Forum and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests were addressing forest-related issues in a holistic, comprehensive and integrated manner, and had succeeded in promoting better understanding of sustainability and facilitating coordination among forest-related instruments and processes. But with limited resources and competing demands, many developing countries could not adequately support national forest programmes. It was imperative to give due consideration to that aspect. With funding coming only from its federal and State Governments, India needed greater international assistance.
He said his country had nevertheless adopted the principles for joint forest management in 1990, having recognized that local involvement and coordination in protecting and developing degraded forests helped eradicate poverty. Those joint forest management programmes had as their main objectives regeneration and eco-development; increased availability of fuelwood, fodder and grasses; and securing people’s involvement in planning and regeneration. National schemes and programmes for strengthening the effective management of forest and wildlife resources had also been developed with the aim of recovering critically endangered species and their habitats, while also improving forest protection and maintaining and extending forest and tree cover.
Under-Secretary-General SHA, moderating the panel on “The Financial Crisis and Sustainable Forest Management: Threat and Opportunity”, said the global economic and financial crisis had impacted every household in the world and touched upon every fundamental aspect of human life, from homes and jobs for the future, to global trade and markets, the financial and economic systems through to the environment. Even as many countries had taken steps to stem the tide of financial turmoil and economic downturn, and while they continued their attempts to stabilize their financial sectors and stimulate their economies, the impact of the crisis on developing countries -– including on their natural resources -- was of grave concern.
As the Secretary-General underscored in his report to the session, the crisis would exacerbate pressure on forests for food and other basic needs, he said. Furthermore, the crisis would likely place serious limitations on investment for sustainable forest management, many of which could affect national public resources and official development assistance as well. The financial crisis affected the commodity markets and the forest sector economy suffered as general demand for first products declined sharply. The sharp decline in demand for agricultural commodities in general had led to adverse effects on agricultural productivity, income and employment in the rural sector, especially in the developing countries, where the majority of people lived.
WARREN EVANS, Director, Environment Division, World Bank, speaking as the first of this afternoon’s panellists, said the latest data indicated that the world economy would contract by some 1.7 per cent this year and that, while all countries would be affected, economic growth in many developing countries would slow down significantly. Poor and developing countries had far less of a cushion to respond to the crisis and, during the recent Group of 20 (G-20) meeting, the World Bank had called for measures to address their vulnerability and increase response by the donor community.
The experience of the 1997 Asian crisis showed that forests were seriously affected by such events, he said. Issues like return migration and increased unemployment would dramatically increase encroachment on forests and speed up deforestation. Reduced remittances would also have a substantial impact on the use of forests. Allocations for forest protection tended to fall during times of economic strife. Another important point related to weakened controls, which in turn led to increased illegal logging.
The key role in mitigation as well as investment in afforestation and reforestation efforts belonged to initiatives like the green movement, he continued. Many of those initiatives had started before the crisis, but they would help deal with its effects. There was a serious lack of knowledge about the full impact of the current crisis, but much could be learned from the current discussions on climate change and related issues. The development of partnerships in the forest sector could have a positive effect. Among other things, it was important to teach local communities sustainable forest management. There was a great deal to be learned and the time was right to learn from experience. Local and global benefits could be achieved by reducing carbon emissions.
EMMANUEL ZE MEKA, Executive Director, International Tropical Timber Organization, provided evidence of the severe impact that the economic crisis had wrought on tropical forests. Given the turmoil in all markets, there were indications that the timber industry in practically all tropical countries had suffered as a result of the crisis. It was hard to predict how deep the economic crisis would be, but growing poverty was likely to lead to damage to tropical forests through intensified illegal logging and related activities.
In some areas, people would resort to arson to recoup their losses, he said, warning that the livelihoods of those dependent on tropical forests was likely to be affected. Financial flows generated by timber were likely to decline sharply this year. Traditional markets were shrinking as demand declined, but the impact of the crisis on wood prices had so far been less volatile than on other commodities. On a positive note, trees would continue to grow while the crisis evolved.
Economic recovery and environmental sustainability were often linked to green stimulus plans, which were unlikely to offer much to tropical countries, he continued. It was also highly likely that the bulk of developed-world stimulus funds would remain in their countries of origin. However, the crisis might lead to stimulus packages in some tropical countries, for forest restoration and tree planting programmes. One of the goals now was to share knowledge in mobilizing financing.
The only real promise of financing for sustainable forest management was from climate-related programmes, he said. However, the state of economies would be a limiting factor in decisions by donors to provide financing, as well as the level of assistance. The prospect for new climate-related funding was still promising, but countries needed to temper their expectations. The Forum could play a vital role in raising awareness of the crisis and measures to ameliorate it. It was likely that economic adjustment in the developed world would have an impact on the developing world, and it was important that the former remain aware of the impact of their policies on others. It was the Forum’s role to ensure that.
Panellist RUSS MITTERMEIER, President, Conservation International and also representing the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, highlighted some of the challenges and opportunities before the international community, stressing the importance in approaching “hot spots”, of taking time to prioritize the problems it sought to address so it could tackle them more effectively. Madagascar and the Guyana pristine forest area were good examples of those kinds of hot spots. The former, though not unique, was probably today’s highest-priority hot spot area. The latter, in contrast to Madagascar, represented the other end of the scale with Suriname, which fell within the same geographic area, and comprised 90 per cent of pristine forests. On financing the management and sustainability of protected areas, a critical ecosystem protection fund had been established for long-term financial sustainability. It was through those types of efforts that long-term preservation of the world’s pristine and wild forests would be guaranteed. Eco-tourism was one among several mechanisms that presented “a great opportunity” in efforts to avoid depletion of forests and forest degradation.
Participants in the ensuing debate highlighted the current and potential impacts of the financial economic crisis on forests, financial flows and investment opportunities in forests, livelihoods and environmental sustainability. Among measures to deal with the crisis, several speakers highlighted the need to establish a dedicated global forest fund. Also emphasized was the need to identify new financing sources within a global long-term strategy on sustainable forest management.
One speaker stressed the great importance of mobilizing additional financing by engaging the private sector, while another participant said that, from long experience, it was obvious that it was necessary to ensure a constant level of financing for forest-related projects, possibly through a trust fund system which could ensure a predictable flow of funds. A question of ecosystem services was also raised, with one speaker discussing the advantages of paying for them through a market system as opposed to payment through a regulation-based approach.
The crisis should not mean that the international community should forget about forests, a participant said, noting that forests offered a great opportunity for more harmonious development. For more than two decades, additional spending on forests had been linked to climate change, but forests could supply a great range of services which could be used to mitigate the impact of the crisis. It was important to go beyond the strategy of using forests only for timber and to emphasize their holistic role. Among other things, the crisis offered an opportunity to develop non-traditional forest-related markets. A strong statement was needed on including forests in the discussions on a post-Kyoto accord, a panelist said. Otherwise, the world would see further degradation of forests, crisis or no crisis.
ALI SOULEYMAN DABYE (Chad), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country required special attention because major population movements combined with the continuing degradation of the natural environment due to the constant use of forests for fuel had brought about severe difficulties. Chad’s energy needs were based on the destruction of forests and more than 50 per cent of them had been destroyed.
Deforestation was advancing at an alarming rate and the country faced extreme climatic changes, he said. At the same time as it was fighting deforestation and climate change, Chad was also fighting poverty. Because Chad was acutely aware of its situation, the President had made environmental protection a national priority and the country had signed all relevant and major environmental and other protocols, including the Kyoto Protocol, with the aim of preserving its environment and ecosystems.
FARUKH AMIL ( Pakistan), supporting the Group of 77 and China, stressed the special importance of the Forum’s deliberations against the backdrop of the global economic and financial crisis. One could not over-emphasize the need to take concrete and meaningful steps through the mobilization of dedicated resources to address the needs of developing countries in implementing the non-legally binding instrument. The Forum assumed particular importance for low forest cover countries like Pakistan, which were particularly vulnerable to environmental risks. There was an urgent need to protect and conserve its forests. For decades, Pakistan’s environment had suffered from the millions of refugees escaping from conflicts in neighbouring countries. The nation’s continued prosperity depended on the sustainable use of its natural resources.
ABELARDO MORENO FERNANDEZ (Cuba), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed that, for implementation of the non-legally binding instrument, it was important to ensure new and additional financial resources as well as international cooperation, knowledge transfer, capacity-building and education. Those were indispensable for developing countries, which needed financial resources for successful implementation. Many Forum participants believed that a world forestry fund was needed, possibly under the aegis of the United Nations. Cuba was keeping up its own efforts to achieve sustained forestry, and as a result of its efforts, the area covered by forests had grown from 23.3 per cent in 2004 to 25.2 per cent in 2009.
AHMAD RAJABI (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said it was critical to the implementation of sustainable forest management that the latest technological advances be made availed to all so they could meet the challenges of environmental degradation, deforestation and climate change. The shortage or lack of resources made it difficult for many countries to make any progress. There was a view that the current financing for development mechanism was not adequate and, in that regard, it was important to design measurable mechanisms and policies that took into consideration “differentiated responsibilities”, which were key to success.
J. L. SUTERA ( Argentina) said his country had passed a law last February setting a moratorium on the cutting of trees. In December, the Government had granted tenure, including tax breaks, on planted forests. Lastly, a memorandum of understanding had been signed to establish a national forestry plan and, later this year, Buenos Aires would host an international forestry conference. It was encouraging to note that many countries were making similar internal efforts. However, such efforts needed international support without which success would be doubtful. For that reason, Argentina strongly supported the Sudan’s statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China calling for such support.
Mr. MIYAZONO ( Japan) said that, in order to implement the non-legally binding instrument and achieve the four global objectives on forests, it was essential to systematically share information on efforts towards sustainable forest management and the status of implementation, in addition to seeing the whole picture. During that process, country reports could form the basis for that work. The Government of Japan had been making significant efforts to promote sustainable forest management, curb deforestation and forest degradation, and combat illegal logging in developing countries through contributions to international organizations and funds, such as the International Tropical Timber Organization, FAO and the World Bank, as well as through bilateral official development assistance (ODA).
In addition, Japan actively supported efforts by developing countries towards mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, including in the forest sector, he said. The country’s contributions had generated some positive changes in the forest sectors of several developing countries. As a major importer of timber and forest products, and one of the largest donors in the forest sector, Japan wished to contribute to the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument and to achievement of the Global Objectives on Forests by 2015.
The loss of the forest cover worldwide continued at an alarming rate, making global deforestation and forest degradation an urgent issue, he continued. Curbing those phenomena required effective action to implement sustainable forest management on a global scale. There were a variety of initiatives and frameworks for funding the forest sector, including those aiming to address climate change. However, there were geographical and thematic gaps, and there was room for improved use of existing resources. The volume of financial resources available to promote sustainable forest management was limited and it would take time until some kind of deforestation and degradation reducing mechanism would start functioning under the Climate Change Convention. Taking that into account, and in view of the current economic situation, it was difficult to expect significant increases of available financial resources in the near future. It was very important to consider ways to use the limited existing resources in the most effective manner through enhanced coordination and cooperation among existing initiatives and frameworks.
Ms. CESPEDES (Chile), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said her country based its economy on its natural resources and had approved some public policy instruments on sustainable forest management, desertification and drought. Sustainable forestry generated a positive impact on climate change and mitigated the negative environmental impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. Chile had about 2.2 million of high-growth forest plantations, which reduced carbon in the air. There were certain advantages in the proposals for a global forestry fund and Chile reiterated its commitment to the success of the Forum.
V.C. KILE ( Australia) said he looked forward to a fruitful exchange during the session and agreed that there was a need to integrate sustainable forest management into national as well as regional strategies. Australia was in favour of building the capacity of national Governments and combating illegal forest activities as well as other related issues.
Reaffirming his country’s commitment to remaining an active participant in all efforts concerning sustainable forest management, he said his country was willing to work cooperatively with the rest of the international community in realizing set goals. Australia was involved in regional forest initiatives, including efforts to curb illegal activities, and called on everyone to be strict advocates of stemming such illegal practices.
MOSHIBUDI RAMPEDI ( South Africa) said the Forum provided an opportunity for forestry to face global challenges such as the Millennium Development Goals, climate change, maintaining biological diversity and combating desertification. The contributions of forests to improving livelihoods ranged from reducing the poverty of forest-dependent communities and enhancing economic development through trade, to maintaining important ecological functions and valuable ecosystems. Efforts to achieve sustainable forest management required resources and South Africa welcomed the progress made in discussions on the means of implementation, particularly the commitment to “new and additional resources” that had been adopted at the Forum’s previous session.
BERNABE MANON ROSSI ( Dominican Republic) said that, in the last few years, his country had played an increasingly active role in subregional processes, including the Central American Commission for Environment and Development and the Forestry Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. The Forum’s seventh session had provided special backing to the dialogue on forests and different stakeholders would be implementing the provisions of the non-legally binding instrument. In that connection, it was necessary to pay special attention to improved forestry research in the subregion.
He said his country had embarked on a reforestation programme and signed agreements with Haiti to that effect. The biological corridor was a tri-national endeavour involving the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. More coordinated policies were needed on forests and people living in or near them. Offsetting deforestation could play an essential role in efforts to combat climate change. That would require sustainable forestry practices. National authorities must support specific policy changes to protect local communities from the loss of biodiversity.
ALAN REID ( New Zealand) said he supported the key objectives of the Forum, which had made admirable progress in recent years. However, there was a huge variety of forest types and varied community demands on forests. Since 2007, new issues had arisen from climate change, global economic crises and other issues. It was necessary to understand and address the boundaries and synergies of forest and climate change issues.
The adoption of the non-legally binding instrument had been an important step, he said, adding that it was also important to measure and report under various existing related processes. It was necessary to strengthen the synergies between the Forum and other relevant bodies. The best way forward was to attract new funds while using existing mechanisms on sustainable forest management initiatives. It was necessary to use the forest mechanism to address new pressures on sustainable forest management and to work on synergies.
The representative of indigenous peoples emphasized that forests were not just trees but indigenous land and, therefore, the participation of indigenous peoples in any decisions concerning their land was indispensable and must be taken into account. The exact nature of the impact that climate-change mitigation policies would have on indigenous communities and lifestyles must also be taken into account.
Any steps considered in mitigating the effects of climate change must also address the concerns, needs and well-being of indigenous peoples, he said. It was important that climate-change mitigation solutions be seen in the context that, while they may be good for some, they could also be bad for indigenous peoples. The universal declaration of rights of indigenous peoples, adopted in 2007, had taken 20 years of fighting by indigenous people and the Forum should therefore take into consideration their rights and needs in all its decisions.
Introduction of Report
Ms. MCALPINE then introduced the Secretary-General’s report on finance and other means of implementation for sustainable forest management (document E/CN.18/2009/9), saying it was built on the outcome of the November meeting of the Forum’s Open-Ended Ad Hoc Expert Group and its follow-up survey of the views of Member States and major groups. Discussions during the experts’ meeting highlighted that the three options contained in Economic and Social Council resolution 2007/40 (global financial mechanism, portfolio approach and forest financing framework) were essentially three complementary components of a holistic forest financing architecture. The deliberations of the Finance Expert Group identified two main options for strengthening the forest financing architecture: a dedicated fund for sustainable forest management; and a facilitative mechanism.
The most detailed effort to assess financing needs for the forest sector has been carried out by the Climate Change Convention Secretariat in 2007, she said, noting that it had concluded with an indicative estimate of $21 billion per year for developing countries. That estimate took into account only the climate change mitigation aspect of forests, and not the requirements for the holistic implementation of the non-legally binding instrument. Nevertheless, that estimate was useful in understanding the magnitude of the global need. In strengthening the forest financial architecture, it would be relevant to take into consideration new and emerging financing mechanisms related to payment for ecosystem services, in particular those related to climate change.
However, she pointed out, climate change-related financing mechanisms were at different levels of development and applicability to different countries and were highly unlikely to address all the gaps and constraints of financing for implementation of the non-legally binding instrument. Meanwhile, the Forum could consider ways to improve coordination and cooperation with the climate change process in order more effectively to use such mechanisms to advance a mutually supportive agenda for climate change and sustainable forest management.
One of the options considered in the report was a facilitative mechanism, which would catalyze the implementation of bilateral and multilateral development assistance programmes relevant to sustainable forest management, she said. Such a mechanism could also help in the exchange of information, link sources and beneficiaries, contribute to cooperation and coordination, and mobilize new and additional financing from all sources, including the private sector. The facilitative mechanism should start its activities immediately after the eighth session and work intersessionally. That would allow the Forum, at its next session, to review the initial outcomes of the work carried out by the mechanism, and to provide further guidance for its future work.
Mr. KREJAZAR (Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said effective implementation of sustainable forest management was of utmost importance as it covered multiple functions while at the same time contributing in an integrated way to sustainable development. It also contributed towards the attainment of various internationally agreed goals on climate change mitigation and adaptation, combating deforestation, forest degradation and desertification, biodiversity conservation and poverty eradication.
With that in mind, it was particularly important to further improve cooperation and coordination between the Forum and the Rio Conventions, he said. The eighth session should give the Forum Secretariat a mandate to use the period following the eighth session to identify, develop and carry out targeted joint activities with the Secretariats of the Climate Change, anti-desertification and Biodiversity Conventions based on their respective work programmes. The European Union requested the Forum Secretariat to request a presence in the Joint Liaison Group for the Rio Conventions during discussion of forest-related matters. In addition, members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests should continue comparing their work programmes and identifying forest-related issues that should be addressed in a coordinated way, thus avoiding overlaps in their work.
Further, he urged the Forum to encourage proactive work in exchanging practical information and experience by means of regular international, regional and national workshops, expert meetings and exchange of staff. The Forum needed to support efforts by members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests in the field of sharing and disseminating their knowledge through many practical activities like the International Year of Biodiversity, the International Year of Forests or FAO’s forest definitions book.
Acknowledging the contributions of major groups and forest-related regional organizations and process to the themes addressed during the eighth session, he stressed that further work was needed to increase synergies, cooperation and coordination as well as consistency in financing sustainable forest management at all levels. There was also a need to address forest law enforcement, governance and trade at the global level. The European Union welcomed the progress made at the national and regional levels in those areas, and stressed, however, that any actions taken at the global or regional levels would not have adequate effect without significant improvement in cooperation and policy and programme coordination at the national level.
HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) observed that, while 2007 had been marked by the adoption of the non-legally binding instrument, expressions of commitment must be translated into deeds, and only the international community could ensure that. The forest instruments clearly identified the requirement for additional resources to facilitate successful sustainable forest management. Financing and capacity-building must be listed among those resources as they were both indispensable to implementation of the instrument.
He pointed out that, even though all countries –- developing and developed alike -– were faced with the challenges of global economic crisis and none could claim immunity from it, it was not surprising that the developing countries faced more difficulties and multifaceted challenges. “However, although we are in the middle of these crises, we should continue to explore and develop an appropriate funding mechanism for all types of forests.”
Mr. MATUSZAK, Acting Director, Office of Ecology and Natural Resource Conservation of the United States, said the Forum had come a long way but its core mission as a forum for dialogue on international forest policy remained vital. Its role was to identify and agree on broad objectives, principles and guidance for national action and international cooperation.
The current session took place in a new environment, he said, noting among other things that the Climate Change Convention had identified reducing emissions from land use, including deforestation, as a critical component of its future arrangements. The Global Environment Facility had incorporated forests into the climate focal area and forests also constituted a robust cross-cutting programme supported in the biodiversity and land degradation focal areas. There was a large number of financing opportunities, including new funding support in the multilateral development banks and the United Nations.
The Forum was not the place to try to develop or manage the new financing mechanism, he continued. It functioned best as a catalyst to enhance support for sustainable forest management financing and to better understand gaps and opportunities. The Collaborative Partnership on Forests could facilitate access to funds and ensure their efficient use. It was clear that the portfolio of funding opportunities for forests was growing almost by the day. Additionally, most innovative thinkers were now considering ways to scale up payments for ecosystem services and to improve corporate social responsibility in ways that would provide support for sustainable forest management.
He said his country invested $85 million to $100 million each year in direct deforestation and forest degradation assistance. To increase funding for sustainable forest management, the international community needed to go beyond official development assistance and mobilize resources from a variety of sources, including private investments, increased domestic budgetary resources and philanthropy. It was also important to strengthen forest-related governance and mainstream forest issues into poverty reduction strategies. There was also a critical need to evaluate existing mechanisms to ensure they were effective, and to identify gaps and distortions. The working group on finance and other means of implementation had a mandate to find a way forward. The United States expected it to begin with, and concentrate on, an informative exchange of views that would take into account recent developments in forest financing and result in a negotiation on a realistic outcome.
Mr. MIYAZONO ( Japan) said the Forum was expected to discuss a major decision on implementation and financing of sustainable forest management. Japan shared the view that there was a need for additional financial resources on a global scale and considered the session’s outcome on that issue to be of great importance. There were a variety of initiatives for funding in the forest sector, including those on climate change. However, there were geographic and thematic gaps. Under the current situation, the financial resources available to promote sustainable forest management and implement the non-legally binding instrument were limited.
It was important to consider ways to utilize existing limited resources in the most effective manner, he stressed. It was also necessary to consider effective ways to enhance synergetic funding, enhance coordination and cooperation and utilize the expertise and know-how obtained to the maximum. From that point of view, the Government of Japan favoured, in principle, establishing a mechanism to enhance coordination and cooperation among various programmes.
Mr. OLESTAD ( Norway) said it was clear that gaps in financing must be bridged if efforts to achieve the envisioned goals were to be accomplished. Also, countries were in need of different types of financing to achieve their goals. A particular challenge would be attracting private-sector funding and resources. Norway called for viable financing mechanisms that would effectively utilize available and other resources in order for sustainable forest management to succeed.
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* The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release ENV/DEV/926 of 27 April 2007.