FORUM FOCUSES ON POTENTIAL STRATEGIC ROLE OF SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT IN CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION, ADAPTATION MEASURES

21 April 2009
ENV/DEV/1035

FORUM FOCUSES ON POTENTIAL STRATEGIC ROLE OF SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT IN CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION, ADAPTATION MEASURES

21 April 2009
Economic and Social Council
ENV/DEV/1035
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

United Nations Forum on Forests

Eighth Session

4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)


FORUM FOCUSES ON POTENTIAL STRATEGIC ROLE OF SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT

 

IN CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION, ADAPTATION MEASURES

 


Participants in the United Nations Forum on Forests focused today on the strategic role that sustainable forest management could play in achieving the long-term mitigation of climate change and efforts to combat such environmental problems as desertification, deforestation and loss of biodiversity.


Setting the stage for a panel discussion on the role of forests in today’s changing environment, Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said those environmental problems threatened the existence of forests and the livelihoods of billions of people.  Deforestation accounted for 35 per cent of carbon emissions in developing countries and 65 per cent in the least developed ones.


Drylands covering 40 per cent of the Earth’s land area, and home to 2 billion people, were highly susceptible to land degradation and desertification, he said, adding that, by 2020, an estimated 135 million people would be at risk of being driven from their lands due to continuing desertification.  Approximately 70 per cent of the 5.2 billion hectares of drylands devoted to agriculture were degraded and at risk of desertification.


The Forum on Forests is the only global body for comprehensive deliberations on international forest policy.  Comprising all 192 Member States of the United Nations, it meets biennially in New York, with each session focusing on specific thematic and cross-sectoral issues, as set forth in its programme of work for 2007-2015.  The current two-week session has a thematic focus on “Forests in a changing environment” and “Means of implementation for sustainable forest management”.


According to a report of the Secretary-General, presented by the Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, the best opportunity for the Forum to contribute to the global climate change agenda appeared to be through the promotion of sustainable forest management, including measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Sustainable management could also contribute to addressing other environmental, social and economic challenges.  In that context, the outcome of the Forum’s negotiations on financing sustainable forest management could contribute substantively to ongoing climate change negotiations.


Several participants in the panel and the ensuing debate on environmental issues recalled that the Bali Plan of Action -- adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2007 -- noted the importance of forests in mitigating and adapting to climate change.  The fifteenth session of the Conference, to be held later this year in Copenhagen, was expected to reach agreement on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, which would have a long-term impact on forest management and financial flows to forests.


Delivering a statement on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the Climate Change Convention, one participant said that any action taken in the forest sector to combat and adapt to climate change would not only benefit climate, but should also be seen as one more opportunity to protect forests and raise awareness of their great value.  That would entail an infusion of significant financial resources, equitably governed, to enable those countries to take action.  To that end, the upcoming Copenhagen Conference represented a window of opportunity for the world to act decisively to prevent the most catastrophic projected effects of climate change, including its impacts on forests.


In that connection, participants emphasized the critical importance of an action plan that would include forests as part of a key response to climate change.  “We need to keep sending this message to the negotiators,” said Jan Heino, Assistant Director-General at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, formed in 2001 to support the Forum’s work and enhance cooperation and coordination on its issues.


Presenting the Collaborative Partnership’s strategic framework for forests and climate change, he said sustainable forest management provided an effective framework for forest-based climate change mitigation and adaptation.  It also acknowledged that forest-based climate change mitigation and adaptation measures should proceed concurrently, and that inter-sectoral collaboration, economic incentives and provision of alternative livelihoods were essential for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.


Capacity-building and governance reforms were urgently required, he added, emphasizing that accurate forest monitoring and assessment helped informed decision-making, but required greater coordination at all levels.  Members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests were committed to a collaborative and comprehensive approach to forest-based climate change mitigation and adaptation.


The representative of the Czech Republic, representing the European Union, said he saw great potential for developing targeted joint activities between the Forum Secretariat and those of the three Rio Conventions in the period following the current session.  The European Union also considered good governance and forest law enforcement, including secure land-tenure rights, as prerequisites for the achievement of global objectives on forests.


In the context of climate change and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, India’s representative favoured an umbrella approach comprising different policy options and approaches, including conservation, sustainable forest management and increased forest cover.  India also favoured a comprehensive mechanism for reducing such emissions and sought financial incentives in return for enhancing carbon stocks as a consequence of following the policy options of conservation and sustainable forest management.


Also today, as the Forum held its first-ever panel discussion on regional and subregional inputs on forests, several participants made presentations on recent initiatives in support of the Forum’s work.  Those initiatives included the Australian-Swiss Region-Led Input, organized also in collaboration with FAO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe; Workshop on Forests and Decentralization in Africa; Association of South-East Asian Nations regional perspective; environmental programmes of the Central African Forest Commission and the Organization of American States; and the work of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe.


Other speakers were representatives of Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Croatia.


The Forum will continue its work at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 22 April, when it is scheduled to hold a multi-stakeholder dialogue on forests.


Background


The United Nations Forum on Forests continued its eighth session this morning, taking up the theme of “Forests in a changing environment”.  For background information on the session, see Press Release ENV/DEV/1033 of 17 April.


Introduction of Reports


Before the Forum were a number of documents, including the report of the Secretary-General on Forests in a changing environment (document E/CN.2009/4).  Introduced by the Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, they addressed the impact of climate change on forests and sustainable forest management, as well as the important role that forests could play in mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, while identifying possible actions to that end on the part of the Forum.  They also addressed issues of biodiversity loss, stressing the critical importance of effectively managing protected areas.


JAN MCALPINE, Director, United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, said that a note on Forests in a changing environment (document E/CN.18/2009/7) demonstrated the inextricable linkages among the main issues addressed by the agenda item on forests and climate change, including climate change, loss of forest cover, prevention of forest degradation, and forests and biodiversity.  In addressing those linkages, it was important to recognize that climate change and changes in human land use acted synergistically in affecting forests and biodiversity.  Sustainable management and conservation of forests was a prerequisite for protecting much of the planet’s biodiversity.  To illustrate those linkages, the paper focused on low forest cover countries, small island developing States and high and medium forest cover countries while providing a set of recommendations on the main issues.


RISTO SEPPALA, International Union of Forest Research Organizations, made a presentation on behalf of the Global Forests Expert Panel, in which he highlighted the first global thematic assessment on adaptation of forests and people and climate change, and cited a policy brief on making forests fit for climate change.  The Expert Panel’s key messages included the conclusion that climate change had already affected forest ecosystems and would have increasing effects in the future.  The carbon-regulating services of forests were at risk of being lost entirely, which would accelerate climate change.  At the same time, climate change could also have a positive effect on forest ecosystem services by increasing the supply of timber in some regions, and even globally, due to increased tree growth.  It would also have far-reaching social and economic consequences for forest-dependent poor people.  Adaptation measures must go beyond single technical measures and address the human-institutional dimension of the problem as well.


He said the experts had also concluded that sustainable forest management was an efficient tool for reducing the vulnerability of forests to climate change.  The current failure to implement sustainable forest management limited the capacity of forests and people to adapt to climate change.  Commitment to achieving sustainable forest management goals must be strengthened at the international and national levels.


Given the diversity of forests and the uncertainty about how climate change would affect different forests, no single management approach would suit all situations, he cautioned, advising forest managers to exercise sufficient flexibility to deploy the adaptation measures most appropriate for their local situations.  New models of governance were required to enable stakeholder participation and provide secure land tenure and user rights in addition to sufficient financial incentives.  More research was also required, but, despite the limitations of current knowledge, climate change was progressing too quickly to postpone adaptation action pending the outcomes of future studies.  Even if adaptation measures were fully implemented, unmitigated climate change would exceed the adaptive capacity of many forests.  Therefore, large emissions reductions were needed to ensure that forests retained their mitigative and adaptive capacities.


Panel Discussion


THOMAS STELZER, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Moderator of the panel discussion on “Forests and Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification”, noted that, as a result of increasing pressure, loss of jobs in many countries had forced people to forage in forests for food, energy and land, further exacerbating the pressure on forests, other natural resources and the environment.  On a parallel track, deforestation, desertification, climate change and loss of biodiversity threatened the existence of forests and the livelihoods of billions of people.


Deforestation had continued at an alarming rate, on average 13 million hectares each year between 2000 and 2006, he said.  In 2004, the forest sector had accounted for the release of some 8.5 gigaton (Gt) of carbon dioxide, mostly from deforestation, which was equivalent to 17.4 per cent of total human-generated carbon dioxide emissions.  Deforestation accounted for 35 per cent of carbon emissions in developing countries and 65 per cent in least developed countries.  Drylands covering 40 per cent of the Earth’s land area, and home to 2 billion people, were highly susceptible to land degradation and desertification.  By 2020, an estimated 135 million people would be at risk of being driven from their lands due to continuing desertification.  Approximately 70 per cent of the 5.2 billion hectares of dry lands devoted to agriculture was degraded and at risk of desertification.  Insufficient financial resources represented the most problematic issue facing developing countries in tackling those challenges.


Forest biodiversity was certainly threatened, he emphasized, adding that the situation had critical socio-economic and ecological implications for the forest sector, especially for people who depended on forests for employment, income and subsistence.  The magnitude of the impact on forests and people warranted immediate action.  To a large extent, sustainable forest management could help resolve many of the negative impacts.


Investing in sustainable forest management would make a major contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, biodiversity conservation and combating deforestation and desertification, he said.  On top of that, such an investment could bring millions of new green jobs providing long-term employment opportunities in rural areas and fostering pro-poor sustainable development in many developing countries.  As the global body responsible for policy setting on sustainable forest management, the Forum had a unique role in facilitating an effective response, especially after the adoption of the non-legally binding instrument.


AHMED DJOGHLAF, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, pointed out that the world faced a great many unprecedented challenges such as the global economic crisis, climate change, biodiversity loss, continued poverty, among many other daunting challenges.  As such, addressing each one of them individually was a hopelessly formidable task.  Emphasizing the linkages between those challenges and building action plans that targeted more than one problem was the only way to success.  Forests and sustainable forest management were at the heart of possible solutions.  The offer by the Biodiversity Convention to strengthen the partnership between its processes through its Secretariat was an acknowledgement of the great potential for synergies in implementation, and the related opportunities for Governments to implement the commitments under both processes more effectively -– ultimately reducing the burden on Governments.


LUC GNACADJA, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, outlined areas of major concern, noting that semi-arid and arid regions already covered some 41 per cent of the world’s land surface.  If no investment was put into efforts to help that land recover, it would not be possible to stem degradation of the forests.  Similar attention should be paid to deforestation caused by over-grazing, which was more prominently visible in Africa and Latin America.  Almost 42 per cent of land degradation was occurring in forest areas, again more clearly affecting Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America. 


The good news was that there had also been land improvement and greater productivity in recent years, the most often-cited and widely documented example of which was the greening of the Sahel, he said.  The conclusion was that, for some areas, such improvement and recovery occurred due to better rainfall.  Demand on the land would increase as demand for land came under increasing pressure due to population growth, just as factors affecting economic development and urbanization constituted another aspect of competing demands on land.  In all those demands, food security was paramount.  Agro-fuel also put more pressure on the land, but the international community was “not there yet” regarding a globally agreed and recognized set of indicators to manage natural resources, even though those issues had been recognized as long as 40 years ago.  The United Nations needed to deliver as one on land issues.


JAN HEINO, Assistant Secretary-General, Food and Agriculture Organization, presented the Collaborative Partnership on Forests strategic framework for forests and climate change, saying it provided facts and figures, and made a strong argument in support of the strategic role that sustainable forest management could play in mitigating and adapting to climate change.  It was critical to have an action plan that would include forests as part of a key response to climate change.  “We need to keep sending this message to the negotiators” on the Climate Change Convention.


The first of the strategic framework’s key six messages related to the fact that sustainable forest management provided an effective framework for mitigation and adaptation, he said.  Forest-based climate change adaptation and mitigation measures must proceed concurrently.  Halting deforestation and increasing forest cover would reduce carbon concentrations significantly.  Policy approaches should address the needs of poor people.  There was a need for inter-sectoral collaboration, economic incentives and alternative livelihoods so as to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.  It was necessary to integrate reduction of emissions from deforestation and degradation, as well as sustainable forest management, into national development strategies, land-use planning and national forest programmes.  Other priorities included sustainable financing and coordination of financial resources at all levels.


There was also an urgent need for capacity-building and governance reforms, he said, adding that members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests could play an important role in that regard.  Financial incentives to discourage unlawful activities would only be effective if clear rights, secure tenure and good governance were in place.  Accurate forest monitoring and assessment helped decision-making, but required coordination.  It was better to build on existing systems than to start from scratch.  Finally, 14 members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests were committed to a collaborative and comprehensive approach within their respective mandates and programmes.  Members of the Forum needed to send a clear message to the climate change negotiators that climate change and desertification could not be overcome without addressing the issue of forests.


MARIA SANZ-SANCHEZ, Programme Officer, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, delivered a statement on behalf of Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, expressing satisfaction that there were already several initiatives to support developing countries in their readiness activities.  To be most effective in supporting the broad participation of developing countries in efforts within the forest sector to mitigate and adapt to climate change, however, everyone needed to cooperate, fill gaps, avoid overlaps and make the most of synergies.


Sustainable forest management was recognized by States parties to the Climate Change Convention as an important vehicle for realizing the full potential of the forest sector, she said.  However, while outcomes with respect to promoting and enhancing the sustainable management of all forests could provide valuable insights in the consideration of forest-related issues within the Climate Change Convention process, everyone concerned should be aware that the most efficient way to coordinate action at the international level was good coordination among all key national stakeholders.


She further stressed that any action taken in the forest sector to combat and adapt to climate change would not only benefit climate, but should also be seen as one more opportunity to protect forests and raise awareness of their great value.  That would entail an infusion of significant financial resources, equitably governed, to enable those countries to take action.  To that end, the upcoming Copenhagen Conference represented a window of opportunity for the world to act decisively to prevent the most catastrophic projected effects of climate change, including its impacts on forests.


Participants in the ensuing debate shared their national experiences and considered the role of the Forum in global efforts to combat climate change and related threats, particularly in promoting sustainable forest management.  A more strategic and focused approach was needed, one speaker said, emphasizing that the overarching goal in that regard was to secure the global environmental benefits provided by forests.  Closer cooperation between the Forum and members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests would be desirable in that respect.


There were many examples of sustainable land management and forestry, but the issue of mainstreaming them, coordination and financing remained, according to one speaker.  There was also a need for effective information exchange and capacity-building efforts.  Common indicators must be elaborated to promote common efforts.


The representative of Mauritania, one of the world’s most arid countries, said that more than 70 per cent of its territory was desert and further desertification was taking place.  Realizing the importance of action to counteract land degradation, the Government was taking a number of measures to that end.  Mauritania was aware of the need to promote sustainable forest management, but, like many other countries, it was faced with a lack of resources.  Any forest-management policy would be ineffective without adequate financing.


Inadequate financing was also a source of concern for the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who pointed out that his country was emerging from conflict and its ability to manage its forests in a sustainable manner was hindered by a lack of resources.


The representative of Benin spoke about the damage caused by using chainsaws to fell trees, which led to large losses of wood.  Given the large number of chainsaws in operation, one could imagine how much wood was being wasted.  Building and maintaining small sawmills in villages and towns could ensure 100 per cent productivity and slow down the degradation of forests.  There was a need for a change in attitude and vision of the forest sector.


Providing an example of national anti-deforestation efforts, the representative of Israel recounted his country’s campaign to plant trees and find the right variety for that purpose.  Among other successful projects, another speaker cited a “green wall” initiative implemented by the African Union to halt the advance of the desert.  The programme envisioned a barrier crossing the continent from east to west.


In the post-2012 climate change framework, it would be a mistake to consider forests only from the viewpoint of counteracting carbon emissions, another participant said.  Forests provided many services which went beyond carbon, and it was no longer acceptable that they should be absent from the climate-change negotiation tables.  The Forum needed to provide information on the role of forests, and a database on the evaluation of forest services could be an element of its website.


Several speakers pointed out that the three Rio-related Conventions emphasized the importance of conservation and nature preservation, yet none of them could achieve their goals without taking into account the issue of forests.  On financing for sustainable forest management, one speaker said that, in line with those frameworks, several members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, including the World Bank, International Tropical Timber Organization, FAO, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), were already mobilizing funds for initiatives to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.  Among other things, the Global Environment Facility focused on forest conservation and management in developing countries, as well as biodiversity issues.


Statements


TOMÁŠ KREJZAR, Minister for Agriculture of the Czech Republic, spoke on behalf of the European Union, recognizing the important role of sustainable forest management in fighting desertification as well as promoting soil conservation and water resources management.  The session should give proper consideration to soil and water as crucial components of forest ecosystems.  The European Union reiterated that sustainable forest management was a correct response to the challenges of fighting the challenges outlined, and the non-legally binding instrument, as well as national forest programmes, were appropriate means for action in that respect.


Identifying two basic roles for the session to play concerning “Forests in a changing environment”, he said it needed to provide policy guidance by clarifying and communicating the specific contributions which sustainable forest management could make to internationally agreed goals.  A second role was to reflect on recent developments within the Rio Conventions and to contribute significantly to strengthening the integration of environmental aspects into forest policy dialogue and sustainable forest management at all levels.


The European Union saw great potential for developing targeted joint activities between the Forum’s Secretariat and that of those of the three Rio Conventions in the period following the session, and wished to address both those activities in the context of “Forests in a changing environment” and “Enhanced cooperation and policy and programme coordination”.  The European Union also considered good governance and forest law enforcement, including secure land-tenure rights, as prerequisites for the achievement of the global objectives on forests.  The issue should be properly addressed in the session’s discussions on “Forests in a changing environment”.


CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said the Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol constituted the main process to address sustainable forest management.  With particular regard to the reduction of emissions from deforestation, Colombia recognized the relevance of promoting a permanent dialogue that favoured the advancement of voluntary initiatives at the field level, as well as cooperation modalities involving developing countries, donors and relevant organizations.


DIEGO MOREJÓN ( Ecuador) said his country sought to attain sustainable land use with the aim of achieving the social inclusion of everyone, including indigenous peoples, and policies that allowed all stakeholders legally to enjoy their use of land.  At the national level, Ecuador was driving for an initiative that aimed to take care of human beings in a concrete manner by formulating policies that avoided damage to biodiversity through petroleum and oil exploitation activities.  The defence of Ecuador’s forests had generated a need for the international community to work towards the creation of an international forests fund.


FERNANDO COIMBRA ( Brazil) said his country was in the last stages of developing its national forest inventory and had launched a sustainable plan for the Amazon.  Forest law enforcement was a matter to be dealt with at the national level as it related to the exercise of sovereign rights over national resources.  In that context, Brazil was improving its tracking and chain-of-custody systems in order to have more control over timber-related activities.


The international community could play a role in improving the capacity of developing countries to implement forest law, he said, adding that it related not only to timber, but to bio-piracy as well.  However, Brazil could not support references to illegal logging in the documents before the Forum, which was already covered by resolution 16/1 of the Commission on the Prevention of Crime and Criminal Justice.  That text called for increased international cooperation to combat “international trafficking in forest products, including timber, wildlife and other forest biological resources”.  However, there was an urgent need to conclude an agreement on natural and genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.


On global harmonization of indicators, he stressed that no global set of criteria could adequately reflect regional specificities.  Significant national and regional efforts, such as the Tarapoto Process in the Amazon, were already in place and must be taken into account.  The creation of the Amazon Fund and Brazil’s proposal, during the Twelfth Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention, on positive incentives highlighted the Government’s belief that forests did indeed have a role in dealing with climate change.


Consideration of sustainable forest management with regard to climate change mitigation was already going on within the Climate Change Convention, and the outcome of that discussion should not be prejudged, he cautioned.  The report contained an improper reference to a new international agreement on climate change, to be achieved in Copenhagen, whereas the Bali process aimed to strengthen the existing regime on climate change by setting new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Annex I countries, as well as considering actions by developing countries.


Turning to energy, particularly bio-energy, he said that starting a process under the Forum would duplicate work under other entities such as FAO and the Biodiversity Convention.  On biodiversity, a comprehensive approach must contemplate the three objectives of the Convention -- conservation, sustainable use and benefit-sharing.  Brazil had established 50 million hectares of new protected areas and was taking measures to promote sustainable use of biodiversity, including through community-based management.  The seventh session of the Biodiversity Convention had already adopted the concept of a global network of protected areas and Brazil did not favour reviving that discussion in the Forum.


RANJANA GUPTA (India) said that, in the context of climate change and reducing deforestation and degradation, her country favoured an umbrella approach comprising different policy options, approaches and activities, including conservation, sustainable forest management and increased forest cover.  India also favoured a comprehensive deforestation- and degradation-reduction mechanism, and sought financial incentives of compensation for enhancing carbon stock as a consequence of following the policy options of conservation and sustainable forest management.


She said the Government of India was promoting afforestation and reforestation projects under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol.  As for reversing the loss of forest cover, adequate policy and legal provisions already existed for preventing the degradation of all types of forests, combating desertification, as well as conserving forests and biodiversity, including protected areas.  India had national schemes and programmes for strengthening the effective management of forests and wildlife resources.


SRECKO JURICIC ( Croatia) said environmental change had led to the development of forest pests and diseases, and his country mitigated their potentially destructive effects through sustainable forest management and the maintenance of balanced forest ecosystems.  Of particular concern to Croatia was an increase in the number of forest fires, as a result of which the recovery and restoration of burnt forests required significant financial resources.  Fully aware that mitigation and adaptation played a crucial role in responses to climate change, Croatia underscored the importance of incorporating those strategies into national forest management and development policies.


Emerging issues of climate change must also be taken into account when considering biodiversity concerns, he continued, welcoming the greater political attention given to the designation of forests for conservation purposes, and that biodiversity was one of the key management objectives for more than 25 per cent of the world’s forests.  However, the designation of protected forest areas was not sufficient in itself.  Their effective management, including their sustainable use, was critical for effective forest conservation.  Croatia planned to host an international conference on sustainable forest management and biodiversity during the International Year of Forests in 2011.  Existing recognition of the underlying value of forests in efforts to address climate change could be effectively built upon through the promotion of closer cooperation between the Forum and other relevant stakeholders, with the aim of maximizing the contribution of forests to the climate change agenda.


Introduction of Report


Ms. MCALPINE, Director of the Forum on Forests Secretariat, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on Regional and subregional inputs (document E/CN.18/2009/3), recalling that the Economic and Social Council, in its resolution 2006/49, had decided to strengthen the Forum’s interaction with regional entities.  Subsequently, the Forum, in its resolution 7/1 of 27 April 2007, had invited regional and subregional entities to submit their inputs on experiences, challenges and advances in addressing the issues on the agenda, including regional cooperation.  In response to that request, 29 inputs had been received from regional and subregional entities, all of which were available on the Forum’s website.  Among other activities were several regional events in preparation for the eighth session and multi-stakeholder dialogues, as well as new regional networks and partnerships.  Some members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests also had a regional presence, while some regional groups had expressed interest in accreditation with the Forum.  Today’s panel discussion on regional and subregional participation would be the first of its kind.


Panel Discussion


Mr. HEINO, Assistant Director-General, moderated the panel discussion on“Regional and Subregional Perspectives”, saying that the rich array of regional initiatives and forums for dialogue on forest issues was truly “mind-boggling”, both in terms of their number and scope.  The session was an excellent attempt to capture some of those synergies, build on experiences and lessons learned, and use the knowledge gained to shape forest policies and programmes at the international, regional, national and even local levels.


It was a matter of great satisfaction that all six FAO regional forestry commissions had provided inputs to inform the Secretary-General’s report on the agenda item, he said.  They had a long history as an effective coordinating mechanism for addressing forest issues of concern and advancing common positions within regional and global processes.  The Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission and the European Forestry Commission, for example, had both held innovative and successful “forestry weeks” in 2008.


Given the Forum’s wish to strengthen its ties with regional and subregional entities, it might wish to invite the regional forestry commissions to share their expertise at its ninth session, he said.  The Collaborative Partnership on Forests continued to receive recognition for enhancing cooperation in its members’ efforts to help countries achieve sustainable forest management.  It was to be hoped that the panel discussion would focus on concrete suggestions to strengthen regional and subregional mutually-reinforcing interaction with the Forum.


Panellist CHRISTIAN KÜCHLI, Federal Office for the Environment of Switzerland, presented a brief of the first region-led initiatives held last year in support of the Forum’s work, saying that, in its forest related global commitment, his country always stressed the importance of good forest governance at every level.  The country’s small size and interdependence with its neighbours forced it to engage in regional processes.


He said that, due to the federal character of the country’s political system, as well as its positive experience of local approaches in forest management, it was essential to focus strongly on the interaction among all levels of governance and actors involved.  It was out of that intrinsic motivation, and in accordance with the Forum’s general evolution and themes, that Switzerland had been involved in two different initiatives in support of it during 2008.


He said that, in January 2008, Switzerland, Australia, FAO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) had organized the first-ever region-led initiative in Geneva, Australian-Swiss Region-Led Input.  Two months later, South Africa and Switzerland had co-hosted the Workshop on Forests and Decentralization in Africa in Durban, South Africa.  Ultimately, both workshops had focused on the same aim:  supporting the implementation of sustainable forest management.


ABDUL WAHID ABU SALIM, Chair, Senior Officials on Forestry, Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the regional body’s main forestry-related accomplishments included the adoption in 2007 of its criteria and indicators for sustainable management of tropical forests; a common monitoring, assessment and reporting format for sustainable forest management; the 2008-2015 work plan for strengthening forest law enforcement and governance; and the ASEAN common position paper on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.  Last December, ASEAN had submitted its common position paper on reduction of emissions from deforestation and degradation, clarifying its policy approaches and positive incentives.  The bloc addressed climate change mitigation and adaptation by advancing regional initiatives and national actions.


He went on to say that sustainable forest management could contribute directly to environmental sustainability, poverty reduction, food security and sustainable livelihood opportunities.  In that regard, the Association should be provided with new and additional resources, such as the Global Forest Fund, to be made available to developing countries wishing to undertaken sustainable forest management.  ASEAN looked forward to addressing mitigation and adaptation issues and sought close cooperation with developed-country partners.  It also looked forward to closer cooperation with the Forum’s Secretariat and welcomed technical and financial assistance from partners in support of its effort to meet its regional and international commitments.


MARTIN TADOUM, Deputy Executive Secretary, Central African Forests Commission, presented the main activities of that inter-governmental organization, established in 2000 by 10 States of the subregion.  Among other things, it had developed a plan on subregional convergence which constituted a platform for priority action on sustainable forest management.  The Commission had also put in place a partnership on forests of the Congo Basin and created a Conference on the Central African Moist Forest Ecosystems, which allowed all the parties to discuss subjects of concern.  A regional working group on climatic change had also been set up.


The panellist also spoke about protected areas created in transboundary zones and the Observatory for the Forests of Central Africa, which had been established at the regional level.  The main challenges in the region related to the mobilization of financial resources, transfer of technology and capacity-building.  There was a need for new financial mechanisms and stronger dialogue among the regions.


RICHARD HUBER, Principal Specialist, Department of Sustainable Development, Organization of American States, highlighted both the social and ecological impacts of sustainable forest management in Latin America as well as the efforts undertaken to minimize the risks of deforestation.  There had been an increase in the number of parks and the reinforcement of legislation on pollution had produced spectacular results.


He went on to state that countries like Mexico had made significant efforts to develop ecotourism and mechanisms to facilitate payments for ecological services.  For example, Mexico had introduced payments of $37 per hectare for its water services, while Costa Rica paid an annual fee of $40 per hectare for the management and preservation of biological processes as well as habitat and species.  As a result of the country’s reforestation efforts, forest cover had risen from 26 per cent to more than over 50 per cent in the last 20 years.  Other countries in the region should emulate the example of those countries.


ARNE IVAR SLETNES, University of Agriculture, Norway, and Head of the Liaison Unit, Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, said European countries had agreed on the definition, guidelines, criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management and a pan-European approach to national forest programmes.  Regional cooperation on forest policy could contribute substantially to sustainable forest management through the development of policy, means and instruments, given the mobilization of political will.  It could also contribute to overall environmental objectives.  The Ministerial Conference should contribute to implementation of the non-legally binding instrument and the achievement of the global objectives on forests.


It was noteworthy that, out of 60 operational paragraphs of the non-legally binding instrument, 45 commitments were of full relevance to the Ministerial Conference, he said, adding that it already contributed to the implementation of 37 commitments.  Among other recent activities, it had organized a pan-European workshop on forests in the changing environment in Finland last September, the conclusions of which had been discussed in November.  The overall conclusion was that the Forum had the potential to provide strategic contributions to the Rio Conventions and should further identify the key elements and specific contributions of sustainable forest management vis-à-vis the challenges and demands of other sectors.  Good governance and secure land tenure, as preconditions for sustainable forest management, should play a central part in the Forum’s work.


In the Climate Change Convention process, the Forum should promote the integration of sustainable forest management, the tools to implement it as well as measures included in the non-legally binding instrument, he said.  It should strengthen its cooperation with the Rio Conventions in order to develop practical tools, such as joint work plans, while building on the valuable work of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.


When the floor was opened for comments and questions, several participants shared the experiences of various regional and subregional bodies, including the Pacific Community, the Southern African Development Community and the Montreal Process for the Implementation of Sustainable Forest Management.


The representative of the Southern African Development Community, noting that the challenges faced by its members in the area of sustainable forest management included the question of resources, said proposed financing mechanisms should also support regional initiatives.


A representative of the Pacific Community said it sought to address serious climate change challenges facing the region, and voiced support for the proposed establishment of a dedicated global fund.  However, its funding level might be affected by the current global economic and financial crisis.  In any event, financing intended for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation should not be seen as an alternative to funds for sustainable forest management.


China’s representative said her country’s Government had proposed the establishment of a regional network to promote sustainable forest management, as well as reforestation, the rehabilitation of forests and improvement of their quality.  The network sought to achieve its objectives through capacity-building, information-sharing and pilot projects.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.