Strenghtened International Arrangement on Forests adopted

The Forum extends the International Arrangement, facilitates financing

The Forum on Forests approved a wide-ranging omnibus resolution, which would have the Economic and Social Council extend until 2030 the International Arrangement of actors involved in the management, conservation and sustainable development of the world’s woodlands, and lay out — for the first time — the main objectives of such work for the coming decades.

International Arrangement on Forests
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“Action is needed to protect our forests and the moment is now,” said Forum Chair Noel Nelson Messone (Gabon), closing the eleventh session. He was pleased that so many ministers had gathered to reiterate their political support for the International Arrangement on Forests. Their message was strong. The Arrangement had to be improved, as forest issues were being treated in a fragmented manner. “This has to stop,” he said. “Let’s keep our commitment to forests alive”.

Along similar lines, Manoel Sobral-Filho, Director of the Forum secretariat, said delegates had identified a lack of implementation as a weakness of the Forum. However, the new Financing Facilitation Network and a focus, in alternate years, on implementation and technical advice had made both the Forum and the International Arrangement more effective. Meeting annually also would afford more opportunities for dialogue. Noting that 116 Member States had participated in the eleventh session, he said: “You have set the stage for a brighter future.”

According to the 13-part text submitted by the Chair, the International Arrangement on Forests beyond 2015 would consist of Forum member States, the Forum secretariat, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network and the Forum Trust Fund.

Its objectives would be to promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests; enhance forests’ contribution to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda; enhance cooperation, coordination and coherence on forest-related issues at all levels; foster international cooperation; support efforts to strengthen both forest governance frameworks and the political commitment to achieve those objectives. The “global objectives on forests” would be extended to 2030 and the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests would be renamed as the United Nations Forest Instrument.

As for the Forum, along with providing a global platform for policy development and dialogue, it would promote, monitor and assess implementation of sustainable forest management and promote governance frameworks to achieve such goals. It would hold annual, five-day sessions and enhance its intersessional work by fostering an exchange of experiences. In alternate years, it would discuss implementation and technical advice, including on the availability of resources to fund sustainable forest management.

On the issue of financing, the Council would decide that the “Facilitative Process” — set up in 2010 to help developing countries mobilize funds for forests — would change its name to the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network and serve as a clearinghouse for existing, new and emerging financing opportunities. The Global Environmental Facility — established in 1991 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Bank — would designate a staff member to liaise with the Forum to facilitate access to funding.

In terms of monitoring assessment and reporting, the Council would request the Forum secretariat to propose a cycle and format for national reporting and ways to enhance such voluntary efforts, as well as make the reports of its sessions available to other United Nations bodies.

Other terms focused on enhancing the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, as well as on the Forum’s collaboration with regional and subregional organizations, and major groups. To guide its work, the Forum would develop a strategic plan for the 2017 to 2030 period carried out through quadrennial work programmes that clarified priority actions and resource needs, beginning with the 2017-2020 period.

By final terms, the Council would request the Forum to carry out a mid-term review of the International Arrangement on Forests in 2024 and a final review in 2030. It also would endorse a working group that, for one year, would propose ways to follow up on issues referred to it by the Forum’s eleventh session, meeting up to three times in 2016.

Prior to the adoption, a secretariat member said that, given the timing and significant changes to the resolution, programme budget implications had not been prepared for submission to the Forum. A detailed estimate would be forwarded to the Council when it considered the resolution. The secretariat’s original estimated financial implication of $4.5 million for the biennium 2016-2017, and $4.9 million for the 2018-2019 period would be reassessed.

Also today, the Forum adopted the draft report for its eleventh session (document E/CN.18/2015/L.3), for eventual submission to the Economic and Social Council, and took note of the following Secretary-General’s reports on reviewing the effectiveness of the international arrangement on forests and consideration of all future options; reviewing progress towards the achievement of the global objectives on forests and the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests; the means of implementation for sustainable forest management and forest law enforcement and governance at all levels; and enhanced cooperation, policy and programme coordination and regional and subregional inputs.

Prior to that action, Brazil’s representative outlined points his Government wished to include in Forum’s final report. He expressed regret that delegates could not agree on commitments to ensure that all countries could implement sustainable forest management policies. Brazil, and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, had negotiated in good faith. The 14 May ministerial declaration had many issues that should have been better discussed, some of which constituted “steps backwards” and jeopardized developing countries’ positions. Brazil would not stand in the way of consensus, but requested that the session’s report outline its reservations.