22 April 2009


22 April 2009
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

United Nations Forum on Forests

Eighth Session

6th Meeting (AM)




Many speakers in the United Nations Forum on Forests expressed interest today in a meeting proposed by two major groups with the aim of discussing ways to stop the alarming rate of deforestation and forest degradation.

The proposal was made in a joint presentation by the non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples as the Forum held the first part of its multi-stakeholder dialogue with major civil society groups.  Other participating major groups included women, the scientific and technological community, children and youth, and farmers and small forest landowners.

Presenting the discussion papers they had prepared for the Forum, the two groups proposed the convening of a meeting to be held following the current eighth session of the Forum, either by the end of 2009 or at the beginning of 2010, so that its outcome could contribute to the ninth session, to be held in 2011, the International Year of Forests.  They also provided recommendations on the main issues before the Forum, including the thematic focus of the current session:  “Forests in a changing environment” and “Means of implementation for sustainable forest management”.

Setting the stage for the multi-stakeholder discussion, Forum Chairman Boen M. Purnama ( Indonesia) said the General Assembly was discussing a draft resolution by which it would designate 22 April as International Mother Earth Day.  The text invited Member States, the United Nations system, international, regional and subregional organizations, civil society, non-governmental organizations and other relevant stakeholders to observe and raise awareness of International Mother Earth Day as appropriate.

In a discussion paper, a speaker representing non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples noted that the global forest crisis continued unabated despite more than 13 years of forest policy dialogue in the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, the United Nations Forum on Forests and in parallel discussions within the framework of such legally binding instruments as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the International Tropical Timber Agreement.

As part of the multi-stakeholder dialogue, the Forum also held a panel discussion on “Forests, women and fuelwood”, which focused, among other things, on women in conflict and refugee zones who suffered violence, including rape, while collecting fuelwood.

Outlining the theme of the discussion Moderator Rachel Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said that, during conflict, families and individuals often moved into or near forests to feel safe or to find shelter, while relying on them for food and fuelwood.  At the same time, forests were a source of danger during conflict, especially for women and girls, who were at risk of violence and abuse, including rape.  Another potential health hazard was the use of firewood in enclosed quarters, as when used in environmentally inefficient stoves.

Also addressing the Forum as it concluded its general debate were the representatives of Japan, Indonesia, Chile, Iran, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Peru, Israel, Saint Lucia, Finland, Kyrgyzstan, Guyana, Venezuela and Palau.

The Forum will continue its multi-stakeholder dialogue when it reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 28 April.


The United Nations Forum on Forests met this morning to conclude its general debate.  It was also expected to hold a multi-stakeholder dialogue with major civil society groups and a panel discussion on “Forests, women and fuelwood”.


KOJI HATTORI ( Japan) said it was important to promote efforts that enhanced cooperation and partnerships among all stakeholders, and to harness synergies that promoted sustainable forest management.  Japan called for enhanced partnerships between stakeholders and those in charge of climate issues at all the national, regional and international levels.

He called for the consolidation of financing schemes for climate change needed with the aim of ensuring that they contributed to the promotion of sustainable forest management.  National programmes that strengthened development policies and improved governance were similarly important.  Japan was set to host a major conference in 2010, where all the challenges of sustainable forest management, climate change and related biodiversity and environment issues would be debated.

WANDOJO SISWANTO, Special Adviser to the Minister of Forestry of Indonesia, said that neither his country nor the rest of humankind could afford the major loss that had occurred, whereby some 13 million hectares of land had been lost annually from 2000 to 2005 to deforestation, forest degradation and desertification.  That destruction impacted biodiversity and also had the potential to increase the severity of both climate change and desertification, resulting in even greater water scarcity, loss of soil fertility and reduced land productivity.  The consequences of continuing forest loss on such a scale would be catastrophic for all societies and economies.

He said his country tried to do its share in preserving forests, believing in the effectiveness of interregional and subregional cooperation.  To that end, Indonesia had joined with regional neighbours Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam to initiate the “Heart of Borneo”.  The joint conservation programme initiated to preserve a vast forested area of some 2 million hectares on the island of Borneo, and the establishment of the F-11 Tropical Rainforest Countries group, were testimony to Indonesian efforts with like-minded countries.

Indonesia had enhanced efforts to address illegal logging and eliminate the causes of deforestation, he said.  There was a need for sustained and coordinated international action to fight the destruction of forests, in particular that caused by illegal logging.  In that context, international cooperation must encompass efforts to prevent and combat illicit international trafficking in forest products such as timber, wildlife and other biological forest resources.  At the national level, Indonesia had embarked on a national tree-planting campaign as part of its strategy to achieve sustainable forest management.

In addition to those efforts, the Government was in the process of preparing a plan for Indonesia to develop demonstration activities for the implementation of reduced emissions from deforestation and deforestation, he said.  However, a critical limitation and major obstacle in implementing the non-legally-binding instrument was the lack of an appropriate international financial mechanism.  Developing countries could initiate, and in some cases had initiated, efforts among themselves to address that difficult situation.  But it would take a lot more effort if the “hand of cooperation” was not extended by the developed countries, because no country, developed or developing, could meet the challenges of the present century without constructive cooperation.

NANCY CESPEDES ( Chile) agreed with the recommendations before the Forum, including the one concerning the integration of forests into other policies.  For its part, Chile had put a number of policies in place with the aim of protecting threatened species, areas and marshlands.  In particular, it had introduced a system of protected areas and adopted a political framework to support it.  Chile had also adopted a plan of action on climate change last December and belonged to the Montreal process on sustainable forest management, which included indicators and criteria.  The process sought solutions to problems relating to the topics of most relevance today, including climate, biodiversity and biofuels.

AHMAD RAJABI (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77 and speaking on behalf of Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Pakistan, Syria and Turkmenistan ‑‑ all belonging to the group of low forest cover countries ‑‑ said some 71 countries were characterized by forest cover of less than 10 per cent of their land surface.  They were particularly prone to the impacts of climate change, desertification, land degradation and deforestation, which caused significant socio-economic losses and severely affected the livelihoods of vulnerable people, the poor in particular.

He said that, in order to address their own special needs, the low forest cover countries had taken some major steps, including the establishment of the Tehran Process following an international expert meeting in October 1999.  The Process provided an important framework for addressing the special needs of low forest cover countries and promoted cooperation among them.  Another meeting, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), had been held in Bamako, Mali, in 2004.  The FAO, in collaboration with UNEP and others, had completed case studies on several countries, including Ethiopia, Iran, Mali, Namibia, Oman and Tunisia, and conducted three regional workshops to develop proposals on enhancing the role of planted forests, trees outside forests and urban forests.

The current session was of particular importance for the low forest cover countries, he said, in particular because, according to the multi-year programme of work, the Forum must address their special needs and decide how to finance sustainable forest management.  Moreover, it was the first session with an agreed global instrument on forests that required concrete and unconditional support for its implementation.

While expressing general support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations on low forest cover countries, in his report on finance and other means of implementation, he said the countries identified had not received proper international support.  That was an important function of any mechanism for the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument and achievement of the global forest objectives.  Low forest cover countries required systematic technical, technological and capacity-building support, including through relevant processes.  Any forest-management mechanism should also provide those countries with adequate financial resources and transfer of environmentally sound technology.

SEBASTIEN MALELE MBALA ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that his country had since 2002 implemented an agenda aimed at addressing climate change, deforestation and forest degradation in its quest to attain sustainable forest management.  It had enacted laws to strengthen forest management and, because of the size of its forest area, considered it important to give it priority if the country was to make headway in all the areas of concern, including desertification.  The lack of adequate financial resources presented the major obstacle to national efforts to attain its goals.

PABLO CISNEROS Peru said that in facing the challenge of deforestation hidden obstacles must be overcome to ensure successful implementation of sustainable forest management.  They included the lack of resources, and political, as well as policy, issues.  With that in mind, Peru was trying to find the most appropriate way to address the challenges.  One method was forest replanting, which was one of the more effective means to effect reforestation and had thus been included in the national reforestation plan.  Peru, therefore, had high expectations of what it could achieve.

ILAN FLUSS ( Israel) said that, since his country’s inception, it had planted more than 260 million trees, and was one of the few countries that had entered the new century with more trees than it had had in the previous one.  Israel used new technologies for its water and reforestation projects, conducted scientific research and protected forests against fires.

Committed to the objectives of the non-legally-binding instrument, Israel had been combating desertification for many years and had a comprehensive reforestation and anti-desertification programme.  It was also committed to saving forests around the world and, since 2007, its agency for international development cooperation had put forward an initiative against desertification and deforestation to support the strategies of partner countries.  Israel would continue to transfer knowledge and technology while developing its knowledge base.

DONATUS ST. AIMEE ( Saint Lucia) expressed concern about the limited tree cover in small island developing States and other small forests around the world.  As one began to envisage the implications of climate change and sea level rise, and the reality that some low-lying towns and villages in small islands might have to be moved inland or to the mountains, one could see the possible encroachment on the limited forest cover, the impact on soil and water erosion and the increased costs of providing infrastructure.  Areas for already limited agricultural activity were also decreasing.  For many small island States, delimiting forest reserves must be done hand-in-hand with agro-forestry, given the small acreage of available land.  “Unfortunately, we spend so much time negotiating that we sometimes forget that the real work is in the implementation process and what we do on the ground, so to speak, that gives meaning to the agreements that we enter into.”

Sadly, the cost of meeting those challenges was beyond the financial reach of small islands, he said, appealing for contributions to the Adaptation and Mitigation Funds, as well as to mechanisms for the transfer of technology and the United Nations Trust Fund for Forests.  It was important to see forest management, and if necessary preservation, as part of the larger challenge of climate change, and, therefore, not to separate them.  Climate change was mitigated by managing and conserving forests, no matter how large or small, or wherever they were, especially those most likely to disappear entirely in a very short time.

HEIKKI GRANHOLM ( Finland), associating himself with the European Union, said the issues of forests needed concrete actions and solutions that had already been identified.  They included better communication, promoting better use of bioenergy, and developing economic valuation of forestry products.

AITKUL BURKHANOV ( Kyrgyzstan) said his country’s forests were protected by national laws and policies.  The Government’s focus on environmental protection had now been adapted to national programmes and plans to implement projects that other speakers had already mentioned.  There was a need to take stock of forests in order better to understand how to plan for their preservation and protection.  Low forest cover countries deserved the focus and attention of everyone concerned with issues of sustainable forest management.  The Government of Kyrgyzstan urged the current session to examine ways to achieve that.

TROY TORRINGTON ( Guyana) said it was paradoxical that under Kyoto, there had been no real incentive or recognition of standing forests.  The issue should be rationalized and the economic dimensions, as well as environmental aspects, of forestry taken into account.  The post-Kyoto regime should provide incentives for countries to leave their forests intact.

He said his country pursued sustainable forest management and its rate of deforestation was among the lowest in the world.  While there were considerable economic pressures to utilize national resources, Guyana had developed, in collaboration with its partners, a model for preserving standing forests, which included sustained efforts to avoid deforestation and degradation.  Economic incentives should be part of efforts to reverse those processes.  Guyana recommended that plan for the consideration of Forum members and for the negotiations on a post-Kyoto framework.

FRANKLIN RANGEL (Venezuela), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that in recent years his country had implemented programmes in favour of the environmental balance with the help of the Association for Biodiversity.  Venezuela had numerous conservation groups and more than over 400 hectares of protected areas containing many endangered species.  In the Amazon, the focus was on the rights of citizens and the responsibility of countries to protect the environment.  In that connection, financing mechanisms were important for the countries of the region, which also needed sufficient resources for sustainable forest management.  All measures to improve forests and protect the environment must be decided within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process, and the Forum should not make decisions that undermined the Kyoto Protocol.

PARITA HOLM ( Palau) said, while her country had a very limited forest policy due to its small size, it still maintained a strict policy in terms of protecting its low forest cover.  However, those efforts were hampered by Palau’s weak financial position, weak institutions and limited capacity.

She said that, while there was a fundamental need to monitor forests, especially with regard to carbon emissions, many countries in the Pacific region, Palau included, suffered from severe financial constraints in their efforts to achieve that goal, and needed the international community’s help in that regard.  To that end, there was a special case to be made for special funding in all small island developing States due to the special impact that climate change and related challenges had on them.

BOEN M. PURNAMA ( Indonesia), Chairman, United Nations Forum on Forests, said the General Assembly was discussing a draft resolution by which 22 April would be designated as International Mother Earth Day.  The text invited Member States, the United Nations system, international, regional and subregional organizations, civil society, non-governmental organizations and relevant stakeholders to observe and raise awareness of International Mother Earth Day as appropriate.

Introducing the multi-stakeholder dialogue, he went on to note that every session of the Forum benefited from input by stakeholders, and consistently sought ways to improve the dialogue.

Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue

Facilitator PETER MAYER, Executive Director, Global Network for Forest Science Cooperation, opened the multi-stakeholder dialogue by saying it presented an opportunity for a meaningful exchange of views and should have a real impact.

A representative of the Women major group said the role of women in addressing the impact of climate change must be recognized, adding that gender equality was a prerequisite for sustainable development.  It was important to strengthen the role of women in climate change debate and governance processes, as well as in dialogue within the Forum.  Structural changes were needed in forest institutions and organizations, including the Forum itself, the Secretariat of which should appoint a gender focal point.  There was a need for resources to ensure that women’s voices could be better heard.  Greater commitment by all players was needed to strengthen the role of women and implement a gender strategy and action plans.  The meetings of various bodies must facilitate the participation of the women most affected by ecological issues, including those from small island developing States.

A representative of the Scientific and Technological Community said there was a need to raise understanding of the human impact on the environment and of scientific research on current global phenomena.  The priority areas requiring urgent attention included the promotion of sustainable forest management and achievement of the global forest objectives, including by aligning national, regional and subregional priorities and mobilizing funds.  Future agreements on forests must go beyond recognizing the importance of science and technology to facilitating research and developing and supporting both traditional and modern knowledge.  Support was also needed for regional and subregional initiatives to tackle transboundary issues, including those of invasive species.

Among other challenges, he cited the need to improve access to scientific data.  Countries had different levels of capacity in formulating projects, and financing mechanisms should support capacity-building, problem analysis, monitoring and evaluation.  It was also necessary to simplify funding application procedures without compromising technical quality.  There was also a need for commitments to strengthening forest-research capacities, particularly in developing and disadvantaged countries.  Appropriate support from Governments, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and regional organizations should enhance forest research, improve information infrastructure and promote long-term programmes.

The representative of the Children and Youth major group said that, “session after session”, the group had called on the international community, through the Forum, to take a firm stand in favour of children and youth in efforts to protect and preserve the environment.  They were “relieved and delighted” that the group’s repeated calls had finally been answered.  The group urged the Forum to now leave New York with a mechanism that would work worldwide in helping children and youth in that regard.

Sustainable forest management should aim to benefit future generations, he said, pointing out that, had enough resources been available, there would have been no necessity even to meet.  The future of forests was the future of all people.  The effective management of forests needed a meaningful role for young people.  The loss of forests was a loss for all, but the people who suffered most were the young people in the poor nations.  The Children and Youth group had lobbied for the non-legally-binding instrument and urged the Forum to come up with effective financial mechanisms to implement it.

The representative of the Non-Governmental Organizations, making a joint presentation with the Indigenous Peoples major group, expressed their deep concern over the alarming rate of forest deforestation and forest degradation today.  There had been numerous proposals for appropriate action by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests/Intergovernmental Forum on Forests to address issues of concern to the non-governmental and indigenous peoples’ organizations involved in international forest policy negotiations, such as those dealing with the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation, traditional forest-related knowledge and indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights, among others.

In order to take advantage of their contributions to implementation of the non-legally-binding instrument, he said, the non-governmental, indigenous and other major groups proposed a major initiative in the form of an intersessional meeting to discuss ways to stop deforestation and forest degradation, with the support of civil society.  That meeting would take place by the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010 and would contribute to deliberations at the ninth session of the Forum in 2011, which had been declared the International Year of Forests.

He went on to say that the outcomes of the meeting could contribute to other forest policy processes, in particular discussions on reducing deforestation under the Climate Change Convention and how to achieve significant reductions in biodiversity loss within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Representatives of major groups, Government participants and members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests would jointly discuss optimal ways to cooperate with civil society at the local, national and global levels in order to end the global forest crisis.

In their recommendations, he said the non-governmental and indigenous peoples’ groups proposed to ensure immediate action at the local, national and global levels to halt the alarming destruction of forests worldwide.  Among actions to be taken alongside those recommendations would be maintaining consistency with international human rights law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; promoting genuine community forest governance that empowered forest peoples; and ensuring the equitable treatment of indigenous peoples, communities and countries that had successfully conserved forests or had reduced deforestation.

A representative of the Farmers and Small Forest Landowners, pointing out that the group played a significant role in many parts of the world, stressed the need to recognize small and community forest owners in drawing up forest policies.  The solution to halting deforestation was to use forests in a sustainable way that could also contribute to the fight against climate change.  Many studies showed that family and community forestry were best positioned to provide sustainable forest management.  Deforestation and forest degradation were often exacerbated by poverty and lack of development.

Emphasizing the great importance of building family and community capacities by securing property rights and land tenure, he said family and community owners were able to protect forests, adding that a mechanism was also needed to reward their efforts.  Family and community owners were implementing sustainable forest management in practice, and political tools to implement it should take their role fully into account.  The key was to ensure they had access to financial instruments to support their efforts, and to bring them into dialogue on the political process.

Speakers in the ensuing debate welcomed the dialogue with the major groups, as well as their contributions to the session, and noted their willingness to participate in the Forum’s intersessional activities.  The multi-stakeholder dialogue could have a significant impact on the session’s work.  Many speakers also expressed interest in the major groups’ initiative to hold a multi-stakeholder meeting following the session.  Participants also acknowledged the role of major groups in addressing climate change and mobilizing resources for sustainable forest management.  It was essential to involve holders of traditional knowledge and fully to respect the rights of indigenous and local communities, one speaker stressed.

Another speaker, emphasizing that the discussion on forests should not be limited to carbon, also agreed that there was a need to secure land-tenure rights.  It was also of great importance to involve women and youth, and to establish regular communications with the major groups so that forests could be maintained for future generations.

One delegate said the Forum should stick to the main theme of sustainable forest management, adding that, when dealing with carbon sequestration, it should not emphasize one point at the expense of others.  While forests were important to Governments, it was also necessary to recognize their importance to communities, as well, another speaker said.  The issues raised by the major groups should be part of the negotiations in the Forum.

Panel Discussion

Moderator RACHEL MAYANJA, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, opened the panel discussion on “Forests, women and fuelwood”, saying it would focus, among other things, on women in conflict and refugee zones who suffered violence, including rape, while collecting fuelwood for cooking.  As an integral part of global sustainable development, forests affected the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people worldwide and provided a wide range of economic and sociocultural benefits.  However, discussions often focused on the environmental and economic aspects of sustainable forest management to the exclusion of the social aspects.  The panel would examine some of those social connections, focusing on the challenges and opportunities associated with living in and around forests.

During conflict, families and individuals often moved to forests or areas surrounding forests in order to feel safe or to find shelter, she said.  People also relied on forests for food and fuelwood.  At the same time, forests were a source of risk and danger during conflict, especially for women and girls, who were at risk of violence and abuse, including rape.  Another potential health hazard was the use of firewood in enclosed quarters, as when used in stoves that were not environmentally efficient.  Dependence on forests also carried risks associated with forest degradation, deforestation and desertification, all of which could have major implications for the lives of women and girls.

Panellist CAROLYN MAKINSON, Executive Director, Women’s Refugee Commission, said her project aimed to get women and girls “going” after they had suffered rape or other violence, since no one had previously taken the responsibility to care for them, especially in terms of food.  Various organizations in different humanitarian settings had tried different things to help improve the condition of female rape victims, many of which had not worked.  In various parts of the world, such as Nepal, local communities were often unwilling to help victims of violence and rape to access local forest resources such as firewood.

She said she was pleased that roles and responsibilities for helping victims were being developed the first time.  The Women’s Refugee Commission was currently undertaking field missions in a number of countries, including in the Sudan, where it was working in Darfur.  There were many solutions, but just as many obstacles to resolving the problem, prominent among which was the serious need for increased funding of activities to ensure even greater progress was achieved in the future.

LAMBERT OKRAH, Secretary-General, Institute of Cultural Affairs International, examined the relationship between indigenous peoples and forests, and the impact of changing forests on population groups, particularly women.  When people were disposed of forests, they were effectively dispossessed of their “homes” as they were forced to depend on others for survival.  In many communities around the world, women were not allowed to own land and were, therefore, unable freely to cultivate the land on which they lived for their own sustenance.  Thus, women were already in a position in which they played “second fiddle”.  In contrast, having already forced women into second place, men were not as negatively affected as women when changes occurred in the management of forests.  It was just as easy to deny women access to financial and economic resources, thereby further worsening their situation.

KANCHAN LAMA, Coordinator, Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the multi-stakeholder dialogue demonstrated a changed attitude to partnerships on behalf of Governments.  In Nepal, the Government, working with non-governmental organizations, had introduced innovative policies on co-ownership of land certificates, which were provided to poor families living close to deteriorating forests.

Women in the Himalayas were directly affected by climate change, she said, stressing the importance of ensuring that the relevant mechanisms took their interests into account.  The many rural energy programmes in place did not take women’s interests into account.  For instance, there was no energy for cooking, and women had to collect firewood for that purpose.  Because of poverty, rural women and girls were forced to engage in the illegal collection of firewood in State forests.

On the positive side, solar cooking stoves were being provided as a source of alternative energy in some areas of Nepal and other developing countries, she said.  Micro-energy projects were also being introduced for cooking, heating and income generation.  Collaborative efforts by women’s organizations, international bodies and non-governmental organizations were needed to ensure that women benefited effectively from initiatives for reducing emissions arising from deforestation and forest degradation.

PIETER VAN MIDWOUD, Head of the CarbonFix Secretariat and a founding member of the Forest Policy Education Network, said that collecting firewood might look like a minor matter, but millions of people around the world found it to be very important.  It related to both technical and social challenges, particularly in Africa, where people routinely used firewood to cook.  Deforestation was a real threat to them.

While there were alternatives, including kerosene and solar energy, they could not be applied universally, he said.  Civil society was concerned that, if payments were made for preserving standing forests, people would no longer be allowed to collect firewood in them.  Initiatives to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation could save a lot of forests, but it was necessary to take into account the interests of such groups as firewood collectors.

In the ensuing discussion, a representative of Cambodia then spoke about his country’s experience of fighting deforestation, saying that the Government was trying to increase community participation.  Land tenure was of great importance and the problem of firewood collection a major challenge because, in many cases, people killed live trees for that purpose.  Sustainable forest management should include community energy programmes to help address that problem.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said the country had lost many hectares of forest in areas close to refugee camps and the Forum should raise the question of African refugees in relation to forest management.  There should be a way to compensate countries harbouring refugees.  Corrective action was also needed to address the problems women faced when collecting firewood.

Participants also raised questions from the floor about firewood-related deforestation in urban areas and efforts to address the issue of refugees.

Ms. MAYANJA said in closing remarks that, as the international community prepared for the International Year of Forests, it should take into account the social aspects of sustainable forest management, forest-dwelling people in general and women in particular.  “Let us take advantage of the Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women, which he launched in 2008, and institute appropriate measures to protect women and girls who depend on forests for their livelihood.”

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