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ENV/DEV/1518
13 May 2015
Eleventh Session, 6th & 7th Meetings (AM & PM)

Taking Up Theme ‘Forests We Want’, Forum Speakers in High-Level Segment Call for Stable Financing to Staunch Erosion, Illegal Timber Trade

A global arrangement on forests, bolstered by credible financing and means for monitoring and implementation, would help Governments and local communities  tackle the illegal timber trade and economic activities that were eroding one of the world’s most valuable resources, ministers in the Forum on Forests said today, as they debated how to revise the normative framework guiding such decisions.

Chair Noel Nelson Messone (Gabon), opening the Forum’s high-level segment entitled “The future international arrangement on forests we want”, said there was an unprecedented positive basis for shaping an international arrangement on forests beyond 2015.  One that encouraged States and other stakeholders to advance the sustainable management of all types of forests — at all levels — was needed.  While many of the components existed, they should be strengthened by “accentuating the positives and addressing the negatives”. 

In such work, said Martin Sajdik (Austria), President of the Economic and Social Council, the Forum was the only global intergovernmental policy body that regularly debated forest issues and provided advice.  It had introduced innovative perspectives on forest sustainability of all sorts, including the “Forest Instrument” endorsed by the Council and adopted by the General Assembly in 2007.  It had also integrated the benefits of forests into the broader development agenda, including the sustainable development goals currently being drafted.

Ministers and other senior officials participating in the day-long debate highlighted the “alarming” rate of forest degradation around the world, with some pointing to underlying causes, such as the conversion of forests to other uses involving agriculture, mining and urbanization.  Others drew attention to some of the adverse consequences of such activities:  loss of biodiversity, cultures and livelihoods, as well as the illegal exploitation of forest resources across borders — all of which were worsening.  Forest policy was fragmented, some said, and Government and law enforcement were often weak.

To curb such behaviour, Christabel Ngimbu, Minister for Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Zambia, said non-discriminatory rules should govern trade in forest products, and further, that unilateral measures should not ban global timber trade.  Rather, trade should encourage favourable prices for forest products.  Tariffs and other market barriers should be removed.

Jānis Dūklavs, Minister for Agriculture of Latvia, on behalf of the European Union, stressed the shared responsibility for tackling illegal harvesting and trade in forest products and commodities associated with deforestation.  The lack of reliable information on forest resources and undervaluation of the benefits provided by non-timber forest products and ecosystem services also must be addressed. 

Along those lines, Abdoulaye Balde, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development of Senegal, stressed the need for more “dynamic” cooperation.  He supported measures to fight the illicit cross-border timber trade and strengthen country capacity, pressing the Forum to evaluate intervention mechanisms.

Speakers also outlined national efforts to reverse forest loss, including by protecting and restoring woodlands, as well as planting them where they had not previously existed.  Some noted efforts to improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent people and increase the area of sustainably managed forests.  As the “water tower for West Africa”, Guinea was committed to raising the rate of forest protection to 25 per cent of the national territory, including protected marine areas, said Kadiatou N’Diaye, that country’s Minister for Environment, Water and Forests.

Marco Garcia Roa, Director of Development and Forest Protection of the National Institute of Forests of Nicaragua, said his country’s 3.4 million-hectare forest cover was rich in biodiversity.  Moreover, the land registry and other instruments had allowed Nicaragua to expand its green cover.

Rekha Pai, Inspector-General of Forests, Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change of India, said his country, where reverence for nature was part of the culture and ethos, had a strong policy and legal framework to promote scientific and sustainable forest management.  With only 2.4 per cent of the world’s land area, the country contributed to about 8 per cent of the known global biodiversity.

The challenges, many said, centred on financing, especially for developing countries, which needed technical and institutional support to implement targeted programmes and carry out broader political commitments.  Bheki Cele, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted an aversion to strengthening the financing for sustainable forest management.  In that connection, he supported the establishment of a global forest fund. 

Going forward, the future international arrangement should be more strategic, many said.  In that context, some advocated targeting countries in special situations: landlocked developing countries, least developed countries, small island developing States and low-forest-cover countries. 

Several supported the creation of a legally binding international agreement.  Ivan Valentik, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, stressed that such a document would contribute to the forest sector in all countries.  Home to more than one fifth of global forest resources, the Russian Federation understood that, beyond 2015, the new forest mechanism must “breathe new energy” into sustainable forest management.

The Forum on Forests will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 14 May, to continue its high-level segment.

Also speaking today were ministers and other senior officials of Germany, Lithuania, Pakistan, Jamaica, Fiji, Congo, Madagascar, Ghana, Gabon, Czech Republic, Malaysia, China, Slovakia, Romania, Norway, Sweden, Mongolia, Argentina, Iran, Philippines, Spain, Canada, Turkey, Ecuador, France, Switzerland, Samoa, Indonesia, Italy, Sudan, Thailand, United States, Uruguay, Kenya and United Republic of Tanzania.

Additional statements were made by representatives of Japan, Grenada, Finland, Paraguay, Morocco, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, Suriname, Viet Nam, Bolivia, Republic of Korea, Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea and Peru.

An observer of the State of Palestine also addressed the Forum.

Opening Remarks

Opening the Forum’s high-level segment on the theme “The future international arrangement on forests we want”, its Chair, Noel Nelson Messone (Gabon), said there was an “unprecedented” positive basis for shaping a post-2015 international arrangement on Forests.  With that momentum, there was also a need for enhanced political commitment for sustainable forest management, collaboration, technical and scientific cooperation and capacity-building, forest-related governance and support for cross-sectoral approaches. 

In short, he said, what was needed was an arrangement that encouraged States and other stakeholders to advance the sustainable management of all types of forests — at all levels.  While many of the components existed, they should be strengthened by “accentuating the positives and addressing the negatives”.  This year offered an opportunity to integrate forests into the post-2015 development agenda, which States were poised to adopt in September.  A strong ministerial declaration, which he hoped would be adopted tomorrow, and a resolution on the future international arrangement would place forests more prominently in broader development processes.

MARTIN SAJDIK (Austria), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the Forum was established 15 years ago to advance the sustainable development of all forests.  It had been an indispensable “member” of the Economic and Social Council system as the only global intergovernmental body that regularly debated forest-related issues and provided policy advice and recommendations to Member States, the United Nations system and other bodies.  The institutional relations between the Council and its subsidiary bodies, such as the Forests Forum, were intended to be complementary.

Much had been achieved in the Forum, he said, notably the introduction of innovative perspectives on forest sustainability.  The “Forest Instrument” endorsed by the Council and adopted by the General Assembly in 2007 was a strong example.  More recently, the Forum had also successfully integrated the benefits of forests and their contributions to sustainable development into the broader development agenda, including the sustainable development goals currently being considered.

The Council had undertaken far-reaching reform, including to manage the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the sustainable development goals and what that entailed.  He was pleased that the Forum considered the integration of forests into the post-2015 agenda a priority.  It was important to further elevate the status of forests, particularly within the new development architecture.  The Forum was well-placed to define forests’ role in sustainable development and to report on the progress of forest-related goals and targets.

Statements

BHEKI CELE, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the international arrangement on forests should play a key role in the promotion of sustainable forest management on a global scale and should be integrated in the broader context into the post-2015 development agenda.  Given the relevant summit-level meetings taking place this year, it was important for the current session to deliver a strengthened Arrangement that enhanced the contribution and importance of forests in the context of sustainable development. 

Noting that the week’s negotiations showed some experts’ aversion to strengthening the financing of sustainable forest management, he said that the most effective means would be the establishment of a global forest fund.  Reluctance to deal with that did not eliminate the need to assist developing countries and provide new and additional resources.  It had been the Group’s position that the proposed fund should have simple modalities to ensure developing countries’ access to those resources.  The strengthening of the Forum’s secretariat must not be left unattended any longer.  Tangible means were needed to bolster its capacity, as was the provision of human and financial resources that were adequate, predictable and commensurate with the Forum’s mandate and function.  It was unfathomable to expect increased responsibility without the commensurate means to fulfill the mandate. 

JĀNIS DŪKLAVS, Minister for Agriculture of Latvia, speaking on behalf of the European Union Delegation, said the Forum had helped to advance the global discussion on forest issues through a holistic and integrated approach.  However, deforestation and forest degradation persisted at an alarming rate.  The main underlying causes lay outside the sector, such as conversion of forests to other uses involving agriculture, mining and urbanization.  Everyone had the shared responsibility of tackling illegal harvesting and trade in forest products and commodities associated with deforestation.  Moreover, forest policy was fragmented and government and law enforcement was often weak.  He cited a lack of reliable information on forest resources and undervaluation of the benefits provided by non-timber forest products and ecosystem services.  Those challenges must be addressed urgently for the well-being of present and future generations.

The Ministerial Declaration, he said, was a great opportunity to renew commitment to sustainable forest management, providing a clear vision about its contribution to society, including in the context of the post-2015 agenda.  The Union wanted so see an arrangement that focused on promoting sustainable forest management and combatting deforestation and forest degradation.  There was still space to improve common international understanding of sustainable forest management, to share lesson learned and to strengthen monitoring, assessment and reporting.  The future arrangement should be more strategic in view of the many opportunities offered by sustainably managed forest resources.  A precondition was strengthened forest governance, including secure land tenure rights and participation of major groups and other stakeholders.  He stressed the value of an intergovernmental process, such as the Forum, to promote holistic and coherent cross-sectoral policy approaches to forest-related issues.

Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. DŪKLAVS said the forest policy in Latvia, the fourth most densely forested country in the Union, laid down the principles of sustainable management, strategic goals and targets as well as State functions to support the sector’s development.  Stakeholder involvement in policy development and active participation in the achievement of the agreed goals were basic preconditions for successful development of the sector.

CHRISTIAN SCHMIDT, Minister for Food and Agriculture of Germany, said discussions usually focused on forests destruction, over-exploitation, illegal logging, threats due to climate change and other risks, and often overlooked the self-renewing potential of forests through sustainable management.  That included not only the role of wood as an important renewable raw material for construction, as a renewable energy source and as a resource for innovative products but also its value for superb ecosystem services.  The diverse, stable and usually natural or close-to-natural composition of forests was of particular importance.  Germany had taken account of that interplay and made the forestry sector one of the core elements of its national bio-economic strategy.  Welcoming the fact that sustainable forest management had been enshrined explicitly as a goal in the proposals for the sustainable development goals, he urged the Forum to engage in greater dialogue with other international processes and to promote coherence in global forestry policy at all levels.  While reaching a legally binding international agreement was the right way ahead, the post-2015 agenda could also provide a superb framework.

KESTUTIS TREČIOKAS, Minister for Environment of Lithuania, expressed deep concern about deforestation and degradation, stressing that measures were needed to curtail that at national, regional and global levels.  At the national level, strategic planning should be implemented through forest programmes that had time-bound objectives.  Lithuania had adopted a national forestry development programme 2013 to 2020, as well as implementing a broad range of afforestation activities.  Over the last 10 years, forest area had increased by 2 per cent, and today, forests covered one third of the country’s territory.  He supported universal membership in the Forum that had a clear mandate, objectives and functions, which both facilitated the coordination of forest policies and stimulated implementation of sustainable forest management.  The international arrangement should be improved through strategic planning, a long-term vision and time-bound targets.

MUSHAHID ULLAH KHAN, Minister for Climate Change of Pakistan, said many people depended on forests for their livelihoods, subsistence and income.  While United Nations conventions on biodiversity, desertification and climate change addressed some aspects, the international arrangement guided their management, conservation and sustainable development.  Pakistan had achieved the Millennium Development Goal environmental sustainability target of 12 per cent protected areas and was working to increase forest cover to 6 per cent.  In addition, it was promoting public-private partnerships in the forestry sector.  More broadly, the global objectives on forests would not be achieved without adequate means for implementation.  In that, he supported predictable and scaled-up financial resources for all forestry projects.

ROBERT PICKERSGILL, Minister for Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change of Jamaica, said that an overarching policy framework for protecting the world’s forests was key to ensuring their sustainable management.  The implementation of such a framework depended on national action.  In that light, Jamaica was reviewing its own national forest policy and conservation plans, ensuring that it would facilitate a more coordinated and strategic approach.  Jamaica, which derived its named from “land of wood and water”, had a diverse array of forest types, which provided the country with numerous direct and indirect benefits, from timber to ecosystem services.  His Government recognized the crucial role played by forests in the protection of watersheds, stabilization of the soil and the aesthetic value important for tourists.  As a small island developing State, his country faced many challenges.  The impact of man-made and natural disasters, such as climate change, on forest resources must be mitigated.  The world was at a crossroads and should take the opportunity to ensure forests’ sustainable management.  A common consensus would make for a more coordinated and united front going forward.

KADIATOU N’DIAYE, Minister for Environment, Water and Forests of Guinea, said that her country’s forests were classified as zones of high biological diversity, rich in species, but were nevertheless undermanaged.  Many were deteriorating owing to the misuse of wood and timber, fires, over-grazing, mining exploration, and the presence of refugees.  As the “water tower for West Africa”, Guinea endeavoured to conserve its ecosystems and was committed to raising the rate of protection to 25 per cent of the national territory, including protected marine areas.  Along with the need to preserve its biodiversity was a need to bring together financial sources, and Guinea hoped that the present Forum session would lead to increased financing to implement objectives and environmental targets.

ABDOULAYE BALDE, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development of Senegal, associating with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, expressed concern at desertification, biodiversity loss, forest degradation, and the illegal exploitation of forest resources across borders, all of which was worsening.  Addressing deforestation required more dynamic cooperation, notably in adopting measures to fight the illicit cross-border timber trade and to strengthen country capacity.  The Forum should evaluate mechanisms for intervention, which in turn should bring about sustainable forest management.  Policies should be based on accountability among local authorities and populations, which required enhanced technical and institutional capacity.  The transition to a low-carbon economy could be attained only through sustainable forest management.  As such, he called for more policy cooperation and the appropriate financing.  Senegal supported a global fund as well as measures to combat the fragmentation of forestry governance. 

CHRISTABEL NGIMBU, Minister for Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Zambia, describing national efforts, cited a strategy to reduce emissions from forest degradation and approval of a forest policy.  A strengthened Arrangement should target countries in special situations, including land-locked developing countries, least developed countries, small island developing States and low-forest-cover countries.  Major groups and private-sector partnerships should be strengthened, while regional institutions should link science and policy with a view to improving local capacities.  The new Arrangement should be supported by robust financing mechanisms and enhance the “facilitative process” for its mobilization.  Also, non-discriminatory rules should govern trade in forest products.  Unilateral measures should not ban international trade in timber and other forest products.  Rather, trade should encourage favourable prices for forest products.  Tariffs and other market barriers should be removed.

OSEA NAIQAMA, Minister for Fisheries and Forests of Fiji, associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that the post-2015 development agenda included a goal on sustainable forest use, and the Forum, therefore, was at a very important juncture.  Efforts were being made to decrease deforestation, because forests contributed to positive development, biodiversity and other vital issues.  He commended efforts to achieve an international arrangement beyond 2015 to face new forest-related challenges in line with the post-2015 development agenda.  He acknowledged the hard work done by the Forum and the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests.  However, if that instrument was to be effective, it needed to be inclusive and dynamic.  Further effort and resources also were necessary, and in that context, he favoured a fund dedicated solely to forests.  Fiji was doing its best with limited resources to achieve sustainable forest management.  The Forum must identify ways and strategies to integrate its goals into international agreements.

HENRI DJOMBO, Minister for Sustainable Development, Forestry Economy and Environment of Congo, said that the Forum, since its creation in 2000, had made significant progress.  Although it was the only political platform for forest management in the world, it still lacked sufficient commitment.  The illegal exploitation of flora and fauna continued, and greater international visibility of that issue was necessary.  Action on the ground would ensure that forests played a decisive role in sustainable development.  All stakeholders must commit to basic principles of sustainable forest management, and the international community should work to ensure that forests were prioritized in the post-2015 development agenda.  Forests were of immense value and could promote the green economy.  They could also be a vehicle through which to achieve sustainable development throughout the world.  He agreed that a global forestry fund was needed.

RALAVA BEBOARIMISA, Minister for Environment, Ecology, Maritime Affairs and Forests of Madagascar, said his country was consolidating its commitment to international treaties and protocols.  It had 28 protected areas, both land and sea, which was a major step forward in biodiversity protection.  Its goal was to have 6 million hectares of such areas.  Policies had been inspired by expectations and guided by the pursuit of a link to a political framework.  On the issue of reforestation, he cited an annual goal of 1,000 planted hectares.  More broadly, he described an inter-ministerial committee, which included the World Bank, focused on eradicating illegal trafficking in valuable wood.  Such efforts demonstrated Madagascar’s commitment to good forest governance.  Beyond 2015, the international arrangement must provide real financing at the country level.

NII OSAH MILLS, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources of Ghana, associating with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, recognized forestry as a vital contributor to his nation’s development.  The sector faced several challenges, especially deforestation and degradation, which had caused rural poverty and adverse climate-change impacts.  To reverse that situation, the country had piloted a method for monitoring and evaluating the Forest Instrument.  Only legal timber was exported to the European Union market.  He also cited a domestic wood procurement policy, which had reduced the amount of illegal timber sold in other markets, as well as implementation of a national REDD+ strategy and institutionalization of the International Day of Forests, which coincided with the rainy season.

NOEL NELSON MESSONE, Minister for Forests, Environment and Protection of Natural Resources of Gabon, said that the sustainable management of forests was the basis for the “green” pillar of his country’s strategic vision.  Forests were a key platform for sustainable development.  More than 85 per cent of Gabon was covered in forests, and the policy of protection was based on the participation of all segments of the population.  Recently, the country had established a community forestry population with a view to foster preservation and the sustainable and responsible use of forest resources.  This year was crucial for mapping out the path to sustainable management of forests throughout the world.  He supported the establishment of an ad hoc committee, as it was crucial to avoid the duplication of solutions deemed useful in the past.  Achievement of all forest goals required a shared vision, which was why he supported a global forestry fund.

PATRIK MLYNAR, Deputy Minister of the Czech Republic, said there were tens of thousands of forested land owners whose livelihoods depended on forest products.  There had been positive developments in forestry to improve ecological stability.  However, management of those lands was not always effective, and forests were damaged by a number of factors.  There were many opportunities for the development of the forest sector as part of the green economy, but the world’s forests were suffering from illegal practices.  That was why an international arrangement was needed.  The Forum should play a central role in promoting cooperation to achieve sustainable management of all types of forests.  The arrangement should concentrate on problem areas and strengthen implementation of non-binding arrangements.  It also should contribute to the sustainable development agenda.  He urged a clarion call for concrete protective actions.

IVAN VALENTIK, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, said his country was home to more than one fifth of global forest resources.  Increased pressure on ecosystems and demand for forest goods and services had elevated the Forum’s importance in determining global policy.  Beyond 2015, the new “forest mechanism” must breathe new energy into sustainable forest development.  The Russian Federation was focused on the decentralization of forest management.  Achieving agreement on forest preservation and support for the viability of forest ecosystems were among the challenges.  To address them, a forest protection policy, approved in 2013 and active until 2030, defined economic, ecological and other aspects of forest management.  The forest code had been amended to better control timber and, on 1 January, a new function for monitoring forest reproduction had been created.  His country would consolidate efforts to strengthen the “forest mechanism”, he said, reaffirming that a document with binding legal force would contribute to the forest sector in all countries.  The involvement of international financial institutions was important in that context.

JAMES DAWOS MAMIT, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environment of Malaysia, said forests played a significant role in human well-being, biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability.  The timber industry was a major contributor to Malaysia’s export earnings, reaching $5.5 billion in 2014 and, as such, his Government was committed to implementing sustainable forest management.  Carrying out such management had not been satisfactory in developing countries, mainly due to a lack of financial resources, environmentally sound technologies and institutional capacity.  Citing the immense costs, he said there was an urgent need for external financial assistance from developed countries.  The new Forest Instrument also should initiate “credible” new funding through the establishment of a global fund.  The new tool should have clear terms of reference, supported by a funding mechanism and strategic action plan with time-bound targets.

ZHANG YONGLI, Vice Minister for the State Forestry Administration of China, said that building a global forest governance architecture was a “glorious mission”.  Forests played a vital role in poverty alleviation and food security, among other benefits.  Sustainable forest management was an important way to achieve the goals of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.  The adoption of the non-legally-binding Forest Instrument and proclaiming an International Year helped to improve global awareness of forest “health”.  The importance and complexity of forests required an effective international arrangement that matched today’s needs.  He attached great importance to the sustainable development of forestry and said that protected areas and sustainable management were “constantly expanding”.  China’s forestry developments had helped 400 million farmers, created more than 50 million jobs, boosted economic development and alleviated poverty.  China would continue to implement the Instrument and was ready to cooperate with all countries to build a future global governance architecture.

JOZEF SPEVAR, Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development of Slovakia, stressed the need to focus on improving general understanding of how forests and their sustainable management could contribute to the transition to a green economy.  Transforming that consideration into relevant political decisions was also crucial to addressing major challenges such as sustainable economic growth, job creation, poverty reduction, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and production of renewable material and energy.  A regional dimension would remain a key component of the post-2015 international arrangement, which required enhanced involvement of relevant bodies and processes.  Slovakia was one of two countries co-chairing the Forest Europe process, which was a regional high-level political blueprint aimed at promoting sustainable forest management in the continent.

DAN POPESCU, Secretary of State within the Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests of Romania, associating with the European Union, said forests provided a range of environmental goods — from food, fuel and medicine to raw materials for industrial processing.  In Romania, forests covered 6.5 million hectares, representing 27 per cent of national territory.  Priorities included reversing the loss of forest cover, as well as enhancing the area and quality of forests through afforestation, reforestation and restoration.  The restitution of forest land to former owners raised challenges to the legal, regulatory and institutional framework, particularly in tackling illegal logging.  As such, the forest act addressed forest administration for private owners and income compensation, among other things.  He reaffirmed Romania’s strong commitment to sustainable forest management, stressing that the international arrangement beyond 2015 should avoid duplication with other organizations, agreements and funding mechanisms.

HANNE MAREN BLÅFJELLDAL (Norway) said that forest management was key to sustainable development.  Deforestation, forest degradation and unsustainable management practices continued at an alarming rate.  That must change, and forest resources must be managed sustainably in order to limit global warming, reduce biodiversity loss and enable economic and social development.  Forests were among Norway’s most important renewable resources and an important source of income and livelihood in rural areas.  Norway had been an active supporter of the Forum since its establishment, but also felt the body had the potential to become more efficient and relevant.  To make the international arrangement more effective, the Forum session needed to be more effective and flexible and more open to address emerging issues.  The Arrangement was a tool for integrating sustainable forest management into the work of other forest-related forums and sectors.  Sustainable forest management was an effective strategy to mitigate climate change, and the topic deserved increased attention.

ELISABETH BACKTEMAN, State Secretary to the Rural Affairs Minister in the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation of Sweden, said forests were important for her country’s prosperity, job creation, promotion of outdoor activities and recreation, biodiversity and the provision of many ecosystem services.  The Government had set an ambitious goal to create more jobs in the sector and wanted to have the lowest unemployment rate in Europe by 2020.  She hoped the Forum would remain an important platform for countries, stakeholders and international organizations through which to share knowledge, experiences and good practices, as well as to foster coordinated actions towards sustainable forest management and to help revitalize national forest programmes around the world.  As girls and women worldwide risked their lives when entering a forest, she stressed the need for an international arrangement that promoted gender equality in the sector.

KHURELSUKH MAGVANSUREN, Deputy Minister for Environment, Green Development and Tourism of Mongolia, said his country fully supported strengthening the existing international arrangement and its integration in the broader context of the post-2015 development agenda.  Noting that 2 of the 17 proposed sustainable development goals addressed forests, he said the one on terrestrial ecosystems highlighted the need to mobilize resources to finance sustainable forest management and provide adequate incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation.  Furthermore, the significance of forests was interwoven with the goals of ending poverty, achieving food security, and combating climate change.  Despite its low cover, Mongolia understood the value and role of forests and had adopted policies and programmes committed to sustainability and conservation.  As the challenges each country faced were not entirely unique, they required shared international interest and action.

SILVIA ALICIA REVORA, Under-Secretary for Planning and Environmental Policy of Argentina, said any strategy for the protection of forests should be formulated in the wider context of social and economic development.  It was necessary to enhance the Forum’s key role as the only platform for multilateral dialogue on forests and integrate the issue with the post-2015 agenda.  The Forum needed to take important decisions on such matters as the mobilization of resources to meet the needs of developing countries.  Argentina had crafted legal frameworks aimed at sustainable management of forests to ensure respect for the interlinkages governing effective mobilization of natural resources.

KHODAKARAM JALALI, Deputy Minister and Head of the Forests, Rangelands and Watershed Management Organization of Iran, said that despite sustained efforts, deforestation and forest degradation continued across the globe.  That called for new approaches, he said, highlighting the series of steps Iran had taken by way of policy and legal measures.  Climate change and its detrimental effects had inflicted heavy damage on Iran’s forests over the past five years, which underscored the imperative of sharing of knowledge and experience.  Iran intended to hold a ministerial meeting to promote a comprehensive and coordinated approach to forest preservation and development.  The international arrangement should be developed in consonance with the emerging challenges.

DEMETRIO L. IGNACIO, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of the Philippines, associating with the Group of 77 and China, recognized the significant progress made towards sustainable forest management at the national, regional and international levels.  The country had planted more than 1 million trees, employing 317,000 people, and it had instituted legal measures against illegal logging.  The country supported a more robust international arrangement in the context of the post-2015 agenda and reaffirmed its commitment to integrate the non-legally binding measures in policies and programmes.

BEGONA GILARTE, Director-General of Rural Development and Forest Policy, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment of Spain, associating with the European Union, said 15 years since the Council’s adoption of the forest resolution, “if we hope to preserve biodiversity and maintain dynamic rural activities, we have to think about forest areas.”  The Forum had provided significant contributions, namely the Forest Instrument to define national and international forestry policies.  The question was how to build on those efforts without duplication.  In Spain, updated forest policies were essential for people in urban and rural areas.  Parliament was discussing draft forest laws, she said, noting that forests occupied 54 per cent of the country.  The global forest framework was an important point of reference, but appropriate national governance was also needed to ensure sustainable management.

HIROSHI MINAMI (Japan) said forests served multiple invaluable functions in the environment and socioeconomic development and were connected with various sectors.  They provided vital resources for sustaining life, containing more than 80 per cent of terrestrial biodiversity and supplying food, medicine, fuel and jobs to numerous communities.  They also were significant players in an ecosystem-based approach to disaster risk reduction.  Japan supported an arrangement that was mutually supportive with other internationally agreed targets, such as the post-2015 agenda, he said, emphasizing the need to mobilize financing from existing sources and ensure that all financial mechanisms functioned effectively.

GLENN MASON, Assistant Deputy Minister for Natural Resources of Canada, said the eleventh session was a critical milestone for the Forum and its Member States and pledged to continue working on integrating the issues in the post-2015 agenda.  Countries continued to support sustainable forest management in their own ways, he said, stressing the need to understand forest dynamics to create, simulate and compare various forest management scenarios.  Canada’s carbon budget model was at the core of its efforts to monitor, project and report forest carbon stock changes and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to evaluate mitigation options involving the management of forests and harvested wood products.  On the international stage, partnerships were critical to sustainable development, and Canada was pleased to host of the International Model Forest Network Secretariat.

İBRAHIM ÇIFTÇI, Deputy Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs of Turkey, said international arrangements on forests were crucial for the sustainable management of all types of forests and achieving global objectives.  While many regions faced deforestation and degradation, Turkey had increased its cover and rehabilitated degraded forests.  Seven million Turks lived in villages within and adjacent to forests, nearly all of which were Government-owned and managed.  The country had made bilateral forestry agreements with 40 countries, including in connection with technical support to increase national capacity on the sustainable management of forests.  Turkey supported the strengthening of implementation means, including capacity-building, technology transfer and financial mechanisms for sustainable forest management.  The post-2015 international arrangement would have a key role in achieving the sustainable forest development goals and targets.

ADEN FORTEAU (Grenada) said his country was mountainous and his Government recognized the inseparable connections between sustainable managed forest resources and environmental health, biodiversity conservation, recreation and sustainable livelihoods, particularly for the poor and vulnerable communities that were solely dependent on forest resources.  Small island developing States like his own, despite their insignificant contribution to climate change, were the first to be adversely affected by the devastating impact of that phenomenon.  A resolution and ministerial declaration should take into account Grenada’s limitations.  To implement sustainable forest management, the country needed support in such areas as building its human and financial resource capacity; building its institutional structure to more effectively capitalize on multilateral donor funds; and developing forest legislation and strengthening statutory rules and orders.

CARLA CARDENAS, Special Advisor on Forestry, Ministry of Environment of Ecuador, urged a focus on tools and mechanisms in order to move towards practical implementation of forest policies, stressing that 20 per cent of her country was forest area. Ecuador had reduced deforestation, while financial incentives and a national programme had helped indigenous villages and private owners. Donor support was also needed, including new sources, to complement national efforts for sustainable forest management. She urged the Forum to include the social, environmental, human and economic value of forests in its outcome documents. It should also operate at the regional level, allowing for economic, political and technical discussions, as well as provide incentives for the implementation of draft goal 15 of the new global agenda, which should include measureable objectives.

XAVIER STICKER, Ambassador on the Environment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development of France, endorsed the European Union’s position, noting his country’s commitment to forest protection.  Forests had an economic, cultural and social function, which France assigned to all forests — those for production and preservation alike.  One third of France’s forests were in the French department of Guiana in the Amazon.  “We care about protecting this forest,” as it offered 10 times more biodiversity than those in France.  Over 10 years, France had increased by 300 million Euros funds for global forest protection, half of which went to Central Africa and the Congo Basin.  On climate change, he called on States to commit to forests through the “New York declaration” launched at the 2014 September summit on climate change.  France had pledged $1 billion to the Green Fund, a portion of which would be available for sustainable forest management in climate change adaptation and mitigation activities.

KAI SAUER (Finland) said the country had knowledge on forests accumulated over the centuries and that its people were well aware of the imperative of sustainable management.  The Finnish economy was highly dependent on the forest sector, he said, stressing the need to embrace a low-carbon economy that provided decent jobs.  Also crucial was to move towards sustainable development through a green bio-economy.  Noting that the world’s poorest people were the most forest-dependent, he said Finland was a leading donor in forest-based international cooperation initiatives. 

MARTINE ROHN-BROSSARD, Deputy Head of International Affairs Division, Head of Europe, Trade and Development Cooperation Section, Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland, said the Forum could guide the international arrangements on forests towards a true global stewardship through sustainable management.  Welcoming the broad support for the resolution on a strengthened role and value-added regarding the international arrangement beyond 2015, he said the Forum should provide the guidance on forests for the implementation of the sustainable development agenda, in particular for the forest-related targets.  Strong reference in the resolution was needed on the potential for the Forum to contribute to the follow-up and review of the sustainable development goals.

Mr. YAMBAY (Paraguay) recognized the importance of sustainable forest management and integrated it into national programmes.  Interaction between the Government, civil society and other stakeholders was vital, as was private-sector investment.  Capacity-building and technology transfer were particularly important for developing countries to implement sustainable forest management.  Paraguay had implemented programmes friendly to local and indigenous peoples, which included a national monitoring system.  The Forum played a vital role in coordinating policy and promoting international cooperation.  He regretted the lack of financial resources, which was a major obstacle to implementing a non-legally binding instrument.

Mr. LHAFI (Morocco), associating with the Group of 77 and China, recognized the vital role of forests in tackling climate change, which decreased biodiversity and increased desertification.  Given the complexity of climate change challenges, no linear or sectoral approach would be effective.  Rather, it was a balancing act of economy and environment.  The ability to create wealth without degrading the environment was tested.  His country was able to reverse some of the negative trends, including the impact of fires on land, by implementing national programmes.  Synergy among the existing forest management instruments was key, and priority must be attached to ensuring appropriate financial resources.

MOAFANUA TOLUSINA POULI, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Samoa, called for “transformative” actions to ensure a strengthened international arrangement.  The outcome of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, held last year in Samoa, recognized that forests were vital to livelihoods and ecosystems and underlined the need to support island countries’ implementation of the Forest Instrument.  Samoa’s vulnerability to natural disasters had been a driving force in efforts towards a “green economy”, with a number of forest-related initiatives launched to tackle climate change, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss.  He supported the establishment of a trust fund and the realization of commitments under the Arrangement that would benefit States like his own in implementing the Forest Instrument and the sustainable development goals.  He recognized the key role of domestic resources in that context.

IB PUTERA PARTHAMA, Senior Adviser to the Minister of Economics and International Trade Ministry on Environment and Forestry of Indonesia, said he was optimistic that the global community was more than ever giving its significant attention to the importance of forests.  His country was one of the few blessed with a vast forest resource and realized the multiple functions of forests and their crucial role as a life-support system.  For that reason, it had adopted the concept of sustainable forest management from the outset in order to maintain the delicate balance among economic, ecological and social functions.  Like many countries, unplanned deforestation and degradation posed a challenge; however, the situation was improving significantly.  Indonesia managed to cut deforestation by almost 75 per cent and implement a moratorium on new licensing.  Illegal logging was a crime that robbed the country of billions of dollars annually, and support from the international community was needed to curb it.

MARCO GARCIA ROA, Director of Development and Forest Protection of the National Institute of Forests of Nicaragua, associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that non-legally-binding instruments should provide the basis for the two documents being negotiated at the Forum.  Nicaragua’s 3.4 million-hectare forest cover was rich in biodiversity, and the Government had adopted proper policies on sustainable management and worked towards ensuring adequate funding.  The land registry and other instruments had allowed the country to expand its green cover.  Alliances with key stakeholders at the local level had enabled progress in combating forest fires.

FRANCESCO TAGLIAFERRO, Adviser on Forestry of the Ministry of Environment of Italy, said the world was about to set the ground rules for global sustainable development as well as set the stage for making it attainable without exceeding planetary boundaries and irreversibly depleting life-sustaining natural resources.  Centuries ago, in the late Middle Ages, Italy had suffered its most deforested period and its harmful consequences.  Since the last century, it had launched massive campaigns for protective reforestation.  In addition, Italy was experimenting with urban forests that held the promise of significantly reducing pollution and related diseased and generally improving the quality of life for millions of people.  Aware that much remained to be done, the country was actively pursuing the implementation of the forest global objectives.

MOHAMED ALI ELHADI ALI, Director-General of the Forest National Corporation of Sudan, said forests played a significant role in the national economy by enhancing environmental stability, affecting socioeconomic aspects, and providing basic needs of various stakeholders.  That role was achieved mainly through the adoption of best practices on sustainable forest management, which aimed to mitigate severe environmental degradation; address the reality that almost 66 per cent of the population was rural and almost entirely dependent on forests as the main source of energy, fodder, meat, fruit, and traditional medicine; and to recognize the full scope of forest products and services.  This year provided a unique opportunity to integrate and position forests and the future international arrangement in the broader context of the post-2015 agenda, the United Nations Conference on Financing for Development and the twenty-first Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

BOUNSOUANE PHONGPHICHITH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that forests played a key role in the socioeconomic development of the country’s people.  His Government had adopted a 2020 forestry strategy and forest law that divided forests into three categories: production, conservation and protection.  To implement the strategy, some programmes, including for regenerating degraded forest and for surveying forest cover, had been put in place.  The country highly recognized the value of forests for rural and national development, the well-being of its people through the provision of a sustainable flow of environmental goods and services and the maintenance of natural biological diversity.  Crucial to economic growth were natural resources, more use of renewable energy, ecosystem conservation, sustainability, technological intervention for low carbon emission, and the implementation of the REDD+ programme.  He called on the United Nations, development partners and other stakeholders to support the implementation of sustainable forest management in his country, which faced deforestation and forest ecosystem degradation.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said that States had sovereign rights to use their forests.  To make up for their loss, a profound change was needed with regard to capitalism and consumption patterns.  Venezuela had protected Mother Earth and had a policy in place to safeguard the environment.  Forests covered 54 per cent of the country’s land and represented a vital socioeconomic resource.  The Government empowered local communities, including indigenous peoples, to manage and recover forests to enhance their quality of life. It recognized the intrinsic value of forests, and believed that seeing forests from only the market’s point of view was not valid. 

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) stressed the importance of having tools, such as non-binding instruments, to manage use of biological resources.  Political support and commitment was needed to implement sustainable forest management and ensure that forestry remained high on the international agenda.  A future agreement must give priority to implementation, which also needed a clear road map to achieve tangible goals.  It was also important for that accord to converge with other international environmental agreements. 

SUTHILUCK RAVIWAN, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand, associating with the Group of 77 and China, said an effective post-2015 international arrangement would help to ensure a healthy future for the planet and its inhabitants.  His Government had taken a broad and comprehensive range of measures aimed at protecting and promoting forests through sustainable management practices involving stakeholders at all levels.  Concerted efforts and strong collaboration among international partners were essential towards achieving the goals and objectives set forth by the Forum.

CHRISTINE DAWSON, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Environment of the United States, said the community of nations and diverse rights- and stake-holders had struggled for decades to sustainably manage forests.  Despite some successes, solutions had proved complex and even elusive, which had put forests on the global security agenda.  The United States believed the Forum could be the place where national Governments could push collective international action.  Financing could and should be catalytic, and there was much work to be done to ensure greater efficiency through, among other things, the mobilization of the private sector in sustainable forest management.  It was important to discuss and devise ways of integrating forests into all dimensions of the post-2015 agenda.

PEARL JULES (Suriname) said that forests covered more than 90 per cent of his country’s land.  To develop Suriname and increase national production, more pressure could be placed on forests.  To maintain the ecosystem at the national and global level, the Forum played a vital role in harnessing global cooperation and policy coordination.  To increase its performance and fulfil its mandate, the Forum secretariat must be equipped with adequate resources.  Regarding financing of the international arrangement, he advocated for the establishment of a dedicated global forest fund.

NGUYEN BA NGAI (Viet Nam) said that his country had increased forest cover from 28.3 per cent in 1995 to 41.5 per cent in 2014.  That contributed to the overall growth of the agricultural and rural development sector; hunger elimination and poverty reduction; and improved living standards for people living in rural areas.  However, the forest sector had revealed some constraints.  The recent increase of forest area had been mainly made up of plantation forests, and the quality of natural forests had degraded due to human activities.  The importance of biodiversity, particularly for threatened animal and plant species with high commercial value, had been decreasing.

PEDRO SOUST, Forestry Director-General, Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries of Uruguay, said his country’s forest laws of the 1980s had led to an increase in the cover.  Timber exports increased amid growing investments, which led to employment creation.  Therefore, the country was an active supporter of sustainable forest management.  However, forests remained vulnerable to commercial depredation, which placed enormous responsibility on the shoulders of the current generation.  In that context, Uruguay focused on education and awareness programmes targeted to the young.

REKHA PAI, Inspector-General of Forests, Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change of India, said forests were at the heart of several sustainable development-related issues.  Therefore, there was need for the global community to prioritize a holistic approach to dealing with them.  India supported the notion of extending the current international arrangement beyond 2015 to advance the implementation of sustainable forest management for all types of forests.  The future arrangement should be adequately strengthened to comprehensively address the various complex issues.  India, where reverence for nature was part of the culture and ethos, had a strong policy and legal framework in place to promote scientific and sustainable management of forests.  With only 2.4 per cent of the world’s land area, the country contributed to about 8 per cent of the known global biodiversity.

INGRID SABJA (Bolivia), associating with the Group of 77 and China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), stressed the need to “de-market” the relationship between humankind and nature.  Given their important cultural, economic and social functions, natural resources must be protected in a sustainable manner.  The country proposed an international instrument that promoted goals and commitments enshrined in various United Nations agreements in a comprehensive manner based on a holistic vision of forests through active participation of local communities and stakeholders.

CHOI YOUNG-TAE (Republic of Korea) said that this year marked an anniversary of the international arrangement.  The sustainable forest management framework must be reviewed and the future of the arrangement must be discussed.  His Government had carried out a number of projects to implement related policies with developing countries.  It also had signed an agreement with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries aimed at restoring the ecosystem.  His delegation would like to see a meaningful achievement at the current session.

ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica), associating with the Group of 77 and China and CELAC, recognized the importance of sustainable forest management, noting that the international forest agenda must have broader focus in the context of the post-2015 global development agenda.  His country’s experience showed that it was possible to improve its people’s well-being, and decrease poverty and inequality, through sustainable the use of resources.  Forests now covered 54 per cent of its land.  It was regrettable that no progress had been made on a legally binding instrument that would provide predictable financial resources.  Not having such a convention limited the ability to tackle the issue.

ABDULLAH ABU SHAWESH, observer of the State of Palestine, said that Palestine was classified as an arid or semi-arid region, which posed difficulties to its reforestation efforts.  The Government had embarked on a “green Palestine” project to increase the forest cover, which ranked among the world’s lowest.  However, those efforts had been impeded by the Israeli occupation, under which Palestinians controlled only 20 per cent of their forests.  Those punishing the Palestinians were aided by those perpetrating terror, which posed further obstacles to reforestation efforts.

JUDI WAKHUNGU, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Environment of Kenya, said her country supported the implementation of the Forum’s decisions as well as the extension of the International Arrangement on Forests to 2030 to ensure a long commitment to sustainable forest management.  She supported the retention of the Forest Instrument as an overall framework, and said that financing arrangements for forest management needed to be developed.  The non-legally-binding instrument on all types of forests was valid beyond 2015, as well as its continued utilization as an integrated framework for forest management.  The development and funding of a strategic plan through 2030 would serve as a guide and provide focus to the work of the International Arrangement and its components while incorporating the global objectives on forests.

ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said forests were important for providing ecosystem services and had other linkages with the wider sectors of the economy.  That fact was underpinned by his country’s Forestry Act, which provided the legal framework for the management and utilization of forest resources.  Its main objective was to manage and utilize forest resources on a sustainable basis with income generation, employment creation and preservation and research as key elements.  However, wider efforts were required.  Ongoing issues like climate change, biodiversity conservation, poverty eradication and disaster risk reduction and resilience had a direct correlation with sustainable forest management.  For that reason, the issue deserved an inclusive and enhanced attention from all stakeholders.  That would mean capacity-building, technical support and other measures from key partners.  There was room for further improvement in global forest mechanisms, and his country remained optimistic that a robust and strengthened Instrument would further complement efforts at the national level.

The representative of Peru, associating with the Group of 77 and China, said the country had major challenges and few resources to overcome them.  The changes that could be brought about through the Forum were critical to determining the future of the world’s forests.  With 60 per cent of the land under forest cover, Peru, in that sense, was predominantly a “forest country”.  However, forests represented only 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).  The country was attempting to implement sustainable management policies that would prevent forest-based communities from competing with urban ones.  Peru sought to promote engagement with regional organizations and share knowledge and lessons on best practices.

SELESTINE GESIMBA, Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism of the United Republic of Tanzania, associating with the Group of 77 and China, said his country was transitioning towards an ambitious and transformative post-2015 development agenda.  Draft goal 15 called for protecting and promoting the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managing forests, combatting desertification and halting and reversing land degradation and biodiversity loss.  His country had undertaken national forest resource assessment and monitoring, ensured financing for preservation, and involved relevant stakeholders.  There was good democratic space promoted by the Government as part of a broader political policy that provided a conducive environment for public and private actors alike, including for research and academia and local communities.  Like other least developed countries, his was facing challenges and increasing demands on forest products; however, he was confident in the Forum as the only global body with a mandate to look into forest policy and urged that it be strengthened.

For information media. Not an official record.