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Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests
Photos and RealAudio of 31 January
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31 January:

On the first day of IFF-4, delegates met in an opening Plenary session to address organizational matters and to hear opening remarks from key speakers and delegations. Following Plenary, the Working Groups convened to discuss their organization of work.
Right: delegate arriving in the Trusteeship Council Chambers moments before the opening of IFF-4.

< IFF Co-Chair Bagher Asadi (Iran) opened IFF-4, welcoming delegates and noting that the IFF’s intensive two weeks of work would be directed toward resolving outstanding issues. He is pictured here on the left, speaking with the delegate of Uganda. 
Co-Chair Ilkka Ristimäki (Finland) welcoming the delegate of Portugal, representative of the EU > 
 

Opening statements:
David Harcharik, Chair of the Interagency Task Force on Forests (ITFF), called attention to three key issues: objectives, implementation and partnerships. Regarding implementation, he emphasized the need for concrete actions for implementing recommendations, and said money is the best measure of commitment.    

Real Audio: "...if you decided to keep the process going, I can only plead with you to know where you are going and why. (...) we can never ask ourselves too often the most fundamental question of all: 'what are we trying to achieve.'"

 

Klaus Töpfer, UNEP Executive Director, said that forests could no longer be considered as a factory for timber as they are important for conservation and the protection of the environment. He highlighted the importance of forests and wooded land for water management, biodiversity conservation, and breaking the vicious cycle of poverty associated with deforestation and drought. In closing, he said problems created yesterday cannot be solved with yesterday's thinking. Right: Töpfer and Jill Hanna of the European Commission.

RealAudio excerpts

 

Louise Fréchette, UN Deputy Secretary-General, noted governments are gradually recognizing the consequences of global warming but still refuse to link development and environmental sustainability. She noted the IFF process had created scientific and political momentum and given incentives to improve national policies. She underscored the significance of IFF deliberations for other key areas of sustainable development and said forests are a quintessential global issue.

RealAudio excerpts

 Emi Watanabe, UNDP Assistant Administrator, stated that the IFF can help turn the tide against the "business as usual" approach by making decisions that have significant, positive impacts on environments and livelihoods of poor populations. She highlighted the importance attached to the sustainable management of forests, which relates directly to the alleviation of poverty. She noted that UNDP is primarily involved with financing resources, and called for concrete and determined action by the international community.   

RealAudio excerpts

Juan Mayr, Colombian Minister of Environment, former chair of the Biosafety negotiations and CSD-8 Chair, assured delegates that focusing on consensus areas could lead to good results and wished them the best.
 

Regional and country statements:
PORTUGAL, on behalf of the EU, underscored the need to send a clear message to CSD-8 and noted broad support for institutionalizing an international forest policy dialogue. With regard to finance, he said sustainable forest management  should be self-sustaining in the long-run and encouraged public-private partnerships. He noted that while the EU has supported negotiating a legally binding instrument, it remains open to other proposals >  
 
 <  CUBA noted progress on technical aspects of forests thus far, but expressed concern over the lack of consensus on political elements. He highlighted, inter alia, the need for balance between SFM and economic development, special requirements of different ecosystems, the special needs of least developed countries and linkages of forests with rural communities and their development.
The delegate of Nigeria, spokesperson for the G77/China > 
 

Miscellaneous:
 Juan Mayr (left) discussing the recent successful outcome of the Biosafety negotiations in Montreal with Kimo Goree (top right), Managing Editor of the ENB and Alison Drayton (bottom right), delegate of Guyana. 

Side-event: NGOs/IPOs on Underlying Causes of Deforestation
Marcus Colchester, Forest People's Program (left), chaired the opening day's lunch-hour side-event. The purpose of the event was to inform IFF participants on progress in the Underlying Causes Initiative (UCI) and to present various NGO reports on compliance with IPF obligations >>

Simone Lovera (bosques@sobrevivencia.org.py, center), Friends of the Earth Paraguay, spoke of UCI's latest activities >>

Andrei Laletin (laletin@online.ru, right), Friends of the Siberian Forests, discussed the first national workshop on the underlying causes of deforestaton (UCD), held in Alusha, Ukraine. The workshop was attended by national, state and local levels of government; and participants came to a consensus on the UCD in Ukraine >>

<< Bill Mankin (gfpp@igc.org, left), Global Forest Policy Project, presented a draft report entitled "Keeping the Promise? An NGO Review of the Implementation of the IPF Proposals for Action in Select Countries". The report is a compendium and summary of 40 national evaluations of compliance with the IPF Proposals, and states that "none of the countries included in this review adequately carried out their commitment to implement the proposals of the IPF". The report is available online at http://www.bionet-us.org.

<< Ricardo Carrere, World Rainforest Movement (http://www.wrm.org.uy, right), presented a summary report of the joint NGO/IPO global strategy meeting on institutions, arrangements and mechanisms for action on forests; held 4 and 5 December in Ottawa. Participants at the meeting emphasized the need for compliance under existing commitments relating to forests, and discussed the workings of mechanisms required to ensure such compliance.  

In the corridors: 

What will constitute the new mechanism(s) to carry forward the work of the IFF is the main buzz throughout the corridors. Many delegations have come to the final meeting of the IFF determined to reach consensus prior to the CSD, but without a clear picture of what such a consensus will look like. It appears many are hoping that someone will come forward with a workable model. Many delegations called for political will, but as one delegate suggested, the fact that there are so many references to political will signals its absence. It appears that debate over finances will be a major sticking point, with some delegates lamenting the fact that the IPF and IFF processes have yet to bring forward any new sources of funding and wondering whether such funding is forthcoming.

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