The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an NGO-initiated effort to bring harmonization to the proliferation of forest product certification programmes around the world. Members include organizations and individuals from the forest products industry and related economic sectors, as well as NGOs, indigenous groups and social organizations interested in forest management.
The FSC has engaged in a four-year process of extensive international consultations with governments, industry, trade, NGOs and indigenous peoples' groups, including ten focused country and regional consultations and numerous meetings of expert working groups. The result was the creation of an independent, voluntary system of accrediting certifiers based on a strong set of forest management principles and criteria. Its goal is to give the forest-product-buying public an easily identifiable choice in the marketplace -- a product with an FSC-accredited certification mark. Formally constituted by a founding assembly in Toronto in October 1993, the FSC is engaged in accreditation consultations with all four of the world's major, operational forest management certifiers. The first accreditation decisions are expected within the next two months.
The FSC Principles and Criteria will be used by accredited FSC certifiers to evaluate forest management practices of producers and others seeking certification. The Principles state that forest management shall: (1) respect local, national and international laws and treaties and the FSC principles and criteria; (2) legally establish and document long-term tenure and use rights to the land and forest resources; (3) respect indigenous peoples' use rights, including compensation for applications of indigenous knowledge of forest management or species use; (4) maintain or enhance the long-term social and economic well-being of forest workers and local communities; (5) encourage the efficient use of the forest's multiple products and services to ensure economic viability and a wide range of environmental and social benefits; (6) conserve biological diversity and its associated values, water resources, soils, and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes, and, by so doing, maintain the ecological functions and the integrity of the forest; (7) write and maintain a management plan; (8) conduct monitoring of forest conditions, product yields, chain of custody, management activities and their environmental and social impacts; and (9) conserve primary forests, well-developed secondary forests and sites of major environmental, social or cultural significance, not replacing them with plantations or other uses. A tenth principle, not yet adopted, states that plantations shall not replace natural forests but should relieve pressure on natural forests.
A set of guidelines have also been created for accrediting certifiers. They must adhere to FSC principles and criteria, remain independent from outside influence, and maintain rigorous evaluation standards and practices.
The FSC has accepted the invitation of the Government of Mexico to establish its headquarters in Oaxaca, where its Executive Director, Dr. Timothy Synnott, and staff are now based. Substantial financial support has been granted to the FSC from several philanthropic foundations, the Governments of Australia, Austria, Mexico and United Kingdom, and the World Wide Fund for Nature. The FSC can be contacted at tel: +52-951-46905, fax: +52-951-62110; and e-mail <<email@example.com>>.
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