The working group on a ministerial statement met throughout the week, during both the COFO and ministerial meetings. Discussions in the group began with a draft statement distributed by FAO prior to the meeting. The Latin American and Caribbean group proposed an alternative, and by Tuesday, the EU and JUSCANZ groups had also submitted drafts. Amb. Gurgel held discussions on the various drafts Tuesday afternoon.
The main issues in dispute were the role of FAO, particularly relative to the proposed CSD intergovernmental panel on forests, whether the statement would make specific recommendations on terms of reference for the CSD panel, the strength of any reference or recommendation on a legally binding instrument, and whether the document would be titled a commitment, a consensus, a declaration or a statement.
The EU argued strongly that the document should endorse a strong leadership role for FAO and should call for negotiations on a legally binding agreement. Its draft contained specific instructions for the CSD panel"s work, including preparing for a consensus on C & I, developing the basis of a framework for timber certification, and examining the need for and feasibility of a legally binding instrument and its elements. The EU text called for FAO to be part of a joint effort to establish the intergovernmental panel.
The JUSCANZ statement called for demonstration and testing of C & I, dialogue on trade and environment, work toward non-discriminatory trade in forest products, and a review of existing international organizations and agreements. Its section on an FAO contribution suggested identifying FAO forest priorities and strengths, development of common definitions, data collection and reporting for C & I, improved utilization of regional commissions and cooperation with other organizations. Its message to CSD welcomed the intergovernmental panel, forwarded the ministerial document to CSD and noted FAO"s priorities and strengths.
The Latin American group"s text, called The Rome Consensus on Forestry, recommended that further efforts be made to ensure the foundations laid by UNCED are rendered solid enough to build upon. It said that what is needed is a determination to achieve the objectives so far agreed upon. It called on FAO to continue to muster its technical expertise and to cooperate closely with the CSD. The text expressed support for the proposed CSD intergovernmental panel to provide an assessment of actions already taken to fulfill the commitments and responsibilities arising from the Rio Conference.
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