On 14 March, Jean Clement, the Task Manager for FAO, introduced the SG's report on Programme Element III.1(a) (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/6), which describes: the users of forest resources information; FAO's forest resources assessment; gaps in forest information; and approaches and lessons learned and future trends. Delegates highlighted several common issues, including: increasing information production, processing and interpretation to benefit planners at different levels; improving the global forest assessment; developing national databases and a regional data bank for assessing forest area and resources; increasing institutional capacity and international coordination efforts to collect global data on changes in forest cover; improving comparability of information in national inventories; and ensuring transparency in the process to prevent bias.
In addition, the G-77/CHINA noted the need to expand the base of institutions consulted in assessment processes and encouraged South-South cooperation. COLOMBIA, ARGENTINA and CHINA commented on the availability of technology, and stressed the need for technical assistance, international cooperation and mobilization of funds. SWITZERLAND and INDIA supported developing local capacity for interpreting inventories. MALAYSIA said future assessments should include measures of carbon storage and forest health.
FUNDACION PERUANA PARA LA CONSERVACION DE LA NATURALEZA emphasized: increased use of ground-based measurements to verify remote sensing imagery; enhanced information access; NGOs and local communities as resources; forest authenticity; soil and biodiversity conservation; and transparent and effective partnerships. The CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL FORESTRY RESEARCH noted that evaluating NTFPs, biodiversity and environmental services requires broad assessments, and that investment in forestry research as a percentage of income is lower than in agriculture. GABON questioned whether finance and technology transfer imply a partnership for mutually advantageous exchange. He called on the IPF to define the rules of international cooperation. ZIMBABWE acknowledged progress in assessment and capacity in developing countries. He supported research in monitoring methods but said harmonizing terminology and classification could lose key details. BRAZIL said assessments should account for multiple benefits, such as non-wood products, and should emphasize information on economic and social variables. The report should include temperate and boreal forests.
On 21 March, delegates discussed the Co-Chairs' summary on Programme Element III.1(a). The summary states that the Panel: emphasized that assessment of all types of forests is essential for SFM; noted that there were many shortfalls and gaps in existing information; stressed that forest assessments should adopt a holistic approach; recommended that criteria and indicators (C&I) be an integral part of forest assessment; noted that capacity building at national and local levels is crucial; noted that assessments represented a significant financial burden, in particular for developing countries; and stated that national assessment programmes should be transparent. The summary also states that, concerning international cooperation, the IPF agreed that much work was needed to define the scale, scope, content, frequency and dissemination of data. The FAO, in partnership with other international organizations, national institutions and NGOs, should contribute to coordinating international efforts on forest assessment.
Several delegations commented that the document should not assign roles to organizations at this stage and that C&I should be national in character. FUNDACION PERUANA PARA LA CONSERVACION DE LA NATURALEZA, on behalf of an NGO working group, said the document should move toward concrete actions. She said overemphasis on costs could impede creative thinking. Remote sensing and geographic information system technology should be made available inexpensively and on mutually agreed terms. The G-77/CHINA said "stakeholders" should be changed to "interested parties" in all report sections. NGOs should contribute to, rather than play a leadership role in, an international coordinating effort. The US supported the reference to the FAO Global Forest Resource Assessment. The PHILIPPINES said references to biodiversity conservation should also note sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits. CANADA said integrating indicators in SFM should be cost-effective, scientifically sound and internationally consistent, while recognizing countries' differences in forest characteristics, economies, societies and cultures.
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