The debate during the last two days of IPF-2 was indicative of the status and ultimate meaning of the entire session. In refusing to grant authority to the meeting's conclusions and insisting that all discussions were transitional, delegates acknowledged what their fairly non-committal statements had been indicating for two weeks: IPF-2 was a warm-up. Yet even if delegations were deliberately vague on some issues and the meeting was deliberately structured to initiate discussion without negotiations on less controversial, substantive matters, IPF-2 did illuminate areas that may remain contentious through the remainder of the Panel's work. On questions like the relative emphasis on forests and forestry, the roles of national or global measures, and the IPF's relationship to other negotiations and bodies, this meeting sketched some of the boundaries and turning points of delegates' early collective thinking.
A number of delegates and NGOs suggested that the IPF needs to clearly define how it will reconcile forests, including their ecological, social, and aesthetic goods and services, with forestry, which has its primary focus on timber production and economic values. Interventions and reports pointed to imbalances and preferences in both directions. One delegate noted that a document explaining the causes of low forest cover did not refer to timber extraction. On the other hand, the Secretary-General's report on trade suggests a lack of information on forest services, and that "For practical purposes, therefore, the effects and effectiveness of measures based on the linkage between environment and trade in forest products and services will be assessed in terms of wood products alone in this document." The report thus excluded forest services and non-timber forest products. As another example, comments on national forest plans often referred to "forestry plans," a substitution that was common throughout the debate.
Delegates and observers say that the attention to forestry is partly an institutional issue. Many IPF delegates are from forestry or economic, rather than environmental, ministries. Furthermore, the bodies preparing discussion reports have traditionally dealt primarily with the timber value of forests. Another element is the role of forestry in some countries' economies, which led some delegates to say that sustainable forest management must recognize that people use and consume the wood from forests. A third factor has scientific and cultural implications: giving consideration to non-monetary forest benefits requires a means of calculating or assigning their values. At several points during IPF-2, it was suggested that non-economic valuation methodologies are not yet sufficiently consistent or mature, which makes comparison with forestry valuation difficult. Some delegates also said that social and non-monetary values are perceived as bases for advocacy more than components of sustainable forest management. Others noted the potential impact non-monetary values could have on land tenure and use.
Debate over the role of plantations was another aspect of the balance of forests and forestry concerns. A number of delegations said repeatedly that plantations have a role to play by taking production pressure off natural forests. NGOs and a small number of delegations resisted assigning a role to plantations, suggesting that if they replace natural forests they threaten biodiversity and other values that are less directly economic. The unresolved question is where should the IPF direct the focus of its attention to sustainable forest management. Delegates said that preserving biodiversity was not enough, but more positive, coherent definitions were not provided.
Much of the debate at IPF-2 seemed to demonstrate a lack of coordination with other fora. Several times delegations admonished the Panel to consider its terms of reference and remain focused. An example of this was Argentina's comment that the debate on traditional forest-related knowledge resembled a session of the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Conference of the Parties. Much of the discussion of this programme element focused on the potential commercial value of traditional knowledge, even more explicitly than the CBD. Other areas of overlap included benefits-sharing, although without explicit mention of intellectual property rights or prior informed consent.
This spillover between IPF-2 and other fora also extended to other CSD subsidiary bodies. Held only days before the Panel convened, the CSD Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Finance and Production and Consumption spent a full week debating financial issues, weighing the effectiveness and availability of Official Development Assistance (ODA) against domestic public and private finance, foreign direct investment and innovative financial mechanisms including tax incentives. Notably, the Working Group intentionally avoided discussion of tradable emissions permits and other mechanisms deemed to be the responsibility of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). By week's end, developing countries were calling for greater participation in Northern country fora on sustainable production and consumption patterns, including the concept of eco-labeling that encompasses timber certification.
The discussions on finance, production and consumption, and timber certification at IPF-2 demonstrated that delegates were largely unaware of progress made at the Working Group on Finance. Furthermore, by the last day, some delegates tried to further extend IPF's mandate, adding, for example, seemingly unrelated items of biotechnology and biosafety to the Co-Chairs' summary on traditional forest-related knowledge.
The issue of international institutions and relevant legal mechanisms was given initial consideration in Geneva, as mandated by IPF-1. Delegates welcomed technical input from the Swiss/Peruvian initiative and other guidance in this area. Nevertheless, to date the IPF has not solicited positions on its ultimate recommendations to the broader world of forest policy. Within the initial comments on institutional and legal instruments, consistent views on the existence of institutional gaps or overlaps have led to a proliferation of suggestions for the proper response. Those suggesting criteria and indicators or certification beyond the national level have not yet explained how to pursue or implement those objectives.
What the IPF has expressed is an intention to determine its own priorities. A number of delegations have suggested that the CBD should not address forests or forestry policy beyond its implications for biodiversity. Additionally, the discussion of finance issues suggests that some believe the IPF must act independently, even when issues are concurrently considered by other bodies. At this juncture, it is impossible to say what recommendations, agreements or commitments the IPF might produce until delegates agree that the time for negotiation has arrived. The discussions initiated at IPF-2 will no doubt reach that point during the Panel's final two sessions.
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