The Economic and Social Council, in its decision 1995/226, endorsed the recommendation of the third session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) to establish an open-ended ad hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) to pursue consensus and coordinated proposals for action to support the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests. In pursuing its mandate, the IPF is focusing on 12 programme elements clustered into five interrelated categories. The IPF will submit final conclusions and policy recommendations to the CSD at its fifth session in April 1997.
The first session of the IPF took place in New York from 11-15 September 1995. At this meeting, delegates adopted the IPF programme of work and attempted to set the dates and venues of future meetings. Several issues that have typically divided North and South again proved difficult. Members of the G-77 and China were resistant to any proposal that could foreseeably lead to a loss of national control over forests and forest products. There was also concern about the subject of criteria and indicators (C&I) and whether proposed intersessional workshops should constitute an official part of the Panel process. Developed countries questioned the need to extend the length of Panel meetings and expressed serious concerns about the Panels work.
The IPF held its second session from 11-22 March 1996 in Geneva. Delegates conducted their first substantive discussions on six programme elements and completed initial consideration of the others. During the final two days of the meeting, delegates considered the Co-Chairs summaries. They labeled these transitional in nature to signify that the summaries did not represent negotiated text. Delegates agreed to begin negotiations at IPF-3 on items that had received substantive consideration at the second session, although another substantive discussion was scheduled on the programme element on financial assistance and technology transfer. Delegates left Geneva satisfied that they had expressed national positions on a range of forest issues, but were somewhat frustrated that all of their positions were not always reflected in the report of IPF-2.
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