Co-Chairs Sir Martin Holdgate (UK) and Manuel Rodriguez (Colombia) opened the session, emphasizing its importance because delegates must arrive at negotiated conclusions and recommendations for transmission to the CSD. They applauded the level of progress made during the intersessional period and encouraged consideration of reports produced at intersessional workshops. A workshop on traditional forest-related knowledge sponsored by Denmark and Colombia was announced for December.
The Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, Joke Waller-Hunter, highlighted progress made during the intersessional period and encouraged the Panel to take advantage of work accomplished. Common understanding has emerged with regard to several programme elements including land-use planning, national forest plans and forest assessments. Further deliberation on C&I, valuation of forest goods and services and underlying causes of deforestation is needed. The IPF should adopt realistic recommendations and refrain from taking a wish list approach.
The provisional agenda (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/13) was then introduced. The proposed agenda of work consisted largely of two parallel working group sessions. Preliminary conclusions were to be drafted during the first week and negotiated into final text during the second week. Programme element V.2 (legal mechanisms) would be discussed in plenary. SWITZERLAND suggested that plenary be extended to facilitate the adoption of conclusions. The provisional agenda was adopted.
The EU, supported by GABON and SENEGAL, expressed concern regarding the unavailability of certain documents in all working languages, noting that the Panels work could be impeded.
The floor was open for general comments. The EU highlighted the need to formulate clear and appropriate conclusions as well as concrete proposals for action. Cross-sectoral issues must be acknowledged and incorporated. COLOMBIA and the ALLIANCE OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES emphasized the importance of intersessional activities, such as the upcoming meeting sponsored by the Colombian and Danish governments on traditional forest-related knowledge. MEXICO said the Panel should deliver practical conclusions that spell out means to implement them. FINLAND reported that the Nordic forestry ministers met in July and expressed their support for the IPFs work and urged it to formulate recommendations for concrete action. He underlined that the Panels work should be holistic and intersectoral, and a policy forum must continue to exist after IPF-4 to maintain momentum.
After the opening plenary, the majority of the Panels work was conducted in two parallel working groups. Working Group I, chaired by Sir Martin Holdgate, considered programme elements I.1-I.3 and III. Working Group II, chaired by Manuel Rodriguez, considered programme elements II, IV, I.4 and I.5. Programme elements V.1 and V.2 were taken up in plenary and joint working group sessions.
Delegates conducted an initial round of discussions during the first week, based on the Secretary-Generals reports on each programme element. The reports were prepared by the IPF Secretariat in collaboration with the UN agencies participating in the Inter- Agency Task Force on Forests, governments sponsoring intersessional initiatives and NGOs. The reports reviewed the current status of international work on the programme elements and provided an appraisal of recent developments, with special reference to issues raised by the Panel during IPF-2.
The Secretariat then prepared draft negotiating texts that were based on the first weeks discussions. These texts served as the basis for a second round of discussions during the second week. The Secretariat then produced revised draft negotiating texts for most programme elements. These texts incorporated alternative drafting suggestions for negotiation during IPF-4, with direct attributions to the proposing delegations incorporated in the texts.
A third round of discussions was undertaken on several of these revised texts on the final day of the session, but time did not permit further discussion of all programme elements. The objective of this last round of discussions was to arrive at some preliminary, ad referendum agreement on easy parts of the texts and to identify the most controversial parts. This text will be incorporated into a forthcoming document to be entitled Elements for further negotiations at the Fourth Session of the Panel. This document will note that all programme elements are open for further discussion and negotiation with a view to arriving at a general agreement on conclusions and proposals for action that the IPF will submit to the fifth session of the CSD in April 1997. The report will also incorporate the findings of upcoming intersessional initiatives.
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