Many arrived at IPF-3 anticipating that the Panel would reach the negotiating stage on at least some of the less divisive programme elements. Their hopes were extinguished when the session concluded with the adoption of a report that simply notes delegations stated views on the issues. The reasons behind the Panels apparent lack of action are diverse: the vastness of the agenda, which comprised twelve separate programme elements; the time needed to consolidate regional groups positions; delays stemming from the unavailability of documents in languages other than English; and the amount of time the Panel devoted to modifying its programme of work for the session, rather than discussing programme elements. IPF-3 left the distinct impression that delegates had much to say and barely enough time in which to say it, let alone negotiate.
Nonetheless, the most positive product of IPF-3 was a thorough airing of views, providing an opportunity for the presentation of many innovative ideas and creative suggestions from delegates, intergovernmental agencies and NGOs who participated. Delegates were quick to note that the IPF and related intersessional initiatives have sparked a renewed interest in forests at the national level and helped increase the momentum of the international dialogue on forests.
NATIONAL FOREST PROGRAMMES (NFPs): NFPs, a new idea for many delegations, proved problematic for countries that fear impingement on private property rights. Difficulties over national control of forests were witnessed in the process of formulating a Consumer Statement on achieving sustainable forest management (SFM) by the year 2000 during the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) 1994 negotiations. There the phrase national forests was inserted specifically to limit the commitment made to encompass only forests under direct national government control, which for some countries comprises only a small percentage of total forest cover. Private ownership of forest land is also problematic for public participation: one country called for language specifying that increasing public participation in decision-making for SFM only applies to public forests.
It is ironic that some countries calling for recognition of a countrys unique circumstances push developing countries, through their aid programmes, toward more private land ownership and less state control. This may ultimately undermine the ability of countries that now have the unique circumstance of national control over forests to be able to formulate NFPs and maintain a holistic approach into the future.
VALUATION: Valuation of forest benefits appears to be a sensitive issue both for countries with strong interests in protecting private property rights and those with interests in ensuring full capture of the economic benefits of their forests. This was exemplified by the fact that several delegations expressed concern regarding the Secretary-Generals report, many claiming some non-timber related elements of this issue are outside the mandate of the CSD and more appropriate for consideration by the Convention on Biological Diversity or the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Countries interested in protecting property rights could well view valuation as an economic impediment to conducting business as usual. Countries rich in forest resources, however, may fear being exploited by other countries. A common sentiment on the issue did emerge during the discussions. Virtually all countries were in agreement that additional methodologies should be developed and tested.
TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT: Trade and environment relating to forest products, and certification in particular, continues to generate interesting debate. Many developing country producers remain concerned that certification will be used as a trade barrier, and disagreement remains as to whether harmonization or country certification should be promoted at this stage. However, delegates from all camps seem more open to exploring transparent, participatory and non-discriminatory certification as a tool to make trade and environment mutually supportive. The IPF has brought together the often divergent interests of developing and developed countries and industry and environmental NGOs to conduct substantive discussions on certification. Where other fora under which this issue has been discussed have been less transparent and participatory, this open and iterated dialogue has been unfolding at the same time that certification has been maturing as a practicable tool in the marketplace. These two developments have contributed to forging consensus on the usefulness of certification as a tool to promote SFM.
FOREST CONVENTION: Discussions on a possible convention or other legally-binding instrument finally emerged from backstage onto the UN floor at IPF-3, but met with mixed reviews. UNCED produced the Forest Principles but no legally- binding agreement. Some observers applauded the several delegations that favored a forest convention. Other delegations offered more cautious support, but welcomed the opportunity to continue discussions on the topic. Two major timber-producing countries, however, were solidly against any form of legally-binding agreement at the present time.
Some observers questioned whether IPF-3 discussions on a possible forest convention would stall the Panels momentum on other issues. One observer noted that the number of delegations favoring a code of conduct for private companies provided a good indication of future support. Others cautioned that a convention may be a placebo rather than a panacea for the problems facing forests. They expressed concern that the motivation for many delegations springs from fear of lost markets rather than lost forests. While lack of support from all timber producers effectively eliminates the possibility of immediate initiation of a convention, many observers will be watching closely as the issue moves to center stage at IPF-4.
NGO PARTICIPATION: NGOs today have achieved an unprecedented level of participation in UN fora. Many observers point to the CSDs vanguard role in expanding the range of actors participating in the international policy-making process and this has unquestionably carried over into the IPF. The participation of NGOs in the IPF has continued to push the limits of official UN rules on participation. During IPF-3 NGOs were permitted not only to make interventions on the floor during official negotiations, but also to make direct comments on the texts and on other delegations proposals. NGO comments were even incorporated into the revised draft negotiating texts alongside government proposals to which many delegations objected. As the IPF moves closer to negotiating text, it is possible that NGOs may not have the high degree of latitude that they have been given thus far. While the IPFs expansion of UN rules on NGO participation is welcomed by many as much-needed and long overdue, some feel that NGOs should not engage in such negotiations because they do not represent a known constituency and, therefore, their accountability may be in question.
While the degree to which NGOs will be able to participate in IPF-4 remains to be seen, their participation in this forum has provided invaluable contributions to a broad consensus-building process on forest issues and has blazed the trail for NGOs to make similar inroads in other policy-making fora.
TOWARD IPF-4: Considering the state of affairs after IPF-3, it becomes clear that both the Bureau and the delegates have their work cut out for them during the intersessional period, if IPF-4 is to be a success. Several issues will require attention, not the least of which is the present state of the document emanating from IPF-3. Heavily bracketed and annotated text will remain alive until IPF-4 to allow the Secretariat to distill the broad range of views and incorporate the findings of intersessional activities. The resulting document to be used for negotiation should be produced by the Secretariat in a timely fashion, to allow sufficient time for translation. The reports timely translation could effect not only the speed with which delegates are able to digest and discuss the document, but also attitudes toward the process in general. Some observers wonder, in light of the onerous work load and the truncated time available, whether the IPF will be able to produce any substantive recommendations for the CSD.
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