The Commission on Sustainable Developments open-ended ad hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) was established to pursue consensus and coordinated proposals for action to support the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. 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 the IPF. 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.
IPF-1: 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/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 and whether proposed intersessional workshops should constitute an official part of the IPF process. Developed countries questioned the need to extend the duration of Panel meetings and expressed serious concerns about the Panels work.
IPF-2: 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 remaining six. 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 some were frustrated that their full positions were not adequately reflected in the report of IPF-2.
IPF-3: The IPF held its third session from 9-20 September 1996 in Geneva. Delegates undertook substantive discussions on eleven programme elements: I.1 (national forest and land-use plans); I.2 (underlying causes of deforestation); I.3 (traditional forest- related knowledge); I.4 (ecosystems affected by desertification and pollution); I.5 (needs of countries with low forest cover); II (financial assistance and technology transfer); III.1(a) (forest assessment); III.1(b) (valuation of forest benefits); III.2 (criteria and indicators); IV (trade and the environment); and V.1 (international organizations and multilateral institutions). They also initiated discussion on programme element V.2 (legal mechanisms).
The objective of IPF-3 was to produce a document containing elements to be considered for inclusion in the Panels final report to the CSD. Delegates did not engage in negotiations or drafting of the elements at IPF-3, but made comments and proposed amendments to be negotiated at IPF-4. Some delegates regarded IPF-3 as a success in that it provided an opportunity for a meaningful exchange of views on the issues. Others expressed disappointment at the Panels inability to reach the negotiating stage on any of the programme elements and noted that this task may prove daunting during IPF-4.
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