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 to establish the IPF. In pursuing its mandate, the IPF focused on 12 programme elements clustered into five interrelated categories. Its objective was to 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 all of the programme elements except for V.2 (legal mechanisms), where discussion only just got underway. 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.
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