Delegates debated two sub-elements within this programme element during the course of IPF-4. Co-Chair Rodriguez introduced discussion on programme element V, International Organizations and multilateral institutions and instruments, including appropriate legal mechanisms, in the afternoon Plenary on Tuesday, 12 February. Joke Waller-Hunter, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, introduced the Secretary-Generals report on programme element V.1, International organizations, multilateral institutions and instruments (E/CN.17/IPF/1997/4). This report provides information on the work undertaken by members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Forests (ITFF) under each programme element and ITFF recommendations on coordination of international organizations activities. Waller-Hunter also introduced the Secretary-Generals report on programme element V.2, Contribution to consensus-building towards the further implementation of the Forest Principles (E/CN.17/IPF/1997/5). This report gives information on different modalities for an intergovernmental policy forum following the IPF and on proposals for legal mechanisms.
Countries gave statements on these documents in Plenary sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, 13-14 February. On Wednesday and Thursday, 19-20 February, delegates commented on a draft text based on the initial statements. A revised draft was presented to the Plenary on Friday, 21 February and agreement was reached on final amendments. This final draft combined V.1 and V.2 into a single set of conclusions and action proposals.
On V.1, International organizations and multilateral institutions and instruments, the EU highlighted the importance of improving institutional structures, coordinating approaches and filling gaps in a range of areas. UGANDA, GABON, PERU, CUBA, CONGO, the EU, the US, MALAYSIA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND and COLOMBIA expressed support for the continuation of the ITFF. The US favored expansion of the ITFF and coordination of the governing bodies of international institutions and instruments on forests. COLOMBIA stated that coordination with other conventions is fundamental. PERU said the ITFF should provide specific proposals and work on capacity-building. SWITZERLAND said the ITFF should: seek concerted action on NFPs; identify pilot initiatives through partnerships; study policy frameworks to integrate IPR with TFRK; and explore means to strengthen research. The EU said the ITFF should be an informal and flexible body, while the US emphasized transparency and participatory processes.
PERU stressed the need to identify gaps and overlaps in international organizations and, with CONGO, INDONESIA, PERU and GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL, emphasized the need for improved coordination of existing agreements related to forests before initiating negotiations on a convention. BRAZIL noted that gaps in institutions and instruments do not imply a need for a convention or an INC now, but instead a need for improved coordination and communication. The FAO recommended close examination of the roles of existing forest-related organizations before deciding to form a new one.
In commenting on the draft text based on earlier statements, the EU amended an action proposal on the ITFF with language calling on appropriate international institutions and organizations involved to continue their work under the chairmanship of FAO as task manager for chapter 11 of Agenda 21. The G-77/CHINA added a focus on the IPFs action proposals and said that the ITFF should seek further coordination and explore means of collaboration and action. JAPAN, with CANADA, highlighted potential membership of CIFOR in the ITFF to coordinate scientific research. AUSTRALIA added that the ITFF should support ongoing intergovernmental dialogue. After further debate, delegates accepted an EU proposal to delete a set of subparagraphs listing actions for the ITFF and the US and EUs language on the ITFF working with international organizations in accordance with their respective mandates and comparative advantages. The final document calls for appropriate international institutions and organizations to continue their work in an informal, high-level ITFF under the chairmanship of FAO. The continued ITFF should undertake coordination and explore collaboration and action in support of any continued intergovernmental dialogue.
On V.2, appropriate legal mechanisms, several delegations highlighted the need for a continued international policy forum on forests. Many countries recommended that this body be under the auspices of the CSD. SENEGAL suggested that it be put under the auspices of FAO. COLOMBIA said it should be permanent, have a Secretariat similar to that of the IPF and be financed by voluntary contributions.
AUSTRALIA called for an ad hoc high-level intergovernmental forum that should report by 1998 on a legally-binding instrument and by 2000 on other work. GABON and SENEGAL said its timetable should not extend beyond 2000. BRAZIL specified that the forum should analyze all possible alternatives, including the possibility of a convention, and should not be limited by a specific time frame. CHINA said the terms of reference should include issues pertaining to a future legal mechanism. VENEZUELA said a forum should build consensus on a legal instrument.
The US said it would be useful to have a forum to monitor and report on progress in implementing IPF recommendations. NORWAY emphasized the need to maintain momentum created by the IPF process by establishing a framework for continued international dialogue on forests with clear objectives and timetables and, with COLOMBIA, continuing to build consensus on issues which require further discussion. The LATIN AMERICAN FOREST NETWORK said equitable participation in the forum should be ensured.
A number of delegations supported action toward a forest convention, including CANADA, the EU, INDONESIA, MALAYSIA, the PHILIPPINES, PAPUA NEW GUINEA, CHINA, COSTA RICA, POLAND, the FOREST ALLIANCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA and the CANADIAN PULP AND PAPER ASSOCIATION.
CANADA specified that negotiations should be finalized by 2000 and that the main issues for an INC could include: creation of a permanent global governance structure that provides for effective participation of major groups; creation of rights and obligations in achieving SFM; elaboration of modalities for enhanced international cooperation and improved efficiency and coordination of assistance; and establishment of means for national reporting on progress in achieving SFM and for monitoring compliance.
The EU proposed that the IPF recommend the establishment of an INC by no later than 2000 and said a global forest convention could cover, inter alia: C&I; inventory and valuation of forests; environmental impact assessment; the special needs of developing countries and the rights of indigenous people, local communities and small forest owners; TFRK; international cooperation on funding and technology transfer and capacity-building; and scientific research.
POLAND said the current momentum toward consensus on the need for a convention should not be lost, and a forest convention would facilitate implementation of related conventions. INDONESIA noted the need for agreement on an appropriate mechanism for achieving SFM before discussing the path towards this goal and expressed support for starting the process of discussion on a convention. The PHILIPPINES underscored the need to balance all forest values in developing a convention.
MALAYSIA reaffirmed interest in a legal framework in the short term if it includes: reference to the Forest Principles and Agenda 21; treatment of issues including the comprehensiveness of ITTA commitments; finance and technology transfer; and a holistic treatment of forest-related issues such as biodiversity. COSTA RICA said a forest convention should address the problems of poverty, debt servicing, declining terms of trade and overexploitation of natural resources. ARGENTINA recommended establishing a working group of legal and technical experts under the ECOSOC, followed by an INC for a convention to combat deforestation and forest degradation.
A number of delegations and NGOs said a legally-binding instrument on forests is premature. The US said a convention might serve as an excuse not to take action to solve problems on the ground or implement existing agreements and initiatives, could lead to a lowest common denominator result, and should not be negotiated at this time. He highlighted that several initiatives to promote national implementation of SFM have been launched that require time to mature before the need for a new convention can be adequately assessed.
NEW ZEALAND said no consensus currently exists in support of a convention, and that it might not be the most cost-effective approach. TURKEY said the need for an instrument should be kept under review until further consensus is reached. NORWAY said there could be advantages to a convention if consensus can be reached, but differing views on a convention cannot hamper progress on substantive issues. ZIMBABWE stated that attempting to debate the relative merits of a convention could detract from a necessary focus on implementing the IPFs proposals for action. UGANDA said the IPF should focus on developing an action programme before discussing a convention.
JAPAN and CUBA stressed that prior to initiating negotiations on a legally-binding instrument, its objectives and scope must be thoroughly discussed and full consensus on the need for a convention must be achieved. AUSTRALIA said it is yet to be convinced of the need for a global legal instrument.
INDIA said adding layers of international regulation will require a detailed, transparent debate that should not be rushed or restricted in duration. He reserved judgment on global regulation of managing sovereign forests. MEXICO, the G-77/CHINA, COLOMBIA, BRAZIL and MALAYSIA said that any future instrument must address all types of forests.
IUCN said the progress of international discussions on forests has been insufficient to provide a solid foundation for elaborating provisions for a convention. The LATIN AMERICAN FOREST NETWORK expressed concern about a lack of political will to provide adequate financial resources to ensure an effective participatory process in formulating such an instrument. CONGO noted that given gaps in existing instruments, a forest convention may be advantageous, but he questioned whether a convention would be a panacea for SFM or would provide adequate financial means.
In the final debate on the recommendation on intergovernmental action to continue the policy dialogue, delegates considered whether a specific decision and date for a process toward a legally-binding instrument were appropriate. The US proposed deleting text that a forum should prepare the basis and build necessary consensus for a decision to negotiate and elaborate possible elements of a legally-binding instrument, reporting in 1999. He suggested alternative language that would consider the need for other arrangements and mechanisms, including legal arrangements, reporting at the appropriate time in the CSDs work programme. NORWAY, supported by CANADA but opposed by MALAYSIA, suggested a formulation that would build the necessary consensus for a decision on and possible elements of a legally-binding convention, maintaining the 1999 reporting date.
The final text proposes three options. The first would continue the intergovernmental policy dialogue on forests within existing fora such as the CSD, FAO and other appropriate international organizations, institutions and instruments. The second would establish an ad hoc, open-ended Intergovernmental Forum on Forests under the CSD, charged with, inter alia, reviewing, monitoring and reporting on progress in the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and monitoring IPF implementation. Sub-options under this proposal would either prepare the basis and build consensus for a decision on and elements of a legally-binding instrument by 1999, or consider the need for other arrangements and mechanisms, including legal arrangements, reporting at the appropriate time in the CSDs work programme. The third option would establish, as soon as possible, an INC on a legally-binding instrument on all types of forests with a focused and time-limited mandate.
Delegates adopted the EUs proposal for additional text noting that the options were not necessarily seen to be mutually exclusive. Action proposals also include reference to a supplemental report of written suggestions on the mandate and work programme of a forum or INC and note that either a forum or INC would be supported by a small secretariat.
The final document also recognizes the need for improved coordination and that no single body, organization or instrument can address in a balanced, holistic way all issues on the international agenda related to all types of forests. It states that more needs to be done to clarify mandates, define capacities and address overlaps, gaps and areas needing enhancement. Forest activities should be made more transparent, effective and flexible and should provide for participation of and collaboration with all interested groups. Areas for improvement include: institutional governance; monitoring and coordination mechanisms; participation of major groups; capacity-building and technology transfer; international and bilateral funding coordination; and focused funding for research.
The Panel agreed that it is necessary to deal with all interrelated social, cultural, economic, trade, environment, development, production, financial and technology issues, taking into account different levels of social and economic development and a time frame for action. It recommends a continued intergovernmental policy dialogue on forests, which could include a high-level component to consider relevant issues, recognizing the sovereign right of States over their natural resources as contained in Principles 2 and 7 of the Rio Declaration and 1(a) and 2(a) of the Forest Principles.
Action proposals urge international organizations, in cooperation with countries, to support IPF proposals. Countries are called on to: support international and regional agencies and organizations work; through their governing bodies, to clarify relevant international institutions mandates and eliminate waste and duplication; guide institutions and instruments to accelerate incorporation of UNCED results, progress since then and IPF results; and support activities related to the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.
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