Published by the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Vol. 13 No. 97
Tuesday, 27 May 2003
MONDAY, 26 MAY 2003
On Monday, 26 May 2003, the Third Session of the
United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF-3) opened in Geneva,
Switzerland. Delegates gathered all day in Plenary to hear opening
statements from the UNFF Secretariat, the UNFF Chair and country
delegations. Delegates also heard a presentation on national forest
Pekka Patosaari, Coordinator and Head of the
Secretariat of the UNFF, opened UNFF-3. The delegates then elected
Hossein Moeini Meybodi (Islamic Republic of Iran) as Chair of
UNFF-3, and elected the UNFF-3 Bureau members: Gustavo Eduardo
Ainchil (Argentina), Peter Csoka (Hungary), Conceição Ferreira
(Portugal), and Matia Mulumba Semakula Kiwanuka (Uganda).
Chair Meybodi underlined the UNFF’s objective to
provide a framework for international cooperation aimed at achieving
sustainable forest management (SFM). Identifying the main tasks of
UNFF-3, he noted the importance of establishing the ad hoc
expert groups on: approaches and mechanisms for monitoring,
assessment and reporting (MAR); financing and transfer of
environmentally sound technologies (ESTs); and consideration with a
view to recommending the parameters of a mandate for developing a
legal framework on all types of forests. He then invited all
delegations to actively partake in the multi-stakeholder dialogue.
Pekka Patosaari, UNFF Coordinator, addressed the
meeting on behalf of UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and
Social Affairs Nitin Desai. Stressing the need to translate global
forest commitments into action, he said the ultimate success of the
UNFF will depend on its ability to mobilize political, financial,
scientific and technical support for SFM. He noted the critical role
of governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society in
achieving SFM, and stressed the need for cross-sectoral policy
harmonization at the national, regional and global levels.
UNFF Coordinator Patosaari then highlighted
progress made through the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF)
and country-led initiatives. Identifying progress assessment as one
of UNFF’s main challenges, he encouraged countries to submit
voluntary reports and provide feedback on the reporting process.
Hosny El-Lakany, Chair of the Collaborative
Partnership on Forests (CPF) reaffirmed the CPF’s commitment to the
UNFF and outlined joint CPF/UNFF initiatives, including on funding
of SFM and forest-related reporting. Welcoming the UNFF’s guidance
and support, he noted that CPF might not be able to carry out all
tasks that it might be invited to address.
Amb. Beat Nobs, Swiss Agency of the Environment,
Forest and Landscapes, underscored the multifunctionality of forest
ecosystems and the cross-sectoral character of SFM. He stressed the
role of UNFF in bringing together the different perspectives on
forests; providing overarching guidance on SFM; and coordinating the
numerous institutions and processes dealing with forests.
ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS: Delegates adopted the
organization of work and, with a minor modification, the provisional
agenda (E/CN.118/2003/1), and approved all observers. UNFF-3 then
appointed Peter Csoka (Hungary) as a Vice-Chair and rapporteur for
PRESENTATION ON NATIONAL TRENDS: In the
afternoon, Pekka Patosaari presented national trends reflected in
country reports to the UNFF. He reported progress on, inter alia:
country assessments of the IPF/IFF proposals for action in national
contexts; the development of NFPs; interagency consultation in
policy formulation and planning; stakeholder participation; forest
valuation; and the application of economic instruments for SFM. He
highlighted a decline in the relative economic importance of the
forest sector, and noted increased demand for social and
environmental services from forests.
COUNTRY STATEMENTS: A number of delegations
thanked the Government of Switzerland for hosting the meeting and
the UNFF Secretariat, and congratulated UNFF Coordinator Patosaari
with his appointment.
MOROCCO, on behalf of the G-77/China, recommended
that UNFF focus on means of implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for
action and ways to ensure progress in delivering financial
assistance, technology transfer and capacity building for SFM in
developing countries. He underscored that promoting SFM through
private sector activities should not diminish the role of
integovernmental partnerships between developing and developed
countries. He also stressed that the G-77/China attaches importance
to the issue of composition of the ad hoc expert groups and
reiterated the G-77/China’s commitment to constructive discussion at
GREECE, on behalf of the EU and the EU accession
countries, recommended that the UNFF promote and coordinate action
on forest issues, and welcomed the criteria for reviewing the
effectiveness of the international arrangement on forests agreed
upon at UNFF-2. He stressed the need for further cooperation between
the UNFF and CPF and expressed hope for a positive outcome on the
issue of the ad hoc expert groups. He also called for clear
recommendations on key issues that require political commitment, and
for exploring further MAR issues.
FIJI, on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum
Group, expressed support for UNFF and overviewed a regional workshop
on assessing the implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for action. He
called for the development of an international partnership to assist
the region in achieving SFM.
AUSTRALIA, supported by NEW ZEALAND and CANADA,
called for further efforts to assess the IPF/IFF proposals for
action in national contexts, and proposed creating regional
implementation facilitation teams to foster SFM policy formulation
and implementation. He recommended that UNFF sessions become more
interactive, and that the Secretariat provide clear guidance on
country report format. AUSTRALIA also strongly urged UNFF-3 to reach
a decision on the terms of reference for the ad hoc expert
groups. NEW ZEALAND called for innovative approaches and cooperation
on the issue of the ad hoc expert groups. SWITZERLAND said
the UNFF has reached a critical phase after a decline in momentum
following UNFF-2’s failure to adopt the mandate for the ad hoc
expert groups. He suggested that UNFF-3 focus on implementation,
exchange of experience, and forest policy guidance, and stressed the
potential role of international trade in promoting SFM.
Highlighting the successful forest-related
outcomes of the WSSD, including forest partnerships, SOUTH AFRICA
noted its commitment to uniting stakeholders and expressed hope that
UNFF-3 yield concrete resolutions and foster effective debate.
NORWAY noted that SFM is an effective means for eradicating poverty.
Highlighting the importance of law enforcement and combating illegal
trade, he said that actions should focus on reliable information,
impact assessments, and national efforts to enhance human and
institutional capacity. He stressed that an economically viable
forest sector is necessary for SFM, and that the UNFF should give
attention to regional perspectives on SFM.
Stressing the importance of coordinated
implementation of international forest policy, CROATIA said that
incorporation of this policy into national legislation is a main
priority for his country, and identified voluntary certification as
an important market-based tool to promote SFM. He also said forums
such as the UNFF represent an opportunity for small countries to
become involved in global policy processes.
IRAN outlined the main causes of deforestation in
Iran and stressed the need for greater attention to: the economic
and social aspects of forests; forest health and productivity; and
the strengthening of participatory institutions.
SENEGAL, supported by the US, recommended that
there be African representation in the UNFF Secretariat and called
for supporting participation of African countries in international
forest policy processes.
INDIA outlined the positive domestic forestry
trends and the success of joint forest management programmes. He
stressed the need for universal membership in the expert group on
the issue of the legal framework.
JAPAN pledged its support to promote global SFM,
highlighting the Asian Forest Partnership. He also expressed hope
that the UNFF’s work will benefit from the Third World Water Forum’s
outcomes, which emphasized the role of forest issues in water
The US recommended that UNFF-3 focus on the
substantive exchange of experiences in the implementation of IPP/IFF
proposals for action. She stressed the importance of country-led
initiatives, the informal exchange of ideas during UNFF inter-sessional
meetings, and other innovative means for advancing UNFF work. She
underscored, inter alia, the relationships between economic
issues and forest health and cover; the need to increase fairness
and openness the timber trade; and commended the work of CPF and the
International Tropical Timber Organization.
TURKEY outlined on the country’s progress in
interagency collaboration, stakeholder participation, and the
development of a NFP, and offered to host future regional meetings.
ITALY drew attention to the recent MAR meeting in
Viterbo, and emphasized the need to translate forest-related
international documents into all languages. The REPUBLIC OF KOREA
announced its development of a methodology to assess the social
benefits of forest preservation. He stressed the importance of
developing a standardized market information system and the need for
collaboration in resource assessment, and urged UNFF-3 to launch the
ad hoc expert groups.
INDONESIA recounted its recent shift in forest
policy from timber-based to resource-based and identified combating
illegal logging, fire prevention, resource conservation and
rehabilitation, and policy decentralization as current priorities.
POLAND said there is an urgent need to align the
ecosystem approach with SFM while maintaining forest productivity,
forest services and employment opportunities. He stressed that SFM
is a valuable investment that improves quality of life, and
advocated legally-binding regulations.
Underscoring the need to move the UNFF into an
implementation phase, CANADA urged UNFF-3 to focus on understanding
key impediments to the implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for
action and suggested developing measurable indicators of success.
ECUADOR pledged its commitment to forest
conservation and SFM, and stressed the need for community
involvement, international responsibility and cooperation, and C&I
for sustainable forest management. Noting the potential contribution
of SFM to improving equity and the quality of life, he advocated
modernizing legal frameworks and alternative land use, such as
ecotoursim and agroforestry.
The RUSSIAN FEDERATION noted its consistent
support for SFM principles and regional programmes, noting that many
international stakeholders lack information on forest health and
policy in the Russian Federation. He suggested that national reports
be obligatory, and encouraged all delegates to participate more
actively in the UNFF process.
BRAZIL outlined its efforts to implement IPP/IFF
proposals for action and indicated its readiness for a constructive
dialogue on the issue of the ad hoc expert groups, noting
that the expert group on the legal instrument should benefit from
the work of the other two expert groups.
Melhciade Bukur, UN Convention to Combat
Desertification, underlined the importance of afforestation and
reforestation programmes and recommended that the UNFF focus on low
forest cover countries and degraded forests; offered support to
actions to protect forest productivity and health; and called for
international cooperation to address poverty as the biggest
challenge in maintaining forest cover.
Hamdallah Zedan, Convention on Biological
Diversity (CBD), outlined the linkages between the CBD and the UNFF,
highlighting the CBDï¿½s expanded programme of work on forest
biodiversity. He called for continued collaboration with UNFF and
CPF and the UNFFï¿½s input in achieving the CBDï¿½s target of
significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss by
IN THE CORRIDORS
One year after a somewhat disappointing UNFF-2,
some delegates appear to have adopted a laissez-faire attitude to
UNFF-3, saying that UNFF is having trouble defining itself. In
contrast, a small group of delegations, concerned that a loosely
defined mandate could spell the demise of UNFF, are quietly "talking
up" a proposal that, if accepted, would dramatically alter the
character of UNFF, pushing it to become more action-oriented.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
MULTI-STAKEHOLDER DIALOGUE: A
multi-stakeholder dialogue will convene from 10:00 am-1:00 pm and
again from 3:00-6:00 pm in Plenary to discuss the economic aspects
of forests, forest health and productivity and maintaining forest
INFORMAL CONSULTATION ON THE AD HOC EXPERT
GROUPS: An informal consultation will convene from 7:00-9:00 pm
to resume discussion on the terms of reference for the ad hoc
expert groups that were carried forward from UNFF-2.