International: Under-Secretary-General Calls For ‘People-Centred’ Approach To Managing Forest Lands As Forum Begins Ninth Session At Headquarters

 

Delegates Elect Bureau Members; Discuss Food, Energy, Economic Challenges

 

As the United Nations Forum on Forests began its ninth session today, the world body’s top development official stressed the need for a people-centred approach to managing forest lands which would take into account not only their environmental riches but also their economic, social and cultural value.

 

“It is imperative, therefore, that negotiations on forests are linked to the many facets of human life that they affect — from hunger and poverty eradication to governance, green economy and employment,” said Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, as he opened the ninth biannual session of the intergovernmental body dealing with the management, conservation and sustainable development of forest resources. The two-week session will focus on the theme “Forests for People” and mark the launch of the International Year of Forests, 2011.

 

During today’s meeting, the Forum elected the remainder of its Bureau, adopted its organization of work and heard opening statements and the introduction of relevant reports, and held a panel discussion on food, energy and economic challenges.

 

The Forum elected Arvids Ozols ( Latvia) as its Chair and Ingwald Gschwandtl ( Austria) for the remaining position of Vice-Chair. In addition, Vice-Chair Ndiawar Dieng ( Senegal) was designated to serve as Rapporteur.

 

Taking the floor after his election, Mr. Ozols noted that major developments had taken place in the linking of forests to the global development agenda, and important progress had been made on forest-related issues during the United Nations Conference on Climate Change held in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of 2010. The Forum would also contribute to the upcoming Rio+20 Conference.

 

In that context, he continued, the current session was of particular political importance and there were expectations of progress on difficult issues, including the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests, a multi-stakeholder dialogue, enhanced cooperation, advancing the Collaborative Partnership on Forests — an organization of some 14 international organizations — and improving the means of implementation and regional cooperation.

 

Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director General of Forestry at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, confirmed that expectations for the current session had been raised by guidance from the Forum’s previous session, the agreements reached at Cancun and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets adopted in Japan last October.

 

Recalling the recent message of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests that “forests are not just carbon”, he said they could successfully support a greener economy through their ability to provide carbon-neutral energy and a multitude of key ecosystem resources and services as well as climate change mitigation. Those benefits required the forest sector to work more closely with others, particularly the agriculture sector, to counter deforestation-related threats, he said. It also required improved financial architecture and the raising of awareness, a purpose for which the Collaborative Partnership on Forests Communication Group had been established.

 

Following those presentations, Member States took the floor to make general statements underlining the relevance of the session’s theme and the growing importance of sustainable forest management. Speakers emphasized the critical economic importance of forests to developing countries and the need for financing to help their forest-dependent citizens manage them in a sustainable manner. Argentina’s representative (speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China) called for the establishment of a Global Trust Fund, while the representative of the European Union expressed support for the work of the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Forest Financing in its analysis of a range of options, as well as other Forum activity in that regard.

 

Also making general statements this morning were the representatives of Morocco (on behalf of the African Group), Philippines (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Indonesia, Croatia, Bolivia, Gabon, Peru, India and China.

 

The Forum’s afternoon meeting featured the launch of the 2011 edition of the biennial report State of the World’s Forests, introduced by Mr. Rojas-Briales, as well as a panel discussion on “Food, energy and economic challenges and opportunities with special focus on women and youth”.

 

Presenting reports for the Forum’s consideration were Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests, and Jan Heino ( Finland) and Macharia Kamau ( Kenya), both Vice-Chairs of the Intergovernmental Ad Hoc Expert group on Forest Financing.

 

On other matters, the Forum agreed to the accreditation of the African Forest Forum, enabling it to participate in the ninth session, as well as future meetings, as an intergovernmental organization.

 

The plenary of the ninth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests will continue hearing general statements at 10 a.m tomorrow, Tuesday, 25 January.

 

Background

 

The United Nations Forum on Forests opened its two-week biannual session this morning. (For background information see Press Release ENV/DEV/1178 of 21 January 2011 External link)

 

Opening Remarks

 

ARVIDS OZOLS (Latvia), Chair of the Forum, opened the session by recalling that a resolution adopted by a special session of the Forum in October 2009 constituted the first-ever road map with clear and identifiable actions and measures on the highly controversial but important issue of forest financing. The resolution contained two sets of actions: the establishment of an open-ended intergovernmental and ad hoc expert group on forest financing; and the establishment of a facilitative process. It further recognized the comprehensive and cross-cutting nature of forests with their numerous and multiple socio-economic and environmental benefits for human life and the earth’s environment, he said.

 

Noting that major developments had taken place in the linking of forests to the global development agenda, he said forests and the Forum’s work had been discussed for the first time at the highest political level during last September’s High-Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals, and were reflected in the Summit’s outcome document. Likewise, important progress had been made on forest-related issues during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun at the end of 2010.

 

In that context, the ninth session opened today was of a unique character, both in terms of political importance and in terms of making substantive progress on difficult issues, he said. Those issues included an assessment of progress in implementing the Non-legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests (“the forest instrument”), a multi-stakeholder dialogue, enhanced cooperation, the framework of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, means of implementation, and regional cooperation. Drawing particular attention to the session’s theme — “Forests for people, livelihoods and poverty eradication” — he said it signified the importance of forests for all people.

 

Another major component of the Forum work during the session would be the high-level ministerial segment and the launch of the International Year of Forests, 2011, he said. The Year was an historic opportunity to raise global awareness about the multiple values of forests and their significance for livelihoods. Additionally, the high-level segment following the official launch of the Year would offer a unique occasion for delegates to work together to adopt a strong and solid Ministerial Declaration, which would also serve as a concrete input for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”), to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2012.

 

SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, highlighted key elements of the United Nations forest agenda, saying the primary one was promoting a better understanding of the comprehensive benefits of forests, not only their environmental riches, but their economic, social and cultural assets. In that context, he applauded the Forum’s focus on a people-centred approach to forests, which provided livelihoods and sustenance for approximately 1.6 billion people across the world, many of whom were poor.

 

“It is imperative, therefore, that negotiations on forests are linked to the many facets of human life that they affect — from hunger and poverty eradication to governance, green economy and employment,” he said. The year-long advocacy and promotional effort for the International Year of Forests, 2011, must be maximized as an ideal opportunity to disseminate information about the people-centred approach to forest management. He urged all countries to carry out events and activities to draw the attention of the general public, the media, politicians, Government officials, academia, environmental organizations and young people.

 

As the third key element of the United Nations strategy, he said the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests, known as the Forest Instrument, was the first international agreement on forests that addressed all aspects and functions of forests and provided clarity on sustainable forest management. That common framework needed to be made fully operational, he said, urging Governments, international organizations and actors from civil society and the private sector to implement its provisions.

 

The Under-Secretary-General congratulated the Forum for having spearheaded a much-needed financing process that had strengthened the ability of stakeholders to implement changes and moved the Forum closer to the goals laid out in the Forest Instrument. He also emphasized the Forum’s importance to the upcoming Rio+20 Conference, underlining that it must ensure that the meeting’s outcome would help advance sustainable forest management. “With your help we can turn global, regional and national commitments into actions that lead to sustainable forest management — and with it jobs and stable, healthy livelihoods.”

 

EDUARDO ROJAS-BRIALES, Assistant Director General of Forestry, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, said the current session represented a milestone for the international arrangement on forests. It launched a year-long celebration in the International Year of Forests and responded to key developments in the broader international dialogue. But, while recent developments opened new opportunities for cooperation, they also posed new challenges, he cautioned. Guidance from the Forum’s most recent session had raised expectations for the current one, as had a mix of developments in forest-related arenas, in particular the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and agreements reached at Cancun, he said.

 

But while recent developments were winning much-needed recognition for the role of forests in environmental sustainability, similar progress was needed on other areas of sustainable development, he stressed, pointing to the rapidly increasing world population and growing demand for agricultural land, food and biofuels. The agenda for the current session was “perfectly designed” for that purpose, he said, noting that it focused on all aspects of forest policy, and provided a great opportunity to advance understanding of the contribution of forests to sustainable development, from providing livelihoods to empowering women and many other internationally agreed development goals. Additionally, the session’s theme, by highlighting the use of forests by all, acknowledged the need for a “holistic approach”, represented by sustainable forest management as a proven way for present and future generations to tackle multiple development challenges, he said.

 

Recalling the recent message of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests to the global community that “forests are not just carbon”, he said they could successfully support a greener economy through their ability to provide carbon-neutral energy, renewable raw materials — wood and non-wood alike — food and jobs, and a multitude of key ecosystem services, climate change mitigation and adaptation, among them. Those benefits required the forest sector to work more closely with others, particularly the agriculture sector, to counter deforestation-related threats, he said. Additionally, the positioning of forests on the sustainable development agenda could also facilitate a lasting solution to forest finance and livelihoods, he said.

 

Emphasizing that investing in forests was investing in development, he said that as investments increased, so did the benefits to those who depended on them. That broadened concept could be coined as “Forests-plus” to capture the vital cross-sectoral and cross-institutional dimensions of forests and the multiple benefits they provided. There was a need for improved communications for the forest sector, particularly in urbanized societies where direct linkages with forests were weakening, he said. To that end, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests Communication Group, established in 2010, offered great promise in the Partnership’s cooperative actions.

 

JAN MCALPINE, Director, United Nations Forum on Forests, introduced several reports, including the Assessment of progress made on the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests and towards the achievement of the four global objectives on forests (document E/CN.18/2011/2) and Regional and subregional inputs (document E/CN.18/2011/3).

 

She said the reports showed that the Forest Instrument was a useful overarching framework internationally and in relationship to national programmes. There were success stories but also a critical gap in reporting as the vast majority of Forum members had not reported and the reports received were inconsistent. Among the most important findings was the need to strengthen national institutional capacity beyond forest ministries to ensure broad commitment to sustainable forest management, she said, adding that forestry personnel needed much better training and far greater consultation with forest communities requiring assistance.

 

Approaches to assessment and implementation must be better coordinated in order for implementation of the Forest Instrument to be effective, she said, affirming that work was ongoing to improve input for future reports. It was crucial to improve reporting for the Forum’s next session, on economic matters, so that financing and other matters could be effectively considered, she said.

 

Reporting on the Secretariat’s support for the International Year of Forests, also known as Forests 2011, she said it included the design of the relevant logo and planning for the 2 February launch events. In addition, some countries, as well as the United Nations, were issuing postal stamps for the Year, she said, adding that a website had been launched in October and that an international forest film festival had been put together, in partnership with the Jackson Hole festival. Partners such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) were cooperating and many national campaigns, ceremonies and seminars were already set, she said.

 

Finally, she introduced the note of the Secretariat on United Nations trust funds supporting the UNFF (document C/CN.18/2011/14), containing a list of contributions to the trust fund supporting the Forum’s work.

 

JORGE ARGÜELLO (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said forests were crucial for the economic growth of developing countries, central to sustained poverty reduction and critical for access to water, rural development, agricultural productivity, climate change, biodiversity conservation, energy, soil conservation and flood control. Describing desertification and land degradation as key drivers leading to deforestation, he said addressing those challenges was a critical imperative for sustainable forest management and for achieving internationally agreed development goals.

 

The recent multiple crises had exacerbated the challenges and impediments facing developing countries in realizing those goals, in particular eradicating poverty and hunger and achieving sustainable development, he said. It was the position of the Group of 77 and China that definitions were needed on promoting implementation of the Forest Instrument and its four global objectives; accelerating cooperation in addressing the financing needs of countries for the sustainable management of their forests; recognizing the special needs and requirements of countries with fragile ecosystems, including low-forest-cover countries, Africa, least developed countries, small island developing States and others; taking effective steps towards implementing agreements on providing adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity-building; developing a strong intersessional process between the current and next sessions of the Forum; and other matters.

 

Regarding the financial gap facing sustainable forest management, he said it could only be addressed by dedicating resources to support sustainable forest management, realization of the global objectives on forests, and the implementation of the Forest Instrument through the adoption of a voluntary global financial mechanism, as mandated by the Economic and Social Council in paragraph 6 of its resolution 2007/40. In that regard, the Group of 77 and China called for the establishment of a Global Trust Fund that would tap all sources of financial support committed to promoting sustainable forest management, including funding afforestation and reforestation activities, in order to provide new and additional financial resources to developing countries, he said. The Fund, which would complement and not replace existing financial mechanisms, would further facilitate access to funding by developing countries not currently receiving it, he said.

 

PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head of Delegation, European Union, said the theme “Forests for People” was complex but it provided an excellent opportunity to deal with a wide range of issues concerning forests and forestry. It encompassed the cultural, social and spiritual aspects of forests, he added, emphasizing that it was crucial that the session deal with the integration of all forest functions, including poverty eradication.

 

In that context, he stressed the significance of good governance and the need to tackle illegal logging. Priority must be given to the promotion of participatory approaches, the recognition of the role and responsibility of family forest owners and forest managers, and opportunities for decentralized forest management, including community-based management, by recognized holders of tenure rights on forests and trees.

 

Reaffirming the European Union’s strong commitment to sustainable forestry, he reiterated the continued need to strengthen international cooperation on forests at all levels, through synergies and policy coherence. He welcomed in that context the Memorandum of Understanding between the secretariats of the Forum and the Convention on Biological Diversity as a basis for enhanced cooperation on mutually supportive activities. He also welcomed the forest-related decisions contained in the Cancun Agreements on climate change.

 

In connection with the International Year of Forests, he expressed hope that representatives at the High-Level Segment would agree on a Ministerial Declaration aimed at raising the profile of forests and highlighting, in particular, the role of sustainable forest management and of the Forest Instrument. It should also stress the potential of integrating total economic forest value into decision-making, in relation to the main agenda items for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012. He finally reiterated the European Union’s support for the ongoing work on finances for sustainable forest management, including that of the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Forest Financing.

 

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the most vulnerable and disadvantaged continent in terms of ability to adapt to negative aspects of sustainable development and forests faced a multidimensional problem: a global economic downturn and international financial and food crises. The energy crisis — compounded by the high cost of fuel, climate change and unfulfilled pledges to provide financial resources, technology and capacity—building — threatened efforts by developing countries to achieve their sustainable development and poverty eradication objectives. More than 70 per cent of Africa’s population depended on forest resources for their survival, and 18 African countries were among the 24 worldwide that relied on forests for 10 per cent or more of their economic output.

 

The African Group attached great importance to addressing the question of dry land forests, which covered some 40 per cent of the earth. Desertification and land degradation constituted one of the key “push factors” leading to deforestation, and tackling those challenges was therefore imperative for sustainable forest management and realizing internationally agreed development goals. Additionally, the international community should take effective steps to implement agreements on providing adequate, predictable and sustainable resources, technology and capacity-building in support of forest-based climate change actions and new additional financial resources, he said.

 

Access to new and existing sources of financing for sustainable forest management should by improved, including by simplifying procedures, he continued. There was a need for an integrated approach to resolving issues of sustainable forest management, including through linkages among key sectors and institutions. Facilitative processes should lead to the development of a voluntary global forest fund, he said, urging the international community to show the strong political will required to combat deforestation and land degradation by instituting scientific techniques and statistics, and by establishing national forests inventories. Such international cooperation could not be realized unless additional funds were identified, he stressed. Africa remained willing to contribute to the identification of appropriate alternative approaches to deforestation and forest degradation, which also further accentuated global warming.

 

LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN (Philippines), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said reforestation and improved forest management would contribute significantly to enhancing the role of forests as carbon sinks in the carbon-sequestration process. In that regard, ASEAN member States subscribed fully to a system of community-based forest management and had already initiated such a system as part of their approach to sustainable forest management. They would endeavour to widen the application and share the best practices of that approach as a tool to achieve the sustainable development and management of forest resources, he said.

 

He recalled that the regional bloc had established the ASEAN Forestry Network in 2005 to link Government policymakers on forests directly with other Network members sharing a common vision on the social aspects of forest management, with the aim of promoting good policy and practices for social forestry. ASEAN had also been taking significant steps to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, including by tackling forest fires, combating illegal logging, rehabilitating degraded forests and establishing new plantations.

 

He said ASEAN member States had taken part in several related international and regional initiatives, including the 2007 Singapore Declaration on Climate Change, Energy and the Environment, which called for member States to work towards significantly increasing the cumulative forest cover in East Asia by 15 million hectares by 2020. Others included the Vientiane Action Programme for 2004-2010 on natural conservation and biodiversity, and the 2004 Programme of Work on Protected Areas of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The bloc had also launched its Wildlife Enforcement Network as a follow-up to the ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora (2005-2010).

 

ASEAN had played a catalytic role in supporting the efforts of member States to achieve sustainable forest management, in addition to developing a coordinating role in policy coherence and in implementing joint initiatives, he said. It had developed regional instruments to help member States evaluate their efforts in contributing towards the four global objectives on forests. At present, there was political will to pursue sustainable forest management among policymakers and decision-makers, but, due to limited resources and capacity, the implementation of those efforts could only be achieved through international cooperation and support, he said. ASEAN welcomed continued dialogue on the development of forest financing mechanisms, and called for the establishment of a global forest fund that would facilitate the transfer of financial resources to developing countries, he added.

 

TUTI IRMAN (Indonesia), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that for many developing countries it was practically infeasible to address the sustainable management of forests without tackling the spectre of poverty head-on. For that reason, it was important that the Forum link its outcomes to the Millennium Development Goals, both conceptually and in practice, through the implementation of commitments and action, she said, welcoming this year’s theme in that context. Regarding the Rio+20 Conference, she said that even in the current difficult international environment, there were still important opportunities to identify partnerships that would enable countries effectively to meet the economic, social and ecological pillars of sustainable management. During the present Forum, financing must be given full attention, she emphasized, adding that it was also important to provide adequate guidance for the facilitative process and expert group.

 

SRE?KO JURI?I? ( Croatia) said that, as the principal initiator behind General Assembly resolution 61/193, declaring the International Year of Forests, his delegation was encouraged to see that the Year was an integral part of the Forum’s agenda and had won much international support. In Croatia, sustainable forest management principles underlay the work of foresters, the forestry profession, forestry science and the community as a whole. That approach had resulted in the preservation of natural and self-sustaining forests covering almost half the country’s total inland surface, he said, adding that they were managed in the most natural manner with the aim of enabling natural regeneration. Croatia had created a photographic exhibition entitled “The forest through the eyes of a Forester”, on display at Headquarters throughout the duration of the session, he said.

 

PABLO SOLÓN (Bolivia), associating himself with the Group of 77, said financing on the basis of market mechanisms was uncertain, as demonstrated by carbon-marketing attempts in the area of climate change. Forests should be seen as an essential part of planet Earth’s system which, like human beings, had rights. Only in that perspective could their full value be accounted for and balance provided in their management.

 

MARIANNE ODETTE BIBALO (Gabon) said her country was ready to participate actively in the Forum’s work and in the International Year. Gabon’s forests were its most important resources after oil and there was an effort to make the timber sector grow in importance. Sustainable management and the needs of local populations had therefore been taken into account through legislation, she said, noting that more than 11 per cent of the national territory had been designated for conservation areas and eco-tourism. She called on all Member States to ensure that sustainable management in the context of the Millennium Development Goals was brought to the fore during the International Year and in the lead-up to Rio+20.

 

GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ REINEL (Peru), associating himself with the Group of 77, noted that his country owned the world’s fourth largest tropical forest, but changes in its use were a main cause of greenhouse gas emissions. The forests covered some 60 per cent of the national territory but Peru suffered deforestation at a rate of some 100,000 hectares a year. The country’s goal was forest conservation combined with the sustainable development of the communities that depended on them, he said. Consultations with those populations had led to the creation of a legal mechanism for sustainable development entailing the direct transfer of financing as well as provisions on conservation, he said, stressing the crucial importance of better coordination among international mechanisms and improved international financing, while offering to share lessons learned with other countries.

 

P.B. GANGOPADHYAY (India) said his country had been able to maintain its forest cover despite its vast increase in population thanks largely to a successful international partnership in joint forest management. India had enacted landmark legislation that would greatly benefit people relying on forests and give local community leaders greater control over forestry policy. Additionally, the country had implemented the “National Mission for Green India”, a new initiative intended to address climate change and reduce emissions from deforestation while ensuring rural livelihoods. Multiple levels of intervention as well as a multi-sectoral approach were needed to ensure sustainable forest management, he said.

 

QU GUILIN ( China) said his delegation was ready to share its experiences and work with others to make the session a success. Since the last session, effective work had been conducted in the evolution of an international forest instrument. The International Year was also essential in highlighting the role of forests in combating climate change, protecting biodiversity, promoting eco-security and others areas. In 2009, China had convened a conference on the theme of forests and people, and had subsequently submitted its report to the Forum, he said, adding that the country was integrating the Forum’s work and themes into its own national policy. China would stage activities commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of its afforestation movement, he said, noting that despite various international crises, the country was beefing up its ecological programmes and continuing to develop trade and production in support of forests. In the coming years it would share its experiences and continue to pursue reforms, he added.

 

Introduction of Reports

 

Mr. ROJAS-BRIALES, Assistant Director General of Forestry, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, introduced the 2011 edition of the FAO report State of the World’s Forests, to be launched officially in February 2011. He said it highlighted “multiple pathways to development” through the inclusion of forest resources, and considered regional analyses of forest resources as well as the development of sustainable forest industries, the relationship between forests and climate change, and local livelihoods and forests, among other topics. On sustainable forest industries, the report noted that economic and development trends were identified as the main forces driving the forestry industry. Concerning forests and climate change mitigation and adaptation, it considered the effects of the recent negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, among other international agreements. As for local livelihoods and forests, it found that the non-cash value of forests might make a greater contribution to livelihoods than its cash value. It also considered the emerging issue of urban forestry, he added.

 

Ms. MCALPINE, Director, United Nations Forum on Forests, then introduced the report of the Secretary-General on means of implementation for sustainable forest management (document C/CN.18/2011), saying it described the facilitative process, which was an important component of the four-year strategic framework on forest financing. She stressed that the Forum urgently needed guidance for its work during the intersessional period, in addition to financial and in-kind support from Member States.

 

Mr. OZOLS ( Latvia), Chair of the Forum, then introduced Jan Heino ( Finland) and Macharia Kamau ( Kenya), Vice-Chairs of the Intergovernmental Ad Hoc Expert Group created to propose strategies for mobilizing resources from all sources in support of the implementation of sustainable forest management.

 

Mr. HEINO (Finland) then introduced the report on the first meeting of the open-ended Intergovernmental Ad Hoc Expert Group on Forest Financing (document S/CN.18.2011/13), held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 13 to 17 September 2010. More than 190 knowledgeable experts from 68 countries had attended, he said, adding that the topics covered included cross-sectoral aspects of forest financing; the role of finance and planning ministries, the private sector and major groups; the need for integrated, innovative financing strategies; and gaps in knowledge of forest financing.

 

Mr. KAMAU ( Kenya) continued the presentation, saying that while billions of dollars were now pouring into the financing of forest management, the architecture was not organized. Introducing the proposals made by the Vice-Chairs, he said the Expert Group recommended mechanisms for regularizing those funds in order to allow countries better and more sustainable access to those resources and to other institutional mechanisms that would fill other gaps. Barriers to financing must be removed, he stressed, adding that the relevant institutions should be encouraged to mobilize financing, while further collaboration with the private sector was pursued. Options for financing included a global forest fund, he said, noting that resources for climate change and other related initiatives must be taken into account. Finally, he stressed the importance of a “solid intersessional process” for filling information gaps, continuing assessments and reaching consensus on specific options.

 

As delegates discussed the report, the representative of Switzerland said the bottom-up approach was a prerequisite in rectifying bottlenecks and making progress on forest-related issues. On the way forward, Switzerland would be glad if the Secretariat could distribute a road map on “who should do what”, he said, expressing hope that the Collaborative Partnership on Forests would be more involved in Forum meetings. It should co-draft reports with the Ad Hoc Experts Group, he added. Switzerland saw no role for the Forum’s Secretariat in addressing funding gaps and other questions without the full involvement of the Collaborative Partnership, he said, adding that his delegation was also concerned that all types of forests, including dry land forests, should be discussed and considered during the session.

 

The representative of the European Union recalled that remarkable progress had been made at the recent Convention on Biodiversity meeting and the United Nations Climate Changes Conference, and emphasized that it was important for the Forum to build on that progress. The Forest Instrument had much to offer the preparatory process for the Rio+20 Conference, he added. A procedural resolution on the work for 2011 and 2012 should be based on a realistic budget analysis, he said, adding that it should also address the issues of strengthening private- and public-sector support for forest finances, sharing experiences and lessons learned from current initiatives, and assigning clear tasks to the Secretariat in preparation for the second meeting of the Ad Hoc Expert Group.

 

The representative of Argentina, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said it was essential to strike a balance between commitments made by countries internationally and the resources available to enable them to implement those decisions. The Group of 77 and China understood that the substance of the question of a fund on forests would not be dealt with at the current session, but at the next one in two years time, he noted, stressing nevertheless that a solid intersessional working strategy would be needed for that to happen.

 

The representative of China said that, in taking part in the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Forest Financing, held in Nairobi in 2010, China had provided its own experience in forest financing — a delicate and sensitive issue. The Forum should be a coordinating body working to speed up forest financing, he said, adding that the establishment of a global forest fund would be a positive option. Settling the question of forest financing depended ultimately on the political will of Member States, and in that respect a facilitating mechanism was needed, he said. Some precedents existed in the form of the Desertification Convention and others, but in the case of forests, a special funding mechanism should be set up to ensure adequate resources. Finally, the Secretariat should mobilize enough financial resources to set up a trust fund to support forest-related activities since the participation of developing countries depended on financing, he stressed.

 

The representative of the United States said delegation had also participated in the September 2010 Ad Hoc Expert Group meeting in Nairobi and hoped its constructive spirit would continue in the current session and in the intersessional period. The United States supported a strong role for the Consultative Partnership on Forests, including in financing, he added.

 

Panel Discussion

 

The Forum then held a panel discussion on the topic “Food, energy and economic challenges and opportunities with special focus on women and youth”. It featured Gill Shepherd of the Forest Conservation Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature as Moderator; Tolulope Daramola from Nigeria, a recent graduate in forestry and wood technology and a member of the International Forestry Students’ Association; Cleto Ndikumagenge, Facilitator for the Partnership for the Congo Basin; and Jeannette Gurung, Director of Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources.

 

Mr. DARAMOLA said the main question that must be addressed was that, given the riches of the forest, why was there still dire poverty in forested areas? Pointing out that most of the world’s forests (47 per cent) were found in the tropics, yet tropical countries were the poorest, he said the answer lay in institutional failure. However, the situation could be turned around even before the 2015 deadline for realizing the Millennium Goals, particularly if the issue of energy was addressed, he said. Wood energy was extremely important to people living in poverty, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and policy analysis, including alternative energy sources, must focus on that area.

 

Mr. NDIKUMAGENGE said there was little information on the wood-energy link in Central Africa’s Congo basin, where wood was an important source of fuel, although that varied in other areas of Africa. There was also a link between wood usage, food security and biological diversity, he said, adding that access to roads and transport, social and political conflict and displacement were also factors.

 

Noting that living patterns favoured urbanization, he said they required the “pygmies” of Central Africa, for example, to build larger houses and adapt to farming. The Partnership Group for the Congo Basin was trying to help with technology and expertise at the level of subregional programmes involving both private and public sectors. Transparency in the use of resources as well as globalization and governance structures were important considerations, he said, adding that, overall, a better energy policy was needed. It was also important to exploit opportunities provided by the carbon market.

 

Ms. GURUNG reviewed the challenges faced by women attempting to extract resources from forests worldwide, as well as the opportunities presented by their integration into the dialogue on forests. One major challenge was their heavy work burden, which allowed little time to participate in capacity-building activities or opportunities to voice their concerns and perspectives, she said. They also lacked secure rights and tenure, faced restrictions on forest use as well as other obstacles. In some areas, including Central Africa, women risked sexual and other forms of violence when collecting firewood from nearby forests, she said, adding that many women around the world were excluded from forest-governance mechanisms and forestry institutions. However, opportunities were also evident, including the increased use of new, fuel-efficient cooking stoves; improvements in women’s and children’s health; the formation of women’s groups and cooperatives, which maximized development, learning and income generation; and the idea that carbon credits could be a new value bringing income to women’s groups.

 

NDIAWAR DIENG (Senegal), Rapporteur of the Forum, said many people in rural areas, seeing development through the media, now “hoped to live better”, and were demanding new sources of energy from their leaders. The international community could therefore benefit from the transfer of energy, hydroelectric power, solar power and other alternative sources to make up for energy gaps. It was important in that regard to strike a balance between manpower and overpopulation, he said, noting that Senegal had a decentralization policy for energy management, and that local female councillors were helping to make strides in forest management.

 

The representative of Brazil said that in his country, Government ministries, communities and the private sector were involved in several unique initiatives, including a food acquisition programme and the institution of a guaranteed minimum price for products targeted at those relying on forest resources. More information on those programmes was available to delegates should they desire it, he added.

 

The representative of Morocco said wood fuel accounted for a large overall percentage of the fuel used in Africa. The wood was most often gathered directly by individuals, and in such cases no forest management was involved whatsoever. Forests played several fundamental roles in communities, including the regulation of water flows and ensuring food security, he said. Desertification was a major concern, he added.

 

The representative of Finland said that the international community should expect deforestation and desertification to continue as a result of increasing population. Saying he wished to raise the question of gender analysis, he pointed out that women were an important group of resource managers, especially in the rural setting. It was women who possessed knowledge and experience of forests, and who managed them on a daily basis. It was therefore a great risk if land tenure and forest management roles were not gender-neutral, he stressed, requesting further information on that important area.

 

Ms. GURUNG replied that applying a gender analysis to the question of forest management would indeed provide a much clearer picture. However, much of the world’s forest management was “gender-blind” at the moment, she said, warning of “international repercussions”. Women frequently lacked the option of playing a role in forest management, tied as they were to day-to-day housework, wood collection and other burdens, she pointed out.

 

Mr. NDIKUMAGENGE added that there was a growing awareness of the situation of forests among African women, and a growing trend among African Governments to consult with women on forest management policies.

 

The representative of Switzerland, looking at the results of other international forums, said other texts addressing women’s land rights should be incorporated into the Forum’s work.

 

Ms. GURUNG responded by stressing the need to specify women’s rights in a range of situations.

 

A representative of the Secretariat of the Tehran Process for Low Cover Forest Countries spoke about the special needs of that group.

 

The representative of Paraguay said the United Nations REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) initiative on sustainable forestry was important for her country’s indigenous peoples in view of the problems of exploitation mentioned by various authors.

 

Mr. DARAMOLA emphasized the need to review policies from the grassroots perspective.

 

Mr. NDIKUMAGENGE affirmed the linkage between forest and water issues, as well as other areas.

 

Ms. GURUNG said the Forum was an appropriate venue in which to discuss gender issues.

 

Ms. SHEPHERD, the Moderator, said that if it was agreed that women were key stakeholders, action must be taken to help them build institutions that would give them more of a voice.




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