Daily coverage:

Committee on Forestry - COFO
16 session

Rome, Italy, 10-14 March 2003

ENB Summary




17 March




Monday, 10 March

The sixteenth session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO)
opened on Monday, 10 March. Outgoing Vice-Chair José María Solano López opened the meeting. David Harcharik, Deputy Director General of FAO, welcomed delegates. He said that progress in sustainable forest management (SFM) was being made around the world yet the pace was insufficient. He drew attention to FAO’s role in the international policy dialogue on forests and noted its assistance to the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and Intergovernmental Forum for Forests (IFF) proposals for action through support to Regional Forestry Commissions. He stressed the importance of fresh water issues in forestry and urged delegates for renewed commitment to SFM.

Listen to David Harcharik

State of the World's Forests 2003: Assistant Director-General of the FAO Forestry Department Hosny El-Lakany presented highlights from the State of the World’s Forests Report (SOFO 2003). He informed delegates that the publication contained contributions from International Governmental Organizations (IGOs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and individuals in their personal capacities. With regard to agricultural expansion and deforestation he said that agricultural land is expanding in 70% of countries worldwide and declining in 25%. In two-thirds of the countries where agriculture is expanding, forest area is decreasing. In 60% of the countries where agriculture is decreasing, forest areas are increasing. El-Lakany also highlighted challenges facing developing countries with low forest cover and SOFO 2003’s identification of causes and effects of forest degradation, commonalities and potential ways forward, including integrated and holistic approaches, alternative incomes for rural people, communication and information sharing, and the use of treated wastewater. On decentralization, he mentioned that over 80% of developing countries and countries with economies in transition were experimenting with decentralization. SOFO 2003 reviews recent means of effective cooperation between governments, private industries and NGOs to curb illegal logging and corruption.

The recent Forestry Outlook Study for Africa (FOSA), which is based on 32 country reports from Africa, indicates that public expenditure often less than 1%. Investments lag behind inflation, with most domestic expenditure directed to staff costs. Finally, SOFO 2003 highlights the importance of international forestry dialogue and the role of the National Forest Programme Facility regarding capacity-building and knowledge management, and forest-related decisions emerging from the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

 Listen to Hosny El-Lakany

The Chairman invited comments from delegates. Senegal said there was a lack of adequate access to information.  The European Union, Brazil, Malaysia and Kenya requested that in future the SOFO Report be distributed prior to COFO. Brazil and Malaysia raised concerns regarding the Report’s definition of illegal logging. Brazil shared progress on its national development for SFM, including the launch in 2000 of its national forest program, involving he said, wide stakeholder participation. Sharing thoughts on its long-term ecological challenges, the US commended the report’s focus on, inter alia: Criteria and Indicators (C&I) for SFM; collaborative and regional processes; importance of fresh water; and inclusion of the social sciences, such as participation and governance in SFM. He stressed the importance of global collaborative partnerships, such as the Congo Basin Initiative. Guatemala said that it had experienced a lack of international support for the inclusion of forestry in development programs and stressed the need for inter-sectoral links. Lebanon noted its commitment to SFM and highlighted the importance of FAO’s expertise on pest control. The Republic of the Congo said the FAO should play a leading role in all aspects of SFM including C&I and forest certification. Iran said specific challenges facing the low forest cover countries (LFCCs), such as subsistence dependency on forests, were not considered in the Report. Rwanda emphasized the need to identify alternative energy sources and the importance of forests in generating livelihood and battling poverty, and provided data on its reforestation activities in the last decade. Egypt underlined the importance of water and use of treated wastewater as social and economic factors in forest management, and called for COFO’s attention to recommendations for the Mediterranean region. Kenya welcomed the compilation of material in FOSA; called for follow-up action; and emphasized concerns over illegal forest activities domestically and internationally.

 Listen to the Senegal

 Listen to Brazil

 Listen to Malaysia

 Listen to the US

 Listen to Guatemala

Assistant Director-General El Lakany expressed regret at the inevitable delay in the production of SOFO as an up-to-date document. He noted the difficulty in verifying conflicting figures within one country and invited authenticated corrections. In response to Brazil and Malaysia he said that SOFO raised issues of international significance. He expressed gratitude for support of the national forest program. He said that FAO would try to report periodically on national experiences regarding water.

 Listen to El Lakany

Flavio Miragaia Perri (right)

José María Solano López

David Harcharik

Hosny El-Lakany

Henri Djombo, Republic of the Congo

Everton Vargas, Brazil

Florin Reto, AGLW

David Kaimowitz

Jim Douglas (left)

“Forests and Freshwater –Issues and Options” side event.

Delegates convened for the “Forests and Freshwater –Issues and Options” event hosted by FAO. Presentations were made by the the Forest Conservation, Research and Education Service of of FAO (FORC), , and the Water Resources, Development and Management Service of FAO (AGLW); the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Ogranization (UNESCO) presented its international hydrological program perspective; the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) gave an overview of its operation and priorities; and the Forestry Agency of Japan reported on the international expert meeting on forests and water held in Shiga in November 2002 and the upcoming World Water Forum.

Forests and poverty alleviation
Director General of the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) David Kaimowitz spoke on the topic of forests and poverty alleviation. He noted that non-timber forest products (NTFPs), such as medicinal plants and bush meat, play a very important role in the subsistence and livelihood strategies of poor people. He expressed concern that the donor perspective on “getting people out of poverty” is based on the unrealistic assumption that development will lift these people from poverty in the near term. Instead, he said, the focus should be on “keeping things from getting worse” by protecting resources for basic subsistence. The overall problem in forestry, he noted, lies in the superficial consideration of the problems, which are due to: lack of knowledge and basic statistics; a failure to recognize opportunities; and the failure of experts to champion this issues. He concluded with a list of solutions including: protection of local peoples’ rights; ensuring equitable distribution of control and decision making; and ensuring that conservation strategies are designed with local peoples’ realities in mind. 

Re-engaging in forests: the World Bank’s new forest policy and strategy

Forest Advisor to the World Bank Jim Douglas spoke about the Bank’s new forest policy and strategy. He noted that the recent approval of the Bank’s policy and strategy opened up a number of opportunities to provide a wide range of conservation, management and development activities in all forest types. He said that the focus of implementation was to harness the potential of forests to reduce poverty, integrate forests in sustainable economic development, and protect vital local and global environmental services and values. Delegates highlighted concerns regarding the Bank’s reduced financial support to forestry over the past decade, its certification criteria and its position on safeguarding high value protected areas. Responding, Douglas emphasized the Bank’s commitment to bring together an external expert panel to advise on the issue of safeguards. He said that the Bank does not endorse the Forest Certification Standards and that it supports modular certification. On financing he noted that the Bank is focusing on broader investments and partnerships.

Miscellaneous pictures of the day


Links to further information

FAO Forestry Web site
Documents for the COFO
ENB report from COFO-12 (pdf)
ENB�s coverage of International Conference on Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management (CICI)
Sustainable Development�s summary of the Expert Meeting on Forest Landscape Restoration (Costa Rica, 2002)

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