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The impetus for the creation of an independent World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development (WCFSD) emerged from a seminar held at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts in 1992. After UNCED, the organizing committee, comprised of private citizens, was established at a meeting in Rome, from 24-25 July 1992. Subsequent meetings approved a possible mandate, strategy and work plan.

The organizing committee originally envisioned seeking a UN mandate for the WCFSD, however, it ultimately invited the InterAction Council of Former Heads of State and Government (IAC) to launch the Commission. In June 1994, the IAC indicated Prof. Emil Salim (Indonesia) and Amb. Ola Ullsten (Sweden) as the Co-Chairs of the Commission. The IAC has proposed that the Commission have three purposes: (1) to raise the level of understanding of the dual role that world forests have in preserving the natural environment and contributing to sustainable socio-economic development, particularly in developing countries; (2) to accomplish a widening of the consensus on data, science and policy in this still insufficiently explored area; and (3) to build confidence between North and South on forest matters with emphasis on the role of international cooperation. The point of departure for the WCFSD will be the Forest Principles document.

The Co-Chairs of the WCFSD are in the process of selecting the members of the Commission and setting up a Secretariat in Geneva, with the goal of beginning operations in March 1995. The Government of Switzerland has. Dr. Kilaparti Ramakrishna, Senior Associate for International Environmental Law at the Woods Hole Research Center, has been serving as the coordinator of the organizing committee and can be contacted at: P.O. Box 296, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA; tel: +1-508-540-9900; fax: +1-508-540-9700; e-mail: <<krwhrc@mcimail.com>>.