The Fifty-seventh Session of International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC-57) and the Associated Sessions of its four Committees convened virtually on Monday, amid a raft of new COVID-19-related travel restrictions and uncertainty around the new Omicron variant that was recently identified.
While it was this uncertainty that led the ITCC to hold its meeting virtually, ITTC-57 Chair Kheiruddin Rani (Malaysia) expressed his commitment to ensuring that ITTC-57 would be a success.
Council members were faced with a heavy agenda during the five-hour session, including: whether to extend the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA), 2006—the treaty under which the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) operates, and the election of a new ITTO Executive Director. The Committee on Reforestation and Forest Management (CRF) also met to complete its work.
The deliberations over whether to extend the ITTA, 2006 were expected to be short, and indeed they were. Most members had expressed their willingness to extend the Agreement during deliberations at ITTC-56 in 2020, but some required additional time for consultations, so the decision was postponed until ITTC-57. Many took the floor to say they supported extending the agreement until 2026. There was discussion, however, on how best to prepare for negotiating a new agreement, with two proposals emerging: establishing a roadmap or establishing an ad hoc working group to consider the path forward. Ultimately, the decision was taken to extend the ITTA, 2006 until 2026, with the remaining issues to be discussed by the Bureau.
Discussions then turned to the appointment of a new Executive Director. The three shortlisted candidates were invited to present their vision and strategy for taking the ITTO forward. Sheam Satkuru (Malaysia), Francisco Souza (Brazil), and Yuri Octavian Thamrin (Indonesia) were each given 15 minutes for their presentations to the Council. Common themes included the need for resource mobilization, including from non-traditional donors, as well as increasing engagement internally and externally. Council members will take part in a question-and-answer session with the three candidates on Tuesday.
During the CRF meeting, participants discussed CRF recommendations to the Council that funding should be sought for one project and two pre-projects, and one project should be terminated due to non-submission of a final financial audit report.
Other issues considered by ITTC-57 included:
- Report on membership of the Council, with the membership being unchanged at 36 Producer countries and 38 Consumer countries; and
- Report of the Informal Advisory Group, which expressed concern for late or unpaid member contributions.
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