Report of main proceedings for 12 September 1996

3rd Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests of the Commission on Sustainable Development

Working Group I met in the morning to continue discussions on criteria and indicators. Inthe afternoon, Working Group I considered underlying causes of deforestation and forestdegradation, and Working Group II discussed fragile ecosystems affected bydesertification and the impact of airborne pollution on forests.


Working Group I continued discussions on programme element III.2 (criteria andindicators). ITALY, supported by GERMANY, called for flexibility in the formulation ofcriteria and indicators (C&I) for SFM. The US supported efforts toward national C&I, butnoted the need for cooperation at the subnational level and expressed reservations aboutglobal C&I. JAPAN proposed three categories for SFM criteria and called for multiplestakeholder participation. He questioned the possibility of achieving SFM at themanagement-unit level A global set of indicators should not be used for cross-countrycomparison. GERMANY supported development of global indicators and harmonizationof terms and concepts, including between C&I and other concepts such as code ofpractice or performance standards.

COLOMBIA called for ranking minimum and maximum levels of SFM attainment,harmonization of data collection methods and consideration of financial mechanisms. Henoted the importance and measurability of socio-economic indicators. Noting that only asmall set of C&I are universally applicable, CIFOR said C&I should be developed as a“tool box” to meet changing needs and conditions. Scientific capacity must be increasedat national and local levels to properly develop and implement C&I. SWITZERLAND,with MALAYSIA, sought consensus on key concepts, terms and definitions and mutualrecognition of initiatives such as FRA 2000. MALAYSIA supported an international setof indicators. TURKEY supported the core criteria but noted difficulties inimplementation. Cooperation is needed on technology transfer.

The UK said C&I should be implemented now without further refinement. Applicationshould be flexible to account for diverging needs. INDIA said C&I should be morespecific for application at the national and forest management unit levels. Donor agenciesshould support holistic initiatives, not only management activities. UNESCO sought fieldstudies to test C&I and indicated that the world network of biosphere reserves may be anappropriate venue. FRANCE encouraged wider participation of countries not yetinvolved and more attention to water quality assessment.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA said sufficient guidelines exist for governments to develop andapply their own C&I. BRAZIL stated that the report exceeds the IPF mandate and fails toemphasize the international cooperation needed to allow all developing countries toparticipate in C&I initiatives. The G-77/CHINA stated that more work needs to be doneon C&I within the framework of sustainable development. He stressed that specificityshould not be traded for universality and that diffusion of information on C&I should beincorporated. AUSTRIA recalled IPF-2’s unanimous support for expanding C&I andstressed the indivisibility of SFM and C&I. NEW ZEALAND urged continuing themomentum on C&I and sought consensus on terms. He stressed that the set of C&Itogether define SFM, and selectively removing elements lessens their effectiveness. TheGLOBAL FOREST POLICY PROJECT distinguished national level C&I andcertification of individual forest management units, and said harmonization of C&I ispremature. He urged caution on the issue of mutual recognition between initiatives.

CUBA emphasized that C&I have to be flexible for diverse environmental and socio-economic conditions in different countries. The REPUBLIC OF KOREA stressed theneed to avoid market distortions that may result from certification. CANADA stated thatbecause many countries are not yet involved in the process of developing C&I, it wouldbe premature to identify a comprehensive set of C&I at the global level. Further effortsare needed to clarify C&I at the national and forest management unit levels. Cultural andsocial C&I are as important and easily comparable as biological and physical C&I.INDONESIA supports harmonization and standardization of terms relating to SFM.CHINA stated that FAO should continue to involve countries and regions that have notyet gotten involved in C&I, but developing countries should be assisted with participationin development and implementation of C&I. PORTUGAL noted that the use of C&Iwithin a proper policy framework adds to the performance of national forest policies. TheRUSSIAN FEDERATION noted the difficulties associated with harmonizing criteria.

DENMARK supported a core set of global criteria and the inclusion of C&I in NFPs.UGANDA emphasized the importance of harmonization and convergence of C&Ideveloped nationally. POLAND said the development of C&I should be decentralizedand their implementation flexible. MEXICO called for the prioritization of proposedactions, stating all countries may not be able to undertake all actions. Internationalsupport is needed for the development and implementation of national C&I.

Ralph Schmidt (UNDP) introduced the Secretary-General’s report on underlying causesof deforestation and forest degradation (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/15). The G77/CHINA, withCOLOMBIA, CHINA, MALI and the PHILIPPINES, noted the lack of proposals toaddress social and economic factors and dissimilarities between deforestation anddegradation, and, with the EU, BRAZIL and CHINA, emphasized historical lessons. TheEU, with the NETHERLANDS and FINLAND, noted unplanned causes of deforestationand forest degradation (D&FD), supporting further analysis of international causes.NORWAY noted that national policy frameworks must adhere to similar principles in allcountries. CHINA called for voluntary diagnostic frameworks. MALI, with UGANDAand ZIMBABWE, stressed energy needs as a cause of D&FD, and, with CAMEROONand INDIA, called for poverty alleviation. INDIA noted that deforestation can physicallytranscend political boundaries.

SOUTH AFRICA supported the establishment of a diagnostic framework and, withJAPAN, the strengthening of links between programme elements. ECUADORencouraged international support for testing of a diagnostic framework and, withGABON, increased attention to the effects of oil prospecting and consumption. NEWZEALAND noted the role of plantation forests in mitigating forest degradation andencouraged their use. The US sought characterization of long-term trends in consumptionand production of forests and forest products.

The NETHERLANDS called for determination of desired forest covers. IUCN notedmany ongoing local initiatives and called for reestablishing community control overforests. KENYA called for a flexible diagnostic framework and capacity-buildingassistance and rejected efforts to compare case study results. The PHILIPPINESemphasized natural causes of forest destruction. UGANDA, with ZIMBABWE, called forbalanced treatment of developed and developing countries and said actions can precedestudies. ZIMBABWE called for diagnostic frameworks to address implementationstrategies and financing requirements. FRIENDS OF THE EARTH highlighted theirholistic study on consumption and production patterns. FUNDACION NATURA saidinternational causes of deforestation such as poverty, transboundary pollution andconsumption patterns must be addressed.


Jean Clement (FAO) introduced the Secretary-General’s report on programme elementI.4, fragile ecosystems affected by desertification and the impact of airborne pollution onforests (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/17). The report proposes formulating explicit national forestpolicies that address dryland concerns. It also calls for emissions reduction, periodicassessment of airborne pollutants, research and rehabilitation of affected areas.PORTUGAL and SENEGAL presented results from an expert meeting on rehabilitationof degraded forest ecosystems hosted by Cape Verde, Senegal, Portugal and the FAO.The EU, with AUSTRALIA, supported the proposal to form explicit national policies. Henoted links to the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) and supported theproposals for action on air pollution. GREECE, PORTUGAL and ITALY saidMediterranean forests are very susceptible to forest fires. TURKEY noted the upcomingWorld Forestry Congress in Antalya, Turkey in 1997. CHINA proposed references tointernational cooperation and the financial needs of developing countries. GERMANYsaid strategies on desertification should be integrated within the framework of existingforest and land use programmes. He called for strengthening community-basedorganizations. FRANCE said the report’s proposals on preventative and restorativemeasures represented a balanced approach. He said countries should not resignthemselves to pollution but should address the causes. The US noted that the proposedformulation of guidelines for conservation and environmental management of plantationsis premature. CANADA said national forestry action programmes provide the bestframework to address reforestation and afforestation by providing cross-sectoral linkages,participation of stakeholders, policy and legislative reviews and institutionalstrengthening.

An NGO representative asserted that poor resource management is not always caused bylack of education but by lack of alternatives. She urged governments to use exotic speciesonly as a last resort and assess effects on local ecosystems. IUCN recommended thatbilateral and multilateral agencies and government planners shift investment emphasisaway from plantations toward helping governments improve communities’ tenure rights.AUSTRIA said international strategies should be developed to reduce nitrogen compoundemissions and monitor heavy metals and air pollutants. DENMARK stated that providingfinancial means and setting up incentives for private owners will not ensure successfulafforestation efforts. JAPAN emphasized the need for region-wide forest monitoringsystems and the testing and application of the critical load approach. An East Asian AcidRain Monitoring Network will be established by the year 2000.

Bai-Mass Taal (UNEP) presented the Secretary-General’s report on programme elementI.5, needs and requirements of countries with low forest cover (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/18).The report states that any area with 20% minimum cover in developed countries, and10% within developing countries, constitutes a forest. It defines countries with low forestcover as those in which the lack of forests is damaging to ecological processes. SOUTHAFRICA suggested extending the report’s definition of low forest cover to includecountries in which the lack of forests has resulted in an unfulfilled national demand forforest products. INDONESIA said the report does not differentiate approaches for lowand high income countries. Low income, low forest cover countries should receiveincreased assistance and technology transfer.

UKRAINE stated that large parts of the Ukrainian forest have been removed fromeconomic activity due to the Chernobyl accident. She sought international assistance andtechnology transfer. CHINA proposed references to international cooperation andtechnology transfer. AUSTRALIA said that low forest cover is only a crude criterion forallocating forest funding, and that high forest cover countries are also at risk withoutSFM. The report does not reflect that low forest cover is a naturally occurringcircumstance in many countries. The EU called for special attention to the needs of leastdeveloped countries with low forest cover. The US questioned the report’s differentialdefinition of low forest cover and suggested a universal definition. He said the proposalsfor action could benefit from increased flexibility.

JAPAN said the report does not classify causes for low forest cover and highlighted theimportance of sharing experiences. URUGUAY characterized the definition as arbitraryand said a better gauge was needed to reflect the relationship between ecosystems. TheNETHERLANDS emphasized the importance of restricted forest areas. A NGOrepresentative contested the proposal to increase plantation cover without assessingassociated financial, socio-cultural and environmental costs. Means to reduce demand forpulp and paper should be explored, particularly in Northern countries with excessiveconsumption of these products.


In the words of one delegate, “Friday will start the ball rolling.” Will it roll into a worldconvention on forests? Questions abound regarding whether the Northern and Southerncamps will consolidate their positions or whether regional groupings will take unifiedpositions. Some predict initial statements at the day-long Plenary on programme elementV, beginning a new and probably lengthy phase in global forestry efforts. A widespectrum of views is known to exist; the minimum “fall back” in case of totaldisagreement will probably be a continuation of an IPF-style dialogue.


Plenary: Plenary will convene at 10:00 am in Room XIX to discuss programmeelements V.1 (international organizations and multilateral institutions) and V.2 (legalmechanisms).

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