Report of main proceedings for 13 September 1996

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

The Intergovernmental Panel on Forests met in Plenary on the fifth day of its thirdsession. Delegates considered programme element V.1 (international organizations andmultilateral institutions) in the morning and V.2 (legal mechanisms) in the afternoon.


Plenary convened with the election of officers. M.F. Ahmed (India) was elected Vice-Chair of IPF. The Panel then turned its attention to programme element V.1, internationalorganizations and multilateral institutions (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/23). Jag Maini (IPFSecretariat) introduced the Secretary-General’s report, noting the issue’s cross-sectoraland multi-dimensional nature. He highlighted several key points including: anexamination of the anticipated functions and activities required to be performed byinternational organizations and institutions and instruments to support internationallyagreed future priorities; the establishment of a structured body to coordinateintergovernmental agencies; NGO and government activities; the value of NGOcontributions; the need to evaluate the operational capacity of existing instruments; andthe need to develop a high-level forum for continued dialogue. The report proposes several options for action, including: a high-level forum for international policy, strategicdata collection, regional and global projects, additional funding for research anddevelopment and improved mechanisms for coordination.

Franz Schmidthsen (Switzerland) presented the findings of the Swiss-Peruvianinitiative, noting that existing legal instruments include only principles and nocommitments. He urged that this imbalance be rectified and called for an in-depthanalysis of agency linkages. The G-77/CHINA, supported by the PHILIPPINES,BRAZIL, PERU and MALAYSIA, said more work was needed to develop a clear viewof the work being undertaken by international and regional institutions. Gaps andoverlaps should be identified and coordination among agencies enhanced.

The EU, supported by the UK, noted that the issue is important as it will lay thegroundwork for the international community’s support of all other IPF issues. He soughtto accelerate the incorporation of UNCED decisions, enhance government and privatesector financing and strengthen inter-agency coordination. The RUSSIANFEDERATION noted the need for a global political forum capable of generatingsolutions. He disputed the need to set up a new structure but supported the use of existinginstruments, although coordination is poor and should be improved. GREENPEACEINTERNATIONAL highlighted the merit of a potential forest protocol under the CBD.He expressed concern that negotiation of a separate forest convention would risk delayingnecessary and effective action. He noted the need for inter-agency coordination, periodicmonitoring and review and improved donor coordination. The PHILIPPINES called for athorough appraisal of activities under existing instruments and improved coordination.The FOREST PEOPLES PROGRAMME noted a lack of attention by internationalorganizations to land tenure issues and agrarian reform. The report overemphasizes theinstitutional aspects related to forests at the expense of highlighting the concerns ofpeople who inhabit and depend upon forests.

BRAZIL said the report fails to assess how the UNCED decisions related to forests arebeing implemented under existing instruments. He noted that although much progress hasbeen made, the short time allotted to the IPF to fulfill its broad mandate is insufficient.The US said the Panel must devise ways to reduce duplication and improve coordinationamong existing instruments. The proposal for a high-level forum for forest policy debaterequires further elaboration. COLOMBIA called for an analysis of financial resources toidentify gaps and overlaps. The report should recognize the importance of NGO activityat the regional and subregional levels.

JAPAN, with SWITZERLAND, favored using existing coordination and collaborationmechanisms, such as the ITTC, and stated that the idea of establishing a new consultativebody requires further consideration. PAPUA NEW GUINEA, supported by SOUTHAFRICA and PERU, favored an informal forum for discussion, and recommendedmaintaining IPF as an open-ended intergovernmental umbrella. He asked for more detailson a new funding framework for SFM. PERU noted that IPF is a starting point for anoverall integrative mechanism.

SWITZERLAND recommended making the existing inter-agency task force permanent,called for a Secretariat report on options for a high-level political forum and supportedNorth-South partnerships. CANADA noted the lack of coordinated government guidanceon forest issues and called for a new legally-binding instrument rather than just acontinuation of the IPF. INDIA rejected any global policy for forests and called for studyof the effects on forests from farming marginal land. MEXICO, supported byMALAYSIA, called for attention to funding mechanisms and for concrete measures toachieve SFM quickly. MALAYSIA supported the proposal for a participatory mechanismfor high-level dialogue on coordination and prioritization of issues. UNED-UK supportedCOLOMBIA’s call for more effective regulation and monitoring of multilateralorganizations, and noted a need for regulatory vigilance in many areas that impinge uponforests, particularly industry.

INDONESIA sought the establishment of a high-level forum to address forest-relatedissues and a convention on forests. NORWAY supported increasing the efficiency ofexisting institutions rather than establishing new ones. He suggested an informationclearinghouse and combining ODA with private sector funding. The GLOBAL FORESTPOLICY PROJECT said NGO contributions need not only be conducted jointly withagencies but could be conducted independently for better efficiency. He expresseddisappointment regarding the results of the Swiss-Peruvian initiative and soughtincreased clarity regarding the roles and activities of existing institutions and instruments.GABON suggested the establishment of a special fund for SFM and increasedcontributions from the private sector with regard to capital input, technology transfer andinformation dissemination.

IUCN urged the establishment of: a mechanism to monitor the relationship betweendeforestation patterns and national social and political changes; new linkages betweencountry-level and regional networks facilitated by relevant intergovernmental agencies;and partnerships between forest communities, private sector interests and governmentagencies.

Delegates then considered the Secretary-General’s report on programme element V.2,legal mechanisms (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/24). The report describes the relevance of existinglegal instruments and attempts to define gaps and overlaps with respect to forest-relatedissues in these instruments. The G-77/CHINA, supported by MALAYSIA, COLOMBIAand the PHILIPPINES, said much work is needed to bring the report into the sustainabledevelopment focus. He welcomed an international forum and an inter-agency task force.The EU, supported by ITALY and FRANCE, said that international agreements do notprovide a holistic approach and supported a convention to promote SFM for all forests.AUSTRALIA supported an inter-agency task force and an intergovernmental mechanismto maintain momentum. Discussions should continue under a forest heading and underthe auspices of IPF. The US said the report introduces a new way of classifying forestprinciples and the work of IPF. He questioned the report’s gap analysis and recommendedan extended IPF or a similar forum. BRAZIL said a case has not been made for a newconvention and suggested better use of existing instruments. POLAND supported aholistic approach and supported all initiatives to build a legally-binding instrument.NORWAY noted that there is a wide range of views on how to attain SFM, and cautionedagainst allowing the format to hinder the progress. WORLD BUSINESS COUNCIL FORSUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT/ INTERNATIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCEsaid governments and NGOs must take the lead in educating the public to channelinvestment into SFM.

The CANADIAN PULP AND PAPER ASSOCIATION advocated an internationalconvention on forests. Key elements of such a convention might include, inter alia:requirements for land use plans and monitoring and reporting; internationally recognizedC&I for monitoring success of national action programmes; and promotion of worldwidefree trade in forest products. NEW ZEALAND stated that the time is not yet ripe for aforest convention and more progress can be achieved through existing mechanisms. Sheproposed an “IPF 2000,” extending the life of the Panel for no longer than 3 years, butsaid it should focus on high priority issues and meet no more than once a year. CANADAasserted that the lack of coordination among institutions and instruments relating toforests is the biggest obstacle to implementing SFM. Strong relationships with the FCCC,CBD, CITES and other instruments should be forged for better coordination. Headvocated the commencement of negotiations for a legally-binding instrument on forestsin 1997. COLOMBIA said the report should highlight the establishment of protectedareas and the just and equitable distribution of benefits. She called for strengtheningexisting instruments and leaving the door open for a political dialogue on forests.

FRANCE supported a continued dialogue on forests and preferred an internationalinstrument. ZIMBABWE agreed that forestry issues are being dealt with in a fragmentedmanner. The momentum for SFM must be maintained, and he supported New Zealand’s“IPF 2000” proposal. The PHILIPPINES called for a focus on the energy function offorests and an analysis of the linkages to related work within the FCCC. Financialimplications of a convention would need to be studied in future proposals for a legally-binding instrument. In further deliberations, there must be analysis of cross-sectoralissues and wide, balanced participation. SWITZERLAND said if a forest convention canfacilitate necessary cooperation between countries, then the time is ripe to begin drafting.He echoed a concern voiced by others that concentrating all efforts on negotiating such atext might result in a loss of momentum, so consensus-building on forest issues shouldcontinue simultaneously.

The GLOBAL FOREST POLICY PROJECT presented additional areas for attention in afuture report on options, including regional agreements as a model. He recommended thatan analysis of existing initiatives be undertaken by independent consultants and warnedagainst jeopardizing the implementation of existing instruments by focusing on a newone. WWF said implementation of current agreements with local participation should bethe priority now. PERU recommended a short-term commitment to continuing high-levelintergovernmental dialogue on forests, to meet twice a year, and called any proposal for aconvention premature and inopportune. MALAYSIA recommended that any newconvention must call for a balanced, holistic treatment of forests in developed anddeveloping countries.


Countries decided last week in Geneva to bring the ITTA 1994 into force provisionallywithout the membership of several key governments. Since then, informal discussions onits overhaul have been underway among some ITTO members during IPF off-time. Someobservers question whether the emerging consensus for some form of IPF follow-upcould foreshadow the end of the ITTO. Many, including NGOs who have alreadytransferred their lobbying budgets to the IFP framework, say this would be just as well.Other observers and delegates, even those critical of various aspects of the ITTO, think itstill has a role to play.


Some observers have characterized the debate regarding the possible establishment of aconvention on forests as somewhat telling. While the majority of delegations and NGOsexpressed reservations about initiating work toward a legally-binding instrument at thistime, a limited number of delegations and an industry NGO called for the adoption of aconvention. Observers questioned whether a legally-binding instrument on forestry, asopposed to forests, was being contemplated.


Working Group I: Working Group I will meet at 10:00 am in Room XIX and isexpected to consider programme elements I.1 and I.3.

Working Group II: Working Group II will meet at 10:00 am in Room XX and isexpected to consider programme elements II and IV.

Further information