Curtain raiser

4th Session of the CSD Intergovernmental Panel on Forests

The fourth and final session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF-4) getsunderway today in New York. With only eight working days to go, delegates have aformidable workload before them. The two primary goals of IPF-4 are to agree onrecommendations to the Commission on Sustainable Development on legal mechanisms,international organizations and multilateral institutions and to complete negotiations onthe IPF’s entire report, consisting of 12 different programme elements.


The Commission on Sustainable Development’s open-ended ad hocIntergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) was established to pursue consensus andcoordinated proposals for action to support the management, conservation and sustainabledevelopment of all types of forests. The Economic and Social Council, in its decision1995/226, endorsed the recommendation of the third session of the Commission onSustainable Development (CSD) to establish the IPF. In pursuing its mandate, the IPF isfocusing on 12 programme elements clustered into five interrelated categories. The IPFwill submit final conclusions and policy recommendations to the CSD at its fifth sessionin April 1997.

IPF-1: The first session of the IPF took place in New York from 11-15September 1995. At this meeting, delegates adopted the IPF programme of work andattempted to set the dates and venues of future meetings. Several issues that havetypically divided North and South again proved difficult. Members of the G-77/Chinawere resistant to any proposal that could foreseeably lead to a loss of national controlover forests and forest products. There was also concern about the subject of criteria andindicators and whether proposed intersessional workshops should constitute an officialpart of the IPF process. Developed countries questioned the need to extend the durationof Panel meetings and expressed serious concerns about the Panel’s work.

IPF-2: The IPF held its second session from 11-22 March 1996 in Geneva.Delegates conducted their first substantive discussions on six programme elements andcompleted initial consideration of the remaining six. During the final two days of themeeting, delegates considered the Co-Chairs’ summaries. They labeled these transitionalin nature to signify that the summaries did not represent negotiated text. Delegates agreedto begin negotiations at IPF-3 on items that had received substantive consideration at thesecond session, although another substantive discussion was scheduled on the programmeelement on financial assistance and technology transfer. Delegates left Geneva satisfiedthat they had expressed national positions on a range of forest issues, but some werefrustrated that their full positions were not adequately reflected in the report of IPF-2.

IPF-3: The IPF held its third session from 9-20 September 1996 in Geneva.Delegates undertook substantive discussions on eleven programme elements: I.1 (nationalforest and land-use plans); I.2 (underlying causes of deforestation); I.3 (traditional forest-related knowledge); I.4 (ecosystems affected by desertification and pollution); I.5 (needsof countries with low forest cover); II (financial assistance and technology transfer);III.1(a) (forest assessment); III.1(b) (valuation of forest benefits); III.2 (criteria andindicators); IV (trade and the environment); and V.1 (international organizations andmultilateral institutions). They also initiated discussion on programme element V.2 (legalmechanisms).

The objective of IPF-3 was to produce a document containing elements to be consideredfor inclusion in the Panel’s final report to the CSD. Delegates did not engage innegotiations or drafting of the elements at IPF-3, but made comments and proposedamendments to be negotiated at IPF-4. Some delegates regarded IPF-3 as a success in thatit provided an opportunity for a meaningful exchange of views on the issues. Othersexpressed disappointment at the Panel’s inability to reach the negotiating stage on any ofthe programme elements and noted that this task may prove daunting during IPF-4.


CONSULTATIONS IN PREPARATION FOR IPF-4: IPF Co-Chairs MartinHoldgate (UK) and Manuel Rodriguez (Colombia) held an informal briefing inpreparation for IPF-4 on 16 December 1996 in New York. The Co-Chairs presented adocument that they created based on IPF-3 outcomes and proposed its use for negotiationat IPF-4. Many delegates found it premature to accept the document as a basis fornegotiation because they had only received the document that morning. Othersrecommended accepting the document for negotiation, citing it as a good synthesis of thewide views from previous IPF meetings. Delegates also discussed the organization ofwork, scheduling conflicts with other meetings and NGO involvement.

A second round of consultations were held on 4 February 1997 in New York, chaired byAdam Vai Delaney (Papua New Guinea), a member of the CSD Bureau. The purpose ofthis meeting was to address some of the organizational matters in advance of IPF-4 tosave time once the session began. Delegates discussed the use of the Co-Chairs’ text asthe basis for negotiation, the organization of work for IPF-4 and the preparation ofrecommendations for presentation to the CSD.

INTERGOVERNMENTAL EXPERT WORKSHOP ON SUSTAINABLEFORESTRY AND LAND USE: This meeting, held in Stockholm, Sweden from 14-18 October 1996, was conducted in support of IPF agenda item I.1, progress throughnational forest and land-use plans. The main objective was to contribute to a betterunderstanding of participation and consensus-building principles and their implications informulating and implementing national forest programmes. The workshop was attendedby 48 experts from 21 countries and considered case studies submitted by eight countries.The workshop produced options for action for the IPF, such as: acknowledging consensusbuilding as an important process to address sustainable forest management (SFM) infuture deliberations; developing mechanisms to strengthen and support research andinformation exchange on methodologies for consensus building; supporting theenhancement of linkages in order to strengthen collaboration between sectors anddifferent levels of planning; and encouraging countries to embark on a long-term processof consensus building in forestry and land-use programmes and to continuously identifythe necessary steps with regard to issues, institutional arrangements and stakeholders.

THIRD MEETING OF THE PARTIES TO THE CONVENTION ONBIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY: The third meeting of the Conference of the Parties(COP-3) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) met in Buenos Aires,Argentina from 4-15 November 1996. COP-3 took several key decisions, including:elaboration of a realistic work programme on agricultural biodiversity and a more limitedone on forest biodiversity; adoption of a long-negotiated Memorandum of Understandingwith the GEF; agreement to hold an intersessional workshop on Article 8(j) (traditionalknowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities); applicationby the Executive Secretary for observer status to the WTO Committee on Trade andEnvironment; and a prosaic statement from the CBD to the Special Session of the UNGeneral Assembly to review implementation of Agenda 21. With regard to forests, theParties agreed that “some forests” can play a crucial role in conserving biodiversity andthat the CBD will work in a complementary way with the IPF and other forest-relatedfora. The COP’s decision also limited the work of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific,Technical and Technological Advice to devising methodologies for the development ofcriteria and indicators for sustainable forest management and analyzing the impact ofhuman activity on the loss of forest biodiversity. These decisions are to be transmitted toIPF-4.

INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON INTEGRATED APPLICATION OFSUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES: An InternationalWorkshop on Integrated Application of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Practiceswas held in Kochi, Japan from 22-25 November 1996. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Governments of Japan, Canada, Malaysia and Mexico in cooperation with FAO,ITTO and the Kochi prefectural government. The workshop was attended by 155participants from 36 countries and focused on SFM practices at the field level, in order todistill lessons and experience that could provide insight to IPF-4. Workshop participantsspecifically examined practical and field level aspects of integrating forest planning intothe wider context of land-use planning and integrating research findings into SFM. Theworkshop formulated a series of “Proposals for Action” at the field level and within thecontext of the international policy dialogue at the IPF. The proposals for action note thata new “culture” of land-use planning and forest research and extension recognizes that theintegration of a variety of environmental, social and economic values, needs andaspirations is essential to achieve SFM practices. The proposals also note that researchshould be multi-disciplinary to cover all aspects of the topic, including participation byother sectors. Consideration must be given to reforming the reward and incentivestructure for forest research and extension. Participants also stated that research andextension must seek to involve all stakeholders on a collaborative basis at all levels andstages.

INTERNATIONAL MEETING OF INDIGENOUS AND OTHER FOREST-DEPENDENT PEOPLES ON THE MANAGEMENT, CONSERVATION ANDSUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF ALL TYPES OF FORESTS: This meeting,which was held in Leticia, Colombia from 9-13 December 1996, was organized by theInternational Alliance of Indigenous-Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests, theCoordinating Body of Indigenous Organisations in the Amazon Basin (COICA) and theOrganisation of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon-region (OPIAC), and wasco-sponsored by the Governments of Colombia and Denmark. Approximately 100particpants took part in the meeting, including indigenous peoples, NGOs andrepresentatives of governments and international agencies. The meeting’s main objectivewas to formulate resolutions and proposals for action for IPF-4 on matters related toindigenous and other forest peoples’ issues. The meeting concluded with the adoption ofthe Leticia Declaration and Proposals for Actions, which sets out general principles onthe rights, welfare, viewpoints and interests of indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent peoples. The Declaration also addresses: national forest and land-useprogrammes; underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation; traditional forest-related knowledge; financial assistance and technology transfer; criteria and indicators forSFM; and international instruments and mechanisms. A full report on the Leticia Meetingwill be made available to all participants of IPF-4.


The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests will get underway thismorning at 10:00 am. After the Co-Chairs open the session, delegates will adopt theagenda (E.CN.17/IPF/1997/1) and address other organizational matters. Some issues thatmay arise include the programme of work, the use of two working groups, the use of theCo-Chairs’ report (E.CN.17/IPF/1997/3) as the basis for negotiation, and the need to draftrecommendations to be presented to the CSD. There will then be an opportunity for ageneral debate. Several ministers are expected to speak at this time. In the afternoon, aplenary debate is expected on Programme Element V.I: International Organizations andMultilateral Institutions and Instruments (E.CN.17/IPF/1997/5).

Further information


National governments
Negotiating blocs
Group of 77 and China
Non-state coalitions