Report of main proceedings for 11 February 1997

4th Session of the CSD Intergovernmental Panel on Forests

The Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF-4) openedTuesday in New York. Delegates heard statements from the Co-Chairs, adopted theagenda and programme of work and heard general statements in the opening Plenary. Inthe afternoon Plenary, delegates and one NGO made initial statements on Internationalorganizations and multilateral institutions and instruments, including appropriate legalmechanisms.

OPENING PLENARY

Co-Chair Martin Holdgate (UK) opened the fourth session of the IntergovernmentalPanel on Forests with a brief statement, emphasizing the time constraints under which thePanel must complete the work of this final session. Co-Chair Manuel Rodriguez(Colombia) highlighted the importance of formulating concrete recommendations toaddress the problems facing the world’s forests. He noted that relevant progress has beenmade on the use of private capital to promote SFM, but necessary public investment hasbeen scarce. He called for progress in the areas of international cooperation and trade andurged delegates to fulfill the Rio commitments on technology transfer and the provisionof new and additional resources.

Nitin Desai, Undersecretary-General for Policy Coordination and SustainableDevelopment, highlighted the Panel’s progress on national forest programmes (NFPs),criteria and indicators (C&I), assessment of the world’s forests, certification and eco-labelling and institutional arrangements.

Co-Chair Holdgate introduced Adoption of the agenda and other organizational matters(E/CN.17/IPF/1997/1), noting that the report of IPF-4 must be an agreed and negotiatedtext. The US, INDIA and PAPUA NEW GUINEA endorsed the Co-Chairs’ proposal touse Elements of a draft report (E/CN.17/IPF/1997/3) as the basis for negotiation at IPF-4.

The Plenary adopted the agenda and programme of work.

Three speakers reported on the Intersessional Meeting of Indigenous and Other Forest-Dependent Peoples on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development ofAll Types of Forests held in Leticia, Colombia from 9-13 December 1996. COLOMBIAstated that the workshop focused on promotion of participation and legal frameworks forprotection of indigenous lands and knowledge. The INTERNATIONAL ALLIANCE OFINDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE TROPICAL FORESTS outlined proposals from theworkshop, including transparent and indigenous-designed mechanisms for financialassistance and technology transfer and a permanent UN forum for indigenous peoples.

JAPAN reported on the International Workshop on the Integrated Application ofSustainable Forest Management Practices held in Kochi, Japan from 22-25 November1996. The workshop focused on translating an international understanding of sustainableforest management (SFM) into practice and enriching the IPF process with field-levelknowledge. The workshop report calls for a new multidisciplinary, stakeholder-drivenand fully implementable culture for land-use planning, forest research and extension.

UGANDA reported on the Intergovernmental Workshop of Experts on SustainableForestry and Land Use: The Process of Consensus Building, held in Stockholm 14-18October 1996. The workshop focused on country experiences in consensus buildingduring the preparation of national forest and land-use plans and called for: a commonvision and working definition of consensus; harmonization of vested sectoral interestswith larger interests; training in consensus building; secure property rights; iterativeprocesses; proper forest valuation; and linkages with other sectors and decision-making.He noted the IPF’s catalytic role and called for continued dialogue.

The EU, supported by BULGARIA, CYPRUS, ESTONIA, HUNGARY, LITHUANIA,POLAND, ROMANIA, SLOVENIA and SLOVAKIA, said it is prepared to negotiate onthe basis of the Co-Chairs’ draft text, focusing on proposals for action. He stressed theneed for a holistic approach that includes economic and development issues notadequately addressed by other conventions. A global forest convention would provide theappropriate framework and would ensure the implementation of the Forest Principles. Hehoped for a unanimous recommendation through the CSD to the UN General Assemblyto establish an intergovernmental negotiating committee to negotiate a global forestconvention.

The G-77/CHINA emphasized the need for new, innovative and additional financial andtechnical assistance as part of a comprehensive approach to forests. Anti-povertyprogrammes that ensure benefits to local communities and forest-dwellers are essential.Environmentally-sound technology should be made available on affordable terms andwithout restrictions of intellectual property rights. He said that interim arrangementsshould be considered for implementation of IPF-recommended programmes during along-term dialogue.

The REPUBLIC OF KOREA said forest partnership agreements and forest plantationshold promise for addressing natural forest depletion. He called for mutually supportivetrade and environment policies and entrenchment of the principles of non-discrimination,open access and transparency in trade of forest products and services, includingcertification and labelling. He recommended establishing a forum for dialogue on forestrypolicy without time limits and based on IPF recommendations that would discuss thenecessity of an international agreement on forests.

ARGENTINA reported on the results of the third Conference of the Parties to theConvention on Biological Diversity. He noted the COP’s decision (inE/CN.17/IPF/1997/8) to develop a focused work programme on forest biodiversity tocomplement work by IPF and other fora and the work programme’s focus on researchcooperation and development of techniques necessary for conservation and sustainableuse of forest biodiversity. The CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL FORESTRYRESEARCH (CIFOR) proposed that the IPF improve forest research by establishing: aclearinghouse to guide and evaluate research; a consortia of research networks;mechanisms to assist capacity building and the dissemination of results; and a mechanismto mobilize resources.

The CANADIAN PULP AND PAPER ASSOCIATION advocated the initiation ofnegotiations for a legally-binding forest convention, which could, inter alia:develop a common definition of SFM; encourage forest conservation; enhancecoordination of international institutions responsible for forest management; andencourage international free trade in forest products to facilitate development.SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL expressed concern that governments’ commitment toallow and encourage participation of major groups has begun to evaporate and maycontinue to erode. He called for the inclusion of major groups’ contributions in finalreport of the IPF. GREEN EARTH noted that discussions about a forest convention arepremature and could formalize lowest-common-denominator forest managementstandards. There are a plethora of options to encourage SFM and sustainabledevelopment, and a convention is not the “silver bullet” to solve all forest problems.IUCN called for a systematic effort to formulate enabling policies based on forestmanagement experiences of indigenous and local communities and for the integration ofthese efforts into any proposed institutional follow-up to the IPF.

INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS AND MULTILATERAL INSTITUTIONSAND INSTRUMENTS, INCLUDING APPROPRIATE LEGAL MECHANISMS:

Co-Chair Rodriguez introduced discussion on international organizations andmultilateral institutions and instruments, including appropriate legal mechanisms. JokeWaller-Hunter, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, introduced theSecretary-General’s reports on the work of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Forests onprogramme elements V.1 and V.2. The report on V.1, International organizations,multilateral institutions and instruments (E/CN.17/IPF/1997/4), provides information onactivities in the IPF’s programme areas and on Task Force recommendations oncoordination of international organizations’ activities. The report on V.2, Contributions toconsensus building towards the further implementation of the Forest Principles(E/CN.17/IPF/1997/5), gives information on different modalities for anintergovernmental policy forum following the IPF and on proposals for legalmechanisms. She noted that decisions on modalities must be taken after definingfunctions and that the financial implications of any proposal from IPF-4 must beconsidered.

The EU highlighted the importance of improving institutional structures, coordinatingapproaches and filling gaps in: NFPs; traditional forest-related knowledge; the efficientuse of financial resources; C&I in regions and countries not yet involved in theirelaboration; the integration of trade and environment; knowledge of biological diversityand the forest environment; and scientific research. He stated that these gaps and the riskof duplication are strong arguments for a global forest convention and high-level policyguidance.

CANADA proposed the establishment of an intergovernmental negotiating committee forelaborating a convention devoted exclusively to forests that would serve as a legally-binding means to: provide a decision-making framework and a common integratedagenda on SFM and all forest issues; allow for a permanent, open and transparentintergovernmental dialogue between all interested parties; work with other conventionson an equal basis; and support financial and technological cooperation with developingcountries and countries in transition. The UK supported statements by the EU, Colombiaand IUCN that stressed the relevance of social and local-level issues.

VENEZUELA stated that it could accept a convention and elements for technical andfinancial cooperation. PAPUA NEW GUINEA proposed that the Panel harmonize policyguidance and recommend a legally-binding global instrument to the CSD. MALAYSIAproposed the establishment of a convention on sustainable forest management or aninterim measure towards a convention with a predictable timetable.

The US noted gaps in IPF discussions regarding the identification of the comparativestrengths of international organizations, institutions and instruments as well as theomission of regional organizations and initiatives. He favored improved use andcoordination of existing international organizations and instruments and proposed:continuation and expansion of the Inter-Agency Task Force; better field-levelcoordination with case studies on underlying causes of forest loss and successful nationalpolicy interventions; consideration of regional forest-related organizations and initiatives;coordination of the governing bodies of international institutions and instruments onforests; and integration of social concerns.

COLOMBIA stated that coordination with other conventions is fundamental. CHINAhighlighted the need to identify the future of relevant organizations and the problemsfaced by developing countries as priority issues. INDIA expressed concern that proposalsregarding NFPs may pose problems for developing countries in acquiring multilateralassistance. He stressed the need for instruments to ensure the equitable sharing of benefitsresulting from the utilization of traditional forest-related knowledge.

AUSTRALIA underscored the need for a continued high-level policy dialogue on forestsand proposed that this body be under the purview of the CSD with a specific mandate andtime frame. He said the need for a convention on forests has not been established, butthere should be a process to determine whether such a need exists. ECUADORemphasized the need to analyze a binding convention and proposed establishing aworking group to examine this option. The GLOBAL FOREST POLICY PROJECTnoted that there is currently a lack of consensus on strong recommendations, on acommon definition of SFM, and on the need for and potential content of a forestconvention. He proposed that the IPF build on areas where consensus already exists, forexample C&I, rather than risk the loss of this consensus by pushing forward with non-consensus issues.

IN THE CORRIDORS

On the opening day of IPF-4 a number of delegations have already begun to air theirpositions on a possible forest convention. Some delegations who have not yet spoken outon the topic may be awaiting clarification of details. Several noted that supporters of aconvention had not yet specified possible elements or aims of such an instrument. Otherssaid that the implications of pursuing a convention — political, trade-related,environmental or otherwise — had not yet been explored. Almost all agreed that furtherdiscussion of the convention question will continue to be a prominent element, if not thepivotal theme, of IPF-4’s quest for conclusions and recommendations.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PLENARY: Delegates are expected to have a general debate on programmeelement V.2, Contributions to consensus building to further implementation of the ForestPrinciples, during an all-day Plenary session.

Further information

Participants

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