Report of main proceedings for 12 February 1997

4th Session of the CSD Intergovernmental Panel on Forests

IPF-4 continued debate on International organizations and multilateral institutionsand instruments, including appropriate legal mechanisms, in a morning Plenary. Theafternoon session was canceled to allow regional group consultations.


APPROPRIATE LEGAL MECHANISMS: Co-Chair Rodriguez resumed the Plenary on Consensus building towards the furtherimplementation of the forest principles, including appropriate legal mechanisms(E/CN.17/IPF/1997/5). Several delegations highlighted the continued need for a high-level policy forum on forests, including SENEGAL, GABON, UGANDA, CUBA,CHINA, BRAZIL, IRAN, RUSSIA and GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL.

NORWAY, ZIMBABWE, GABON, CUBA, CHINA, COLOMBIA and CONGOrecommended that this body be under the auspices of the CSD. COLOMBIA said itshould be permanent, have a Secretariat similar to that of the IPF and be financed byvoluntary contributions.

The US said it would be useful to have a forum to monitor and report on progress inimplementing IPF recommendations, and this forum could be the CSD itself or asubsidiary thereof. SWITZERLAND said the IPF dialogue should be continued with alimited mandate to ensure consistency of national, regional and international efforts incoordination with the CSD. NORWAY said future work must secure IPF’s progress onC&I, NFPs and increased investment in SFM through a negotiated document.

GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL said the forum should be a subcommission underthe CSD. The LATIN AMERICAN FOREST NETWORK said equitable participationshould be ensured. SENEGAL suggested that it be put under the auspices of FAO.GABON specified the need for the body to identify funding and research priorities.

CHINA said the terms of reference of the forum should include issues pertaining to afuture legal mechanism. JAPAN supported establishing an intergovernmental forum tocontinue the forest-related policy dialogue and implement IPF objectives. Implementationshould be incorporated into forging a broader consensus toward a legal instrument.BRAZIL specified that the forum should analyze all possible alternatives, including thepossibility of a convention, and should not be limited by a specific time frame. GABONand SENEGAL said its timetable should not extend beyond the year 2000.

INDIA supported a continued dialogue to identify gaps, redundancy and synergies beforepursuing new initiatives that currently lack consensus. FAO recommended closeexamination of the roles of existing forest-related organizations before deciding to form anew one. IRAN advocated avoiding overlap with other forest-related fora and closecoordination with related conventions.

MEXICO said alternatives for a mechanism or forum should: build confidence; betransparent, participatory, and gradual, allowing for periodic review; generate legalcertainty; adopt equitable measures; and reflect existing agreements including those ontechnology transfer on preferential terms. No obligation should be transferred fromdeveloped to developing countries. RUSSIA emphasized the need to develop new studiesand improve forest research.

UGANDA, GABON, PERU, CUBA and CONGO supported the continuation of theInter-Agency Task Force on Forests. PERU said the Task Force should provide specificproposals and work on capacity-building. SWITZERLAND said the Task Force should:seek concerted action on NFPs; identify pilot initiatives through partnerships; studypolicy frameworks to integrate intellectual property rights with traditional forest-relatedknowledge; and explore means to strengthen research.

A number of delegations and NGOs supported action toward a forest convention:COLOMBIA, COSTA RICA, the EU, INDONESIA, POLAND, the PHILIPPINES,VENEZUELA and the FOREST ALLIANCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA. The EUproposed that the IPF recommend the establishment of an Intergovernmental NegotiatingCommittee (INC) to negotiate a convention by no later than 2000. A global forestconvention could cover, inter alia: C&I; inventory and valuation of forests;environmental impact assessment; the special needs of developing countries and therights of indigenous people, local communities and small forest owners; traditionalforest-related knowledge; international cooperation on funding and the transfer oftechnology and capacity building; and scientific research. POLAND said the currentmomentum toward consensus on the need for a convention should not be lost, and aforest convention would facilitate implementation of related conventions. INDONESIAnoted the need for agreement on an appropriate mechanism for achieving SFM beforediscussing the path towards this goal and expressed support for starting the process ofdiscussion on a convention. The FOREST ALLIANCE OF BRITISH COLOMBIA andthe PHILIPPINES underscored the need to balance all forest values in developing aconvention. With COLOMBIA, they called for all stakeholder views to be considered inthe process.

GABON said a new framework convention taking into account regional differences couldbe established if a larger consensus can be achieved. NORWAY said a global conventioncould have advantages if a broad consensus is reached regarding inclusion of all sectors, aholistic approach and linkages to other conventions and organizations. SWITZERLANDsaid work could begin on negotiating a framework convention that permits regionalaccords. Deliberations could identify ideas to be included and allow long-term, legally-binding planning and implementation of SFM initiatives.

COSTA RICA drew attention to the Central American Forests Convention, which statesthat poverty is a cause and a consequence of deforestation. He called for a forestconvention to address the problems of poverty, debt servicing, declining terms of tradeand overexploitation of natural resources. ARGENTINA called for a step-by-stepapproach toward a legal instrument. He recommended establishing a working group oflegal and technical experts under the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), followedby an INC for a convention to combat deforestation and forest degradation.

NEW ZEALAND said no consensus currently exists in support of a convention, whichmight not be the most cost-effective approach. UGANDA said the IPF should focus ondeveloping an action programme before discussing a convention. ZIMBABWE statedthat attempting to debate the relative merits of a forest convention could detract from anecessary focus on implementing the IPF’s proposals for action.

SENEGAL underscored the need for more in-depth study of all possible options. INDIAsaid any international mechanism would create difficulties in dealing with localsituations, and any abridgment of rights of local populations must be compensated.Adding layers of international regulation will require a detailed, transparent debate thatshould not be rushed or restricted in duration. He reserved judgment on global regulationof managing sovereign forests. CUBA called for more dialogue and clarification ofpossible objectives of a new convention before initiating negotiations.

PERU stressed the need to identify gaps and overlaps in international organizations and,with the CONGO, INDONESIA, PERU and GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL,emphasized the need for improved coordination of existing agreements related to forestsbefore initiating negotiations for a convention. BRAZIL noted that gaps in institutionsand instruments do not imply a need for a convention or an INC now but instead a needfor better coordination and communication. The CONGO noted that given gaps inexisting instruments, a forest convention may be advantageous, but he questioned if aconvention would be a panacea for SFM or would provide adequate financial means.

The US said a convention might serve as an excuse not to take action to solve problemson the ground and implement existing agreements and initiatives. It could also lead to alowest common denominator result and should therefore not be negotiated at this time.Several initiatives to promote national implementation of SFM have been launched thatrequire time to mature before the need for a new convention can be adequately assessed.IUCN said progress of international discussions on forests has been insufficient toprovide a solid foundation for elaborating provisions of a convention. The US said thebest way to mobilize finances and technology is through private sector activities, whichcannot be governed by a convention. The LATIN AMERICAN FOREST NETWORKstated that it is inappropriate to establish a convention on forests and expressed concernabout a lack of political will to provide adequate financial resources to ensure an effectiveparticipatory process in formulating such an instrument. COLOMBIA also highlightedthe importance of additional financial resources and technology transfer.

CUBA underscored the need to adhere to the Rio Forest Principles regarding financingand development assistance. NIGER underscored the need to allocate new and additionalresources through the GEF. IUCN called for: enhanced efforts to forge consensus onconcrete and effective actions; implementation of existing forest-related agreements;establishment of a process for identifying gaps in the existing legal framework; anddetermination of whether any new instruments would be beneficial. PERU highlightedthe need for support from the international community for national and regional casestudies. IRAN noted that integrating environmental, social and economic values isessential to achieve SFM, and C&I are important to guide and assess progress towardSFM. BRAZIL suggested a voluntary code of conduct and extending the ITTO’sObjective 2000 to all timber products.

GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL proposed options for action, including: explicitinclusion of indigenous peoples among major groups; formulation of a strategicframework for research; review of progress on development and implementation ofNFPs; improved coordination among existing international legal instruments; and aWorld Action Plan on Forests. JAPAN said the UNGA Special Session provides anopportunity to streamline and rationalize the mandates and functions of UN organizationsand specialized agencies.


A number of delegations reminded the Plenary that the ultimate aim of the IPF is tofurther SFM. Some participants are concerned that postponing a decision on a conventionmight hinder progress on other proposals for action. Others note that delegates are underpressure to ensure that the IPF make recommendations, such as establishing a high-levelpolicy forum, that will lead to progress toward SFM. After two days of discussing littleother than a possible convention, many delegates look forward to delving intonegotiations on the other substantive issues on the IPF agenda in hope of producingconcrete proposals for action.


WORKING GROUPS: Two working groups are expected to begin negotiationson Elements of a Draft Report (E/CN.17/IPF/1997/3). Working Group I will meet inConference Room 1 to begin considering programme elements I.1 (national forest andland-use plans), I.2 (underlying causes of deforestation), I.3 (traditional forest-relatedknowledge), I.4 (ecosystems affected by desertification and pollution), and I.5 (countrieswith low forest cover). Working Group II will meet in Conference Room 2 and willconsider programme element II (financial assistance and technology transfer).

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