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Forests Policy & Practice
Resumed Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Legally-Binding Agreement on Forests in Europe (INC-Forests4)

7-8 November 2013 | Geneva, Switzerland
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The Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Legally-Binding Agreement on Forests in Europe (INC-Forests4) resumed from 7-8 November 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The INC-Forests process was launched by the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (FOREST EUROPE) to negotiate a legally-binding agreement (LBA) on forests in Europe with a completion deadline of 30 June 2013. Under the mandate given to it, the fourth session of the INC-Forests is to be the last negotiating session. When it met from 10-14 June 2013 in Warsaw, Poland , INC-Forests4 revised most of the draft negotiating text, including two annexes on arbitration and conciliation. It also discussed, but could not reach final conclusions on, the arrangements for bringing the legally-binding agreement under the UN umbrella, the possible financial and secretariat arrangements, and presentation of the INC-Forests results to the Extraordinary Ministerial Conference expected to take place in Madrid, Spain. As a result of the impasse, INC-Forests4 was "suspended" to allow for more time for negotiations and inter-sessional consultations.
Trees in full bloom outside the Session venue
Trees in full bloom outside the Session venue
Highlights for Thursday, 7 November 2013

On Thursday, 7 November, the Resumed Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Legally Binding Agreement (LBA) on Forests in Europe (Resumed INC-Forests 4) opened in Geneva, Switzerland, with a welcome statement by Luca Arnold, Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland. INC Chair Jan Heino called for the Committee to “tackle the tasks with flexibility, a cooperative spirit and commitment.”

The Russian Federation, EU, Liechtenstein, Serbia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan made opening statements expressing their preference for a lead organization in the LBA secretariat. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stressed the importance of the LBA for global forestry. The European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR) and Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF) urged the Committee to consider agreeing on an interim secretariat arrangement if a permanent LBA secretariat cannot be agreed now.

The morning plenary read through LBA paragraphs containing brackets with the aim of reaching agreement on the title and articles concerning, inter alia, the conference of the parties (COP), right to vote, secretariat, compliance, convention amendments, depositary, signature, ratification, entry into force and termination.

During the afternoon plenary, a legal expert group met to review the draft negotiating text and a contact group met to discuss institutional arrangements. The plenary reconvened at 5:50 pm to hear progress reports from both groups.  Jolyon Thompson (UK), Chair, Legal Expert Group, reported the Group had reviewed four articles and will meet again in the evening to review the remaining articles of the text in order to provide recommendations to the Plenary in the morning.

Contact group co-facilitator Ingwald Gschwandtl reported that countries would work overnight on creating their own matrix of secretariat functions as listed in the draft negotiating text, and which organization they wanted to fulfill each one and why. The contact group will meet informally at 8:30 am on Friday to exchange notes before plenary.

In the evening, delegates enjoyed a buffet dinner hosted by the Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland.
Marat Berdyev and Alexander Panfilov, Russian Federation

INC-Forests Chair Jan Heino, Luca Arnold, Switzerland, and Malgorzata Busko-Briggs, INC Secretary

Markus Holzer and Steve Smith, European Comission, and Valdas Vaiciunas, Lithuania
Ibrayev Maxat, Kazakhstan
Knut Øistad, Norway
Aibek Baidaliev, Kyrgyzstan

Highlights for Friday, 8 November 2013

On Friday, 8 November, the Resumed Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Legally Binding Agreement (LBA) on Forests in Europe (Resumed INC-Forests4) continued in Geneva, Switzerland, with an early morning session of the contact group on outstanding issues, co-chaired by Ingwald Gschwandtl (Austria) and Liubov Poliakova (Ukraine). That examined a matrix of secretariat functions as laid out in article 14 of the LBA along with which organization various delegations thought should fulfill them and why.

When plenary convened, Gschwandtl and Poliakova reported on the work of the contact group, while Jolyon Thompson (UK), chair, legal expert group, reported that his group had finished work on Thursday evening on all but six articles of the draft negotiating text (DNT).

A proposal to start negotiating a package deal based on UNECE as the lead in a joint LBA secretariat was supported by many delegations, but opposed by a block of countries. When the block suggested taking some of the outstanding issues to a diplomatic conference, several others said it was not a viable option.

Plenary broke for lunch and reconvened at 1pm to hear positions about how to move negotiations forward. Delegations again diverged over whether it was worthwhile to explore the option of a diplomatic conference. The contact group reconvened to discuss legal aspects of adoption, servicing and administering the LBA under a joint secretariat, and what a diplomatic conference might entail. The legal expert group also finished examining the remainder of the DNT.

When the plenary reconvened at 5:55 pm, Gschwandtl and Poliakova reported on the contact group discussions. The Committee discussed questions regarding the arrangements of a possible diplomatic conference, and whether all outstanding substantive issues needed to be resolved before bringing the text to a conference. The Committee broke at 7:45 pm to allow for consultations.
Plenary reconvenes at 9:28 pm to consider and approve the work of the legal experts group.

Chair Heino gavels meeting to a close at 4:30 am.

Chair Heino gavels meeting to a close at 4:30 am.
Contact Group Co-Chair Ingwald Gschwandtl,Austria
Contact Group Co-Chair Liubov Poliakova, Ukraine
Marat Berdyev, Russian Federation
Related Links
Session resources

*Session website and documents

*Annotated provisional agenda

*Draft negotiating text

*Draft organization of work for the Resumed INC-Forests4

*Oslo Mandate

*INC-Forests1 website

*INC-Forests2 website

*INC-Forests3 website

*Resumed INC-Forest3 website

*INC-Forest4 website

Other relevant resources


*UN Forum on Forests (UNFF)

*UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Forestry Department

IISD RS resources

*IISD RS coverage of INC-Forests4, 10-14 June 2013, Warsaw, Poland

*IISD RS coverage of the Tenth Session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF10), 8-19 April 2013, Istanbul, Turkey

*IISD RS coverage of Resumed INC-Forest3, 3-5 April 2013, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation

*IISD RS coverage of INC-Forests3, 28 January - 1 February 2013, Antalya, Turkey

*IISD RS coverage of Twelfth Rights and Resources Initiative Dialogue on Forests, Governance and Climate Change, 5 November 2012, Washington, DC, United States of America

*IISD RS summary report of INC-Forests2, 3-7 September 2012, Bonn, Germany (HTML - PDF)

*IISD RS coverage of the FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference Oslo 2011, 29 14-16 June 2011, Oslo, Norway

*IISD RS coverage of the UNFF9, 24 January - 4 February 2011, UN Headquarters, New York, United States of America

*IISD RS coverage of the Twentieth Session of the Committee on Forestry of the FAO, 4-8 October 2010, FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy

*IISD RS archive of forestry meetings and backgrounder

*Forests-L - A news and announcement list on forest policy issues

*Forests Policy & Practice - A Knowledgebase of International Activities Adressing Forests Policy

*Linkages Update - Bi-weekly international environment and sustainable development news
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