Questions about the future of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO)—namely, how and why ITTO should continue its work—were somewhat answered by the final day of ITTC-59.
Of the five decisions adopted by Council, most important was the agreement to affirm, by 1 June 2024, whether the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA), 2006, will be extended by another three years. This was a largely procedural issue, as some members did not yet have a mandate to formally adopt a position regarding extension, and therefore expressed readiness to take a ‘Decision without Meeting’ by mid-2024. (The Secretariat explained that this could be undertaken through a ballot, under the existing Rules of Procedure.) Council also extended the role of the virtual intersessional working group on the future of ITTA for another year, making it an open-ended ‘Preparatory Working Group’ that will gather members’ views and report back to ITTC-60 on what elements should be considered in the anticipated renegotiation of ITTA.
In the final Council session on Friday, member countries also adopted decisions in which they:
- endorse eight projects for sustainable forest management (SFM) and related objectives for the 2023 project cycle, and authorize immediate implementation;
- approve and adopt the Biennial Administrative Budget for 2024-25 of USD 7.1 million each year;
- adopt the Biennial Work Programme (BWP) 2024-25, and request the Executive Director to collaborate closely with members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) and other partners on implementation; and
- request members to pay their assessed contributions as early as possible, and agree, as a four-year trial measure, to allow members in arrears to regain eligibility to submit project proposals under certain specified conditions.
An earlier draft decision to create a Youth Advisory Group, similar to the existing Civil Society and Trade Advisory Groups, was not adopted, due to members’ concerns that other matters should be prioritized.
Council Chair Mohammed Iddrisu announced Jorge Mario Rodríguez Zúñiga, Costa Rica, as incoming Chair of the Committee on Reforestation and Forest Management (CRF), and Catherine Karr-Colque, US, as incoming Chair of the the joint Committees on Economics, Statistics and Markets, and on Forest Industry (CEM-CFI). He noted that nominations have not yet been received for the CFA Chair position.
Iddrisu welcomed Anna Tyler, New Zealand, as the incoming Chair of Council. With regard to the process to extend, then potentially renegotiate, the ITTA 2006, Tyler emphasized the importance of “hearing all voices.”
In their closing statements, delegates affirmed the continuing value of ITTO to its members. Muhammad Zahrul Muttaqin, Indonesia, as incoming spokesperson for the Producer caucus, delivered a brief statement regarding the EU Deforestation-Free Regulation (EUDR), which he referred to as “a unilateral discriminatory action that creates trade barriers.” He warned that applying a one-size-fits-all approach will create disparity and lead to further degradation of forests and requested that the EU urgently revise the EUDR with practical approaches and measures to meet the needs of countries and smallholders.
In response, the EU referred to “misperceptions and factual errors” on the part of some ITTO members, and committed to ensuring that consumption of timber products in the EU does not drive further decline in forest resources.
Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director, UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat, welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding signed during the week between ITTO and UNFF as an expression of the two organizations’ natural relationship.
Sheam Satkuru, Executive Director, ITTO, delivered a statement on behalf of Ewald Rametsteiner, Deputy Director of the Forestry Division of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), commending ITTO’s role as a leading partner of the CPF Joint Initiative on “Sustainable Wood for a Sustainable World” (SW4SW) and other endeavors.
Japan announced that ITTC-60 will take place in Yokohama from 1-6 December 2024.
The Council bade farewell to Producer countries’ spokesperson Jorge Malleux of Peru and welcomed Indonesia into the role. Delegates also paid tribute to two of the Secretariat’s long-standing officers, Steven Johnson and Hwan-ok Ma, who will retire before the next Council session. Thanking the two officers for their service through some of ITTO’s most challenging times, the US said, “It’s easy to stay when things are good. It’s not so easy to stay when things are tough. You stayed and ensured the Secretariat regained a strong footing.”
Speakers also expressed warm appreciation to the Secretariat and the Government of Thailand for the excellent hosting and meeting arrangements. Chair Iddrisu gavelled the meeting to a close at exactly 1:00 pm.