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21 Apr, 2013

U.N. Forum on Forests Adopts Pacts on Conservation, Financing

UN Department of Public Information

ISTANBUL, 19 and 20 April, Department of Public Information— Calling on Governments to recognize that forests and the socioeconomic benefits they provide were essential to human development, the United Nations forum working to build global consensus on implementation of forest-related agreements concluded its tenth session late this evening, also deciding to consider setting up a voluntary global fund to support sustainable management of all types of forests and trees.

Agreeing on two action-oriented draft resolutions, the United Nations Forum on Forests, holding its tenth session in Istanbul, Turkey, since 8 April, recognized among other things the vital role and contribution of all types of forests to achieving sustainable development and addressing complex global challenges.  As such, participants agreed that failure to better conserve and manage such a valuable resource could put at risk efforts to achieve development goals related to food security, water, biodiversity, climate change, poverty alleviation, energy and human well-being.

“The successful outcome of [the session] proves once again the key and unique value-added role of the Forum as a global policy-setting body on all types of forests,” declared Mario Ruales Carranza ( Ecuador), hailing the outcome as “a new milestone” in financing forests and economic development.  As he briefly reviewed the Forum’s work over the past two weeks, he said the deliberations had paved the way for a positive future and would no doubt contribute significantly to the next session in 2015, when “crucial decisions” would be taken regarding the future of the world’s woodlands and the United Nations intuitions promoting their proper stewardship.

By the text focused mainly on “forests and economic development” — the theme for the session — the Forum invited Member States to recognize the contributions of forest goods, products and services to national and local economies, as well as the social, cultural and environmental impacts of forests on rural and urban communities, and to integrate such values into national accounting systems.  They were also invited to utilize the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests (forest instrument) and relevant national programmes as platforms to develop and strengthen links with other sectors, and to identify collaborative and integrated approaches to land management which minimized negative impacts on forests.

States were also invited to take action to address the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation by supporting economic development strategies that avoided forest loss and minimized negative impacts on woodlands.  Recognizing the role that forest ecosystems played in economic development, the Forum also invited States to enhance the full participation of all relevant stakeholders in the sector, including indigenous peoples and local communities, on sustainable forest management.

In addition, States could enhance opportunities for employment and training, rural development, technology innovation and transfer, research and development, as well as diversification of markets, products and services.  The Forum invited States also to establish and/or strengthen legal frameworks, as well as the governance and institutional frameworks and policies needed to realize the full potential of forests’ contributions to economic development, addressing sustainable forest management, including land-tenure rights, in accordance with national legislation and circumstances.

By the text on “emerging issues and means of implementation”, adopted as orally revised, the Forum recognized that the architecture for forest financing had evolved considerably since its previous sessions, and that a number of new instruments and mechanisms had emerged that addressed thematic elements of sustainable forest management.  The Forum reiterated that there was no single solution to address all forest-financing needs, and that a combination of actions was required at all levels, by all stakeholders, and from all sources.

Member States, the donor community and other relevant stakeholders, as appropriate, were invited, among other measures, to review and, as needed, improve forest-related legislation, strengthen forest law enforcement, and promote good governance at all levels in order to support sustainable forest management, create an enabling environment for investment and combat and eradicate illegal practices.  Member States were invited to provide enhanced resources to address thematic, geographic and data gaps in forest financing, and increase resources for implementation of the forest instrument.

States were also invited to strengthen cooperation in the areas of finance, trade, transfer of environmentally sound technologies, and capacity-building and governance, and to improve access to and efficiency of finance for sustainable forest management.  They were further invitedto incorporate into national forest programmes or their equivalent a combination of financing approaches, including the development of national forest-financing strategies, the creation of national forest funds, and the collection of data on sustainable forestry management, according to their capacities.

Further by the text, the Forum invited international financial institutions with forest-related programmes to further consider ways to simplify and streamline procedures, consistent with their mandates, in order to improve access to and efficiency in the use of their funding.  As for other international actions, the Forum, by the text, invited the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to improve and simplify access to its current and potential funding for sustainable forest management, and to strengthen the dissemination of information on forest financing to focal points in the Forum.

The Forum also decided that the effectiveness of the international arrangement on forests — comprising the Forum and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests — would be reviewed in 2015.  As an integral element of the overall review, the Forum decided to consider “a full range of financing options and strategies”, including the establishment of a voluntary global fund to mobilize resources from all sources in support of sustainable forest management.

While the modalities of the review were set out in an annex to the text, the Forum decided that it would also consider a legally binding instrument on all types of forests, strengthening the current arrangement, continuing the current arrangement and other options.  It was decided that an ad hoc expert group would be established to facilitate the review.  Among other tasks, the review would examine the past performance of the Forum and supporting structures, such as previous ad hoc expert groups, and country-level initiatives, as well as future options for the Forum.

In concluding remarks, Mahir Küçük, Deputy Under-Secretary in Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said his Government had been honoured to host the Forum’s tenth session.  The decisions taken would contribute significantly to the promotion of sustainable forest management and the future establishment of a global financing mechanism.  The Forum’s deliberations would also contribute to broader efforts to ensure sustainable development, he said, adding that delegations had had the opportunity to reach a global consensus on forests in the vibrant city of Istanbul, and the outcomes would contribute to sustainable forest management in the region and throughout the world.

Jan McAlpine, Director of the Forum on Forests Secretariat, said the session “was ground-breaking in many ways and historic in every sense”.  She thanked the people and Government of Turkey for hosting the session in Istanbul, “one of the world’s most vibrant cities”, and congratulated delegations for calling for a decisive future for sustainable forest management.  They had also crafted a decisive road map to implement that call, she said, adding that the Secretariat looked forward to working with all delegations on the relevant issues, including on forests and economic development.

Speaking after the texts’ adoption, Fiji’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reiterated the need to maintain the focus on key areas on which delegation had been seeking common ground, such as the creation of a global forest fund and addressing the issue of forest funding under the GEF in order to promote implementation of sustainable forest management.

Ireland’s representative, speaking for the European Union, welcomed the successful outcome of the session and highlighted the need to improve interaction with the major groups from civil society.  A half-day multi-stakeholder dialogue was “a good step”, but not enough to take full advantage of their participation.  As such, the Forum should perhaps aim to fulfil, at the global level, its collective commitment to Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration, which called for broad participation by all stakeholders in environmental issues.

The representative of the United States, like other speakers, thanked the Government and people of Turkey as well as the Forum’s Bureau.  He said that while the past week had been “a very hard road”, the Forum had achieved solid outcomes, particularly on forests and economic development.  Looking ahead to 2015, he urged all delegations to “think hard and with open minds” about how to make the most of the review of the international arrangement on forests.

Before concluding its work, the Forum unanimously adopted a decision titled “Expression of gratitude to the Government and people of Turkey for hosting the tenth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests”, which was distributed as an informal paper.