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Press Release 97/55


Antalya, 22 October - The Eleventh World Forestry Congress closed tonight calling for "increased political will to overcome the obstacles to achieving sustainable forest management," and noting "with alarm the continued rapid rate of forest loss and degradation in many regions of the world."

The Antalya Declaration also calls upon countries, international organizations and major forestry groups to work together to implement the proposals for action agreed by the International Panel on Forests and ensure that further international forest policy dialogue and associated action continues to be based on "openness and transparency." The Declaration urges countries to develop and apply agreed criteria and indicators for sustainable forestry management in order to assess the state of their forests and develop national forest inventory and monitoring systems using those criteria and indicators. Forest industries were asked to adopt and implement voluntary codes of conduct to promote sustainable forest management both at home and abroad including better management practices, technology transfer, education and investment.

Among the 17 points listed in the Declaration countries were also asked to develop and implement policies and management practices aimed at minimizing destructive wildfires on forest lands. With recent fire emergencies in Southeast Asia having captured international public attention, the issue of uncontrolled forest fires was one of the concerns which drew packed crowds during a special technical meeting on forests and fires during the Congress. During the meeting, a senior member of the Indonesian delegation said that the recent Indonesian forest fires affected some 270,000 hectares of land, resulting in a lot of publicity. One of the results of the 1992 Conference on Environment and Development in Rio has been to create an international awareness of the problems of forests and fires. He also said that while the current situation is severe, the present change in wind direction combined with some rains had improved the outlook.

In considering whether the Congress had lived up to expectations, Dr. David Harcharik, FAO Assistant Director-General of Forestry said that for FAO the two most important goals of the Congress had been achieved -- to provide a technical exchange of information about economic, social and environmental dimensions of managing forests, and to stimulate better partnerships between governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

The Antalya Declaration was presented at the closing ceremony by Turkish Minister of Forestry Ersin Taranoglu. Together with the report containing the main conclusions and recommendations of the Congress, it is expected to form the basis of forest policy and initiatives into the next millennium. The report covers eight key areas:

forests and tree resources; forests, biological diversity and the maintenance of the natural heritage; protective and environmental functions of forests; productive functions of forests; the economic contribution of forestry to sustainable development; and an ecoregional review.

Prior to the opening of the Congress on 13 October, ministers, deputy ministers and high-level representatives from over 50 countries took part in an informal ministerial meeting here to discuss some of the most pressing issues concerned with forests.

One of the points raised during the informal ministerial meeting and at other occasions during the Congress was whether it would produce a legal or binding agreement. Replying to reporter's questions, Dr. Harcharik explained that the Congress was a technical non-governmental meeting, not a governmental process which would be the appropriate forum for any kind of legal or binding agreement in the future.

According to participants, much of the work of the Congress took place during the 30-odd side meetings and high-level discussions held in parallel with the technical sessions of the Congress. These included subjects as diverse as Forestry Development in Portuguese-speaking countries and in Francophone countries, a special Task Force on Forests in Sustainable Mountain Development and Regional Approaches to Private Forestry and Forestry Extension in the Countries in Transition of Central and Eastern Europe. The Congress also provided the venue for Ministers of Forestry from six Central Asian Republics to sign protocols on technical and socio-economic cooperation in forestry affairs with the Turkish government.



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