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WORLD OF FORESTRY

Strengthening international cooperation in fire management

The International Wildland Fire Summit was held on 8 October 2003 in Sydney, Australia to address global concerns about cooperation at the international level in the prevention and suppression of wildland fires. Invited policy-makers and experts from 34 countries and representatives from 12 international organizations met to recommend strategies to improve communication and coordination among agencies and organizations to build a coherent response in reducing the negative impacts of wildland fires. The summit was held immediately after the third International Wildland Fire Conference and Exhibition (3 to 6 October 2003), also held in Sydney.

Support for the summit was provided by the Governments of Australia and the United States, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC).

The theme of the summit was "Fire management and sustainable development: strengthening international cooperation to reduce the negative impacts of wildfires on humanity and the global environment". The theme underscored the need to address the increasing vulnerability of ecosystems and human populations to uncontrolled wildland fires, as well as the inappropriate or excessive application of fire in modifying vegetation cover.

Based on four position papers, the summit participants agreed on:

• a set of principles for international cooperation in wildland fire management, which could be adapted to local ecological and social conditions;

• a template for international wildland fire management agreements;

• the use of the Incident Command System (ICS) as an international standard for all wildland incident managers participating in international or interagency agreements and exchanges;

• a strategy for developing future international cooperation in wildland fire management.

The Summit Communiquι called for regional fire cooperation agreements to be negotiated during the next four years, in anticipation of a second Global Wildland Fire Summit in 2007. It was agreed that a series of regional conferences, summits or roundtables would be held leading up to the next summit. The participants agreed to work individually and collectively to secure resources and funding for these regional sessions and to implement other summit outcomes; support from the United Nations would also be requested to this end. An interim secretariat will be established to be sure that the outcomes of the summit are taken forward.

African ministers address forest law enforcement and governance

To meet growing concerns about illegal activities in the forest sector, the Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (AFLEG) Ministerial Conference was held from 13 to 16 October 2003 in Yaoundι, Cameroon. Co-hosted by the Government of Cameroon and the World Bank, more than 300 participants from 39 countries attended the conference, representing governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector.

The objectives of the conference were to:

• share and explore ideas on forest governance;

• consider priority issues such as illegal forest exploitation and associated trade in Africa;

• identify ways in which various stakeholders can address these issues, including partnerships between producers and consumers, donors, civil society and the private sector;

• negotiate and endorse a Ministerial Declaration and Action Plan for AFLEG.

Plenary presentations addressed issues such as the harnessing of natural resources for growth, forest governance and legal frameworks, information and monitoring tools, and multilateral and bilateral initiatives. Working groups met to discuss the implications of illegal activities in the forest sector, institutional reforms and immediate strategies, marketplace and trade issues, conflict timber (timber whose harvest or sale is used to finance, sustain or take advantage of armed conflict), illegal trade in bushmeat, and tenure and related governance issues. A roundtable discussed how to integrate the AFLEG process into existing institutional and regional frameworks.

The Ministerial Declaration underlined the need for institutional and policy reforms relating to FLEG, declaring the following intentions, among others:

• to mobilize financial resources for forest law enforcement and governance and to provide economic opportunities for communities dependent on forest resources so as to reduce illegal activities; 

• to promote cooperation among law enforcement agencies within and among countries;  

• to involve stakeholders, including local communities, in decision-making;

• to promote public access to information on parks, protected areas, concessions and other forested areas and to raise awareness of the harmful impacts of illegal logging and associated trade; 

• to advance the implementation of the AFLEG objectives within the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and other processes; 

• to integrate forest law enforcement and governance issues into national forest programmes; 

• to promote the re-establishment of good governance in post-conflict situations; 

• to establish and strengthen laws for hunting and bushmeat trade, including support for independent monitors; 

• to work through subregional and regional task forces on forest law enforcement and governance; 

• to review the implementation of the actions associated with the Declaration by the end of 2006; 

• to invite other countries of Africa and other regions of the world to join the Declaration.

The Declaration concluded with a list of actions focusing on national-level implementation, legislation and policy reform, capacity building, information, law enforcement and monitoring, wildlife resources, markets and trade, financing, and forest management practices.

European Timber Committee holds sixty-first session

The Timber Committee of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, together with the FAO European Forestry Commission, is the major primary source of official (governmental) international information and analysis on the forest and forest products sector in Europe and North America.

At its annual session, held from 7 to 10 October 2003 in Geneva, Switzerland, the UNECE Timber Committee analysed the current forest products market situation in 2003 and forecast continuing high volumes for 2004. The committee noted that the expansion of the area of forests certified for sustainable forest management has slowed relative to the 1990s. A lack of chain-of-custody documentation is currently an obstacle to bringing a growing volume of certified forest products to market.

The Timber Committee also discussed two topical policy issues: forest law enforcement, governance and trade, and wood energy. The committee expressed the desire to work with other bodies and organizations to determine the extent and causes of illegal logging and trade. The committee recommended that governments continue to promote wood energy to provide rural employment, encourage the use of renewable resources and mitigate climate change, but it acknowledged the concern of some industry sectors about competition for raw material. A policy forum on wood and energy was held with the cooperation of the UNECE Committee on Sustainable Energy.

The committee also launched a process of strategic review of the joint UNECE/FAO Timber Section programme for 2003/2004.

The sixty-first session was well attended by representatives from 28 countries, the European Commission, FAO, the
Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe and a number of non-governmental organizations. The sixty-second session of the UNECE Timber Committee is to be held in Geneva from 27 September to 1 October 2004, in joint session with the thirty-second session of the FAO European Forestry Commission.

Governing body of the International Tropical Timber Organization

The thirty-fifth session of the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC) - the governing body of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) - and its associated committees was held from 3 to 8 November 2003 in Yokohama, Japan. Approximately 200 participants were in attendance, representing ITTO's 22 producer members and 19 consumer members, one potential member country and a variety of national, international and non-governmental organizations.

In addition to determining the ITTO Biennial Work Programme for 2004-2005, the session considered a number of issues, including: proposals for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); progress on achieving the Year 2000 Objective; guidelines for the restoration, management and rehabilitation of degraded and secondary tropical forests; the promotion of sustainable forest management in the Congo Basin; and forest law enforcement in the context of sustainable timber production and trade.

Immediately following the ITTC session, from 10 to 12 November 2003, 100 participants met, also in Yokohama, for the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the negotiation of a successor agreement to the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) of 1994. Delegates reviewed the draft working document of the successor agreement and were successful in producing a final draft text which will serve as the basis for discussion at the United Nations Conference for the Negotiation of a Successor Agreement to the ITTA, 1994, to be held in July 2004 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Technical advisory body to the Convention on Biological Diversity

Faced with an ambitious agenda, delegates to the ninth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA-9) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) paved the way to the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-7) by identifying basic elements for action required to achieve targeted reductions in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. Held in Montreal, Canada from 10 to 14 November 2003, the SBSTTA-9 meeting was attended by approximately 600 participants representing 119 governments, as well as UN agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, indigenous and local community groups, academia and industry.

SBSTTA-9 delegates reviewed progress in implementing the Expanded Programme of Work on Forest Biological Diversity. They considered guidelines on implementing the ecosystem approach and its relationship with sustainable forest management and recommended that the implementation of the ecosystem approach be made a priority as a primary framework for addressing the CBD's objectives in a balanced way.

Delegates adopted proposed elements for the work programmes on protected areas and technology transfer, as well as mechanisms for reviewing implementation and for integrating outcome-oriented targets into the CBD's work programmes. Delegates recommended that the COP adopt a proposed work programme on mountain biodiversity, underlining the sovereign rights and responsibilities of countries over their mountains.

Other recommendations concerned areas such as genetic use restriction technologies, biodiversity and climate change, invasive alien species, and monitoring and indicators.

SBSTTA's 16 recommendations will be forwarded to the seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties, to be held from 9 to 20 February 2004 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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