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1. At the invitation of the Government of Mongolia, the nineteenth session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) was held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, from 26 to 30 August 2002. Representatives of 27 member countries participated in the session, along with observers and representatives from one FAO member country not a member of the Commission, 3 United Nations specialised agencies, and 8 intergovernmental and international non-governmental organisations. A list of participants is given in Appendix B.

2. Mr. M. Hosny El-Lakany, Assistant Director-General and Head of the Forestry Department of FAO, welcomed participants on behalf of the Director-General of FAO. He thanked the Government of Mongolia, and especially the Ministry of Nature and Environment for the excellent arrangements. He noted with appreciation Mongolia’s hosting of the session, a mere four years after joining the Commission. He also acknowledged the major challenges related to Mongolia’s social and economic transition of the past decade, including significant disruptions in the forestry sector. He commended the recent establishment the Forests, Water and Natural Resources Agency within the Mongolian Ministry of Nature and Environment as a positive step in revitalising the country’s forestry sector.

3. Reflecting on recent trends in Asia-Pacific forestry, Mr. El-Lakany noted the growing concerns over the sustainability of forest production and harvesting activities, the enhanced recognition of non-timber values of forests, the increased emphasis given to conservation of biodiversity, watershed management, wildlife and protected-area management, and forest-based ecotourism. He also highlighted the significant moves to decentralise and devolve forest management responsibilities and authorities to local people in many countries of the region. He emphasised the benefits of regional co-operation in addressing these challenges and underscored the importance of the regional forestry commissions in fostering and facilitating such collaboration among countries and organisations.

4. Mr. El-Lakany concluded by highlighting FAO’s efforts to improve the accuracy and availability of information for effective forestry decision-making, and work in support of international processes and dialogue on global forest-related issues. He also briefed the Commission on new FAO initiatives related to low forest cover countries, improved management of forest fires, effective implementation of national forest programmes, and linkages between forests, food security and poverty alleviation.

5. His Excellency Ulambayar Barsbold, Minister of Nature and Environment of Mongolia, addressed the Commission on behalf of His Excellency Nambar Enkhbayar, Prime Minister of Mongolia. He emphasised the importance of the country’s forests and described the major challenges for Mongolia, including unregulated and unsustainable timber harvesting, forest fires, insect and disease attacks, regeneration difficulties, and limited institutional capacity.

6. Mr. Ajkhan Bolat , Vice-Minister of Nature and Environment of Mongolia, also presented an inaugural address. The Vice-Minister noted the positive recent measures adopted by Mongolia to address challenges in the forestry sector, particularly highlighting the formulation of a national forest programme and the establishment of a new agency within the Ministry of Nature and Environment to consolidate all forestry-related functions of the Government. Mr. Bolat stressed the importance and value of regional co-operation through the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission and urged delegates to formulate strategies and mechanisms to enhance international collaboration.

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