One Hundred and Twenty-seventh Session
Rome, 22-27 November 2004
PREPARATIONS FOR THE
1. At the Thirty-second Session of the FAO Conference held from 29 November to 9 December 2003, many Members expressed concern at the continuing high levels of forest degradation and deforestation, particularly in tropical countries, and the ramifications of these phenomena for food security, hunger and poverty. Members also expressed concern at the devastation of local communities and the environmental damage caused by forest fires in both developed and developing countries. Accordingly, the FAO Conference, at the same session, requested the Director-General to convene a high-level meeting, preferably at the Ministerial level, to address these issues.
2. Acting on the request of the Conference, the Director-General, in his communication of 1 June 2004, notified all Members of FAO of his intention to convene at FAO Headquarters a Ministerial Meeting on Forests on Monday, 14 March 2005.
3. To date, FAO has convened two ministerial meetings on forests, the first in 1995 and the second in 1999. These meetings made significant contributions to the contemporary intergovernmental forest policy discussions. The recommendations emanating from the meetings had an important impact in shaping international cooperation and raising high-level political commitment in support of forests. Convening ministerial meetings in conjunction with sessions of the Committee on Forestry proved to be of mutual benefit.
4. The Ministerial Meeting on Forests will be held on 14 March 2005 immediately prior to the 17th Session of the Committee on Forestry, which will take place from 15 to 19 March 2005. It will provide an excellent opportunity to maintain high-level international dialogue on the sustainable management of the world’s vital forest resources. Its juxtaposition with the Committee on Forestry will allow the latter to discuss how the Ministers’ recommendations could be implemented.
5. The importance of forests in poverty alleviation and food security, and in the achievement of other internationally-agreed Millennium Development Goals elaborated in the Millennium Summit in 2000, are being increasingly recognized. The Ministerial Meeting will thus be invited to address international cooperation aimed specifically at the prevention and control of forest fires and, more generally, at reversing the continuing high levels of deforestation and forest degradation worldwide with their consequent serious implications for food security, hunger and poverty.
6. The Meeting will be informed that wildfires are increasing in frequency and intensity in many parts of the world, resulting in the destruction of millions of hectares of valuable forests, the disruption of essential forest environmental functions, and the devastation of the livelihoods of forest-dependent people. Ministers will therefore have the opportunity to make key recommendations leading to enhanced international cooperation in forest fire management, including the prevention, early warning and control of fires.
7. The Meeting will also be informed that, despite efforts at national, regional and global levels to promote sustainable forest management, global rates of deforestation and forest degradation remain high. The most recent global indicators show that, in 2000, there was a net reduction in global forest cover of 9.4 million hectares per year. Ministers are invited to consider ways of intensifying current programmes to reverse deforestation and forest degradation, enhancing political commitment and coordinated action in support of sustainable forest management and increasing forests’ contribution to poverty alleviation and to food security.
8. The 17th Session of the Committee on Forestry will be invited to discuss the issues of fire management and forests’ contribution to poverty alleviation and food security and to consider how the recommendations of the Ministers might be implemented. Background documentation prepared by the FAO Secretariat will be made available to countries to assist them in their deliberations.