Item 5 of the Provisional Agenda




Rome, Italy, 1-5 March 1999




Secretariat Note


Intensive international policy dialogue on forestry and forest issues in relation to UNCED follow-up has continued during the past two years. The purpose of this document is to inform delegates on the current stage of progress toward the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to facilitate discussion of selected issues of particular importance. Special reference is made to the proposals for action from the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), the results of the first two sessions of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF), the support provided by FAO to these two processes, and the related work of the informal, high-level Inter-Agency Task Force on Forests (ITFF). Information is also provided on forestry aspects related to international conventions and other Agenda 21 areas.


1. At its fourth session (February 1997), the IPF issued a final report containing 143 proposals for action in five areas relating to the implementation of UNCED decisions: 2. The results of the IPF were endorsed by the fifth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD, April 1997) and by the 19th Special Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGASS, June 1997). However, in view of the remaining outstanding issues, UNGASS recommended a continuation of the intergovernmental policy dialogue on forests. Subsequently, ECOSOC (Geneva, July 1997) established the ad hoc, open-ended IFF under the CSD, with the following mandate:

Category I

Category II Category III 3. As part of Category III, the IFF should also identify the possible elements of and work toward a consensus for international arrangements and mechanisms, for example a legally-binding instrument. The IFF will report on its work to the CSD in 1999. Based on that report and depending on the decision of the Commission at its eighth session, the Forum will engage in further action on establishing an inter-governmental negotiation process on new arrangements and mechanisms, or a legally binding instrument on all types of forests.

4. FAO has been requested to contribute to the following elements of the work of the IFF: I.a, I.b, II.c and two areas of II.d. (assessment, monitoring and rehabilitation of forest cover in environmentally critical areas; future supply and demand of wood and non-wood forest products and services).

5. The IFF held its first (organizational) session in New York (1-3 October 1997) and elected Ambassador Bagher Asadi (Islamic Republic of Iran) and Ambassador Ilkka Ristimäki (Finland) as Co-Chairpersons.

6. During the IFF's second session (Geneva, 24 August-4 September 1998), discussions were organized into two categories:

(a) Programme elements I.a; II.b; II.c; and II.e, which were subjected to substantive discussions. These programme elements will be reviewed, updated and, as necessary, further negotiated during the third and fourth sessions of the Forum.

(b) Programme elements I.b; II.a; II.d; and III, which were subjected only to background discussions. Substantive discussion of these items will take place during the third session of the IFF.

7. The third session of the IFF will be held on 3-14 May 1999 in Geneva, and a fourth session in early 2000 at a venue to be decided.

8. Following the establishment of the IPF (April 1995), an informal, high-level Inter-Agency Task Force on Forests (ITFF) was organized (July 1995) to coordinate the inputs of international organizations to the IPF. The ITFF is chaired by FAO and also includes CIFOR, ITTO, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, UN/DESA, UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank. Within this partnership, FAO has the lead responsibility of facilitating the implementation of the IPF proposals for action under the following programme elements:

FAO also contributes to government-led initiatives and activities under the lead responsibility of other ITFF partners in support of the IFF. The ITFF agreed at its last meeting, on the occasion of IFF-II, to review its implementation plan in order to better identify activities which agencies could develop under their regular funding, and those which require financial support from donors.


9. FAO provided significant inputs to the Secretary-General's substantive report on IFF programme element I.a Promoting and facilitating the implementation of the proposals for action of the IPF, as well as a more detailed information note. IFF-II "considered national forest programmes, as defined by the IPF, to be a viable framework for addressing forest sector issues, including implementation of IPF's proposals for action in a holistic, comprehensive and multi-sectoral manner."

10. During the background discussion at IFF-II on programme element I.b, Monitor progress in the implementation of the proposals for action of the IPF, it was agreed that efforts should be made to make "optimal use of existing reporting mechanisms." It was indicated that the format for long-term monitoring, assessment and reporting could be expected to evolve in line with the development and implementation of Criteria and Indicators of sustainable forest management at the national level. The Forum encouraged FAO and other relevant organisations to elaborate further elements of a reporting system, identifying and integrating the reporting demands of all forest-related processes and instruments. IFF-II noted the survey that will be undertaken by FAO in 1998 on countries' progress in implementing national forest programmes. IFF-III will consider options for reporting on progress in the implementation of IPF proposals for action.

(a) Facilitating technical and financial support to national forest programmes and land use

11. The IPF (E/CN.17/1997/12) agreed that the term "national forest programme" is a generic term for a wide range of approaches to sustainable forest management within different countries, to be applied at national and sub-national levels based on basic principles. Some 124 countries have developed or updated their forest programmes during the past 13 years.

12. FAO's support to national forest programmes has been decentralized; three regional NFP advisers are now part of the Forestry Department Groups in the regional offices in Bangkok, Accra and Santiago. In July 1997 FAO produced Update 33, three volumes on the current situation of national forest programmes in Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. FAO will make available to IFF-III (May 1999) the results of a survey launched in October 1998 on the status and progress of the implementation of national forest programmes in all countries concerned.

(b) Improved cooperation in support of the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, including adequate provision of ODA

13. The XI World Forestry Congress in Antalya, Turkey (13-22 October 1997), under the general theme "Forestry for sustainable development: towards the XXI century", offered an exceptional opportunity for consultations and exchange of information. There was an informal ministerial meeting at which the main obstacles to the implementation of sustainable forest management were discussed. Three satellite meetings (combating desertification, Mediterranean forests and conflict management through community forestry) were organized, as well as 34 side meetings, including the Forestry Advisors Group, an information meeting of the ITFF Partnership in the implementation of the IPF Plan of Action and a meeting to exchange views on national forest programmes.

14. FAO organized three regional workshops on international cooperation and resource mobilization for national forest programmes to disseminate information on the IPF proposals for action, and to discuss ways to increase co-operation among partners as well as the mobilisation of resources required for sustainable forest management.

15. The regional Workshop for Asia and the Pacific was held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (19-21 February 1998). The workshop recommended the establishment of a mechanism, under the responsibility of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC), to promote regional co-operation and resource mobilisation in the implementation of the IFP proposals for action and national forest programmes in the Asia-Pacific Region.

16. The African regional workshop on international cooperation and resource mobilization was held in Dakar, Senegal (17-19 April 1998). It noted the insufficiency of funds allocated for the implementation of priority actions recommended by national forest programmes and agreed that efforts should be made by countries in order to improve the formulation of projects and the mechanisms for resource mobilization. A new evaluation of the national forest programmes in Africa was recommended in order to assess their impact in the sustainable management of forests and the performance of forestry institutions.

17. The third regional workshop was organised in Santiago, Chile (3-5 June 1998). A Working Group on new sources of income and resource mobilisation identified: the main constraints for funding the priority activities identified under national forest programmes; opportunities for the forestry sector under the Kyoto Protocol of the FCCC; and other innovative financial mechanisms, as well as incentives for effective involvement of the private sector, local communities and land holders. Another Working Group on mechanisms for co-operation and collaboration in support of national forest programmes identified the need for improved interaction at national, regional and international levels.

18. The FAO Regional Forestry Commissions, held in 1998, played an important role in coordinating the sustainable development of all types of forests.

19. The Forestry Advisers Group (FAG) continues to meet once or twice a year to exchange information and harmonise the support of donors and international organizations to national forest programmes.

(c) Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management

20. In collaboration with national partners and international institutes (notably UNEP, ITTO, CIFOR and IUFRO), FAO continued to assist in the conceptualisation and adaptation of Criteria and Indicators for sustainable forest management (SFM) within on-going international processes, and to support efforts of countries and regions presently not included in these to join global efforts. In its role as UN lead agency in this issue, FAO assisted in the preparation of background and discussion notes on the subject for IPF and IFF. Through contractual arrangements with IUFRO, work was also continued to clarify key concepts and terminology related to forest resources assessment, Criteria and Indicators, and forest genetic resources related issues.

21. Logistic and technical support was provided to secretariats of on-going international initiatives (the Helsinki /Pan-European Process, the Montreal Process, the Tarapoto Proposals and ITTO initiative). FAO also contributed to the preparations and deliberations of the Third Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe.

22. Following the FAO/UNEP Expert Meetings for dry-zone Africa and the Near East countries (1995 and 1996, respectively) and the nomination of country focal points in member countries, FAO collaborated with UNEP and sub-regional organizations (CILSS, IGAD, SADC) to organize follow-up workshops in 1997 and 1998 to support further review and implementation of agreed-upon Criteria and Indicators in both regions.

23. An FAO-CCAD Expert Meeting was organized in Honduras (January 1997) involving seven Central American countries. The meeting, followed by a series of sub-regional and national workshops, resulted in the Central American Proposals of Lepaterique.

(d) Appropriate participatory mechanisms and participation of indigenous people, forest dwellers, forest owners and local communities in meaningful decision-making

24. As a follow-up to a Conference on Conflict Management and Community Forestry organized by the FAO Forests, Trees and People Programme in the first quarter of 1997, a satellite meeting on the same subject was held at the XI World Forestry Congress. The meeting identified ways and means to better integrate conflict considerations into national policy frameworks to ensure greater participation from forest-dependent communities and indigenous peoples in policy formulation processes.

25. FAO organized a workshop on "Pluralism and Sustainable Forestry and Rural Development" in December 1997, in which some 35 representatives from different organizational types participated.


26. In relation to programme element II.a, Matters left pending on the need for financial resources, IFF-II noted that the issue is closely linked with the broader discussion of the key role which financial resources for sustainable forest management and mechanisms play in the implementation of Agenda 21. Concerns were expressed that the ODA, which constitutes a major external source of funding for forestry in many developing countries, was decreasing. The participants considered the situation of developing countries with low forest cover, in particular those which are least developed. They emphasized the need for international support for afforestation, for land rehabilitation, reforestation, restoration of degraded forests and for sustainable management of existing, often unique, forest programmes, which usually encounter difficulties in attracting international funding.

27. Substantive discussion of programme element II.c, Matters left pending on the transfer of environmentally-sound technologies to support sustainable forest management, was not conclusive and will have to continue at IFF-III, based upon a paper to be prepared by FAO. In the preliminary conclusions, the IFF emphasized the strong links between SFM and transfer of technologies, capacity building and institution building, investment, and financing from both public and private sources. National forest programmes should facilitate the development and transfer of environmentally-sound technologies in support of sustainable forest management and forest products processing.

28. The IFF had background discussion on programme element II.d, Other issues arising from the programme elements of the IPF process needing further clarification: Underlying causes of deforestation; traditional forest-related knowledge; forest conservation and protected areas; research priorities; valuation of forest goods and services; economic instruments, tax policy and land tenure; future supply of and demand for wood products and non-wood forest products; and rehabilitation of forest cover. FAO had assisted the Secretariat with the preparation of background documents on the last two topics and introduced these documents at IFF-II.

29. In the background discussion on programme element II.e, Forest-related work of international and regional organizations and under existing instruments, the Forum called on the governing bodies of relevant international and regional organizations and instruments to:

The Forum called on the secretariats of the ITFF member organizations to develop a comprehensive Directory of forest-related international and regional organizations and instruments engaged in forest-related activities, including their mandates, missions, organizational structures, programmes, activities, personnel and budget, as well as information on collaborative forest-related work. The Forum also called upon relevant international organizations to consider in their relevant policies and programmes, the needs and requirements of developing countries and countries with economies in transition (with special attention to countries with low forest cover) and to integrate forest-related aspects in programmes aimed at poverty alleviation, decreasing population pressures, promoting food security, and promoting environmental awareness.

Government-led Initiatives in Support of the Work Programme of the IFF

30. At IFF-II the G-77 introduced a broad-ranging document highlighting the needs of countries with low forest cover. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that an International Meeting on the Special Needs and Requirements of Developing Countries with Low Forest Cover will be organized in 1999, in cooperation with other interested countries and international organizations.

31. Other government-led initiatives announced at IFF-II were:


Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC)

32. The Kyoto Protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted at the third Conference of the Parties (1-10 December 1997) makes explicit reference to land use change and forestry under several of its articles (for more detail, see COFO-99/Inf. 5). Following the recommendations of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) in (June 1998), there have been a number of specialised workshops on the articles related to forestry matters. FAO contributed to the SBSTA and IPCC meetings in Rome in 1998 and will provide inputs and collaborate in the review of the special report of the IPCC. COP-4, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina (2-13 November 1998), further defined the Clean Development Mechanism envisaged by the Kyoto Protocol (Article 12).

UN Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought

33. The first Conference of the Parties (COP) was hosted by FAO (Rome, 1997). Implementation has progressed in a limited number of countries, including Cape Verde, Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso. In preparation for COP-2 (Dakar, November 1998), a number of workshops were held on key technical and policy areas and issues. The workshops suggested the establishment of a number of thematic networks to promote exchange and cooperation in the generation, dissemination and use of experience. A cooperative process was started between FAO and IFAD to support the implementation of the CCD and a memorandum of understanding was negotiated. FAO, in cooperation with SIDA and CIRAD-Forêt, produced a review on "Management of Natural Tropical Dry Forests" which was discussed, along with other issues related to drylands, at a satellite meeting at the XI World Forestry Congress.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

34. COP-4, held in Bratislava, Slovak Republic (4-15 May 1998), concluded with important agreements on several elements, including international work programmes on forest biodiversity and marine and coastal area ecosytems. The programme of work on forests, reflecting a three-year planning effort, will focus on:

The SBSTA was requested to advise COP-6 on the status and trends in forest biological diversity and the identification of options for its conservation and sustainable use. An out-posted FAO officer in the Secretariat of the CBD ensures coordination.

Other UNCED follow-up activities

35. ECOSOC resolution 1998/30 of July 1998, followed by General Assembly resolution 53/24 of 10 November 1998, proclaimed the year 2002 as the International Year of Mountains. As Task Manager of Chapter 13 of Agenda 21, FAO was invited by ECOSOC to serve as the lead agency for the Year. This was endorsed by the FAO Council at its 115th session in November 1998. At COP-4 (1998), mountain ecosystems was chosen as a thematic issue for COP-7 in 2001.

36. In 2000 the CSD will examine the sectoral theme related to Agenda 21 Chapter 10, "Integrated Planning and Management of Land Resources", together with the economic sector "Agriculture". FAO and the Government of the Netherlands will organize a conference to consider progress in multifunctional and agriculture land management.


37. The Committee may wish to consider encouraging the following actions by member countries and by FAO:

Action by governments

Action by FAO Action by governments and by FAO