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Bellagio Strategy Meeting on Tropical Forests calls for policy reforms

Statement of the Bellagio Strategy Meeting on Tropical Forests
The Conference recommendations

THE BELLAGIO MEETING sending an urgent message to world leaders to conserve tropical forest

Reforms at policy levels by governments and development assistance agencies are urgently needed in order to save the world's tropical forests. This is the opinion of a group of government leaders and heads from the world's principal aid agencies who met on 1-2 July 1987 at a tropical forestry strategy conference in Bellagio, Italy under the auspices of FAO, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Resources Institute and the Rockefeller Foundation.

As an example of the kinds of reforms needed, the meeting recommended that "national governments should act to remove subsidies and other inappropriate policies that encourage economic inefficiency and overharvesting of forest resources".

Development assistance agencies, both national and international, were told that they should be sure that their policies "contribute to the protection rather than the destruction of natural ecosystems".

More private sector participation in reforestation was also called for, particularly by small farmers and local communities.

The group further called on world leaders to join in the Tropical Forestry Action Plan, and announced plans to meet again within a year to review specific proposals for policy responses, funding strategies, and institutional mechanisms to implement the conference recommendations.

Statement of the Bellagio Strategy Meeting on Tropical Forests

1-2 July 1987

A conference at Bellagio, Italy, on the state of the world's tropical forests called upon world leaders to join in a "Tropical Forestry Action Plan" aimed at conservation and sustainable use of remaining natural tropical forests for the benefit of developing country populations and the world at large.

The nature of the tropical forest crisis

Tropical forests are being rapidly destroyed. Their loss is one of the most serious environmental threats of our time.

Tropical deforestation in developing countries is having a devastating effect on food production, fuelwood and fodder supplies, soil fertility and water resources. It is undermining agriculture in these countries and exacerbating rural poverty. Specifically:

- more than half of the world's tropical forests have disappeared since the turn of the century;

- the current rate of deforestation exceeds 11 million hectares a year;

- the livelihood of 200 million forest dwellers is threatened;

- more than one billion people are suffering from shortages of fuelwood and fodder;

- developing country imports of forest products already exceed US$10 billion;

- the destruction of tropical forests is resulting in widespread loss of unique ecosystems, directly contributing to the extinction of plant and animal genetic resources.

More than half of the developing world's population live in the 56 most critically affected countries.

Among those attending the meeting were

Margaret Catley-Carlson, President, Canadian International Development Agency;
Kamla Chowdhry, Chairperson, National Wastelands Development Board, India;
Cheikh Cissoko, Minister for the Protection of Nature, Senegal;
Jorge Dengo, First Vice-President, Costa Rica;
William Draper III, Administrator, United Nations Development Programmer
John Evans, Chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation;
M. Haq, Minister of Planning and Development, Pakistan;
David Hopper, Senior Vice-President, World Bank;
General Olusegun Obasanjo, former Head of State, Nigeria;
James Gustave Speth, President, World Resources Institute;
M.S. Swaminathan, Director-General, International Rice Research Institute, the Philippines;
Mostafa K. Tolba, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programmer
Declan J. Walton, Deputy Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization;
Joseph C. Wheeler, Chairman, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The causes of deforestation are well known. They include population pressure for agricultural land, the demand for fuelwood and fodder, the unsustainable exploitation of forests for industrial timber production and export and inappropriate government policies regarding land tenure, economic incentives, forest settlement and other population issues. Development assistance agencies contribute to the problem when they finance environmentally unsound large-scale development projects.

The Tropical Forestry Action Plan has focused world attention on this crisis. The plan has been endorsed by forestry leaders of more than 60 developing countries and has been accepted as a basis for action by a score of bilateral and multilateral development assistance agencies. A doubling of annual forest assistance in support of the plan has been pledged, from US$500 million in 1984 to US$1 billion in 1988.

The Conference recommendations


The Bellagio Conference shares the sense of urgency for global action called for in the Tropical Forestry Action Plan. It concentrated on ten major recommendations for addressing the crisis of deforestation.

The Bellagio meeting was convened under the auspices of the:
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
World Bank
United Nations Development Programme
World Resources Institute
Rockefeller Foundation

1. Quantifying the costs of inaction

Tropical deforestation has been ignored or inadequately reflected in most government development plans. Action is needed on a country-by-country basis to specify the consequences for human welfare and the environment of the failure to contain deforestation. This is a necessary first step to generating political awareness and commitment.

2. Incorporation recommendations for action into national development plans

The urgency of the forestry crisis must be communicated to national economic planners and to financial and political leaders. Within five years all of the critically affected countries should have incorporated into their national development plans a long-range strategy for conservation and sustainable use of their tropical forests.

3. Promoting community participation

Developing countries should be assisted to implement a major programme for involving men and women of local communities in forest conservation and tree planting. Non-governmental organizations have a critical role to play in promoting action to save tropical forests and in assuring grass-roots participation. Special attention should be given to reclamation of agricultural wasteland and degraded watersheds.

4. Encouraging participation of the private sectors

Government forest administrations on their own cannot cope with this crisis. Policy incentives should be introduced that would provide the necessary stimulus for private sector participation in reforestation and sustainable forest management, particularly by small farmers and local communities. Women, who are the main harvesters and users of wood, should be more directly involved in formulating rural forest policies. Private industry should be encouraged through fiscal incentives and similar programmes to undertake large-scale industrial forest management and reforestation projects within a suitable legal framework which ensures net replenishment of forest resources.

5. Policy reforms

Policy reform is needed from both national governments and development assistance agencies. National governments should, for example, act to remove subsidies and other inappropriate policies that encourage economic inefficiency and overharvesting of forest resources. Development assistance agencies should, for example, revise policies that are contributing to the destruction of natural ecosystems, and design project strategies that favour protection of these valuable resources.

6. Protecting tropical forest ecosystems

Concerted international support should be given to a campaign for protecting the 700 million hectares of remaining tropical rain forest, the planet's greatest source of plant and animal diversity. This can be achieved by major expansions of protected areas and biosphere reserves. By encouraging more intensive and profitable use of degraded forest land, pressure on protected areas can be relieved.

7. Integration of forestry into broader land-use concerns

Important solutions to deforestation will come from outside the forestry sector. Increasing farmers' agricultural productivity provides an alternative to forest encroachment. Energy conservation programmes can be a cost-effective strategy for saving forests. Such solutions to deforestation will be discovered and implemented only if forestry planning is integrated with planning in other sectors.

8. Strengthening research

Technical, biological, socioeconomic and policy research must be intensified. As an example, there is significant potential to raise the productivity of multipurpose trees through breeding and biotechnology, thereby helping to meet rural basic needs. Substantially increased funding for such research will be necessary, and opportunities should be examined for establishing a consultative group on international forestry research and policy development, with a vision and determination comparable to the one organized for agriculture on this same site almost twenty years ago.

9. Monitoring of topical deforestation

An annual review of the status of world forest resources and of progress being made in halting forest destruction is urged. In addition to government and aid agency assessments, citizen reports should be encouraged on grassroots evaluation of whether national progress is being made in arresting deforestation.

10. Coordinating international action

The Tropical Forestry Action Plan provides an effective framework for coordinating international action. To help governments of developing countries to implement the plan, the Food and Agriculture Organization is supporting efforts to coordinate bilateral and multilateral agency assistance for strengthening forestry sector planning.

Follow-up action

An international task force will immediately begin to prepare specific recommendations for policy responses, funding strategies and institutional mechanisms necessary to implement these and related recommendations. A second Bellagio Forestry Conference to be held next year will review the task force recommendations and make proposals for their adoption.

Agreed at Bellagio, Italy
2 July 1987

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