Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Tenth World Forestry Congress

Paris 1991


Meeting from 17 to 26 September 1991 at the Tenth World Forestry Congress in Paris, more than 2500 forestry decision-makers from 136 countries discussed and debated the challenges facing world forestry. Under the general theme, "Forests, a heritage for the future", the Congress participants discussed more than 100 specific topics, covering all aspects of forest conservation, management and use.

The Congress was initiated with addresses by national and international dignitaries and decision-makers, including French President François Mitterrand; President of the Commission of the European Communities Jacques Delors; FAO Director-General Edouard Saouma; French Minister of Agriculture and Forests Louis Mermaz; HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands; Edgar Pisani, former French Minister of Agriculture and Forests; and Maurice Strong, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development; and it concluded with the Paris Declaration, a solemn appeal to the public, political leaders and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

To complement the Paris Declaration, the Congress participants also produced a detailed set of conclusions and recommendations, aimed primarily at professional foresters. These conclusions and recommendations take into account all of the papers and reports prepared for the Congress (more than 700 in total) as well as the ideas expressed in the Congress discussions.

This issue of Unasylva contains the opening addresses by President Mitterrand and Mr Saouma, as weld as the text of the Paris Declaration. Complete copies of the Congress proceedings may be purchased through ENGREF, Revue forestière française, 14, rue Giradet, F54042 Nancy CEDEX, France.

The Paris Declaration

The Tenth World Forestry Congress,
having assembled more than 2500 participants from 136 countries from 17 to 26 September 1991;

considering the theme of the Eighth World Forestry Congress, held in Jakarta in 1978, "Forests for people";

considering the theme of the Ninth World Forestry Congress, held in Mexico City in 1985, "Forest Resources in the Integral Development of Society", and its manifesto which urged "all human beings of all nations and their governments, within the framework of their own sovereignty, to recognize the importance of forest resources for the biosphere and the survival of humanity";

considering the international conference, Silva, held in 1986, which concluded with the "Proclamation of Paris on trees and forests"; considering its own general theme, "Forests, a heritage for the future", and all the detailed conclusions and recommendations that it has adopted on each theme discussed;

considering the general concern about deforestation and degradation of the world's forests as a consequence of competition for land; inadequate management; and the emission of pollutants resulting from human activities, all of which have caused in various regions of the world, at different times and to varying degrees of irreversibility, the deterioration of the forest heritage;

considering that, rather than forest exploitation, the real causes of deforestation in developing countries are poverty, debt, underdevelopment and the requirement to meet the basic needs of rapidly growing populations;

considering that forest resources are an important factor in socioeconomic development, especially in rural development;

considering the responsibility of our generation toward future generations regarding the world's natural heritage;


the public, political leaders and international, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations throughout the world;

reminds them

· of the importance of the renewable goods and services provided by trees and forests in the face of growing demand for construction materials, fuel, animals, food, fodder, recreation areas...;

· of the wealth and diversity of forest environments, and of their positive role in water and carbon cycles, soil protection and the conservation of biodiversity;

· of the availability, too often ignored, of techniques for the sustainable management of trees and forests, which can ensure their permanence and even increase their capacity for providing goods and services;

· that it is essential to avoid irreversible damage to the biosphere; and

· of the advantages of long-term planning in the management of natural resources;


· that the real challenge is to reconcile the economic use of natural resources with protection of the environment through integrated and sustainable development;

· that the solution of forest problems requires common efforts to reduce poverty; increase agricultural productivity; guarantee food security and energy supplies; and promote development;

· that forest management plans can be used as comprehensive tools for managing the economic, ecological, social and cultural functions of the resource, thus enlarging the concept of sustained yield;

· that the preservation of specific forest areas in order to protect biodiversity constitutes a particular objective of forest management policy;

and recommends

· that all people be involved in the integrated development of their region, and that they be provided with the institutional, technical and financial means to do so;

· that land-management planning be based on the land's potential and on long-term priorities in order to determine sites that are best suited to be forested; and that the needs of all people concerned, particularly those who depend on forests for their livelihood, should be carefully taken into consideration at the planning stage;

· that the continuity of tree and forest management policies be guaranteed, given the need to manage forests on a long-term basis;

· that the designation of certain representative or endangered forests as protected zones continue, and that these areas be integrated into national or international networks;

· that appropriate silvicultural techniques, the extension of woodlands and the long-term use of wood be used to contribute to the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide;

· that agroforestry systems, afforestation and reforestation be developed more actively.

The Tenth World Forestry Congress,

aware of the seriousness, the urgency and the universality of development and environmental problems; emphasizing the renewable nature of forest resources and convinced of the soundness of solutions afforded by sustainable management of all the world's forests, within the context of national forestry policies,

solemnly calls upon decision-makers to:

commit themselves to the "Greening of the World" through afforestation, reforestation and sustainable management of the multiple functions of trees and forests; and to actions in the form of integrated programmes, involving the participation of all people concerned, in the context of national land management policies;

assess developments in the forest heritage at a national and international level, drawing on the global Forest Resources Assessment 1990 Project carried out by FAO;

limit all emissions of pollutants that damage forests; contain emissions of greenhouse gases, including those produced by power generation;

adapt economic and financial mechanisms to the long-term approach required for forest management, and increase national and international financial provisions, particularly in favour of developing countries;

work toward the harmonious development of international trade in forest products through the prohibition of any unilateral restriction that is inconsistent with GATT; and promote the utilization of forest products;

develop cooperative initiatives at the political level and on clearly identified forestry issues of regional importance, such as the fight against desertification, the protection of forests, the management of major watersheds, etc.;

strengthen and coordinate research and field trials, training and the exchange of information, as well as cooperation in all disciplines that contribute to sustainable management of forest ecosystems;

strengthen the activities of and coordination among the relevant international organizations;

integrate its conclusions and recommendations into the planning process of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, in order to define "a non-legally authoritative statement of principles for a global consensus on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests";


in the context of the current negotiations on biodiversity and climate change being conducted under the auspices of the United Nations;

strengthen international cooperation, particularly in the context of the Tropical Forestry Action Programme (TFAP), of a Mediterranean FAP and of other future programmes;

raise the awareness of the public, and more particularly of young generations, and disseminate information on forest issues so they will be better appreciated by all people;

envisage ways of following up its recommendations and invite FAO to advise the appropriate intergovernmental bodies and the Eleventh World Forest Congress of them.

Statement by Mr Edouard Saouma

Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations

Let me begin by saying how pleased I am that the Tenth World Forestry Congress is being held in Paris. France has a long and solid forestry tradition and its foresters have always sought to nurture and develop the national forest heritage with intelligence and determination; what is more, France plays a leading role in world forestry. Allow me, Mr President, to pay special homage to your love for the forest and to all the personal efforts and initiatives that this has inspired from the organization of the Silva Conference in 1986 to the present Congress.

Time does not allow me to list all these efforts, but I could hardly fail to mention France's support for the forest development programmes in the countries of the Third World, and the French-Finnish initiative which gave rise to the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of European Forests in December 1990.

United in this endeavour are France's partners in the European Community, which is becoming increasingly active in the protection and development of forests.

Mr President of the Commission of the European Communities, your presence among us today is an unequivocal testimony to the EEC's concern for our forest heritage and, considering its present and future relations with the Community, a source of pleasure to FAO.

I should also like to greet all the delegates and observers who bring to this Congress their expertise and devotion to the cause of the forest.

People and the forest

Mr Chairman, Paul Valery said that civilizations had learned that they were not everlasting. Ours today is fighting for its very survival and is acutely aware of the dangers involved. There are crucial implications for the future of the forest, as is clearly borne out by the theme of this Congress, "Forests, a heritage for the future". The undermining of this heritage can only jeopardize the future of all people.

The human relationship with the forest is decidedly ambiguous, for in our minds and imagination it conjures up both good and evil. The forest is the cradle of life, supplying shelter, food end wood for fuel, tools and housing; producing humus for bountiful soil; offering beauty and cool shade. But the forest is also a place of terror and fear; of impenetrable darkness, of oppressive silence where the slightest sound triggers alarm; the haunt of ferocious and vicious beasts; a mysterious labyrinth where the unknown lies in wait for those who lose their way.

This same ambiguity is found in our attitude to the forest. We see it as a precious legacy to pass on to future generations; we know it should be used sparingly and sustainably; we understand, without really knowing why, that it is vital to the health and equilibrium of the planet.

But, at the same time, we have to battle it to survive, carving out the space we need for our crops, villages, towns and factories. The greater our numbers, the bigger the area we clear and the more fuelwood and timber we wrest from the forest.

The receding forest

The forest is definitely expanding in the developed countries in spite of acid rain, forest fires and extensive construction. France's wooded area, for example, has virtually doubled in two centuries. However, there is less forested area in the industrially advanced countries as a whole than in the developing countries and the former are far better equipped to undertake the work of reforestation and rehabilitation. However we look at it, the forest cover is undeniably shrinking.

Resource inventory and assessment

As we approach the third millennium, the foremost issue before your Congress is to determine how we can conserve, enhance and manage our forest heritage to ensure sustainable development in me future. In this connection, I should like to touch upon a few essential points, but only briefly, as I have no wish to intrude upon your discussions.

First and foremost, we of course need to identify and to quantify the world's forest resources, to assess their condition and to make our findings widely known. And this can only be done by FAO. Ever aware of its responsibilities, FAO last year initiated a Forest Resources Assessment Project, the findings of which will be made available during the course of 1992.

Need for a global approach

The study's very title bespeaks the universal dimension of these problems: climate change, the imperilled environment and the North/South interchange are of concern to the whole world. Preserving and developing the essential functions of the forest must therefore be tackled as a worldwide undertaking on three fronts: the ecological, the economic and the social.

The underlying causes

It is easy to heap anathema upon the destruction that turns millions of hectares of tropical forests to ashes. But we need to realize that deforestation bears a smaller share of the blame for the greenhouse effect than does our consumption of fuel and fossil fuels. We also need to ask ourselves whether the domestic and international socioeconomic status of the countries in question is such as to leave them with any other choice. In this, as in many other instances, the only way of effectively influencing the results is to go back to the causes and to confront them head on.

These complex and multiple causes can far too often be summed up in a few words: poverty, meagre land assets, fragile soils and inadequate technical and financial resources all aggravated by spiralling population growth. Clearly, such situations cannot be resolved by restrictive covenants coupled with punitive clauses, or retaliatory measures designed to block exports of forest products and withhold aid to development.

Consultation and dialogue

Consultation and dialogue are the twin paths toward an international agreement that invites compliance while respecting the freedom and dignity of each country. We need vigorous action to tackle the root causes of deforestation and to remedy its attendant economic and ecological consequences. Our approach must be based on dialogue and partnership, at both the national and the international level, if we are to give top priority to the traditional wisdom and concrete needs of the populations involved.

The Tropical Forestry Action Programme

This is not as Utopian as it may sound, for an international mechanism with concrete functions, based precisely on such an approach, already exists. I refer to the Tropical Forestry Action Programme (TFAP), which FAO launched in 1985 in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the World Resources Institute. This is basically a programme to help the developing countries to halt the destruction and degradation of tropical forests, while pursuing forest conservation and sustainable development for the benefit of those to whom the forest provides home or livelihood.

The world expects this Congress to pursue such initiatives and to outline new, perhaps wider-ranging ones, particularly with a view to the upcoming 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. For our part' we eagerly await the Congress's recommendations.

The necessary resources

However, one thing needs to be clearly spelled out. As the experience of the developed countries and the implementation of the TFAP have shown, forest protection is an undertaking that requires unstinting financial resources over a comparatively long period of time. If the international community truly wishes to protect its forest heritage, it must agree to a time frame and scale of investment that are proportionate to such an ambitious goal.

Conclusion: the past and the future

Like the sea, the forest comprises the memory of the world - its apparent immobility failing to conceal the gradual erosion of its eternal regulatory function. With its trees, lichens, grasses and flowers; with its animals, birds and insects, and the hundreds of thousands of plant and animal species which the human hand has carelessly despoiled; with its impact on climate and hydrographic systems; the forest acts as a depository for a prehistoric world now largely lost, a vestige of and testimony to primitive humanity. As we witness the forest's gradual degradation, we are vaguely aware that our roots, our legends, our fantasies and our traditions are vanishing as well. But we are also witnessing the erosion of our hopes, for the past is but one facet of reality: the forest is also the arbiter of our future.

Only the forest can supply the countless products and services which tomorrow's generations will need; only its durability can guarantee that the planet remains in equilibrium; it alone can offer space, fresh air and tranquillity to the harassed citizens of our hectic world. We must preserve these attributes and the hope that the forest represents. The ecological, economic and social survival of our species is dependent on the existence of forest ecosystems that are extensive enough, healthy enough and wisely managed. The centuries-long work of foresters, with their extraordinary humanism, is founded on this firm conviction. The Tenth World Forestry Congress opens against this backdrop of immense hope, and, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you every success in your work.

Thank you.

Inaugural address by Mr François Mitterrand

President of France

A very beautiful exhibition is on show at this moment at the Natural History Museum in Paris. It is called "On a marché sur la terre" (Man Walked on the Earth) and it shows that the tree was one of the earliest forms of life to appear on our planet you already know this, but it is important that as many people as possible should realize it - one of the earliest forms of life and also one of the hardiest. Take the sequoia and the oak, for example, with their life spans of thousands and hundreds of years respectively.

The previous speakers did an admirable job of explaining the approach adopted by those present at your conference. And it is true that trees fashion our landscapes, help us build our habitat, regenerate the atmosphere and serve many other useful purposes.

Like you, I hold forests and trees very dearly. Forgive me for reminiscing, but for 35 years I was the elected representative of part of France where the woodlands were loved and respected. And subsequently I chose to live in another forest, the largest in Europe. I am aware, however, how fragile the trees and forests are, aware of the threats that assail them, of the vigilance needed to protect them, of the state of abandon and neglect in which some forests lie, and of how important it is for man to master the forest with his toil and his intelligence.

A tree felled unjustly, for no apparent reason, is a terrible thing, and it is sad to see how insensitive many people are to the beauty and the usefulness of the forest.

It is therefore a real joy for me to welcome the Tenth World Forestry Congress, as well as a great honour for my country. I should like to welcome all the delegates, who have come from more than 100 countries, I am told, mobilized by their common cause.

I extend my thanks to all the international organizations that are taking part in this encounter and, in particular, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, represented by its Director-General, Mr Saouma. The United Nations is the driving force behind numerous initiatives in favour of environmental protection. A moment ago you heard the President of the European Commission. It is just as well that these initiatives exist, for there is no denying that trees and forests, and indeed plant life in general, can only be properly protected by all the states and nations of the world working together.

This heritage, which successive generations use and seek to make prosper, could well disappear, you know it could. It is disappearing even now. According to estimates by FAO, as the French Minister of Agriculture has already pointed out, 17 million ha of forest are disappearing every year. In terms that make it easier to grasp the magnitude of the drama, that is more than all the forests in France put together.

Alas, it is all too easy to understand why man has a tendency to destroy his forests. There is no lack of excuses. First of all, he needs room. Forest clearing is an age-old practice that exposes forests to the threat of increasing demographic pressure and deep-rooted habits. He also needs fuelwood, which leads to over exploitation or rather to the irrational exploitation of forests. The development of agriculture and industrial activities can also affect the forest environment. In fact, it is in order to prevent the undesirable effects of such activities that the French Government has implemented the National Environment Plan and reinforced its surveillance of the natural habitat.

The forests of Europe are also suffering, as Mr Delors just reminded us, from the effects of acid rain. The recent restrictions on atmospheric pollutant emissions agreed on by the countries of the EEC, and therefore by France, should remedy this. The new regulations should also help to limit the greenhouse effect and the resulting global warming that is also damaging the forests.

Finally, there are forest fires, accidental or intentional, something we are unfortunately all too familiar with in France. The only way to limit them is for man to control the situation by methodically clearing the undergrowth.

I firmly believe, and your presence here confirms, that the damage being wrought on our common heritage has alerted public opinion and brought about a sort of awakening: man face to face with his destiny. Protecting this heritage is a job for each and every one of us, even our children, who must be taught in-school that their very survival depends on the respect they show for the environment.

Forests, need I repeat yet again, are a source of economic, social and cultural wealth, a vital component of the ecological balance of the biosphere, as Mr Saouma so rightly observed.

Let us join together to make all the citizens of the world, particularly the young, realize how fragile trees are, and to teach them a sense of time and of the individual and collective responsibility incumbent on us all to protect the trees.

Today citizens, scientists and poets alike must join together in defending the forests. A worthy cause if ever there was one.

But protecting the environment, and therefore the forests, means coordinating the action taken by the different countries, rich and poor. This is clear from the remarks made by previous speakers. What right have we to reproach the populations of the tropical regions, for example, for contributing to the destruction of their forests when they do so in order to meet their immediate needs for survival? After all, that is precisely what the inhabitants of what have now become industrialized countries did through the centuries. Who are we to preach?

The solution to these problems does not lie in imposing protective regulations. No more does it lie in classifying the tropical forests as a vast natural reserve not to be exploited under any circumstances.

International solidarity can guarantee that the basic needs of the populations concerned are satisfied, and teach [these populations], through cooperation, to manage and renew their forest resources. If the countries of the North commit themselves further to helping the countries of the South, in this field as in others, I for one should be pleased for you, even if we are motivated by a certain self-interest, for it is a healthy self-interest, an ecological self-interest.

The vicious circle of poverty overpopulation, famine, need for land, uncontrolled deforestation - must he broken. We must reach the hearts and the minds of men and leaders. It is the result that matters, not the motives; let us help each other, let us spread the message to every man, woman and child that their destiny is at stake.

This was the message of the appeal launched in The Hague by France and 23 other countries in March 1989. It is also my own message, not only to you here today, but also at each summit meeting of the major industrialized countries every year.

The United Nations has recognized the importance of these efforts by organizing a grand world environment meeting in Rio in June 1992. It will be an opportunity for the countries of the North and the South to consider how best they can work together toward lasting ecological development for mankind and for the planet as a whole.

My country, which welcomes you with the pleasure I expressed earlier, wanted to make its own contribution to this important encounter. I have therefore invited non-governmental organizations all over the world to come to Paris in December for a preparatory meeting. And your conference will be another essential step toward this encounter.

You see, ladies and gentlemen, our societies are too concerned with overcoming their day-to-day problems; they must remember that the protection I of trees, and of nature in general, is set to I a different time-scale, one that is measured in centuries. We must all understand the sacrifices we must accept today if our forests are to survive, now and in centuries to come.

Henceforth, environmental questions must be included in basic education, starting in primary school.

Your conference will help us all, politicians, scientists and citizens of the world, to protect the common heritage of all humankind in the most democratic and, therefore, the fairest possible way, based on cooperation among peoples and on the education and awareness of the young.

In inaugurating your work here, I wish to testify to the importance France attaches to this rich forest heritage. I wish you a positive and fruitful conference and, beyond the difficulties that face us today and those we will encounter in the future, which will require determination, tenacity, intelligence and awareness, I hope your conference will give shape to new hopes. And in this spirit let me say: work welt good luck to you all, and meet again soon to see what progress has been made. Henceforth you too are accountable for the life of humankind on earth.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page