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The international dialogue and initiatives with relevance to forests

Intergovernmental initiatives
International forestry research efforts
Private sector and NGO initiatives

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) reflected both the broader concerns of civil society and a major intergovernmental commitment to forests. Major intergovernmental initiatives on forestry or related issues have been launched following UNCED, including the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and of associated meetings, and international conventions related to certain aspects of forest conservation and development. Non-governmental groups, particularly private sector organizations and NGOs, have participated substantially in many of the UN-led initiatives. They have been forceful players in the international dialogue and have launched various activities of their own. Together these initiatives represent an unprecedented level of international activity and focus on forestry.

Intergovernmental initiatives

The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) Two major texts on forests were adopted at UNCED:

'The Non-legally Binding Authoritative Statement on Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of Forests' (referred to as the 'Forest Principles'); and Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 ('Combating Deforestation'). These two documents, signed by a conference of states, represent the first international consensus on forests.

The Forest Principles constitutes a type of 'forest instrument' related to the conservation and Sustainable development of forest resources in individual countries. The Forest Principles, recognizing the sovereign right of countries over their forest resources, provides a framework, while allowing countries flexibility to manage their forest resources according to their own goals and environmental policies. Some countries continue to discuss the merits of negotiating a legally-binding global instrument on forests.

Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 is regarded as a broad and balanced foundation for the conservation, management and development of all types of forests. It urges countries to develop forest strategies and contains a comprehensive description of the various policy areas which can address deforestation. Large parts of Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 deal with the importance of ensuring the participation of affected population groups in forest conservation and development programmes.

Both documents propose general principles and programmes for action, but they do not provide precise guidance on topical issues. For this reason, the third session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)1 in its first review of forests (April 1995), established an 'open-ended ad hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests' (IPF), which is to report to its fifth session in 1997. An IPF Secretariat attached to the UN Department on Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD) was created and based in New York.

1 The CSD is an Intergovernmental body of 53 member countries, created in 1993 by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations to follow the implementation of the UNCED agreements. The CSD has met once a year since 1993.

DPCSD hired a Coordinator, and it, along with FAO, UNDP, UNEP and ITTO each provided a senior professional to staff the Secretariat. A number of programme elements, or forestry issues, were identified for IFF to address (see Box 1). In order to ensure coherent support from the UN system, an informal Inter-Agency Task Force on Forests (ITFF) was formed. The World Bank, UNDP, ITTO, UNEP, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, DPCSD and FAO are members, and ITFF is currently chaired by the head of the Forestry Department of FAO.

It is expected that IPF will make substantive progress towards encouraging international consensus on key issues related to forests. The Panel's deliberations are expected to result in, among other things: improved national forest policies and development strategies; improved international coordination and cooperation; expanded coverage of forest resources assessment; and improved understanding of environmental implications of harvesting and trade of forest products.

A large number of ongoing processes, initiatives and meetings (see Box 2) related to IPF have been held in 1996, the results of which have been considered in IPF deliberations.

While intergovernmental in nature, IPF has also drawn extensively upon the expertise and resources of relevant organizations within the UN system, and from non-governmental and private organizations outside the UN system. These organizations have participated directly in meeting discussions and in the preparation of documents.

Box 1
List of IPF programme elements

I. Implementation of forest-related decisions of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at the national and international levels, including an examination of sectoral and cross-sectoral linkages.

I.1 Progress in national forest and land-use plans.

I.2 Underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation.

I.3 Traditional forest-related knowledge.

I.4 Fragile ecosystems affected by desertification, and the impact of airborne pollution on forests.

I.5 Needs and requirements of countries with low forest cover.

II. International cooperation in financial assistance and technology transfer for sustainable forest management.

III. Scientific research, forest assessment and development of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.

III.1 (a) Assessment of the multiple benefits of all types of forests.

III.1 (b) Methodologies for proper valuation of the multiple benefits of forests.

III.2 Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.

IV. Trade and environment in relation to forest products and services.

V. International organizations and multilateral institutions and instruments, including appropriate legal mechanisms.

V.1 International organizations and multilateral institutions and instruments.

V.2 Contribution to consensus building towards further implementation of the Forest Principles, including appropriate legal instruments and mechanisms covering all types of forest.

The IPF scheduled a total of four meeting sessions during its term:

i) IPF-1: 11-15 September 1995, New York;

ii) IPF-2: 11-22 March 1996, Geneva;

iii) IPF-3: 9-20 September 1996, Geneva; and

iv) IPF-4: 11-21 February 1997, New York.

The IPF will submit its final report to the Fifth Session of the CSD in April 1997. The report will be used as input into the CSD's report on progress since UNCED, which will be presented to the Special Session of the UN General Assembly to be held from 9 to 13 June 1997.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted at UNCED and enacted on 29 December 1993. As of October 1996, the Convention had been signed by 162 countries and ratified by 140. It is the first global attempt to address the conservation of biological diversity in natural habitats (including forest ecosystems), going beyond existing agreements for conserving species diversity, which mainly impose restrictions on trade and utilization of certain species.

The goal of the CBD is to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and to ensure equitable distribution of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources.

Box 2
List of IPF-related international initiatives

International experts group study on International Organizations, Multilateral Institutions and Instruments in the Forest Sector, sponsored by Switzerland and Peru (meetings in Geneva in March and June 1996).

International Conference on Certification and Labelling of Products from Sustainably Managed Forests, sponsored by Australia (Brisbane, May 1996).

Workshop on Financial Mechanisms and Sources of Finance for Sustainable Forestry, sponsored by Denmark and South Africa (Pretoria, June 1996).

International experts consultation 'Implementing the Forest Principles: Promotion of National Forests and Land-use Programmes', sponsored by Germany (Feldafing, June 1996).

Experts meeting on Rehabilitation of Forests' Degraded Ecosystems, sponsored by Cape Verde, Portugal and Senegal (Lisbon, June 1996).

International symposium on the Non-Market Benefits of Forests, sponsored by the UK (Edinburgh, June 1996).

Joint experts working group on Certification of Forest Products and International Trade, sponsored by Germany and Indonesia (Bonn, August 1996).

Intergovernmental Seminar on Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management, sponsored by Finland (Helsinki, August 1996).

'Long-term trends in Supply and Demand for Wood Products and Possible Implications for Sustainable Forest Management'. Study funded by Norway. (Report available September 1996.)

Seminar on Sustainable Forestry and Land-use: the Process of Consensus Building, sponsored by Sweden and Uganda (Stockholm, October 1996).

International workshop on Integrated Application of Sustainable Forest Management Practices, sponsored by Canada, Japan, Malaysia and Mexico (Kochi, Japan, November 1996).

International Meeting of Indigenous and Other Forest-Dependent People on the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Forests, sponsored by Colombia and Denmark (Leticia, Colombia, December 1996).

The CBD respects the principle of national sovereignty, recognizing a nation's right to decide on the use of, and access to, its biological diversity resources, provided that there is no resulting damage to the environment in areas beyond the limits of the country's jurisdiction.

At its second meeting, held in Montreal on 2-6 September 1996, the CBD's Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) discussed the question of links between CBD and IFF. The SBSTTA meeting made a number of recommendations which were forwarded to the Third Session of IPF held later that month. The issues highlighted concerned the need for IPF to address gaps in knowledge about forest-based biological diversity; the use of an ecosystem approach in the IPF programme element on national forest and land-use plans and the integration of conservation measures and sustainable use of biological diversity in such plans; and the inclusion of biological diversity conservation and maintenance of forest quality in the IPF programme element on criteria and indicators.

At its Third Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 4-15 November 1996, the Conference of the Parties (COP) agreed to improve the focus of its work programme and future agenda, define its relationship with other international regimes, and develop guidelines for action on a number of substantive issues. To this end, COP took several key decisions, one regarding the elaboration of a realistic work programme on agricultural biological diversity, and a more limited one on forest biological diversity. In regard to biological diversity contained in forest ecosystems, the meeting, in its final report, affirmed that some forests can play a crucial role in conserving biological diversity, and stressed that CBD will work in a complementary way with IPF and other forest-related fora in these issues, The report of COP-III endorses SBSTTA's recommendation (11/8), which focuses SBSTTA's initial work programme on devising methodologies for the development of criteria and indicators for the conservation of biological diversity, and on analysing the impact of human activity on the loss of forest biodiversity. These decisions were transmitted to the Fourth Session of IPF.

The Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) The Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was adopted at UNCED, aims to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous human-caused disturbances of the climate system. The FCCC provides a framework for protecting the climate, but stops short of requiring countries to reduce their CO2 emissions. It does, however, commit the signatory states to carry out national surveys of greenhouse gas emissions and to develop national programmes to address this issue.

Several passages of the Convention take into account the importance of forests as a source or potential sink of carbon, and their role in climate regulation. The Convention has had a relatively minor impact as an instrument for influencing forestry, however, due in part to the wide range of ecological, economic, and social issues which have to be considered in addressing deforestation but which lie beyond the scope of the Convention on Climate Change.

The 11th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which met in Rome from 11 to 15 December 1995, announced that global warming is continuing and that the earth's temperature could rise between 1 °C and 3.5 °C by the year 2100. The 'discernible human influence' on climate was clearly highlighted, as was the role of forests in both greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration.

The role of forestry to mitigate climate change was discussed at the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties (8-19 July 1996). An extensive list of policies and measures that could be included in a protocol or another legal instrument was presented. Among other things, the signatory states were called upon not to harvest more wood volume than can be sustainably produced. They were also urged to observe the elements of CBD, the Forest Principles, and the results of IPF's work as they pertain to the protection and sustainable management of forests.

Although the form that legal measures will take for implementation of the Convention is still uncertain, the Conference of Parties has openly taken a stand in support of obligating its member states to protect and sustainably manage their forests.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD)

After adopting Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 (Desertification Control), UNCED recommended the negotiation of an international convention on desertification. The 47th session of the UN General Assembly in 1992 subsequently adopted resolution 47/188 calling for the establishment of an 'Intergovernmental Committee for the Negotiation of a Convention to Combat Desertification (INCD) in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa'.

The Convention was negotiated between May 1993 and June 1994, when the 5th session of INCD (Paris 6-17 June) finalized a text of the Convention, four regional implementation annexes (Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the northern Mediterranean), separate resolutions recommending Urgent Action for Africa, and interim dispositions in the period before full ratification. The signature ceremony of the Convention was held in Paris on 14-15 October 1994. As of November 1996, the Convention had been ratified by more than 50 countries and came into force in December 1996. The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties is planned for October 1997 and will be held in Rome.

The objective of this Convention is 'to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa, through effective action at all levels, supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements, in the framework of an integrated approach which is consistent with Agenda 21, with a view to contributing to the achievement of sustainable development in affected areas'.

The implementation of the Convention started immediately in Africa as the result of the resolution on special measures for Africa. A number of regional technical, programming and awareness-raising meetings were held in early 1995. International consultations were also held to look at: the practical aspects of partnership building; decentralization issues; national primary responsibility; concept and process of formulation of National Action Programmes; establishment of benchmarks and criteria and indicators for implementation; and national and international funding mechanisms.

The Indigenous People's Convention The Indigenous People's Convention was introduced by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 1989. The Convention calls upon the signatory countries 'to take measures to protect and preserve the environment of the territories that people inhabit'. It recognizes the ownership and property rights of indigenous people to the lands (and the resources thereon) that they have traditionally inhabited, including forests (and forest resources). The Convention calls for more diversified use of forest products and the need for a 'more equitable' distribution of income from forest use, and addresses topics of planning, coordination and decision-making mechanisms. It is therefore complementary to the CBD and other instruments which have an interface with some aspects of forest conservation and development. Because the Convention establishes only a very general framework, however, it is expected to reinforce other efforts related to sustainable forest conservation and management but to have minimal direct impact itself.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was implemented in 1973. It was the first global agreement of its kind, arising early in the evolution of the international environmental debate. The Convention calls for certain restrictions to be imposed on trade in threatened and endangered species, including a number of tree species (see pages 71-72).

The International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) The first International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) was negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) from 1977 to 1982. It was adopted in November 1983 and came into force on 1 April 1985. Its Secretariat, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), was set up in November 1986 in Yokohama, Japan.

The Agreement is based on four essential elements: market intelligence; reforestation and forest management; further and increased processing in producer countries; and research and development. Although originally conceived as a commodity agreement, it has evolved into an international framework for tropical timber development which takes into consideration environmental concerns.

ITTO has a current membership of 53 countries - 26 producer countries and 27 consumer countries. It continued to operate through 1996 under ITTA 1983, although the agreement formally expired on 31 March 1994. A new agreement was adopted in 1994 and brought into force on 1 January 1997 for an initial duration of four years and extendable for a total of ten years.

The new agreement has some significant differences from the original ITTA. In some places, the term 'tropical forests' has been replaced with 'timber producing forests', thus allowing for possible expansion of some elements of the agreement beyond the tropics. The new agreement is characterized by an increased focus on sustainable forest management and explicitly refers to the Forest Principles. It pledges:'... to enhance the capacity of members to implement a strategy for achieving exports of tropical timber and timber products from sustainably-managed sources by the Year 2000'; to increase 'the capacity to conserve and enhance other forest values in timber producing tropical forests';

and 'to encourage members to develop national policies aimed at sustainable utilization and conservation of timber-producing forests...'. The new ITTA calls for the establishment of a Bali Partnership Fund which would provide financial support to producing countries to enable them to make the investments required to introduce sustainable forest management.

The ITTO 'Year 2000 Objective' under which, in 1990, producer members committed themselves to having all international trade in tropical timber come from sustainably managed forests by the year 2000, has become a major focus of ITTO's work. Consumer member countries have also indicated that they will follow similar commitments for their own forests.

International forestry research efforts

The need for greatly increased efforts in tropical forestry research was recognized in the late 1970s. Several meetings (the World Forestry Congress in Indonesia, 1978; the Congress of the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) in Kyoto, 1982; and the Bellagio meetings in 1987 and 1988) highlighted the fact that investment in agricultural research had resulted in major improvements in productivity, and that investments in forestry research were significantly less than those made in agricultural research (for equivalent product value, even valuing just the timber). Research on forests has not only suffered from a lack of resources;

it has not been sufficiently interdisciplinary to provide an integrated view of forestry. The following actions have addressed some of these concerns: the creation of the International Council on Research in Agroforestry in 1977 and its integration into the CGIAR network in 1993; the launching of the Special Programme for Developing Countries (SPDC) of IUFRO in 1983; and the establishment of the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor, Indonesia in 1993 as part of the CGIAR network of international agriculture research centres. IPGRI, the International Plant Genetic Resource Institute, another Centre of the CGIAR, has included forest species in its programme since 1994.

In December 1995, CIFOR organized a policy dialogue on 'Science, Forests and Sustainability', hosted by the Government of Indonesia. The objective of this meeting was to identify and consider the key knowledge and research needs for supporting sustainable forest management to meet human needs, both now and in the future. It concluded that forest research must broaden its horizons and adopt a more holistic approach. It must attempt to address all functions, values and potentials of all types of forests and for the many and varied groups involved in forest management and development.

Private sector and NGO initiatives

The number and types of organizations demanding a greater role in decision making about forests is now both extensive and diverse, including private companies, rural associations, NGOs, unions and others. Many have expressed their views and participated in the UN-sponsored initiatives to promote sustainable forestry, and some have launched their own activities. Additional collaborating mechanisms are being sought and existing ones improved to gain the benefit of their interaction and ideas.

Private sector initiatives

The private sector, in particular the paper and wood products industry, has taken initiatives for the promotion of improved forest management. Industries in several countries have been involved in the development of industry guidelines and procedures relating to forest management, and are encouraging or developing schemes for the voluntary certification of products. The private sector has been closely involved with UNCED and with the efforts to develop criteria and indicators. They have also been active in such things as improved pollution controls and the more efficient use of raw materials.

These various activities and the organizations are too numerous to discuss in detail but some examples are given below:

· The Canadian Pulp and Paper Association organized a consultation on UNCED follow-up for its members in March 1995. Certification, criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, forest principles and practices, clean technology, trade and environment and public participation were discussed.

· Both the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) - which is a coalition of 120 international companies from 34 countries with more than 20 major industrial sectors including forestry - and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) are involved in the promotion and implementation of sustainable forest management. Since UNCED, members have reviewed and improved forest management practices. They have participated in the IPF process, stressing the need for the private sector to play an active role in a number of areas, including the encouragement of industry waste minimization and reducing air and water pollution.

· In October 1996, the Confederation of European Paper Industry organized a forum on 'Forest Management and Paper: Growing Cooperation', which addressed issues relating to European forest industry and forest owners activities in sustainable forest development, in order to sensitize the European Parliament and the European Commission to its importance.

Non-governmental organization (NGO) initiatives

Non-governmental organizations are a diverse group with a wide range of objectives and orientations. International NGOs, and some national ones, play a number of different roles at the international level. They cover a broad scope of activities, including: project funding and execution (particularly in nature conservation, rural development and other forest-related field activities); support to national forest programmes; development of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management; the certification of sustainably-produced forest products; research in policy development; lobbying national governments and international organizations; and education and public awareness.

Some international NGOs are particularly well-positioned to contribute to international debates, and are playing an increasingly active role (in some cases a leading one) in international fora on policy discussions. They are being increasingly recognized as a valuable vehicle through which a broader range of interests and views can be presented. Moreover, they are able to achieve a much wider input into international fora than would otherwise be possible. Many NGOs have effective and wide-reaching networks through which they can disseminate information to members at the national, local and grassroots levels.

It is beyond the scope of this report to discuss the extensive range of NGOs active in international activities related to forestry and rural development. However, one example which may be mentioned is the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development (WCFSD). This is an independent body set up in June 1995 and composed of nineteen political and scientific leaders from around the world. Its aim is to work at the international level to help reconcile conflicts between groups with different views of the role of forests, to assist national governments pursuing key policy reforms, and to mobilize support to strengthen scientific research. To do this it has, to date, convened two of a planned five regional public hearings: the first in Indonesia in March 1996; and the second in Canada in September/October 1996. These provided an opportunity for a range of interest groups to present their views on aspects relating to the integration of development and conservation.

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