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World of forestry

Birmingham G8 Summit adopts action programme on forests

The heads of state or government of the world's leading industrialized nations have met annually since 1975 to address the major economic and political issues facing their nations and the international community as a whole.

The 1998 meeting of the group, renamed G8 following the inclusion of the Russian Federation as a full member, was hosted by the United Kingdom in the city of Birmingham from 15 to 17 May.

Recognizing the continuing pressure on the world's forests and the positive contribution that sustainable forest management can make to sustainable development, the participants at the 1997 session in Denver, Colorado (United States) agreed to develop and support a practical action programme.

The resulting programme, which was adopted by the 1998 session, focuses on domestic action in the G8 member countries and areas where these countries can make unique contributions through their bilateral assistance programmes and support for intergovernmental processes. There are five areas of activity: monitoring and assessment; national forest programmes; protected areas; private sector; and illegal logging.

Monitoring and assessment

The G8 members agreed to monitor and assess the state of their own forests; to provide information based on these assessments to the FAO forest resource assessment processes; and to work with partner countries in building national capacity for monitoring and assessing the state of forest resources.

National forest programmes

The participants drew attention to the call by the UN General Assembly Special Session for all countries to formulate national forest programmes by 2002. The action plan commits G8 members to sharing experience in developing and implementing national forest programmes; to giving priority in technical and financial assistance to partner countries that privilege sustainable forest management; and to supporting partner countries in the elaboration and implementation of national forest programmes.

Protected areas

G8 members agree to work in appropriate fore to achieve consensus on categories of protected areas and their benefits; to analyse and categorize their existing protected forest areas and identify key forest types not sufficiently represented in the different categories of protection; and to work with partner countries to maintain and, where necessary, establish protected forest areas and associated networks aimed at protecting important forest biodiversity and other ecological values.

Private sector

The action programme notes that sustainable forest management is not possible without the positive involvement and commitment of the private sector. The action programme commits the G8 countries to encouraging the private sector, and particularly forest-related industries, to develop and apply voluntary codes of conduct that support sustainable forest management; to examine ways of promoting private investment and partnerships in sustainable forest management; to assist partner countries in developing regulatory, frameworks that encourage responsible and efficient practices by the private sector.

Illegal logging

In this area, the G8 countries agree to encourage the sharing of information and assessments on the nature and extent of international trade in illegally harvested timber as a basis for developing practical and effective countermeasures.

Third Ministerial Conference on European forest protection

From 2 to 4 June 1998, ministers responsible for forests in European countries gathered in Lisbon, Portugal, for the Third Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe. Building on the deliberations and outcomes of the previous conferences (held in Strasbourg in 1990 and Helsinki in 1993), the ministers adopted a general declaration, supported by two resolutions.

In the General Declaration, the ministers describe a common vision of a European forest sector that optimizes its contribution to sustainable development, while respecting the social, economic, environmental and cultural functions of forests. The vision describes an effective partnership between society at large and the forest sector - a partnership that recognizes the role of forests as a key renewable resource, and the responsibility of Europe in demonstrating the possibility to integrate all forest functions and of innovative generation and use of wood and non-wood forest products and services.

Based on this vision, the ministers commit themselves to: enhancing the social and economic elements of sustainable forest management and strengthening the links between the forest sector and the rest of society. In this regard, they adopted Resolution L1: People, forests and forestry enhancement of socio-economic aspects of sustainable forest management.

The General Declaration also commits the participating countries to fostering sustainable forest management by adopting a set of six pan-European criteria for sustainable forest management. This commitment is supported by Resolution L2: Pan-European criteria and indicators and operational guidelines for sustainable forest management.

At a more general level, the ministers also agree to take national and cooperative actions to facilitate the implementation of the decisions of the UN General Assembly Special Session regarding the action proposals of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and its successor the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF). They agree to continue to share the results obtained to date in the pan-European process with all interested parties, and to develop collaborative programmes to implement the decisions of the Lisbon Conference.

The Declaration concludes with a renewal of the G8 commitment to the adoption of a global, legally binding instrument on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forest and a promise to work towards this end through the IFF process.

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