World Forestry Congress approves 17-point declaration, Indonesian forest fires heat up discussion and media interest

Dense clouds of smoke from uncontrolled forest fires filling the air over large areas of Southeast Asia, as well as headlines around the world, gave even greater attention and importance to some of the critical global issues under discussion at the Eleventh World Forestry Congress, which closed 22 October.

Following ten days of intense discussions, delegates to the Congress reached agreement on a 17-point text known as the "Antalya Declaration". Among these points, countries were asked to develop and implement policies and management practices aimed at minimizing destructive wildfires on forest lands

Reducing or eliminating the use of fire as a land clearing technique in conversion of forest to other land uses was one such practice considered crucial in the wake of hundreds of fires deliberately set for clearing purposes that raged out of control in Indonesia recently, sweeping across some 270 000 hectares of land.

The Congress, held in Antalya, Turkey, from 13 to 22 October, brought together 4 200 participants from 145 countries. Under the theme of "Forestry for Sustainable Development: Towards the XXI Century", the meeting provided a chance for representatives from governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations including scientists, forest techicians and representatives from the private sector to exchange information and to debate the major issues affecting forests into the next millenium.

The Antalya Declaration, together with the report containing the Congress' main conclusions and recommendations, is expected to be one of the pillars of forest policy and initiatives into the next millennium. Presented at the closing ceremony, the Declaration calls for "increased political will to overcome the obstacles to achieving sustainable forest management". It noted "with alarm the continued rapid rate of forest loss and degradation in many regions of the world."

The Congress, which generally takes place every six years, was organized on this occasion by the Turkish Ministry of Forestry with technical advice provided by FAO. In considering whether the Congress had lived up to expectations, the head of FAO's Forestry Department, Assistant Director-General David A. Harcharik, said: "For FAO, the two most important goals of the Congress were achieved -- to provide a technical exchange of information about economic, social and environmental dimensions of managing forests, and to stimulate better partnerships between governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and the private sector".

The proceedings of the XI World Forestry Congress are available on CD-ROM and on the FAO Forestry Homepage.

30 October 1997

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