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November 6, 2009: The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) met in Special Session at UN Headquarters in New York on Friday, 30 October 2009. At the special session, delegates reached a decision on the need for urgent global action to catalyze funding for sustainable forest management around the world. (Link)

The decision on financing for sustainable forest management marks the culmination of over seventeen years of debate on this issue, dating back to the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. “The adoption of this decision demonstrates the willingness of all the partners to work together in carrying out the mission of this Forum, i.e. to promote sustainable forest management to the benefit of our populations.” observed Fernando Coimbra, Head of the Environment Division, Brazilian Ministry of External Relations.

To respond to these concerns, this decision by the UN Forum on Forests launches two significant initiatives. The Forum will establish an intergovernmental process to conduct in-depth analysis of all aspects of forest financing over the next four years, and a “Facilitative Process” on forest financing, to assist countries to mobilize funding from all sources.

The intergovernmental ad hoc expert group will analyze existing financing strategies for sustainable forest management, and explore ways to improve access to funds, including the option of establishing a voluntary global forest fund.

The facilitative process addresses the special needs of countries that have faced a 20-year decline in forest financing. Specifically, these include least developed countries, low forest cover countries, high forest cover countries with low deforestation, low to medium income countries, small-island developing states and low-income countries in Africa.

To jumpstart the process, the Facilitative Process has received immediate support, including for a first concrete project on “Facilitating Financing for Sustainable Forest Management in small island developing States (SIDS) and Low-Forest Cover Countries (LFCCs),” from the Government of the United Kingdom. This project will be implemented by the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat as the first phase of a larger project with other phases to be financed by a large multilateral donor. The immediate objective of this first component of an overall project is to strengthen the capacity development of small island developing states and low forest cover countries to better address the main obstacles and challenges in financing sustainable forest management, and associated global, national and local environmental public goods, and to improve the governance frameworks to secure a conducive policy environment for sustainable forest management.


The United Nations Forum on Forests today launched two vital initiatives: an intergovernmental expert group to conduct in-depth analysis of all aspects of forest financing over the next four years; and a “facilitative process” on forest financing, to assist countries to mobilize funding from all sources.

Unanimously adopting a new resolution (E/CN.18/SS/2009/L.1) during a special session, the Forum established the open-ended ad hoc expert group which would also propose strategies for mobilizing resources to achieve the global objectives on forests, and the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests.

Further by the text, the Forum invited the members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and relevant stakeholders to support the work of the facilitative process and to actively engage to catalyse the implementation of sustainable forest management, the non-legally binding instrument, and the achievement of the global objectives, taking into account the special needs of Africa, the least developed countries, low-, high- and medium-forest cover countries, high-forest-cover low-deforestation countries and small island developing States.

The facilitative process should assist in mobilizing and supporting new and additional financial resources for sustainable forest management, facilitate transfer of environmentally sound technologies and capacity-building to developing countries, provide advice and share good practices and enhance coordination, cooperation and coherence among funding sources and mechanisms.

At the outset of the meeting, Arvids Ozols of Latvia, Chairman of the Forum, said the resolution would heighten the profile of forest management in the international agenda.  The debate of financing for sustainable forest management had been long and controversial and therefore the consensus that had been reached on the resolution was a “breakthrough”.  The focus now would be on addressing the needs and concerns of developing countries, small island developing States, and others that had suffered from a 20-year decline in forest financing.  He also noted links between the work of the Forest Forum and other processes, including on climate change.

The draft resolution was introduced by Boen Purnama of Indonesia, co-facilitator of the informal consultations together with Hans Hoogeveen of the Netherlands.  Mr. Purnama said the achieved consensus would send a strong message to the international community in the day and age where forests had to meet the needs of poverty eradication and environmental protection and that it was important to provide resources for the implementation of sustainable forest management.  It was also the Forum’s responsibility to convince the international community that sustainable forest management was one of the means to address climate change. 

After adoption of the draft, the representative of the Sudan, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 Developing Countries and China, said that although sustainable forest management played an important role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those on poverty eradication and environmental protection, the true obstacle was insufficient funding.  He said that today’s decision was far from perfect, but it recognized the need to mobilize resources, as well as the difficulties developing countries had in financing sustainable forest management.  Although the desired global forest fund had not been established, today’s decision had set forth possibilities to address that option.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Sweden’s representative said that adequate financing of sustainable forest management was crucial for the achievement of the four global objectives on forests and the effective implementation of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests.  The current agreement could allow States to now concentrate on the set of social issues linked to sustainable forest management for the benefit of forest policy, forest management and forest-depending peoples and livelihoods. 

The representatives of Australia and Canada stressed the need for the expert group to assist countries in accessing already existing but often under-utilized funds, while the representative of Algeria (speaking on behalf of the African Group) noted, among other things, the challenges in financing due to the complex and time-consuming procedures to be followed.

A representative of the World Bank, who underlined the importance the institution attached to sustainable forest management, noted that forests held about 80 per cent of biodiversity and were critical in addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In concluding remarks, Jomo Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the Forum had succeeded in taking a critical decision at a time of global efforts to fight climate change and had adopted the first-ever road map for means of implementation of sustainable forest management.  The decision would send a strong signal to the Copenhagen Conference, as forests played a pivotal role in any climate change mitigation and adaptation measures

In other business, the session adopted the draft report of its special session (E/CN.18/SS/2009/L.2).

The United Nations Forum on Forests was established in October 2000 by the Economic and Social Council resolution 2000/35 as an international policy forum to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and strengthen long-term commitment to that end.

Council resolution 2006/49, based on the outcome of Forum’s sixth session, contained a package of measures that greatly strengthened the international arrangement on forests, and provided clear guidance on the future work of the Forum.  In particular, the resolution included the adoption of the four shared Global Objectives on Forests:  reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide through sustainable forest management; enhance forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits; increase significantly the area of sustainably managed forests and increase the proportion of forest products derived from such forests; and reverse the decline in official development assistance for sustainable forest management and mobilize significantly-increased new and additional financial resources.

Following nearly 3 years of intense negotiations, the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007 (Resolution 62/98).  The Instrument was intended, among other things, to:  strengthen political commitment and action at all levels to implement effectively sustainable forest management; and provide a framework for national action and international cooperation.

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests was established in April 2001. Consisting of 14 major forest-related international organizations, institutions and convention secretariats, the Partnership works to support the work of the United Nations Forum on Forests and its member countries and to foster increased cooperation and coordination on forests

Also addressing the Forums’ special session were the representatives of the United States, Brazil, Indonesia (on behalf of the Forest-11, a group of rainforest countries), New Zealand and Switzerland.

Concluding remarks were also made by Hans Hoogeveen ( Netherlands), one of the resolution’s co-facilitators.

(For more information on the Forum’s previous meeting, please see Press Release ENV/DEV/1040.)

The United Nations Forum on Forests will meet again at a time and date to be announced.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut