Press Releases

    ENV/DEV/857
    26 May 2005

    September Summit to Review Anti-Poverty Goals in Vain if Deforestation Continues, UN Forest Forum Told, as High-Level Segment Opens

    NEW YORK, 25 May (UN Headquarters) -- The global anti-poverty efforts to be made during September’s high-level review of the Millennium Summit would be in vain if deforestation continued, since the world depended fundamentally on natural resources like forests for development, the United Nations Forum on Forests was told today, as it opened the high-level segment of its fifth annual session.

    Addressing the government ministers, heads of organizations, and high-level representatives of the major groups, assembled for a policy dialogue on linkages between forests and the Millennium Development Goals, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development Jomo Kwame Sundaram said regional and global efforts for sustainable forest management must be strengthened.  The Forum’s members might wish to send a clear message to September’s meeting by addressing the underlying causes of deforestation and degradation, and by working towards lasting solutions to the issues that affected the millions of people worldwide who lived in forests.

    Speaking on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, Mr. Sundaram said sustainable forest management and the Millennium Development Goals would only be fully realized if the linkages between forests and related goals were understood and explored.  If the forest sector was to play its full role in helping to achieve internationally agreed goals, it was essential to align forest-related programmes with poverty reduction strategies.

    In opening remarks, Forum Chairman Manuel Rodriguez Becerra (Colombia) said that many participants had noted their dissatisfaction over the lack of implementation of agreed objectives for the sustainable management of forests during the previous nine days of the session.  The biggest challenge of the high-level segment was to decrease the gap between words and action; the Forum must give the world a clear signal that forests counted.  All delegations should take decisions at the highest political level, and with the energy and creativity to show the world the seriousness of the intention to reduce the gap between words and action.

    For her part, Buyelwa Patience Sonjica, Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry of South Africa, who acted as moderator of the dialogue, urged delegations to incorporate a critical examination of forests’ possible and existing contribution to attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  Among the questions to be addressed, she said, were whether or not the global forest community had intensified its efforts for the sustainable management, conservation and development of forests, as agreed at the Johannesburg Summit, and what should be done to put the global forest community into a better position.  What should future international arrangements on forests do to make provisions for meaningful interaction between all stakeholders?

    In response, those participating in the dialogue highlighted issues related to whether or not a legally binding instrument on sustainable forest management was desirable, with many emphasizing the importance of setting time-bound objectives with quantifiable targets and indicators, linked with the Millennium Development Goals.  Other commonly raised points included the need to ensure that sufficient financial resources and technological know-how were provided for implementation of agreed goals, and to ensure that global objectives also took local particularities and situations into consideration.  However, the overall consensus was that the international arrangement on forests must shift its focus from rhetoric to action.

    Addressing the Forum during the dialogue were ministerial-level representatives of Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union and associated countries), Austria, Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Ireland, Malaysia, Angola, Switzerland, Morocco, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Costa Rica, France and Kenya.

    Representatives of the International Union of Forestry Research, International Conservation Union, World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations Development Programme, Global Environment Facility and World Agroforestry Centre also spoke, as did representatives of the business and industry, scientific and technological, labourers and trade unions, youth and children, indigenous, small landowners, and non-governmental organizations major groups.

    During its afternoon session, the Forum held two round-table discussions on the themes:  “Restoring the World’s Forests” and “Forest Law and Governance for Sustainability”.  Among the principle points underscored in the first round table, speakers stressed that, while forests played different roles in different countries and regions, there were ways to find a balance between environmental and economic interests, in order for all to work together to achieve common goals.  The primary focus of discussion in the second round table, meanwhile, concerned methods to combat illegal logging practices.  Among other points, many participants drew attention to the important role to be played by the Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Ministerial processes.

    Keynote speakers for the first round table included Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Minister for Environment and Energy of Costa Rica; Octavie Modert, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Wineries and Rural Development of Luxembourg; Zhu Lieke, Vice-Minister of the State Forest Administration of China; and Henson Moore, President of the American Forest and Paper Association.

    Keynote speakers for the second included M.S. Kaban, Minister of Forestry of Indonesia, and Michael Ross, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Presentations on regional realities and processes were made by:  Chambrier Barro, Minister for Forest Resources, Water and Fisheries in charge of Environment and the Conservation of Nature of Gabon; Valery Roshchupkin, Director General of the Forestry Agency of the Russian Federation; Everton Vargas, Head of the Department on Environment and Special Themes, Ministry of External Relations of Brazil; and Rosalia Arteaga Serrano, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty.

    The Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 26 May, to continue its high-level policy dialogue on actions for the future.

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