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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Press Release
Octavie Modert at the United Nations Forum on Forestry

Date of release : 01-06-2005

Policy area : Environment Environment

The fifth session of the United Nations Forum on Forestry (UNFF-5) met from 16 to 27 May at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York to deal with the evaluation of the progress made and to turn to the review of future actions to be undertaken, to the evaluation of the effectiveness of the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF), to the review of the parameters of the mandate for preparing a legal framework applicable to all types of forest, and to the preview of the ways and means of improving cooperation and coordination of the policies and programmes. The IAF is an international arrangement composed of the United Nations Forum on Forestry (UNFF) and the Forest Collaboration Partnership (FCP), which brings together 14 international organisations working in the area of forests under the guidance of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and whose objective is to work for the protection, conservation and sustainable management of all forests, as well as to promote political commitment towards forests.

Luxembourg, on behalf of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, managed the negotiations for the 25 Member States of the European Union, and was represented by Octavie Modert, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development, accompanied by Frank Wolter, Deputy Director for the Administration of Water and Forests.

Based on the conclusions of the Agriculture Council of 26 April 2005, the Presidency had a clear and precise mandate for negotiation, advocating a strengthening of the current International Arrangement on Forests, the establishment of clear, quantifiable objectives with a target date for maintaining forest cover, the sustainable management of forests and the contribution to the Millennium Objectives, as well as a preference for requesting the negotiation of a binding legal instrument on all types of forest (convention, treaty, protocol, etc.).

During the high-level ministerial debate of the UNFF-5, the Ministers and those in charge of the international organisations, and in particular those of the Forest Collaboration Partnership, emphasised the contribution of forests and forestry to realising the agreed international development objectives, including those set forth in the Millennium Declaration. Among the connections mentioned were above all those most directly debated, that is, those that relate to the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger, to health, to a sustainable environment, to sustainable modes of consumption and production and to energy. Within this context, ecological viability, good governance and the importance of the national forestry programmes, the role of civil society and the effectiveness of Public Development Aid (PDA) were highlighted.

During the round tables on the restoration of forests and governance, Octavie Modert outlined the actions undertaken by the EU in the area of forestry, highlighting the restoration of forests as an integral part of European forestry policy, as well as the action plan of the EU to better apply Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). Octavie Modert also stated that the current International Arrangement on Forests has not succeeded in translating the recommendations of the Forum into actions on the ground, and she argued for a thorough change of this arrangement.

During the negotiations, the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU maintained a firm position on the need to develop a legal instrument for all types of forests, and to set global objectives on the management and protection of forests. These objectives are intended, by 2015, to counteract deforestation and the degradation of forests, to increase the proportion of forests managed according the principle of sustainable management, and to fight against the poverty of forest-dependent populations. Although other delegations rallied to the position of the European Union, including Canada, Switzerland, Norway, South Korea and Mexico, and despite considerable efforts made by the EU to reach a compromise, these demands were firmly opposed by Brazil, India and the US in particular.

As a result, one day from the end of the forum, it seemed obvious that the current International Arrangement on Forests was weakened by this session when the EU and its allies abandoned their firm position.

After the United States requested an end to the negotiations on the eve of the closing of the meeting, it was decided to refer the mandate of the UNFF-5 to the UNFF-6, which will be held in January/February 2006, and to transfer the provisional text of the negotiations to the next session.

Nevertheless, the Forum communicated to the Millennium Summit of the United Nations that will be held in New York in September 2005 the vital importance of forests and forestry and the sustainable protection within the global context of development of less-advanced countries and their populations.

This page was last modified on : 02-06-2005

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