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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Statement on behalf of the EU at the 5th session of the UN Forum on Forests: Agenda items 4, 5, and 6

Date of Speech : 16-05-2005

Place : New York

Speaker : Dr. Frank Wolter, Deputy Director of the Luxembourg forestry administration

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Mr. Chairman,

Luxembourg has the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The acceding countries Bulgaria and Romania, the candidate countries Turkey and Croatia* , the countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates, Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro align themselves with this declaration.

1. The European Union welcomes the Reports of the Secretary General on agenda items 4, 5 and 6 and welcomes the decision by the bureau to merge the discussions on these interrelated issues into a single session. The reports by the Secretary General are concise and clearly written and will certainly help to facilitate our deliberations in the coming days.

2.  The period since the 4th session of the UNFF has been very productive, notably because of the Ad Hoc Expert Group on PARAM that met here in September last year and which succeeded in focussing on the modalities of a future international arrangement on forests. In this respect, the EU would like to thank the co-chairs of this meeting for their comprehensive report, as well as other experts and representatives who have contributed to the meeting in such a rich and constructive manner. The EU would also like to thank the organizers and co-chairs of the Country-led Initiative in support of UNFF 5, held in Guadalajara, Mexico in January this year, for providing the opportunity to widen our understanding of each others views and expectations concerning the future of the IAF. The EU expresses its appreciation in particular to Mexico, as the host country for the Guadalajara meeting, and also thanks the USA as a co-sponsor. Several EU member states were pleased to provide support to ensure a high level participation of developing countries participation in this important country-led initiative.

3. One of the main outcomes of this process has been that, although the global forest agenda has made some progress under the current IAF and its predecessors, deforestation and forest degradation continue at an unsustainable high rate. Against this backdrop, the EU is of the opinion that it is unacceptable for the IAF to continue in its existing form. The EU believes that the continuation of the IAF should be made dependent on its ability to effectively address the failures of the current arrangement, which can be summarized as follows:

  • First, the IAF has been unable to reverse a progressive decline in political commitment and allocation of resources at all levels towards forests and sustainable forest management.
  • Second, the IAF has not succeeded in translating recommendations stemming from the global forest dialogue into implementation and action on the ground, nor has it succeeded in providing clear provisions for monitoring and compliance.
  • Lastly, the IAF has not achieved satisfactory participation of civil society and private sector.

4. To overcome these shortcomings, the EU considers that the future IAF needs to be significantly strengthened and improved. A crucial element to this end is the setting of clear and ambitious overarching objectives, associated with specific and measurable targets, taking full account of member states' sovereign rights and responsibilities.

As representatives of the international community, we have succeeded in doing so in other fora. Within the framework of the WSSD we have set quantitative goals for priority themes such as water, energy and biodiversity. As part of the global development agenda we have formulated a number of quantitative targets in association with each of the eight Millennium Development Goals.

To secure long-term political commitment and accountability towards forests, we need to set equivalent goals for sustainable forest management. Anything short of this will relegate forests and sustainable forest management as well as the entire international forests dialogue to the fringes of international policy discussions. We believe that none of us in this room would like to be held responsible for that to happen.

The EU shares the view of the SG report that there is a need to raise the political profile of forest-related issues on the international agenda, making clear links between sustainable forest management and the socio-economic development agenda, especially for developing countries, and forest-dependent people. Therefore, overarching objectives of a future IAF need to express these linkages. Overarching objectives should be clear and focussed and should aim to:

  • achieve sustainable management of all types of forests;
  • enhance the contribution of forests to the achievement of overall development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs);
  • maintain global forest resources and forest quality for the long﷓term economic, social and environmental wellbeing of all, and in particular those that depend directly on forests, including local and indigenous communities.

5. Overarching objectives can best be realised through the setting of a limited number of clear quantitative targets at national and global level which should be related to overall targets for sustainable development, as agreed at the WSSD, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

6. Such targets could be:

  • to double the area of forests under sustainable management by 2015;
  • to reduce by half the proportion of people in extreme poverty among those whose livelihoods depend on forests by 2015; and
  • to reduce by half the global rate of deforestation and degradation of forests by 2015.

7. To achieve common objectives and targets, the international forest policy dialogue under a future IAF needs to clearly focus on implementation and action on the ground, while promoting the allocation of financial resources and the promotion of technology transfer. A strengthened IAF implies the establishment of clear links with regional and thematic processes and encompasses adequate monitoring, assessment and reporting and compliance procedures as well as effective participation of stakeholders. Last but not least, a future IAF needs a strengthened role of and clear guidance for the CPF. In this respect we should look into the role of a secretariat for the CPF.

8. A strong IAF with a focus on action on the ground will need a reinforced role for FAO, the UN agency for forestry and a stronger role for UNEP, in particular at the regional level. Other CPF members, sub-regional organizations dealing with forests, multilateral and bilateral donors, as well as relevant stakeholders should be mobilized for coordinated action. The CPF should engage in a more pro-active process by:

  • providing it with the mandate to develop joint programme of work, coordinating the activities of its members in line with political recommendations of the Forum;
  • ensuring the monitoring and assessment of implementation of recommendations of the Forum, consolidating analyses and publishing results through a clearing house mechanism;
  • reporting back on progress made in relation to commonly agreed targets.

9. Another important consideration for the future IAF is the urgent need to strengthen financial support for the achievement of sustainable forest management from public as well as private resources. Strengthening of financial support includes the need for better use of existing resources.

10. In this respect it is important to note that current bilateral and multilateral programmes should strengthen and support existing mechanisms at global, regional and national level. At the global level we should strengthen GEF funding for SFM programmes and projects. At the national level, financing strategies should be developed through country-led processes such as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) in order to strengthen and enhance mobilisation of resources for the achievement of sustainable forest management. In this respect, the innovative work carried out by the NFP facility, hosted by FAO, and PROFOR, hosted by the World Bank, should be built upon.

11. Although we  are open to discuss a variety of options, the EU believes that the abovementioned modalities and functions of a future IAF can best be achieved through a legally binding instrument. Any alternatives to a legally binding instrument must offer equivalent guarantees for success and should significantly strengthen the IAF, contributing in a decisive way to enhancing political commitment and allocation of resources for SFM at national and international level.

12. In conclusion, Mr Chairman, we believe that during UNFF5 we should decide on an international instrument on forests and the establishment of an International Negotiation Committee.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilsation and Association Process.

This page was last modified on : 17-05-2005

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