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UN opens session to negotiate new agreement on forests

UN opens session to negotiate new agreement on forests

Representatives of countries from across the world today renewed their efforts to finalize an agreement for the sustainable management of the world’s forests at a United Nations meeting in New York.

The session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF), which runs through 27 April, should result in the adoption of a new pact, which, although not legally binding, would represent the first comprehensive international framework for the protection of all types of forests, participants said.

“These two weeks here in New York have a great potential of leaving a long-lasting legacy on international forest policy and cooperation,” said Forum Chairman Hans Hoogeveen of the Netherlands. “It is therefore now or never.”

According to data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global forest cover amounts to just under 4 billion hectares, covering about 30 percent of the world’s land area. From 1990 to 2005, 3 percent of total forest area was lost, an average decline of some 0.2 per cent per year.

Work on the new forest agreement began last year when forestry experts from governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society drafted the elements for the new agreement.

Their draft, which is now before the Forum for finalization and adoption, articulates a clear strategy for accomplishing internationally agreed objectives on forests, such as greater involvement of forest communities in local planning, promoting a system of incentives to maintain and preserve forests, and integrating forest accounting into national economies.

Mr. Hoogeveen said that new and additional resources were essential for the instrument to be effective. After years of deadlock over a financing a global agreement, he predicted that this year’s Forum “will be the moment to solve this issue once and forever.”

Colombia’s UN Ambassador, Claudia Blum, said resolution of the financing issue was vital. “The creation of a fund or financial mechanism is essential to make possible the allocation of new resources to collective action in favour of sustainable forest management.”

Some countries promised new resources for forest programmes, including Australia, which recently announced a $166 million International Forest Initiative aimed at building technical capacity, encouraging reforestation and preventing illegal logging in developing countries. The United States, for its part, announced its intention to contribute US$500,000 to the UNFF trust fund.