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ENV/DEV/1851
10 May 2018
Thirteenth Session, 8th & 9th Meetings (AM & PM)

As Forum Continues, Delegates Underline Importance of Effective Communications Strategy, Outreach in Implementing Strategic Plan for Forests

Hammering out details of the implementation of a global strategic plan for forests, delegates exchanged views on how best to communicate key messages as the United Nations Forum on Forests convened the penultimate meeting of its thirteenth session.

Exchanging their views during a joint debate on implementation means and on carrying out the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030 through developing a related a communications and outreach strategy, delegations called for a robust blueprint aimed at making concrete progress in spreading the kind of messages that would trigger meaningful policy changes with a view to advancing achievements on reaching global goals.

“We appear to be speaking only to ourselves,” the representative of Canada said.  While welcoming the improved version of the draft strategy, she, along with other delegates, advocated for the inclusion of broader audiences involving all relevant stakeholders.

Indeed, Australia’s delegate said, the strategy must include exactly who it targeted and indicate whether there was an intention to provide a work plan.  Echoing a common view heard during the debate, he stressed that an ambitious communications plan was essential to ensure that the key messages reached appropriate targeted audiences.  Agreeing, Nigeria’s representative suggested adding national, political and scientific authorities, in lieu of simply local authorities, to ensure that the strategic plan reached those responsible for making effective policies.

Turning to the means of implementation of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network guidelines, delegates shared their suggestions for improvements.  The representative of the European Union said the Network’s mandate was still described in an incomplete manner.  Proposing adding the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests under part of its core mandate, he also supported the inclusion of references to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda — especially the principle of national ownership.  In addition, he raised concerns about some language that remained too general, including the need to further clarify paragraphs related to the Network’s funding and resource mobilization.

The intergovernmental body also considered its agenda item on the Forum on Forests Trust Fund, with a representative of the Forum on Forests Secretariat introducing a related note on expenditures and contributions, contained in document E/CN.18/2018/7.  In the afternoon, the Forum convened a panel discussion on the activities of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, regional and subregional and major groups and other stakeholders.

The Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 11 May, to conclude its thirteenth session.

Joint Debate

The Forum opened a joint debate considering agenda items on “Implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017‑2030:  development of the communication and outreach strategy for the strategic plan” and “Means of implementation”.

MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, made several proposals for the draft omnibus resolution.  They included an emphasis that communications efforts shared best practices on the implementation of the strategic plan and created synergies within other similar strategies.  Efforts must also ensure the implementation of the forest instrument and should strengthen the financial predictability of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network.

SYED MAHMOOD NASIR (Pakistan) raised concerns about rapid urbanization, adding that practices related to vertical or urban forestry should be considered.  Also concerned about dwindling water resources, he said more synergies must be made among relevant conventions to address those challenges.

LIUBOVA POLIAKOVA (Ukraine) said graphic information should be provided within the communications strategy.  Turning to the proposed guidelines for the Network, she advocated for adding major groups and other stakeholders to the list of partners.

AYSHA GHADIALI (United States), turning to the draft strategy’s section on success criteria, suggested deleting a paragraph that was no longer needed, as its content was reflected elsewhere in the text.  Turning to the Forum’s draft omnibus resolution, she suggested including a request for the Secretariat to report on progress related to the draft communications strategy at the Forum’s next session.

DENITSA PANDEVA (European Union) proposed the incorporation of additional language to some sections of the draft strategy, including adding policymakers to the list of target audiences.  On the success criteria section, she said one important component should focus on the work of the United Nations system itself.

CHRISTA MOONEY (Canada), welcoming the improved version of the draft strategy, nevertheless said it still did not adequately reflect the concerns of Member States voiced on 8 May.  Regarding target audiences, she advocated for the differentiation of audiences, noting that, as it currently appeared, “we appear to be speaking only to ourselves”.  She also supported some of the proposals made by the representative of the United States.

T. MICHAEL OSAKUADE (Nigeria) suggested adding national, political and scientific authorities, in lieu of simply local authorities, to ensure the strategic plan reached those responsible for making effective policies.

JESSE MAHONEY (Australia) said more must be added to the communications strategy, including who it targeted and whether there was an intention to provide a work plan.  Agreeing with Canada’s comments on the need to focus on the global forest goals, he said an ambitious communications plan was essential to ensure that the key messages reached appropriate audiences.

CATHERINE K. COLQUE (United States), commenting on the revised draft on Network guidelines, suggested that the section on procedures used a simple formula referring to the principle of equitable geographic distribution in the allocation of resources.

Mr. OSAKUADE (Nigeria), on the agenda item related to the draft communications strategy, suggested the inclusion of “legislative authorities” in the section relating to Member States.

ANN TYLER (New Zealand), voicing support for the United States proposals, said her delegation would require more time to consider the Group of 77’s comments delivered at the beginning of today’s session.

LUCA PEREZ (European Union), responding to the various suggestions and proposals made, agreed that more time would be needed to adequately consider them.  Overall, however, the revised draft was “much improved” from the previous version.  Among other things, the Network’s mandate was still described in an incomplete manner, he said, proposing adding the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests as part of its core mandate.  He also supported the inclusion of references to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda — especially the principle of national ownership — and emphasized that the Network’s guidelines should make clear that the Forum remained accountable and responsible for its work.  In addition, he raised concerns about some language that remained too general, including the need to further clarify paragraphs related to the Network’s funding and resource mobilization.

Forum on Forests Trust Fund

AFSA KEMITALE of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat introduced a note on “Trust fund for the United Nations Forum on Forests” (document E/CN.18/2018/7).  Summarizing the report, she said the total contributions to the fund in 2017 were approximately $1.17 million, inclusive of programme support costs.  Japan, China and others had provided voluntary contributions, with some funding particular posts.  During 2017, 47 per cent of expenditures were for travel of representatives and experts from developing countries and those with economies in transition, 39 per cent for staffing and the rest for operating and related expenses.  For 2018, estimated expenditures were $1.19 million.

Ms. COLQUE (United States) asked for clarification on details of projected expenses for estimated costs for 2018.

MANOEL SOBRAL FILHO, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests, said the forecasted expenditures reflected that the overtime costs and other related expenses in 2017 were not expected in 2018.

Mr. OSAKUADE (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the contributions made by the five countries listed.  Underlining the resource challenges faced by the Forum — including the lack of sufficient resources to support developing countries’ representatives to travel to meetings — he spotlighted the critical United Nations principle of inclusiveness, requesting more voluntary contributions from the donor countries to ensure that no one was left behind in working towards the achievement of sustainable development targets.

Mr. FIHLO, responding, clarified that significant contributions — provided in 2016 by Finland, Switzerland and the Netherlands — were used in 2017 to fund the travel of developing country representatives to meetings and special sessions that year.

Implementation of United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030

IGNATIUS MAKUMBA (Zambia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said forests covered almost 60 per cent of his country and were among its most important resources.  As Zambia was a landlocked country, forests contributed greatly to the welfare of its people.  Voicing support for the commitments enshrined in the strategic plan — including halting forest degradation and deforestation — he described a recently launched national initiative knowns as “Plant a Million Trees”, which aimed to enhance Zambia’s food security.  New laws and regulations were also aimed at boosting community empowerment and participation to ensure that forest-dwelling people benefitted directly from forest resources.

HECTOR JAIME (El Salvador) said his Government had launched a reforestation plan, based on information on zones that needed action.  Implementing that plan aimed at restoring degraded areas and reversing negative climate change trends.

SUTHILLICK RAVIWAN (Thailand) said sustainable forest management guided related policies and further global progress depended on concrete action.  For its part, Thailand had established a committee aimed at increasing forest cover.  Forest management solutions were more sustainable when combined with people and their participation, she said, noting her Government’s creation of community groups involving forests.  Working together, efforts could indeed ensure that no one was left behind in a drive to achieve common goals.

NTAHLI MATETE (Lesotho) said engaging the scientific community was a prerequisite to protecting forests.  Equally important was engaging people living in or near forests.

LUCIANA MELCHERT (Brazil) emphasized halting deforestation was a multi‑stakeholder responsibility and should be supported by appropriate incentives.  In recent years, Brazil had reduced deforestation by more than 80 per cent, while production had increased and agribusiness remained a vibrant economic sector.

LÚDIMLA MARUŠÁKOVÁ of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe said forests covered more than 30 per cent of Europe.  The region had long sought to balance forest conservation with economic productivity, and 47 regional signatories had made a range of commitments to pursue sustainable forest management.  Forest activities in Europe also contributed to achieving global forest goals, including by creating green job opportunities, supporting bioeconomic concepts and building more sustainable production and consumption patterns.  Spotlighting the sustainable sourcing of wood as one example, she said the FOREST EUROPE expert group on economic services worked with other partners to more accurately value forest resources and services in value chains.  In 2011, FOREST EUROPE signatories had agreed on pan-European forest goals and targets to achieve by 2020, and reporting mechanisms at the national level were already in place.

DELPHIN MAPAGA (Gabon) proposed the addition of two thematic discussion areas, dealing with the management of peat bogs and national schemes for territorial planning, respectively.

DALIA VARGAS (Panama), outlining national accomplishments in such areas as combating the illegal timber trade, said her country had set up a responsible trade network in 2017 aimed at ensuring wood imports came from sustainable sources.  A forest dialogue round table, with the participation of several national ministries, was also under way.  In addition, Panama had put in place new laws — including one creating a fund for sustainable forestry activities and related business incentives — and it had launched the “Alliance for One Million Hectares” to reforest degraded lands.

Introduction of Report

Ms. KEMITALE, Senior Programme Officer at the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, introduced a note on “Contributions by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, regional and subregional organizations and processes and major groups and other stakeholders, to the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030” (document E/CN.18/2018/3).  It provided an overview of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests’ contributions to the strategic plan’s implementation, including such joint initiatives as cross-sector projects aimed at increasing forest area.  The Partnership also supported local communities, including through the annual Wangari Mathai award.  Among other recent work, it had established a set of forest indicators, convened an expert meeting on regional and subregional inputs to the Forum in Nairobi in November 2017, and strengthened partnerships with civil society organizations, non-governmental bodies, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, private sector entities, major groups and regional organizations.  The latter were particularly critical to scaling up support for sustainable forest management, she stressed.

Panel Discussion

In the afternoon, the Forum held a panel discussion on the theme, “United Nations system-wide contributions to the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for Forests”.  It featured the following panellists:  Eva Muller, Director of Forest Economics, Policy and Products Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Dampha Almami, Senior Policy Adviser, African Union Commission; Cecile Ndjebet, Director of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests and focal point for the major group for women; and Steffen Dehn, representative of the International Forestry Students’ Association and focal point for the major group for children and youth.

Ms. MULLER, presenting the Collaborative Partnership on Forests’ current work plan, said it was closely aligned with the United Nations strategic plan for forests, as well as other relevant international agreements.  Among other things, its core functions were to provide scientific and technical advice to the Forum on Forests and various member organizations and to enhance coherence and cooperation among the latter.  Spotlighting the Partnership’s broad mandate, she said it regularly participated in meetings of its member bodies and other global forest‑related events.  The pillars of its work, however, revolved around joint initiatives aimed to help implement global goals including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.  Noting that many of those initiatives were funded largely by in-kind contributions from the Partnership’s members, she outlined the nine joint initiatives currently under way — each run by lead agencies of the United Nations — as well as several proposed new initiatives.  She also pointed out that many Partnership members lacked an explicit mandate from their own governing bodies, making coordination and contributions at the country level more complicated, and outlined its various upcoming activities.

Mr. ALMAMI described the expert meeting on regional and subregional inputs to the Forum, held in Nairobi in November 2017, attended by such entities as the African Union Commission and the Central African Forests Commission.  Among other things, participants had discussed issues including the limited funds available for the participation and travel of regional and subregional organization representatives to attend meetings related to global forest issues.  Describing some of the specific recent activities of regional and subregional actors, he said they had joined forces to celebrate the International Day of Forests, holding an event in Nairobi.

Ms. NDJEBET, briefing the Forum on an expert meeting on major groups also held in Nairobi in November 2017, said the experts had identified a range of priority areas related to the achievement of the various global forest goals’ targets and indicators.  Progress towards those goals, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals, would accelerate as engagement with civil society — especially representatives of marginalized communities and forest-dwellers — became more effective.  Publicity and advocacy were critical, she said, as was deeper cooperation with Governments, private sector and other actors to achieve mutual accountability for the implementation of forest targets.  Describing the main elements of the Group’s strategic plan in that regard, she said 10 specific interventions and their expected outcomes had been identified.  Those included:  capacity-building at all levels and across the value chain; ensuring full respect for land tenure rights; energizing the major groups; and mobilizing funding for those groups to achieve their forest-related goals and targets.

Mr. DEHN said young people were ready to leap from aspiration to action, and “walk the talk” in implementing the United Nations strategic plan for forests.  Presenting the major group for children and youth’s action plan, he said its six key activities were:  educational programmes, where young people at universities would be empowered as “forest ambassadors”, to be spearheaded by the International Forestry Students’ Association; a “Young Innovators Initiative” which would provide young people a platform to become drivers of change, including through the provision of seed capital to support their work; improvements in forest education with a focus on new, innovative tools and approaches; the use of social media campaigns and tool-kits, through which young people’s digital skills would be tapped to support the Forum’s outreach strategy and raise awareness of the importance of forests; stronger capacity development aimed at making young people more policy-literate and better able to serve as advocates; and support for youth participation in regional and international policy dialogues.

In the ensuing dialogue, many speakers welcomed the diverse way different groups and stakeholders were engaging with the Forum on Forests, as illustrated by the panellists’ presentations.  Some also encouraged deeper cross-sectoral exchanges and stronger efforts to support developing countries’ participation in the Forum’s work.

In that vein, the representative of Algeria agreed with the panellists that many members of the Collaborative Partnership lacked the resources needed to fully engage in its work, as well as the official Government mandate to do so.  He asked the panellists how that situation could be improved and whether a formal invitation from the Partnership, sent directly to Governments, might help.  He also asked Ms. Almami to address the limited availably in many developing countries of the geodata needed for Governments to successfully guide their forest-related investments and development projects.

The representative of the Congo outlined various national initiatives — including those supported by synergies with the Partnership’s members — launched by his country to protect forests despite very limited resources.  In the Congo Basin, for example, the Central African Forests Commission and other regional groups were addressing the important new discovery of massive peat bogs.

The representative of the United States joined other speakers in expressing support for the Partnership’s work.  While its members must strike a balance between their participation with the Partnership and fulfilling their own individual mandates, collaboration remained crucial.  Noting that about 80 per cent of United States citizens lived in cities, she said the country had nevertheless redoubled its efforts to protect forests.  “Forests provide a large canopy for all,” and the Forum could provide a platform for all actors — including the most marginalized communities — to engage and have a voice, she said.

The representative of the European Union delegation echoed some of the panellists in emphasizing that the Partnership’s work plan was a “work in progress”, and encouraged its further elaboration and circulation among Member States.  She also encouraged the major groups and other stakeholders to continue developing their work plans and to further strengthen their engagement with the Forum.

The representative of Indonesia asked the panellists to further elaborate on some of the projects listed in the Partnership’s work plan.  Specifically, he asked whether they would consider the important concept of “green accounting”.

The representative of Germany said the Partnership could make more use of the outcomes of its recent conference, held in Rome, especially regarding initiatives related to green financing and deforestation-free supply chains.  More work was also needed in the areas of forest education and support to small holders.  He also asked the panellists to address how the Partnership’s work could link more closely to that of the major groups.

Also participating in the dialogue were representatives of New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway, Iran, Ghana and Ukraine, as well as the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).  Also participating were representatives of the International Union of Forest Research Organization and the scientific and technological community major group.

Discussion on Draft Resolution

The Forum then opened a debate on the draft “omnibus” resolution, hearing suggestions by delegations.

The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, suggested several amendments, including adding “and which the International Arrangement on Forests was strengthened and extended to 2030” after the phrase “a compacted Secretariat constituted in accordance with established rules and procedures of the United Nations, 2015/33 on the International Arrangement on Forests beyond 2015”.  He also proposed amendments to add efforts to scale up activities of and to further strengthen the capacity of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network.

Mr. OSAKUADE (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, reiterated the need for documents to be easily readable and not just academic exercises.

SIBYLLE VERMONT (Switzerland) said a set of recommendations that had been submitted by a number of States should be included in the draft resolution.

JORGE FERNÁNDEZ MEDINA (Mexico) made several suggestions, including the addition of relevant stakeholders in the section on monitoring, assessment and reporting.

Ms. POLIAKOVA (Ukraine), referring to the means of implementation, recommended the addition of advancing capacity‑building activities.

Mr. PEREZ of the European Union asked for detailed about the side event at the forthcoming high-level political forum.

TOMAS KREJZAR, Vice-Chair of the Forum on Forests, said details and a concept note would be available later today.

YUTO GUO (China), noting his country’s offer to host a branch office of the Network in Beijing, said the 2030 Agenda had recognized the important role forests played.  But, the Sustainable Development Goals could only be achieved with adequate financial resources.

Ms. GHADIALI (United States) made several suggestions, including the revision of paragraphs in the section on the means of implementation and in the Network guidelines.

For information media. Not an official record.