The United Nations Forum on Forests, concluding its thirteenth session today, adopted a wide-ranging omnibus resolution aimed at spotlighting forests ‑ as well as the scope, work and funding of the various intergovernmental organs working to ensure their protection and well-being ‑ at such high-level platforms as the Economic and Social Council’s annual high-level political forum on sustainable development.
By the terms of that text — adopted as orally revised — the Forum recognized that United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030 lay a solid foundation for accelerating sustainable development, and that its implementation would make crucial contributions to the transformation towards resilient and sustainable societies, both rural and urban. In that vein, it invited the next session of the high-level political forum — to be convened in July — to recognize the strategic plan and its global forest goals and targets as effective means to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
In line with the terms of a section of the resolution on the implementation of the strategic plan for forests, the Forum reaffirmed that the effective implementation of sustainable forest management depended on the contributions of all relevant stakeholders, including forest owners, indigenous peoples and local communities, local authorities, the private sector — including small, medium-sized and large forest-based enterprises — non-governmental organizations, women, children and youth, and the scientific, academic and philanthropic communities.
By the terms of a section on “monitoring, assessment and reporting”, the Forum decided to consider the results of a first round of voluntary national reports at its fifteenth session, and invited Member States to submit those reports by mid-November 2019. In addition, it requested the Forum Secretariat to prepare — based on the initial reporting round and in consultation with Member States and other partners — a concise “flagship publication” on progress towards achieving the global forest goals and targets, for release by the end of 2021, within existing resources.
In line with a section relating to the “means of implementation”, the Forum welcomed the opportunity for enhanced forest funding under the seventh replenishment of the Global Environment Facility, as well as funding made available through the Green Climate Fund’s forests and land use area, and invited the Fund to designate a staff member to liaise with the Forum Secretariat to promote cooperation under the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network. Stressing the Network’s importance in facilitating national efforts to accelerate implementation of the global forest goals and forest-related Sustainable Development Goals — and its increased need for funding — the Forum welcomed progress in operationalizing the Network and adopted a set of guidelines for its work, which was annexed to the present resolution.
In addition, it adopted a communication and outreach strategy for the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests, also annexed to the resolution.
Additional sections of the text related to the United Nations system-wide contribution to implementing the strategic plan for forests and information on the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ reform pertaining to the Forum on Forests.
In the morning, delegates considered an earlier draft of the omnibus text, raising concerns and proposing various amendments. While many speakers welcomed paragraphs referencing various international environmental agreements, some requested the specific addition of others, including the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Other delegates called for more precise language in paragraphs related to the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Some also underlined an overall need to use simpler language and fewer acronyms wherever possible, pointing out that the resolution — as well as the Chair’s summary of the present session — would be used by many stakeholders outside the forestry sector.
The representative of Costa Rica, in a request echoed by several others, recommended the addition of a reference to a recent General Assembly resolution declaring the International Decade of Family Farming (2019-2028), which was closely linked to the Forum’s work. The representative of the Russian Federation also proposed including a reference to the International Decade of Nutrition (2016‑2025). The representative of Pakistan called for additional language on the important issue of urban forestry, while others requested stronger language on capacity-building, especially as it related to developing countries.
Many delegates, including those of the United States, Algeria, Jamaica and Bangladesh, raised issues related to an offer by the Government of China to establish and host a satellite office of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network in Beijing. Following several requests for more information, China’s delegation circulated a concept note outlining the office’s proposed functions and staff size, as well as its country’s contribution to the operations. However, some speakers felt more details were needed, with the representative of Japan raising concerns about the office’s costs and budget. China’s representative said his Government would try its best to provide Member States with all requested information, emphasizing that the proposed Beijing office would aim to better serve the Network’s audience in an open and transparent process.
Also taking part in that discussion were the representatives of India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), Bolivia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Egypt (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Bahamas, Iran, New Zealand (on behalf of the JUSCANZ Group — Japan, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), Australia and Papua New Guinea, as well as the European Union and the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine.
Speaking immediately prior to the resolution’s adoption this afternoon, several delegates voiced outstanding concerns they felt had still not been adequately addressed in the resolution’s final version. The representatives of Indonesia, Nigeria, Switzerland and the Russian Federation said paragraph 22 had not been fully discussed and therefore should be deleted. Agreeing with them, the representative of the United States proposed alternative language, including “invite the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to provide the Forum at its fourteenth session an update on the twenty-fourth session of the FAO Committee on Forestry” with a view to enhancing regional and subregional involvement.
Raising other issues, the representative of Algeria suggested adding clarity to paragraph 19 by deleting the phrase “consistent with their mandates”. The representative of the United States said the word “programme” should be deleted from paragraph 14, line 2, and language should be retained in paragraph 19. The representative of India said he was seeking instructions from his capital to make final comments. The representative of Bolivia said language used in the Paris Agreement should be used in paragraph 14 and its mention of the “REDD+” programme.
An observer of the State of Palestine said, in references to capacity-building, it was unclear if developing countries had been specifically mentioned. The representative of Australia suggested that, in the Chair’s summary, several key messages could be appropriately highlighted regarding the high-level political forum. The representative of the United States noted that, in the Chair’s summary, other mechanisms should be added to the certification process. The representative of Papua New Guinea sought clarification on the term “insensitive domestic” activities.
In other business this afternoon, the Forum discussed four outstanding items on its agenda: “Emerging issues and challenges”; “Information on intersessional activities”; “Progress in the implementation of Economic and Social Council resolution 2015/33”; and “Information on the reform of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs pertaining to the United Nations Forum on Forests”.
Speaking on those items, a representative of the major group for children and youth spotlighted efforts to promote the International Day of Forests and encouraged Member States to engage in those plans. The representative of Gabon said some of his delegation’s concerns — relating to challenges being faced by member countries of the Central African Forests Commission — had not been adequately addressed by the Forum or reflected in the final omnibus text. The representative of Malaysia, spotlighting the importance of clean timber certification schemes, asked the Forum to develop a plan relating to that issue. He also stressed that the financing of sustainable forest management must go hand in hand with the transfer of environmentally sound technologies and the provision of other capacity-building support to developing countries, and asked that all those issues be presented to the high-level political forum.
The representative of Bangladesh, recalling that his country had recently seen the influx of thousands of Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Myanmar, said their presence was negatively impacting his nation’s forests. Large areas of forested land were being cut down or degraded to sustain the refugee population. In that regard, he asked Member States to support the facilitation of the refugees’ safe, voluntary and dignified return to their homes. The representative of Iran, meanwhile, proposed that the negative impact of sand and dust storms also be incorporated into the text.
The Forum also took note of a report of the Secretary-General on progress in the implementation of Economic and Social Council resolution 2015/33 (document E/CN.18/2018/6), and adopted a final report on the work of its thirteenth session, which was introduced by Forum Rapporteur Luciana Melchert Presas (Brazil). It also decided that the meeting would be held at New York Headquarters from 6 to 10 May 2019 and approved its provisional agenda, to be forwarded to the Economic and Social Council for adoption.
Delivering closing remarks, Manoel Sobral Filho, Director of the Forum on Forests Secretariat, said that the forest community — from Member States to academic experts to representatives of various international organizations — had come together during the present session to send the message that immediate action was needed to halt forest degradation and reverse deforestation.
“Without your support, we would not be at the high point we are at today,” he said. Once again, this year, the Forum had “risen to the occasion” of challenges faced by forests around the globe. In particular, he highlighted the adoption of guidelines for the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network’s operations, adding that the groundwork had been laid for the possibility of its substantially increased funding.
Also delivering closing remarks, Forum Chair Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob (Malaysia) expressed gratitude for the efforts of Members and the Secretariat.
Delivering closing statements were the representatives of Ecuador, Congo, Iran, United States, Brazil and China, as well as the European Union, and a representative of the major group on children and youth.
Immediately following the session’s closure, the Chair opened the first meeting of its fourteenth session. The Forum then elected for two-year terms Boris Greguška (Slovakia) as Chair and Javad Momeni (Iran) as Vice-Chair to serve during the fourteenth and fifteenth sessions.