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ENV/DEV/1945
7 May 2019
Fourteenth Session, 4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)

Delegates Stress Importance of Nature Education, Mobilizing Private Sector Action, as United Nations Forests Forum Continues 2019 Session

Underscoring the importance of forest and nature education, as well as the need to mobilize private sector action, speakers today shared sustainability lessons as the United Nations Forum on Forests continued its annual session.

The Forum convened four panels, the first of which was on “Forests, peaceful and inclusive societies, reduced inequality, education and inclusive institutions at all levels”.  As panellists discussed different ways to achieve inclusion, education emerged as the most valuable solution.  Mika Rekola, Forest Science Lecturer at the University of Helsinki, Finland, stressed that primary school teachers need more training on forest and nature issues.  He called for increased research on forest education; strengthened networking; a focus on teachers as “gatekeepers” in the field; and the development of a global core curriculum.

Maureen Whelan, Manager of International Affairs at the Canadian Forest Service, drew links between quality education, reduced inequality and inclusive institutions.  Highlighting Project Learning Tree, a Canadian initiative which fosters community interests in the benefits of environmental education and the responsible management of natural resources, she urged the international community to scale up existing examples of inclusive forest education.

Monica Gabay, Independent Researcher at the School of Politics and Government of the National University of San Martin, Argentina, said people must be provided adequate access to information, and protected by the rule of law, if they are to take an active part in forest management and decision-making.  Also stressing that consumers must be educated about the benefits of sustainability, she highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships.

The same idea was at the heart of another panel, held in the afternoon on “Mobilizing private sector action in support of implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2030 and the 2030 Agenda”.  While there is a negative perception about the private sector, destroying the environment, Kwama Asamoah Adam, CEO of Ghana Timber Millers Organization, said any sustainable forest management without the involvement of that sector is not likely to succeed.  He outlined various projects undertaken by timber companies in Ghana which are enabling small farmers to plant trees and developing large-scale plantations in areas where there is land degradation due to fire.

Ana Belen Noriega, Secretary General of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, a global non-profit that promotes sustainable forest management through third-party verification of good practices, highlighted how the certification process looks into the origin of the products, the “trustability” of the supply chain and social issues, such as gender and labour.

Another panellist, Jose Carlos da Fonseca Junior, Director of Institutional Relations at Industria Brasileira de Arvores, Brazil, said that his country’s tree industry is well known for sustainability and innovation.  Brazil follows good forest practices, and upholds the principles of clean energy, decent work and economic growth, and responsible production and consumption, he said.

Brazil’s delegate also spoke along similar lines, as the Forum continued its general discussion.  She emphasized that her country’s agricultural products should be recognized as commodities that contribute to the protection of biodiversity and global climate stability.  Brazil is one of the few countries to balance production and conservation, thanks to the strong participation of the private sector and the use of state‑of‑the‑art technologies, she said.

Other delegates described ambitious forest recovery programmes, with Malaysia’s representative noting that some 10,000 hectares of degraded forest in that country will be rehabilitated by 2025.  Costa Rica’s delegate said that his Government is planning to increase its forest cover by 8 per cent by 2030.  He also noted the active and dynamic involvement of indigenous peoples in the country’s forestation efforts.

Representatives of Bangladesh, United States, Paraguay, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Korea also spoke in that discussion.

The other two panels that were held today concerned the “Contributions of Collaborative Partnership on Forests members to implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2030” and “Communication and outreach and International Day of Forests 2019 activities”.

The Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 May, to continue its work.

Statements

Mr. RODRÍGUEZ ZUÑIGA (Costa Rica), describing his nation’s ambitious forest recovery plans, noted that in the inventory drawn up in 2013, the country had a forest cover of 52.4 per cent.  His Government is planning to increase that by 8 per cent by 2030.  Costa Rica also has a national strategy in place to control forest fires and is offering increased incentives for conservation efforts.  Since 1995, forests cannot be assigned for other uses, he noted, adding that the Government is also taking steps to ensure indigenous community participation in this the strategy.  Highlighting the active and dynamic involvement of indigenous peoples in Costa Rica’s forestation efforts, he said that gender, environment and climate change are interconnected.

Mr. CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), citing a recent technical study on green belting conducted in the coastal zone of his country, said that it plans to bring 46,000 hectares in that region under reforestation by 2023.  Also noting several actions to reduce emissions, he said that his Government has approved an investment project called “sustainable forest and livelihood”, which will be in place until 2023 and operate with a budget of $175 million.  The project aims to implement collaborative forest management and increase access to alternative income sources for forest-dependent peoples.  By increasing the participation of local communities in forest conservation, the Government expects to offer alternate livelihoods, as well as improve forest cover and achieve other environmental goals.

CATHERINE K. COLQUE (United States) expressed support for the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017‑2030 by all nations, emphasizing that both national and international actions are required to achieve its goals and targets.  Underlining the importance of goal 5 on forest governance, she called for transparency and accountability, as well as the vibrant engagement of civil society.  Noting the strategic plan’s reference to the Paris Agreement on climate change, she supported efforts to avoid overemphasizing that accord over others and voiced concern that the Forum secretariat lacks the necessary capacity to carry out is work.  In addition, she expressed hoped that the secretariat, along with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, will share the document being developed on communications and outreach at upcoming sessions.

Mr. WAN-MAHMOOD (Malaysia) said his delegation plans to allocate at least 50 per cent of its land area under forest and tree cover.  By 2025, some 10,000 hectares of degraded Malaysian forest will be rehabilitated and at least 20 per cent of the country’s terrestrial areas will be nationally protected.  In addition, he said, Malaysia has reported to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on the impact of climate change and is working to implement all related goals and targets.

Panel I

This morning, the Forum convened an interactive panel discussion on the theme “Forests, peaceful and inclusive societies, reduced inequality, education and inclusive institutions at all levels”.  It featured four panellists:  Monica Gabay, Independent Researcher at the School of Politics and Government of the National University of San Martin, Argentina; Mika Rekola, Lecturer at the Department of Forest Sciences of the University of Helsinki, Finland; and Maureen Whelan, Manager of International Affairs at the Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada.

Ms. GABAY said small and medium-sized enterprises account for some $125 billion to $130 billion in growth value added.  Welcoming the fact that many indigenous peoples have now been granted land tenure rights and that timber legality has greatly improved — due largely to voluntary agreements — she said public-private partnerships and a synergistic approach are required to leverage efforts to achieve both the global forest goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Noting that community and small-scale forestry play important roles in advancing the latter, she said people must be provided adequate access to information — and protected by the rule of law — if they are to take an active part in forest management and decision-making.  Underlining the crucial role of technical support, inclusive financing and the engagement of youth and vulnerable groups, she shared several examples of strides achieved by small, locally based forest organizations around the world.  Product certification schemes are also important, she said, adding that they work best when consumers are educated about the benefits of sustainability.

Mr. REKOLA spotlighted the importance of forest and nature education, which among other things can reduce human alienation from nature, increase understanding of sustainable development and boost learning outcomes in other subjects.  Primary school teachers, in particular, need more training on forest and nature issues, he said.  In addition, the status of teaching itself should be raised and technical and vocational training and education in forestry enhanced.  Describing strong associations that already exist in such areas as medical education, he called for increased research on forest education; strengthened networking; a focus on teachers as “gatekeepers” in the field; the development of a global core curriculum; and expanded public engagement, especially among vulnerable groups.  “Let’s start this movement now,” he stressed.

Ms. WHELAN drew links between quality education, reduced inequality and inclusive intuitions.  She played several short video clips, including a message from the Head of the Canadian Forest Service, who spoke to that country’s federal forestry programmes; a message from the General Manager of the Prince Albert Model Forest, which brings an array of stakeholders together in forest management; and another piece about the Indigenous Guardians Programme, a pilot indigenous people’s stewardship programme supporting indigenous rights and responsibilities in protecting and conserving ecosystems while developing and maintaining sustainable economies.  Describing several other Canadian initiatives — such as Project Learning Tree, which fosters community interests in the benefits of environmental education and the responsible management of natural resources — she called for urgent action and efforts to scale up existing examples of inclusive forest education.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates echoed the importance of good forest governance and clear, inclusive land tenure rights.  Many discussed the challenges facing their country’s forests and outlined education or training initiatives aimed at reversing them.

The representative of the European Union spotlighted the crucial systematic dissemination of knowledge on sustainable forest management, noting that the bloc sees forest education as an important component of general education curricula.  In that context, he invited the Secretariat to prepare a document on forest education for submission to the Forum’s fifteenth session.

The representative of the Republic of Korea described her country’s innovative forest education programme for teenagers, the first of its kind in the country.

The representative of Costa Rica said his country is home to many small landholders and small-scale farmers, presenting the Government with challenges in how best to provide funding and support.  He asked the panellists to speak to those challenges, as well as issues related to the provision of microcredit.

The representative of the United States, pointing out that broad civil society engagement is a hallmark of her Government’s forest management policies, asked the panellists how other types of inclusivity can be incorporated into forest governance.

The representative of Switzerland pointed out that the situation of land tenure rights is actually worsening around the globe.  Emphasizing that the rights of local communities must be ensured, and existing community structures respected, he asked the panellists “what the Forum can do today” to strengthen forest governance.

The representative of the major group for children and youth echoed calls for more effective forest education.  While there is much talk about engaging young people in those efforts, little has been accomplished.  “New generations mean new ideas,” he stressed, as well as new dynamic solutions.

Responding to those comments and questions, Ms. GABAY agreed that scaling up knowledge-sharing is crucial, adding that it requires a clearinghouse mechanism.  In addition, she said civil society organizations can play a key role in engaging small landowners and small groups of farmers.

Mr. REKOLA said there is room for new players, including start-up companies, to help efficiently scale up exiting forest education initiatives.

Ms. WHELAN agreed with the representative of the major group for children and youth that youth should be more engaged in the everyday business of forest management.  In Canada, she said, they have brought a much-welcome view to national deliberations in that arena.

Also speaking were representatives of India, Colombia, Germany, Indonesia, Lesotho, Bangladesh, Russian Federation and Finland.  The representative of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations also participated.

Panel II

The Forum then turned to the second panel discussion on “Contributions of Collaborative Partnership on Forests members to the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2030”, moderated by Hiroto Mitsugi, Chair of the Partnership and the Assistant Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).  The panel featured Mher Margaryan, Permanent Representative of Armenia and Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women; Garo Batmanian, Lead Environment Specialist and Programme Manager at the World Bank; Sheam Satkuru, Director of Operations at the International Tropical Timber Organization; Kimberly Todd, Technical Specialist, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and Adriana Vidal, Forest Policy Officer at the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Mr. MITSUGI, noting that, over the past year, the Partnership has contributed considerably to the strategic plan on forests, said its members provided valuable inputs to the high-level political forum.  Recalling the well‑celebrated 2019 International Day of Forests, he said the day has been gaining momentum since its first observance in 2013.  Another major accomplishment of the Partnership is the latest study on forests and waters, which was also presented at expert group meetings at the United Nations and FAO.  The programme of work of the Partnership is available online, he reminded delegates.

Mr. MARGARYAN, praising the commitment of the Forum on Forests to contributing to the accelerated achievement of gender equality, said that the Commission on the Status of Women is cognizant of the value and opportunities that forests can bring to the rights and livelihoods of women and girls.  Owing to gender inequalities, women and girls, especially in developing countries, are often disproportionately affected by the adverse impacts of climate change, extreme weather events, natural hazards and deforestation.  Pointing out that indigenous women and girls are subject to multiple forms of discrimination, he stressed that forest-based actions and solutions need to be gender-responsive.

Mr. BATMANIAN expressed the World Bank Group’s support for the international community’s efforts to harness the potential of forests to reduce poverty, better integrate forests into their economies and protect and strengthen the environmental role forests play locally and globally.  “We do lots of loans and grants,” he said, adding that the Bank’s work in this field is based on comprehensive assessments of what each country needs to achieve its targets.  Its active forest portfolio has increased 28 per cent from financial year 2016 to financial year 2018, he noted, adding that the Bank’s approach integrates upstream knowledge, technical assistance and financial instruments in support of a country‑owned programme.

Ms. SATKURU said that the International Tropical Timber Organization promotes the sustainable management and conservation of tropical producing forests, as well as the expansion and diversification of trade in tropical wood products from sustainably managed and legally harvested forests.  The organization also creates awareness across international forest regimes and policy processes.  Outlining its work in Côte d’Ivoire, where it is active in forest restoration and charcoal production, as well as in Panama, where its timber tracking system improves forest governance, she called for active advocacy on the role of sustainably produced wood, wood products and wood-based energy as a cornerstone to mitigate climate change.

Ms. TODD said that the UNDP strategic plan 2018-2021 comprises six signature solutions, ranging from enhancing national prevention and recovery capacities to promoting nature-based solutions for a sustainable planet.  With financing from vertical funds, the Programme supports 69 countries through 89 projects in safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems with financing exceeding $449 million.  UNDP has supported more than 20,500 community-based projects, 35 per cent of which were related to the protection, rehabilitation and sustainable use of forest ecosystems, she said.

Ms. VIDAL said that, in the context of forests, the International Union’s work is focused along three main pillars, the first of which is slowing the deforestation rate by protecting all types of forests, especially primary.  The second is the improvement of governance to benefit vulnerable populations, especially forest-dependent populations.  The Union aims to empower them to make decisions in land use management, she said, adding that the third pillar focuses on restoring forest landscapes.  Spotlighting the Union’s role in knowledge‑generation and facilitation, she said that it has developed a “Bonn challenge barometer”, which showcases progress in different countries, not only in forest restoration, but also in financial mechanisms and institutional arrangements.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates praised the work of the Partnership, and asked questions about its work, with the representative of Japan asking how the Partnership has enhanced cooperation and synergy in the United Nations system.  The United States delegate suggested that the Partnership consider consulting the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

Also participating in the discussion was the representative of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Statements

Ms. GORALEWSKI (Paraguay)said that her country is taking a number of measures to contribute to sustainable development, such as the zero-deforestation law passed in 2018.  But, enacting laws is not enough, she stressed, adding that Paraguay is also ensuring compliance and monitoring.  The Government is using the global forest watch programme, which will provide data to fight the illegal use of natural resources.  Reforestation with rapid growth species is environmentally sustainable, as well as a profitable source of income with ecological benefits, such as reducing fossil fuel combustion and decreasing pressure on native forests, she said.

Mr. MONDONGE BOGADO (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that, with 5 million hectares of forest, his country possesses immense biodiversity, which is crucial to ensuring climate balance at the national, continental and global level.  Financial mechanisms are essential to bolstering the coherence of global forestry programmes, he said, noting the emergence of new challenges such as a lack of national forest mapping which is an obstacle to tackling desertification.  Therefore, it is necessary to improve the accessibility to funds so that it is possible for countries such as his to implement these legally binding instruments, he urged.

Ms. PEÑA DOIG (Peru), noting that her nation ranks ninth in the world in terms of forest area, said that its forests shelter many different species and offer livelihoods to the country’s indigenous peoples.  The Government has implemented many policies to protect forests through a national strategy on forests and climate change.  Further, the country is putting in place measures to enable the ancestral practices of the indigenous peoples to adapt to the effects of climate change.  This measure is in alignment with several Sustainable Development Goals, she said, also spotlighting the important role of women in conserving resources and transmitting their knowledge intergenerationally.

KIM MYUNGKIL (Republic of Korea) said that her nation is one of the most successful countries in forest rehabilitation.  The Republic of Korea’s forest service is utilizing forest resources sustainably and enabling local communities to create jobs.  In April 2018, the Government established a forest job platform which aims to improve job creation and helps experts.  Requesting Member States of the Forum to participate in the Asia Pacific Forestry Congress, she said that the goal of this event is to exchange best practices.

Ms. MELCHERT (Brazil) said that her country is able to combine strong agricultural production with effective environmental policies.  Brazil is one of the few countries with the capacity to produce and conserve, she said, adding that this balancing act is possible thanks to the strong participation of the private sector and the use of state‑of‑art technologies.  Forty-one per cent of the country comprises protected areas, she said, noting that this is much higher than other agro-exporting countries.  The country’s forest code is one of the most restrictive in the world, she said, adding that its agricultural products should be recognized as commodities that contribute to the protection of biodiversity and global climate stability.

Panel III

The Forum then turned to the third panel, on “Mobilizing private sector action in support of implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2030 and the 2030 Agenda”, featuring Jose Carlos da Fonseca Junior, Director of Institutional Relations at Industria Brasileira de Arvores, Brazil; Ana Belen Noriega, Secretary General of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, Spain; and Kwama Asamoah Adam, CEO of Ghana Timber Millers Organization.

Mr. FONSECA said that he represented Brazil’s tree industry, with his organization comprising 50 companies and 9 state and regional associations.  The industry is well known for sustainability and innovation, he said, highlighting partnerships with research institutions and the use of advanced sustainable management technologies.  The sector is an example of how the use of natural resources can play a positive role in the implementation of the strategic plan for forests, he said, adding that they followed good forest practices, and upheld the principles of clean energy, decent work and economic growth, and responsible production and consumption.  In 2018, member companies began restoration of 20,000 hectares of forests, he said, adding that this will allow for carbon storage and protection of biodiversity.  Forest companies are not islands, he said, calling for public policies that encourage conservation.

Ms. NORIEGA noted that her organization is a global non-profit that promotes sustainable forest management through third-party certification of good practices.  As an alliance of national forest certification schemes, “we are a bottom-up organization”, she said, which enables it to think locally and act globally.  The certification process looks into the origin of the products and the “trustability” of the supply chain, considering social issues, such as gender and labour.  Members with endorsed systems include several companies and 750,000 forest owners, most of them small and family-owned forests.  The organization considers a variety of factors from poverty and hunger to clean water and gender equity when certifying companies, she said, adding that certified forests and companies also comply with the eight main conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Mr. ADAM, giving an overview of the private sector in Ghana, said that forests and their products offer a wide range of business opportunities that centre around the use of forest-based materials, from handicrafts to tourism.  Noting that Ghana’s forests have been logged for the last 100 years, he said that some companies are investing in planting, aiming to restore 6 per cent of forests in every cycle of exploitation.  Companies are also encouraged to invest in farms, with each farmer planting trees in at least one hectare and the company providing the investment needed.  Given the decline of source material, companies are also involved in large-scale planation development, working in areas where there is land degradation due to fire.  There is a negative perception about the private sector, destroying the environment, he said, but any sustainable forest management without the involvement of the private sector is not likely to succeed.

In the ensuing discussion, the delegate of Ecuador asked the panellists what recommendations they had for developing countries regarding the creation of a certification programme, and India’s representative asked if the private sector is interested in preserving biodiversity since not all species are commercially profitable.

Responding, Mr. FONSECA said that the private sector included small landowners who are not part of huge companies.  They, too, can take part and profit from the vibrancy of the forest sector.

Ms. NORIEGA said that it is important to be clear about the responsibilities of the public and private sectors.  “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” she said, encouraging countries to use accreditation and certification mechanisms that already exist.  Her organization’s certification process has separate indicators for gender and sustainable forest management, she said.

Mr. ADAM said that one of the ways in which the private sector in Ghana ensures biodiversity is through certification programmes and complying with the requirements that endangered species are protected amidst the activities of the company.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Switzerland, Australia and Nigeria.

Representatives of the Forest Stewardship Council and the women’s major group also spoke today.

Panel IV

The final panel discussion of the day focused on the theme “Communication and outreach and International Day of Forests 2019 activities”.  It featured three panellists:  Mita Sen, Programme Management Officer, Forum on Forest Secretariat; Peter Csoka, Senior Forestry Officer, FAO; Steffan Dehn, Forum on Forests Focal Point for Children and Youth Major Group at the International Forestry Students’ Association.

Ms. SEN, displaying the “global forest goals” logo, said the 2018 communications and outreach strategy cemented the importance of outreach, branding and promoting forest messages.  Among other events, the Forum secretariat participates in the meetings of several other bodies — including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties — and produces a variety of toolkits, infographics and other communications products.  To mark the International Day of Forests, the Secretariat organizes an annual event and runs a social media campaign, working in 2019 with the United States Forestry Service and the Girls Club of New York to reach the local community.  Additionally, the Forum places regular posts on the United Nations main Twitter, reaching 11 million followers.  Among best practices identified, she spotlighted the importance of simplicity, consistency, “facts-based” communications, visually eye-catching materials and identifying key events with captured audiences.  Additionally, she warned against stereotyping in images and messaging, and urged efforts to push forward more nuanced, collaborative communications around forestry.

Mr. CSOKA said every International Day of Forests is an opportunity for education.  Citing the example of “Forests and Climate Change” — a theme from the International Day several years ago — he said many people do not naturally link the two topics of forests and climate change together.  To build a better understanding, FAO developed several engaging products, including a quiz in six languages and an inspirational 60-second video.  To promote the latter, television stations provided free air time and brought the video to over a billion viewers around the world.  Describing another important topic which FAO seeks to address through its communications campaigns, he said the growing distance between humans and nature in today’s world leads some people to think of forests as deep, dark, “scary” places.  To tackle that misconception, FAO developed a short video using traditional fairy tale imagery to show forests as magical, beautiful, important places.  Turning to the 2020 International Day of Forests, he said the Collaborative Partnership on Forests has unanimously endorsed the theme “Forests and biodiversity”.

Mr. DHEN, recounting activities that targeted children and youth for International Day in 2019, said more than 200 locations around the world hosted interactive exchanges between experts and young people.  Listing some success criteria of communications and outreach activities, he spotlighted the continuity of communications throughout the whole year — not just in the lead-up to the International Day — as well as relatability, proper framing and identifying the right target audience.  Among stereotypes and misconceptions, he said forests — the world’s “silent warriors” — largely go unnoticed until there is a disaster, while stereotypes also prevail about forestry and loggers as old-fashioned or out‑of‑date.  He called for efforts to reverse those views through more streamlined, coordinated messages that are shared by many actors.  Among examples of best practices, he drew attention to the book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, which uses engaging narrative to make forestry more approachable.

As the floor opened for questions and comments, delegates voiced their opinions about the various communications tools and campaigns described by the panellists.  Several provided examples of outreach being conducted at the national level or posed questions to the panellists — including about the availability of their products in multilingual formats.

The representative of Switzerland, for one, welcomed the development of many forest-related communications products.  However, he also expressed hope that, in the future, more attention will be paid to the principles of broad consultation and “user-friendliness”.

The representative of the United States, echoing the need for more consultation and input, joined other delegates in outlining some of her country’s national-level outreach campaigns.  Among the most iconic and successful is the long-running character known as “Smokey Bear”, who helps educate people around the dangers of forest fires, and who has equivalent characters in many countries around the world.

The representative of Bolivia — noting that young people don’t read newspapers or magazines, but, instead, read on their phones and tablets — said one effective method is to physically transport young people from their urban homes into the forests.  Seeing forests in situ can help raise awareness of their importance, she said.

The representative of India spotlighted students and leaders — at both the national and community levels — as important focal points that can help extend awareness of forest issues to their communities.

The representative of New Zealand asked the panellists to share what specific communications approaches have been developed for the crowded space of the Economic and Social Council’s high-level political forum.

Ms. SEN said multilingualism is a priority for the Secretariat, which is, however, often constrained by resources.  Social media content, once published, is usually translated into multiple languages by colleagues in the Department of Global Communications.  While it is a challenge to be heard among the many voices at the high-level political forum, she outlined efforts to join the Forum’s voice with other partners at that event.

Also speaking were representatives of China, Philippines, Australia, Ecuador, Indonesia and Japan.  The representative of the indigenous peoples major group also participated.

For information media. Not an official record.