A fully operational secretariat is essential for the Forum on Forests to fulfil its important mandate as the only global voice on policy, conservation and sustainable management of the world’s woodlands, delegates stressed today as they voiced concerns over proposals for its restructuring under broader reforms taking place in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
In one of two discussions held today, delegates aired questions and concerns about potential changes to the Forum’s operations, resources, placement within the Department and wider ability to promote forest management at a time when climate change rapidly threatens the survival of fragile ecosystems and livelihoods. Many used the occasion to urge that the Forum’s independence be maintained, especially in the absence of a global forest convention.
“As you know, this issue is evolving swiftly” in the context of growing responsibilities, said Senegal’s delegate on behalf of the African Group. The secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests must be considerably bolstered with ambitious supplementary goals. Its independence as a subsidiary of the Economic and Social Council also must be preserved. “If this is not done, we risk devaluing the efforts of Member States and other organizations that have worked tirelessly in the 27 years since the Rio Declaration [Principles]” on environment and development, he asserted.
Such calls were echoed by the European Union delegate, who said it is of utmost importance to ensure that the Department’s reform not impinge on the Forum’s ability to fulfil all its functions as outlined in Economic and Social Council resolution 2015/33. Member States must understand how proposals for the Forum fit into the full picture of the Department’s reform. “We expect more details and a comprehensive picture of the measures envisaged,” she insisted.
The representative of Australia likewise called for an informed approach, requesting that delegates’ views be fully captured in the Chair’s summary, which should also be sent to those involved in decision-making on the Forum’s future. Unless the Forum is recognized as the competent body for forests, the United Nations risks reverting to a fragmented system unable to realize forest goals. She called for maintaining the secretariat’s structure and resources and filling the director position as a matter of urgency.
On that point, several delegates raised concerns over a proposal to downgrade the Forum’s leadership from an executive director to a director position, with Canada’s delegate stressing that any such demotion would be a mistake. She urged those making decisions to reconsider such a move.
Fielding those and other queries raised since the start of the session, Zhu Juwang, Officer-in‑Charge of the Forum’s secretariat, read out the answers provided by Department officials who are in Geneva for the Chief Executives Board meeting. The Department will continue to provide the highest-level support to the Forum and its secretariat in fulfilling its mandates outlined in resolution 2015/33 and the United Nations strategic plan for forests.
Noting that the Forum’s secretariat will continue to report to the Under‑Secretary‑General for delivery of the work programme, under the subprogramme on sustainable forest management, he said the director post in the secretariat remains vacant and its functions are being reviewed. Member States will be requested to examine these functions in context of the Department’s 2020 budget proposal.
In an afternoon discussion on the resources available to finance the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, Peter Gondo of the Forum’s secretariat said that, since the sixth session of the Global Environment Facility, $825 million is now expected to leverage $8.4 billion in co-financing. Stressing that “we still need more resources” to achieve the targets laid out in the global forest goals, he said the secretariat works with 25 countries, with Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, North Macedonia and several others recently added to the list.
The European Union’s delegate raised questions about whether China would cover the full cost of the Beijing office or the differential cost, with the secretariat continuing to cover other costs. As the secretariat is small, he was interested in how the Department would ensure that the two locations do not lead to a loss in efficiency and cooperation, and how any changes in the Forum’s leadership in terms of post level would affect the office’s management.
“I’m very puzzled,” said Switzerland’s delegate. “We asked last year for information, but only have an oral report.” Stressing that the China office is not a United Nations office, she called for clarity on what its role would be, as there is no work plan or budget. “There is a total lack of transparency and this is quite shocking,” she said. “We require all possible documents, as required.”
The United States delegate said such an office must carry out its work in a neutral and multilateral manner. The secretariat must provide regular updates on it and invite input from Forum members. Its relationship with the Network must be made clear and its functions carefully chosen. Moreover, Forum Member States should be able to comment on the memorandum of understanding for such an office.
Australia’s delegate meanwhile asked how the potential of the project office can be determined, given the ongoing reforms in the Department, while Ecuador’s delegate said middle-income countries face unique financing difficulties and stressed the importance of capacity-building.
The day also featured two panel discussions, the first on the theme “Monitoring, assessment and reporting”, and the second on “Means of implementation for sustainable forest management”.
The Forum on Forests will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 9 May, to continue its fourteenth session.
Information on Department of Economic and Social Affairs Reform
The representative of the European Union, reiterated questions posed to the Forum on Forests a day earlier, among them: the options being considered in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs regarding the Forum; the implications of each option on budget, resources and reporting lines; the potential implications on the Forum’s representation in various meetings; the Forum’s capacity to fulfil its functions will not be weakened regardless of the Department’s reform; and plans for fulfilling the director position.
The representative of Canada said her delegation seeks information on the status of the Department’s reform regarding Forum matters. Recalling that her delegation had requested the Department’s staff to attend today’s session, she said there are questions around whether the subprogramme on forests remain intact as part of the organ; actions and options being undertaken in the context of Department reform; results of the cost-benefit analysis of each option; if there is a merger, how the Department person leading Forum matters would ensure budget and human resources; and if the subprogramme merged into another division, what are the lines of reporting.
ZHU JUWANG, Officer-in-Charge, Forum secretariat, read out the answers to the questions from senior Department officials who are in Geneva for the Chief Executive Board meeting. The General Assembly will consider the following reform measures, as proposed by the Secretary-General on 28 December 2018, among them: strengthening leadership to respond to the new demands of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; improving data, statistics and analysis to inform decision-making and enhance accountability for results; enhancing capacities for leveraging financing for the Sustainable Development Goals; and strengthening the Department’s strategies and mechanisms to enhance external communications and partnerships, including with the private sector and academia. Those measures are being considered to better align Department’s expertise with the 2030 Agenda.
He said the Department will continue to provide the highest level of support to the Forum and its secretariat in fulfilling its mandates outlined in resolution 2015/33 and the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030. The Forum’s secretariat will continue to be responsible to the Under-Secretary-General for delivery of the work programme, under the subprogramme on sustainable forest management. The post of director in the Forum’s secretariat remains vacant. The functions of the post are being reviewed. Member States will be requested to examine these functions in context of the Department’s 2020 budget proposal. The Under-Secretary-General, as Department head, has been delegated to manage resources. The director for the Forum secretariat will be responsible to the Under-Secretary-General for Management of regular and extra-budgetary resources, and its work programme. The allocation of the Forum’s resources will continue to be presented to Member States separately in the Department’s annual budget.
The representative of Algeria asked that the secretariat distribute the questions posed to Member States
The representative of New Zealand highlighted the importance of maintaining the Forum’s ability to best promote the strategic plan on forests and the strategic forest goals. He supported its emphasis in the quadrennial work programme, stressing that the Forum occupies a unique space for addressing forest policy and management, given that there is no forest convention.
The representative of Senegal, speaking on behalf of African States, recalled that the Economic and Social Council created the Forum as a subsidiary body for the conservation and sustainable development of all kinds of forests. The Department must take note of arrangements for the Forum. Its “striking areas” included the creation of a global financing network for forests, and in 2017, the first United Nations strategic plan on forests. The Department must recognize the Forum as a world-level intergovernmental body which independently deals with various dangers to forests. “As you know, this issue is evolving swiftly” in the context of climate change, he said, stressing that the secretariat must be considerably bolstered with ambitious and supplementary goals. He requested that the reform process preserve the Forum’s independence as a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council and consider the growing responsibilities for its secretariat to strengthen its effectiveness. “If this is not done, we risk devaluing the efforts of Member States and other organizations that have worked tirelessly in the 27 years since the Rio Declaration [Principles]”, he insisted.
The representative of the European Union said the Forum is the only policy forum with universal membership. Citing resolution 2015/33, she said the Forum administers the trust fund, fosters inter-agency collaboration, liaises with countries and stakeholders and works within the United Nations to promote forest conservation. It is of utmost importance to ensure that the Department’s reform not impinge the Forum’s ability to fulfil all its functions as outlined in resolution 2015/33. Member States must understand how proposals for the Forum fit into the full picture of the Department’s reform. “We expect more details and a comprehensive picture of the measures envisaged,” she insisted, calling for enhanced transparency.
The representative of Australia called for an informed approach to the Department’s reform. Requesting that her views and those of others be fully captured in the Chair’s summary, which should also be sent to bodies involved in future decision-making processes that will determine the Forum’s future, she welcomed reforms that will bolster the Forum’s operations and voiced concern over those not allowing the body to fulfil its mandates. While underscoring the body’s unique and special place within the United Nations system, she said there has never been a greater need for a fully functional Forum secretariat.
At the time it was created, the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017‑2030 noted that it came at an unprecedented opportunity to safeguard forests, she continued. “We have less than 12 years to deliver on the ambitious forest goals,” she said, underscoring that a fully functional secretariat is crucial to the successful implementation of the strategic plan. Emphasizing the breadth of work undertaken by the Forum secretariat, she said it has a valuable role in the collaborative partnership on forests and in work on such high-profile events as the International Day on Forests. “It is the voice on forests,” she said. The secretariat must be recognized as the competent body for forests, without which the United Nations risks reverting to a fragmented system that is unable to realize forest goals. “Forests matter”, she insisted, and if the secretariat scales down, it risks an erosion of capacity. In such circumstances, the shared vision of a world in which all forests are sustainably managed and provide economic, social and cultural benefits for future generations will be unachievable. She called for maintaining the secretariat’s structure and resources and filling the director position as a matter of urgency. Decisions on the Department’s reform must be taken in a fully informed manner with complete transparency to Member States.
The representative of Nigeria, associating himself with the African Group, recalled the expectations placed on the Forum to deliver on its mandates, stressing that reforms should only strengthen its ability to address future challenges. While noting the responses by the Officer-in-Charge, he said that, of the Department divisions, only those addressing population and development matters were organized along sectoral areas; the others are multisectoral. Greater consultation with Member States would be helpful and he urged the Department to address the recommendations offered by Australia’s delegate.
The representative of China expressed hope that Department reforms will consider the important role played by the Forum and its secretariat in implementing the strategic plan, and both the global goals on forests and the Sustainable Development Goals. Its independent status should be maintained. He expressed hope that the budgetary arrangement will not affect its work and only enhance its ability to fulfil its responsibilities.
The representative of the United States voiced full support for the Department’s reform, pointing to the Forum’s work to develop global forest indicators, and a new format and cycle for voluntary reporting. The global forest financing facilitation network meanwhile is supporting the effective use of domestic and international funding, while the collaborative partnership on forests has developed work plans that are aligned with country and donor interests. That not only benefits Member States, but aligns with the United Nations goal to enhance its capacity to leverage financing, and develop external communications and partnerships. The Forum secretariat should continue to be cost-effective, and both equipped and resourced to carry out priority actions. Reaffirming the need to maintain the Forum’s ability to fulfil its mandate and role, she reiterated the importance of fulfilling the director position to ensure there is consistent leadership, representation and communication. She expressed support for the positions of New Zealand and the European Union on that matter, adding that such points should be included in the Chair’s summary.
The representative of the Russian Federation emphasized the importance of a fully functional Forum secretariat able to deliver on its role and mandates. “We have many tasks at hand,” he stressed, citing the elaboration of the work programme and resolution of matters relating to voluntary national contributions and reports. He asked that questions posed be transmitted by the secretariat to Member States.
The representative of Niger, associating himself with the African Group, pointed to the secretariat’s need for resources necessary to fulfil its mandate, stressing that reforms should not impact its ability in that regard. The secretariat cannot be effective and efficient if it is not supported, he said, underscoring Niger’s commitment to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan.
The representative of Japan expressed support for the aims of the Department’s reforms, which impact the Forum’s structure. Yet, Member States were unable to attain full transparency over the administration of the budget, due to a lack of clarity around the director position. That lack of clarity can impact the scope of the Forum’s activities and its visibility at various forums. For such reasons, she expressed hope that the issue would be clarified soon and asked that the questions and responses be circulated to Member States for review, adding that it is not clear which options were considered in the cost-benefit analysis.
The representative of Switzerland said forests add major contributions to achieving the 2030 Agenda, and the Forum’s work goes much beyond such commitments. It is the only policy forum on forests, and its ability to deliver on its goals must be assured. Its subprogramme is of utmost importance, she said, adding that the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network stands among its most essential services to help countries in transition access sustainable financing. Given that the 2019 climate summit in September will address nature-based solutions, strengthening the Forum’s secretariat is essential. All the Forum’s sessions have taken care to integrate all the Sustainable Development Goals into its discussions, she said, requesting that the director post be fulfilled.
The representative of Canada asked the Office-in-Charge to clarify that the director would maintain a direct reporting relationship to the Under-Secretary-General. She also requested that respect be shown to Member States by answering questions throughout the year, reiterating that the decision of director versus executive director is a crucial one. The strategic plan on forests must be transmitted to the world. “Any downgrading of executive director is a mistake,” she clarified, urging those making decisions to reconsider such a move.
The representative of Algeria clarified that the Department should provide written responses to the questions raised and include them in the Chair’s summary.
The representative of the major group for children and youth, on behalf of all major groups, expressed strong support for the positions of New Zealand, African States, European Union and others to ensure that the Forum’s secretariat remain fully operational. He voiced concern over the steps being taken to diminish its ability to represent the role of forests in global processes. There is a clear need for a functional secretariat to foster communication, which would be a signal for youth, women and civil society as a whole that the international community is taking action to combat current and future problems. He recalled that this is a process in the hands of Member States.
The representative of the scientific and technological community major group, associating himself with the African Group, European Union, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, voiced concern over the implication of reforms on the secretariat’s independence, operational budget and on the morale of its staff, given the decision to downgrade the executive director position. However, he was encouraged by the by the Officer-in-Charge’s statement this morning and looked forward to a strengthened Forum.
The representative of Norway voiced support for the Department’s reform, as well as the need for a transparent reform process and a fully functional Forum secretariat. He voiced concern however over the downgrading of the director position, expressing hope that such concerns will be outlined in the Chair’s summary.
Forum Chair BORIS GREGUŠKA (Slovakia) said that the secretariat will circulate the package of questions posed by Member States by the end of the morning session.
The representative of Australia, reflecting on the Officer-in-Charge’s response to Canada’s question on the reporting function to the Under-Secretary-General, said the director participates in a range of meetings, as well as in both inter- and intra-United Nations processes. If it is not filled at the D‑2 level, she asked whether that representation will be undertaken by the Under-Secretary-General.
Mr. ZHU replied that the director will indeed report to the Under-Secretary-General. Representation at various events would depend on the prioritization of the events.
The representative of Germany voiced concern that the Forum’s secretariat cannot be represented in ordinary meetings abroad, such as the collaborative partnership on forests. The question was not whether the Under-Secretary-General would be represented at certain meetings. Rather, he voiced concern that the Forum secretariat cannot even be appropriately represented at international meetings where directors are present, including in meetings with Governments, where there is a difference between a D‑2 and a D‑1 post.
Mr. ZHU said the representatives of Australia and Germany have made important points that will be shared with the Department’s management.
The representative of Argentina asked about the Department reform process, as any reduction in the executive director position would be detrimental to the Forum.
Introduction of Secretariat Note
AFSA KEMITALE-ROTHSCHILD of the Forum secretariat then introduced that body’s note (document E/CN.18/2019/3), on the agenda item titled “Monitoring, assessment and reporting on progress towards implementing the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030, including the United Nations forest instrument and voluntary national contributions”. Noting that the document provides an overview of intersessional activities on monitoring and reporting, as well as items for discussion by the Forum, she said its drafters proposed the development of several core definitions, including of the terms “forest-dependent people”, while considering national contexts. Additionally, they requested the development of a platform for the dissemination of information on forest-related issues and greater coordination with national actors. Countries were encouraged to submit their voluntary national contributions to the Forum’s upcoming sessions and share best practices, including in the context of the Forum’s mandated flagship publication, she said.
The Forum then convened its first panel of the day, on the theme “Monitoring, assessment and reporting”. Moderated by Roman Michalak, Programme Manager of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe-Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Forestry and Timber Section, it featured four panellists: Peter Csoka, Senior Forestry Officer at FAO; Kofi Affum-Baffoe, Production Manager at the Forestry Commission of Ghana; Patrick Kariuki, Deputy Conservation of Forest and United Nations Forum on Forests Alternate Focal Point at the Forest Service of Kenya; and Davia Carty, Strategic Planner and Analyst at the Forestry Department of Jamaica.
Mr. MICHALAK, citing a challenging global environment for monitoring and reporting on forest-related issues, said many of the indicators being studied are complex and lie “outside the comfort zone” of many States and sectors. Emphasizing that the main indicators being considered today — namely, the number of forest-dependent people living in extreme poverty and the contribution of forests to food security — are huge topics with broad implications, he said today’s panel is an opportunity to learn from delegations about their work and future expectations on those issues.
Mr. CSOKA, recalling that there is nothing new in the “global core set of indicators” now being examined, said the data being collected can be used in monitoring multiple processes at the same time — including towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and others. Noting that both the methodology of data‑collection and the availability of data continues to pose a challenge, he said the Collaborative Partnership on Forests has been working with all Member States to provide support. Participants at the Forum’s thirteenth session welcomed progress made on the core set of indicators, while also requesting the development of remaining indicators, as well as more reporting. Providing an overview of efforts to more clearly define the terms “area of degraded forests” and “forest-dependent people in extreme poverty”, he said the greatest challenges include agreeing on the definition of “dependence” and “food security”. Additional considerations include whether national targets should be set for sustainable forest management, similar to the Sustainable Development Goals target allocating 0.7 per cent of gross national income to official development assistance (ODA).
Ms. CARTY, sharing Jamaica’s experience with monitoring, assessment and reporting, said it is one of six pilot countries using the Forum’s reporting template — aimed at helping countries review and develop national forest policies and tools, generate information for national reports on forest conditions and management and communicate effectively with society and stakeholders. Recalling that Jamaica submitted its voluntary national contribution to the Forum’s thirteenth session, she reviewed progress made since 2017 — namely, an expansion of the nation’s boundary verification programme; the assessment and mapping of 2,000 hectares of mangrove and swamp forests to transfer for protection; the reforestation and restoration of 1,800 hectares of denuded/degraded forest lands; and the maintenance of 5,600 hectares of forest plantations. A $2 million grant now supports a forest-related alternative livelihoods programme, which encourages agroforestry, bamboo utilization, apiculture, smart agriculture, water harvesting, yam stick production and the production of medicinal and nutraceutical products. While Jamaica amended its national forest policy, she said gaps remain in measuring the socioeconomic impact of forests and their correlation to poverty levels.
Mr. AFFUM-BAFFOE focused his presentation on Ghana’s experience in studying forests’ contribution to poverty reduction and food security. Spotlighting a partnership between the Forestry Commission and farmers supporting the planting of trees on the fringes of degraded forest areas, he said its benefits include a 40 per cent share for farmers in the “standing tree value” and a 5 per cent share for the community. However, not all stakeholders adhere to those terms and there is an absence of a formal mechanism to monitor the programme’s contribution to poverty reduction. Also describing the benefits of Ghana’s “Timber Utilization Contracts” for offloading unused trees and logs, he said the programme provides small-scale millers and local carpenters access to timber and generates employment for the rural poor. However, there is a lack of coordination of domestic players in the small-scale value chain and the revenue generated is difficult to quantify. Against that backdrop, he listed several recommendations to enhance the visibility of forest goods and services and their contribution to poverty reduction.
Mr. KARIUKI, recalling that Kenya submitted its voluntary national contribution to the Forum in 2017, said that report was mainly qualitative as its work is still in the pilot phase. More recently, an analytical study was conducted, leading to proposals for several national indicators. Those relate to: improving livelihoods for forest-dependent people; the contribution of forests and trees to food security; mobilizing significant resources from all sources of sustainable forest management; and increasing forest-related financing from all sources, including the public sector, education, research, multilateral and other external sources. Turning to potential sources of data, he said such existing indicators as the national poverty headcount, per capita income, gender equality index and child poverty can provide insight. In line with the work of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, forest-related data will be collected from across the country’s various wards and administrative units, as well as from selected forests. However, he also cited several challenges, including the small, scattered nature of Kenya’s forests, limited institutional capacity and the high cost of forest data‑collection.
In the ensuing discussion, many speakers agreed that a strong relationship exists between forests, their goods and services and efforts to reduce poverty around the globe. However, in the context of monitoring and reporting, several speakers warned against saddling States with undue or overly complex reporting burdens and called for efforts to avoid duplication and overlap with other reporting processes.
The representative of the European Union, expressing support for the core set of indicators, said the contributions of forests to poverty reduction and food security should form the basis of an appropriate national census question.
The representative of Fiji, noting that its national development plan seeks to manage forests in a balanced manner and in line with their natural potential, described specific efforts to study the important impacts of water cachement systems. He also requested support from the Forum in ongoing monitoring and reporting efforts, including to identify data gaps.
The representative of Argentina, welcoming the development of guides for national reporting, expressed support for the development of a template for national reports which would help countries provide information in a unified format.
Striking a similar tone, the representative of the Russian Federation called for more clarity on reporting accountability. Noting that voluntary national contributions exist to reflect the participation of the Forum’s Member States in achieving the global forest goals, he advocated for the development of a clear, concise and simple template for voluntary contributions, which he said will help avoid misreadings and “double meanings” while allowing for more accurate comparisons.
Also speaking were representatives of Ukraine, Republic of Korea and the United States.
Means of Implementation
PETER GONDO of the secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests introduced that body’s note on “Means of implementation” (document E/CN.18/2019/4), which covers major developments since the Forum’s thirteenth session. Pointing out that, since the sixth session of the Global Environment Facility, some $825 million are now expected to leverage about $8.4 billion in co-financing, he added that a liaison officer was also appointed. Support has been provided to land use projects with a forestry component and four projects were approved under the dedicated grant mechanism for indigenous peoples and local communities. Stressing that “we still need more resources” to achieve the targets laid out in the global forest goals, he said the secretariat currently works with a total of 25 countries, with Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, North Macedonia and several others recently added to the list. Recalling that an expert group meeting was held in January on the issue of a clearing‑house mechanism, he said work has begun on a generic modular guide for developing national forest financing strategies and is slated to be finalized in June.
THOMAS BALDAUF, Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Germany, updated the Forum on the expert group meeting of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network clearing house, stressing that its priorities included promoting and assisting members in designing sustainable forest management strategies, and serving as a clearing house and database for existing, new and emerging financing opportunities, and as a tool for sharing lessons learned and best practices from successful projects, building on the Collaborative Partnership on Forests online sourcebook for forest financing. Another priority not covered during the meeting is to contribute to achievement of the global forest goals.
He said the expert group meeting, held from 9 to 11 January, was attended by 60 experts from Member States, organizations, non-governmental organizations and academia. The objective was to discuss and identify the requirements and elements of information for the development of a comprehensive database on forest financing opportunities. Experts discussed aspects of the clearing house, including existing clearing‑house databases and sources of data; identification of key users and information providers; modalities of partnerships; and the need for interactive platforms on lessons learned and best practices. The outcome, a chair’s summary, included six items, notably on the creation of a database and components to be included in its first phase.
HOSSEIN MOEINI-MEYBODI, Forum on Forests secretariat, updated on the establishment of its project office for the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network in Beijing. As the secretariat was appointed manager of the Network and the strategic plan, it adopted the four priorities for the Network. At the Forum’s thirteenth session, China announced its willingness to host the project office in Beijing. Since then, the Permanent Mission of China transmitted a note verbale to the Department in September 2018, confirming the willingness of the nation to host the office and requesting the Department to prepare relevant drafts and organize initial consultations. A draft memorandum of understanding was prepared, in coordination with the Office of Legal Affairs, and since its November 2018 transmission to China, two consultation rounds had been held, in January and April 2019.
He said several forestry, foreign affairs, finance and customs administration officials from China participated in those meetings, as had United Nations officials from the Office of Legal Affairs, the Department and the Forum secretariat. Substantive progress has been made on the draft memorandum of understanding, which is expected to be finalized by year-end. The office will aim to enhance the secretariat’s work in scaling up the Network’s capacity-building ability. The secretariat is the manager of the Network, with the Beijing office as a project office, and will continue to advance the priorities of the Network. The Beijing office has no normative mandate or policy‑setting role. It will report on its operations and programme activities to the Forum secretariat, which itself will serve as an interface for Member States requesting Network support. The work programme will complement that of the secretariat in relation to the Network, and the office will operate under the supervision of the secretariat director. All programmatic and administrative costs will be covered by the extrabudgetary contribution provided by China — meaning that the office’s establishment and operation will have no programme budget implications for the United Nations.
GUO YUFU (China) said the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network is critical to help developing countries mobilize funding and share best practices. That instrument has provided much support in that regard with good results, he said. However, as the Facility faces resource constraints, China decided to support the provision of such assistance by offering to host an office for the Facility in Beijing.
WINSTON LACKIN (Suriname), pointing out that his is the most forested country in the world, recalled its pledge to cap its forest cover at 93 per cent. Suriname has also called on the international community to provide the required science and technology, expertise, technical and financial support for those efforts. Noting that other developing countries are in the same position, he said 24 per cent of the world’s forests — close to a billion hectares — are in high forest low deforestation countries. “Under a business-as-usual scenario, many of these countries will see their deforestation rates increase sharply as a result of pressures associated with economic development,” he stressed, noting that high forest low deforestation countries have received under $2 billion in climate financing, less than 14 per cent of all funds committed. Calling for more efforts to assist those countries — which absorb more than 25 per cent of the world’s human-generated carbon emission and sequester more carbon than logged, degraded and planted forests — he stressed that high forest low deforestation countries should sit squarely at the heart of the Forum’s discourse.
Mr. DAS (India), noting that his delegation has no technical objection with the establishment of a Beijing office, nevertheless asked for more clarity on which challenges with the present system necessitated the office’s establishment.
Ms. POLIAKOVA (Ukraine), pointing out that her country has utilized the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, welcomed that instrument’s efficiency. Asking for more information about eligibility for funding under that instrument, she said the clearing house mechanism should make information on eligibility more widely available.
Mr. JOHNSON (United States), noting that the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network has provided assistance to 29 countries and five subregional organizations to date, called for additional efforts to study and quantify the results of such financing. Regarding the possible establishment of a Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network office in Beijing, he stressed that such an office must carry out its work in a neutral and multilateral manner. The secretariat must provide regular updates on it and invite input from Forum members. In addition, he said, the relationship between that office and the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network must be made clear, and its functions should be carefully chosen. Forum Member States should be able to comment on the memorandum of understanding for such an office and the latter must fall squarely under all United Nations rules and guidelines. Requesting information about the proposal to use extrabudgetary funds for the Beijing office, he asked whether other locations have also been considered and asked the Secretariat to provide Forum members with a cost-benefit analysis in that regard. In addition, he stressed that maintaining and updating the clearing house mechanism should not include any new reporting requirements.
Mr. YIMAM (Ethiopia), calling for action to advance both the Sustainable Development Goals and the global forest goals, said such action must be tantamount to the scale of the challenges. Ethiopia is aligning its national efforts with the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030, while also ensuring its continued economic growth. Among those efforts, he said, the Government is providing more space for the private sector to engage in sustainable forest management, including through commercial planting. Ethiopia requires sustainable, predictable support from the international community in that regard, he said, spotlighting the disproportionate impacts of climate change on developing countries.
Mr. GRLAS of the European Union said the global forest goals will only be achieved through good governance, the active involvement of all stakeholders and the enhanced mobilization of and access to financing. Spotlighting the need for a Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network that is effective and transparent, he described that instrument as a “success story” that has not overlapped with or duplicated the efforts of other mechanisms. In that context, he called for a strong, collaborative partnership on forests to support the Network — as well as efforts to enhance its effectiveness and efficiency — and expressed support for the development of the clearing house mechanism. Among other things, he also echoed calls for a cost-benefit analysis of the establishment of a new office in Beijing and requested more clarity regarding the funding of such an office.
Ms. VERMONT (Switzerland) echoed calls for more information about the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network’s support, as well as on the establishment of the proposed Beijing office. “We don’t quite understand what the role of that office will be,” she said, citing a “shocking” lack of transparency on the matter and recalling that relevant information was previously requested by the Forum.
The representative of Costa Rica, echoing the statement delivered by the representative of Suriname regarding the special needs of high‑forest, low‑deforestation countries, said those nations require greater support. The question of funding should lie at the heart of the Forum’s discussions, he said.
Mr. KABENGELE (Democratic Republic of the Congo), associating himself with Suriname and Costa Rica, agreed that the contribution of high forest low deforestation countries to achieve an appropriate climate balance has not been recognized by the international community. Their needs should be a higher priority for the Forum, he stressed.
Mr. REMAOUN (Algeria) recalled that the decision to establish a new Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network project office lies with the Secretary‑General and thanked China for its offer to host such an office.
Ms. MANTHE-TSUANENG (Botswana) expressed gratitude for the support provided by the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network to her country’s sustainable forest management efforts.
ALISON SOLANGE GRAÑA CORONEL (Ecuador), associating herself with the representatives of Suriname, Costa Rica and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, described her country’s “zero‑net deforestation” policy and its commitment to the United Nations strategic plan for forests. However, she agreed with other speakers that developing countries require support in accessing financing for such work.
Ms. MOTOYAMA (Japan), echoing many of the concerns raised by the United States representative regarding the establishment of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network office in Beijing, asked the Secretariat whether it has examined similar case studies in which main offices are separated from Headquarters — many of which have resulted in significant extra costs and duplication. She also expressed support for proposals to conduct cost-benefit analyses of various options for such work.
Mr. MAHMOUD (Malaysia) said his country continues to face challenges in accessing the necessary resources for sustainable forest management. The Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network should negotiate with the Green Climate Fund on terms and conditions, he said, adding that the former should continue to assist developing countries in accessing funds from all sources.
Mr. DRANIBAKA (Fiji) described the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network as a “great tool for making things happen” in the implementation of sustainable forest management initiatives. He also associated himself with the statement delivered by the representative of Suriname.
Mr. MAHONEY (Australia) said the possible establishment of a new office in Beijing is a novel initiative and posed questions about its relationship with the reform of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Mr. MOEINI-MEYBODI of the Forum secretariat, speaking on the idea to assess progress achieved by the Network in mobilizing funding for forests, said his office has discussed it but has not yet acted on the idea. Noting that it has collected data on the projects undertaken by the Network — which is different than funding — he said it takes time for a project to be reviewed by multilateral funding institutions, which have their own procedures. While the secretariat is doing its utmost to involve the implementing or accredited agency in the process from the start, in some cases, such efforts were not successful. Even when such agencies were involved from the start, they had different priorities which created problems, as they need time and resources to review a project concept note and understand whether it aligns with its own priorities. The secretariat is working with members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests to more easily transmit funding documents to financing institutions while respecting the priorities of the Governments involved.
Regarding the Network clearing house, he pointed to the expert groups meetings and various side events focused on that issue. The secretariat is aware of the huge mandate given to it by the Forum and acknowledges that its capacity is “not sufficient at all” to fulfil its mandate. Thus, it is working closely with all Collaborative Partnership on Forests member organizations and data providers, including International Aid Transparency Initiative, FAO, Global Environmental Facility and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). “Definitely our work is not going to duplicate their work,” he said. Rather, it will use existing capacity, where it exists, and not reproduce data. “This is a collaborative exercise.”
On the proposed project office, he said the first consultation in January was held at a time when the secretariat note was being finalized. Noting that the United Nations set the deadline for document submission, he said the process started late, with the draft memorandum of understanding submitted only one month before the end of 2018. The second consultation was held only three weeks ago. He took note of the request to share information and would consult with the Office of Legal Affairs on that process and precedent.
Explaining that the Beijing project office would support the capacity development activities of the Network, he said the secretariat is accountable to the Forum on the Network’s performance and would report to it on the project office, should it be established. The Beijing office would be considered a United Nations office, meaning that all requisite standards for recruitment, salaries, immunities, privileges and access would be applied. It would operate under the supervision of the secretariat director, and regardless of any changes that might emerge from the Department’s reform. Its budget and staffing table are still being discussed, and China would cover the entire cost of the office. The Department’s capacity-building office would be in charge of its administration and related matters, including authorizing the allocation of resources and activities.
The representative of Switzerland said she is still puzzled about share of work between two locations. Switzerland is big contributor to the Network and until matters concerning the office are clear, it will not be able to make any contributions to the trust fund. To encourage donors, all the information must be clear, open and transparent. There can be no expectation of contributions to the Network’s fund without having precise lines of communication and understanding of “who is doing what”. The situation must be sorted very quickly.
Mr. MOEINI-MEYBODI replied that the secretariat has taken note of the requests to share information on the memorandum of understanding and must seek guidance from the Office of Legal Affairs. “We’ll come back to you hopefully before the end of this session,” he said. “We are in your hands. Whatever you decide, we will follow,” as there is nothing the secretariat can do without Member State support.
Mr. RATNAYAKE (Sri Lanka) said one of the biggest challenges facing developing countries is a lack of data. Specific indicators are needed for which data can be collected by forest officers or generated by citizens, he said.
Ms. WHELAN (Canada) expressed support for the development of the core set of indicators, as well as the relevant explanatory notes. Regarding the flagship publication, she cited several timing challenges and proposed that the latter be launched to coincide with the World Forestry Congress in 2021.
Mr. VAN OPZEELAND (New Zealand), noting the importance of the expert meeting, said the ability to report accurately and widely on forests is crucial to achieving the sustainable development targets. He voiced support for the development of an iterative set of core indicators, wherein refinements can be added. On the flagship report, he joined Canada’s representative in voicing concern about the timing of its release and echoed support for the proposal to launch it at the World Forestry Congress in 2021.
LEI JINGPIN (China) echoed expressions of support for the development of a core set of indicators. Highlighting some related technical issues, she said “different indicators have different definitions” which could affect their interpretation and evaluation. The accuracy and availability of data is critical, she said, adding that data can be divided into two categories — namely, quantitative or descriptive. Also underlining the importance of operability, she called for the provision of transparent, scientific means to carry out sustainable forest management.
Mr. SOUST (Uruguay) said his country is actively preparing its forest mapping, data‑collection and inventory. It formulated national policies aimed at protecting the nation’s forests, which have resulted in positive results. Uruguay is committed to continue such efforts, he said, urging stakeholders to ensure that the relevant data‑collection tools continue to improve.
Mr. MAHONEY (Australia), welcoming efforts to support Member States in delivering their national voluntary contributions, asked for Mr. Csoka’s input on how the core set of indicators can help define the operational processes related to Tier 3 indicators. Among other things, he agreed with the proposal to launch the flagship publication at the World Forestry Congress and requested more information about efforts to convene an advisory committee on that publication.
Mr. OGAWA (Japan) said each Member State should be able to share the data in its voluntary national contribution as it chooses, as the purpose of reporting is not to compare the efforts of countries. National reporting should seek to explore progress made, the process should seek to avoid duplication and the reporting burden of countries should be reduced, he said.
Ms. CORONEL (Ecuador), describing her country’s data collection and reporting efforts, underlined the importance of having clear, available data in land use, land planning and other spheres. “We need an alliance that will enhance cooperation,” she stressed, as well as efforts to democratize new technologies for developing and middle-income countries.
ERICA DI GIROLAMI of the children and youth major group said voluntary national contributions should include the contributions of young people. Proposing more collaborations with universities, she spotlighted many potential benefits of such partnerships and called for more attention to new technologies and design.
LISA JANISHEVSKI of the Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat underlined the importance of aligning sustainable forest management efforts with efforts to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Also spotlighting ongoing preparations for the post‑2020 biodiversity framework, she said all relevant reporting should make use of data on gross deforestation and other critical issues.
The Forum then convened the second panel discussion of the day on the theme “Means of implementation for sustainable forest management”. Moderated by Sibylle Vermont, Senior Scientific Officer at the Federal Office for the Environment of Switzerland, it featured two panelists: Marilyn Headley, Chief Executive officer and Conservator of Forests at the Forestry Department of Jamaica; and Avhashoni Renny Madula, Director of Forestry Regulation and Oversight at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa.
Ms. HEADLEY recounted Jamaica’s experience with the Network, explaining that the country completed its national action plan, which dovetails with its climate resilience forest sector plan. The process involved all forest sector stakeholders. The Government also looked at devising a strategic forest financing plan. At the time, the Network had come into play, so Jamaica applied for assistance in devising and implementing its national strategy. The Network approved its request and Jamaica now works with a consultant. It is preparing a concept note that will lead to a project identification form to manage mangroves. By July, it should have its financial strategy in place to implement its national action plan.
Mr. MADULA said South Africa’s situation is strikingly different from that of Jamaica in the sense it only now has started to engage with the Network. It held a stakeholder‑engagement capacity-building workshop to prepare proposals that it then submitted to multilateral funding agencies. That process had brought together various stakeholders, including a national focal point. While South Africa has resources to ensure implementation of the forest instrument and the United Nations strategic plan on forests, in started a process over the last year to help it improve its data, which involved a review of national forest resource assessment. Two pilot projects were carried out in two districts. “Sustainable forest management is quite an expensive exercise,” he said, especially in an underperforming economy and budget cuts across the board. It approached the Network for funding that would allow it to scale up those projects.
When the floor was opened for delegates to share experiences in approaching the Network for funding, the representative of the Philippines said that, for nearly 10 years, sustainable forest management initiatives have been locally funded, often with ODA and funding from the Global Environmental Facility, focused on the provision of technical assistance. It also introduced into its environmental impact assessment system a condition for linking projected carbon generation to offset activities.
The speaker from the scientific and technological community major group said the Network is restrictive in that it does not extend support to non-State actors, a major stumbling block for major groups. He pressed the secretariat to set up a fund for carrying out such activities and invited donor countries to support the interventions outlined in a work plan produced at a recent expert meeting in Nairobi.