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The future of global forests governance
Rain forest, Australia.
Source: Eugene Cisneros
http://www.minresco. com/australia/dn_under.htm

The future of the international governance of forests featured prominently in 2004. Discussions proceeded on the future of global forest processes due for renewal or replacement over the next two years: the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA), the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF), and the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF).

The UNFF was set up in 2000 as part of the IAF designed to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end (Economic and Social Council 2000). The Forum's initial five-year mandate will expire in 2005. The ITTA, first negotiated in 1983 and renegotiated in 1994 to provide a framework for cooperation on issues concerning tropical timber, is scheduled to expire at the end of 2006.

The UNFF's future was the focus of the UNFF Ad Hoc Expert Group on Consideration with a View to Recommending the Parameters of a Mandate for Developing a Legal Framework on All Types of Forests (AHEG-PARAM), which met in September 2004 (UNFF 2004a). This issue was also discussed at the UNFF's fourth session in May (UNFF 2004b).

To date there is no all-embracing and legally binding international instrument regulating all aspects of sustainable forest use in all parts of the world. Two major options were proposed during the AHEG-PARAM. One is to build on the existing IAF. Experts in the AHEG-PARAM reached common ground on the objectives and content of a future IAF. Many emphasized the need to strengthen the IAF, and to fully implement existing commitments in the global forests policy arena. The instrument to accomplish these goals will be decided on at UNFF's fifth session in May 2005.

The other option is to develop a new legally-binding international instrument, such as a Forest Convention, or a Forest Protocol to an existing instrument like the CBD. Many participants in the debate recognize that a combination of both these approaches could be developed (Mankin 2004).

Meanwhile a number of endangered timber species received international protection. The 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) decided to control trade in several Asian yew trees and ramin, a major export timber (CITES 2004).

Box 3: Methyl bromide heats up ozone talks

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is widely recognized as one of the most successful of all multilateral environmental agreements. Since it was adopted in 1987, the treaty has ensured the gradual phase-out of a number of substances responsible for depleting the ozone layer (see GEO Indicators section). The consumption of ozone depleting substances has decreased significantly, allowing some scientists to predict that the ozone layer would recover by the middle of the 21st century if all the control measures of the Montreal Protocol were adhered to by all countries (UNEP 2000).

In spite of this success, challenges still remain. In 2004 the Protocol faced one of its biggest tests in recent years. Major disagreements surfaced in late 2003 over the ozone-depleting pesticide methyl bromide. Under the Protocol, developed countries were required to phase-out methyl bromide use by 1 January 2005. However, some parties called for exemptions to permit its ongoing use, arguing that there are as yet no cost-effective alternatives.

For the first time in the protocol's history, an extraordinary meeting of parties was convened in March 2004 to help resolve the issue. The meeting secured a compromise on critical-use exemptions for 11 developed country parties in 2005 (UNEP 2004a). The matter was not fully resolved, and required further work throughout the year. In spite of lengthy discussions the Sixteenth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, which took place in late November 2004, was not able to agree on methyl bromide exemptions for 2006. Parties decided to hold an additional 'extraordinary' meeting in mid-2005 to revisit the issue (UNEP 2004b).

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