CSD decision on the world’s forests raises new questions

A meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-8) ended with the creation of a new body in charge of forests, the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF). Now, environmental groups want to know whether the new body will really be allowed to champion 'green' forestry management.

There’s no question that the UNFF will be established, but no one is sure which UN body it will report to. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), there are three options. UNFF could report directly to CSD. This option, says WWF, would ensure that environmental considerations are treated with equal importance to economic and social factors.

But UNFF could report instead to either the UN’s economic and social body, known as ECOSOC, or to the UN General Assembly itself.

WWF wants to see a UNFF with a clear environmental mission and the group favours the CSD as UNFF’s ‘supervisor’. “The CSD has at least some participatory dialogue,” Ellen von Zitzewitz, WWF’s European forests policy officer, told edie (see related story).

Von Zitzewitz is critical of the attempts since the Rio Environmental Summit to create an international convention on forests. “The campaign for a convention was led by countries like Canada and Finland and for obvious reasons they weren’t taking environmental considerations seriously,” she says.

Ideally, WWF would like to see the UNFF reporting to CSD and working on the “proposals for action” that have been drawn up over the last eight years by the International Panel on Forests and the International Forum on Forests.

Funding for developing country participation in UNFF is also a concern of WWF’s. The group points to low levels of developing country participation in the UN’s General Assembly as an example of the dangers of failing to provide adequate funding.

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