Summary: Working Group on Environment, Trade and Sustainable Development
Sustainable Management and Protection of Forests and Biodiversity
||17 July 2002, 09:00-12:15
Moderator(s):|| • Mr. Gonzalo Oviedo, World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA)|
Presenters/ Participants:|| • Mr. Stuart Magginis, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)|
• Mr. Romano Migliarini, Associazione Ticinese Missione Aiuto all'Autosvilluppo (ATMA)
• Mr. Christopher Prins, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
• Mr. Simon Rietbergen, World Conservation Union (IUCN)
||Marc Brightman (ICVolunteers)
||CBD, biodiversity, forests, forestry, intellectual property, indigenous peoples
Mr. Gonzalo Oviedo of the World Commission on Protected Areas project of
the World Conservation Union (IUCN) introduced forestry as perhaps the most important element not covered by international treaties.
According to Mr. Oviedo, although the Rio
Summit of 1992 put forestry on the agenda at the highest level, little action was taken, and its conclusions were not legally binding. Various attempts have since been made to reform international forestry
legislation—through platforms such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, the International Forum on Forests, and the UN Forum on Forests. However, it proves hard to reach agreement due to the wide range of differing opinions and interests represented. Mr. Oviedo particularly wanted to stress that as well as constituting resources for minerals, timber and biodiversity, forests are the homes of diverse cultures whose intellectual property and livelihood are at stake.
Mr. Simon Rietburgen, also of the IUCN,
presented his organisation, which brings together over 150 government agencies, along with environmental NGOs and related organisations. There are major divisions among its members, for example over a proposal for a general forest convention. Its mission statement stresses the need for a socially conscious approach to conservation.
Mr. Rietburgen reiterated that the constant stream of talk on an international level is not being translated into decisive action, and figures
from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) show that deforestation continues. In addition, there is a hidden decline in the quality of forests in developed countries, due to statistics being based on the quantity of cover. Britain, for example, has lost half of its ancient woodlands and the biodiversity they contained over the past half century, while the net forest cover has noticeably increased.
What can be done? Ministries of forestry have little influence when it comes to colonisation, damming and other major demographic or economic changes in forested areas. The
Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) is difficult to put into practice for ministries of the environment, which often have little power compared to the longer-established national ministries. Another problem is that major stakeholders who influence forests greatly are not usually represented at international meetings. Local communities, for example, are of increasing importance in many forested areas due to devolution and related trends. The private sector also has enormous influence, for example through mining and
When conclusions are reached, such as the CBD, they are nevertheless useful as they provide a programme for
Mr. Rietburgen also spoke of the North-South divide, characterised by a relationship of mistrust: the North tells the South to protect forests, while the South asks the North for the financial means of doing so. The IUCN is therefore concentrating on regional negotiation to exploit more common ground. This facilitates much-needed dialogue at a local level,where functional interactions take place. The 'Forest Pact' pilot project in Indonesia, for
example—although conducted in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)—does not exploit the high profile of the
latter. Instead, it seems to prefer to offset inter-institutional rivalry in favour of cooperation and a dialogue focussed on 'who should do what, how it should be monitored', instead of just vague talk about 'what should be done' on a 'global' scale.
Mr. Romano Migliarini, of the Associazione Ticinese Missione Aiuto
all'Autosvilluppo (ATMA), suggested pharmaceutical companies could pay peasants to look after the forest in areas where natural products are in high demand. Another participant suggested the importance of financial incentives.
Mr. Rietbergen agreed with both, saying the nature-culture dichotomy is often not constructive, and indigenous people may successfully adapt technology to their needs. He stressed the importance of social anthropologists to find out about traditional uses of resources, and identify profitable and sustainable products and methods.
Mr. Oviedo underscored out the need to collaborate with the forest inhabitants to identify and add value to forest products that can be produced in a sustainable way. Indigenous peoples need to know the value of their products, and adapt their traditional institutions to new economic situations.
He stressed that, "what is not profitable is not sustainable", but the link is often difficult to make when developed economies are the chief consumers of forest products. The only solution from which all else can follow is the demarcation and protection of land for indigenous peoples. This requires government intervention. There is cause for optimism, Mr. Oviedo concluded, as solutions are being discussed on an increasingly high level.
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