This column provides me with a very good opportunity to raise a few important issues with the membership of the Group of 77.
In the year 2001, we have a very heavy agenda and, in fact, an overloaded programme of work. In addition to the huge number of routine meetings and sessions in New York, the Group of 77 will also have to deal with the following high-level events and conferences. Over and above these important gatherings, which require a Herculean effort on the part of the Group of 77, we also have to participate in the preparatory process of two other high-level events next year. The first being the International Conference on Financing for Development, and the second, the Rio+10 Review Conference.
In my view, the Financing for Development Conference, just decided in the second Prepcom to be held in Mexico in early 2002, constitutes the most important process for the developing world. We should exert every effort, individually and more so collectively, to ensure the active and substantive engagement and participation of the community of developing countries in this historical process. The South should undertake to ensure that the International Conference will be held at the highest possible level, preferably at the Summit level, and more importantly, that it will have a substantive outcome commensurate with the requirements of the long-term development of the South. We simply cannot afford to allow this unique, historical opportunity to pass by, whose serious ramifications, positive or otherwise, will be felt by the entire international community, most particularly the developing community.
In addition to all these, the Group of 77 will also have to pay due attention to the effective follow-up and implementation of the final outcome of the South Summit - an indeed successful event with significant achievements. Apart from the Havana Declaration which sets out, in very clear terms, the long-term vision of the South in these times of constant and tumultuous change, the Havana Programme of Action contains a wide range of practical measures and actions in the areas of priority to the Group. The Other Decisions, constitutes another area of priority to be followed up and implemented. We should indeed commit ourselves within the Group to mobilize all our energy and potential towards the vigorous and effective implementation of the provisions of the Programme of Action and consensual follow-up of the provisions of the Other Decisions.
The vary raison detre of the Group of 77 lies in its unwavering pursuit of the genuine interests and concerns of the developing world through active and constructive participation in multilateral processes and negotiations towards achieving a more equitable and humane world economic system. Success in this on-going collective endeavour is directly related to and contingent upon the preservation and further strengthening of the principles of unity and solidarity within the Group. The Islamic Republic of Iran, as the presiding country of the Group of 77 for the year 2001, is fully committed to the principles and objectives of the Group as well as to their realization through unity, solidarity and collective effort.
G-77 chair calls for vibrant South-South cooperation |top|
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 (G-77/IPS) -- Dr. Kamal Kharrazi, Foreign Minister of Iran and the new chairman of the Group of 77, called for increased South-South cooperation among developing nations in an attempt to achieve the "ever-illusive self-reliance."
Pointing out that South-South cooperation has had a special place in G-77 activities for almost four decades, Dr. Kharrazi said "there is very little doubt that it has become all the more imperative in this age of globalization, when, among others, multilateralism is under attack, and instead, unilateralism, and at best, bilateralism is flourishing."
In this connection, he said, the Havana Programme of Action adopted at the South Summit in Cuba last year provides the G-77 with a very clear and focused blueprint for action.
"It contains a wide range of measures and actions in various areas of South-South Cooperation, which, in our view, are realistic and achievable. But, as we are all ruefully aware, the problem has not been due to lack of adopted measures and decisions, rather, active follow-up and implementation of the agreed decisions and measures," he added.
"Therefore, what we need today is how to devise practical mechanisms for follow-up and implementation. In fact, the section on Institutional Follow-up in the Havana Programme of Action should, once implemented, provide for a strengthened support structure in this regard".
"We consider this as an important provision of the Programme of Action and I fully agree with Nigerian Foreign Minister Sule Lamido the outgoing chair of the G-77 on the necessity of its urgent follow-up as a matter of high priority for the Group."
What was achieved in Havana last April is of historical proportions and import, Dr. Kharrazi said.
The Group of 77, comprising of almost four-fifth of the world's population and poised between the achievements of the past and the hopes and expectations of a yet uncharted future, succeeded, at long last, to meet at the highest political level and agree on two negotiated texts; that is, the Declaration of the South Summit and the Havana Programme of Action, he added.
Together, they embody the long-term vision and the strategic perspective of the Group in a rapidly changing world, with all its disquieting uncertainties.
These two negotiated documents, Dr Kharrazi said, are rich and comprehensive, and carry a potent message. They portray a realistic - albeit grim - picture of the situation of the South in the world today.
The analysis of the world economic situation and what it entails for the bigger part of the human community is sobering, whether in terms of the persistence of endemic poverty, widening gaps at different levels among and within states, or the increased marginalization of a large number of developing countries.
"The globalization process, rampant as it currently is, has been rightly diagnosed as a principal culprit for the further exacerbation of the situation and intensification of disparities and the inherent instabilities of the world system. Its potential opportunities are yet to be realized," he noted.
The Havana Declaration reaffirms the deeply cherished principles and objectives of the Group, including the imperative need to act in close unity for the primary purpose of working for a peaceful and prosperous world.
It asserts full commitment to the Group's spirit to pursue a common and constructive course of action for the protection and promotion of the collective interests of developing nations, and genuine international cooperation for development.
Furthermore, the Declaration represents the Group's collective reflection on the changing world economic situation and the emerging challenges facing the South in the economic and social spheres.
Dr Kharrazi said: "It is a solemn invitation to all of us at the dawn of the 21st century to act decisively to map out a better future for our countries and peoples and to work towards the establishment of a just and democratic international economic system."
"It underlines, in very clear terms, that development is the best contribution to peace and calls for collective and peaceful solutions for the global problems affecting the world today".
Given the Group's expanse and diverse composition, it as well addresses the particular concerns and interests of the variety of groups and sub-groups within the developing community.
"In our view, the Declaration's comprehensive coverage of the range of issues and problems we have been grappling with in our continuing quest for development, and particularly given the level and degree of articulation achieved in their formulation, rises to the challenge of our predicament and time".
"Moreover, the fact that we met at the Summit just eight months ago and discussed and negotiated these two documents renders unnecessary any further attempt at analysis of the situation or advancement of position at this stage. And I for one will not do that," he added.
"Instead, what remains for us, for the Group in its totality, is to exert every possible effort to translate the Declaration's strategy and vision into action and reality. For which we have the second negotiated outcome of the Summit; that is, the Havana Programme of Action.
The thrust of the Programme of Action is to lay the foundations for a more effective system of international development cooperation, and at a more practical level, to pursue a sharply focused action-oriented agenda.
Framed as such, the Programme of Action has accorded high priority to five areas; that is, globalization, knowledge and technology, South-South cooperation, North-South relations, and institutional follow-up.
Secretary-General praises effectiveness of Group of 77 |top|
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 (G-77/IPS)-- Addressing a meeting to mark the formal turnover of the chairmanship of the Group of 77, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Group has continued to prove its effectiveness as an instrument to keep development issues high on the UN agenda.
Annan said the G-77 had made very important contributions to the two special sessions: on women and on social development, held by the General Assembly in June. "And it was your initiative, following the Havana Summit, that led to the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council examining the role of information technology in development," he added.
said, led to the Council's call to establish an Information Communications
Technologies (ICT) Task Force -- a new departure for the United Nations,
which reflects a new understanding that information technology, far from
implying a diversion from poverty-eradication and development, can enable
us to make faster progress towards those very goals.
said that the Millennium Summit as a whole marked a triumph for the priority
which the Group of 77 has always given to issues of social and economic
They agreed that the central challenge facing the international community is "to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world's people".
And they concluded that this can only be done through "broad and sustained efforts" including, at the global level, measures "which correspond to the needs of developing countries and are formulated and implemented with their effective participation".
This implies an important role for the G-77, through which developing countries can organize their participation collectively.
Welcoming Iranian Foreign Minister Dr Kamal Kharrazi, Annan said: "Your presence here today shows that Iran intends to take its responsibilities as Chairman very seriously. And rightly so. And given your own past performance, I think we can expect a stimulating leadership during the coming year," he added.
The United Nations calendar in the year ahead offers no shortage of opportunities to further advance the cause of development.
There are many events in which the Group of 77, under its new leadership, will be actively engaged, in particular the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, to be held in Brussels in May -- the first United Nations conference hosted by the European Union.
This will give the international community a chance to deal comprehensively with issues that crucially affect the poorest countries but are too often treated piecemeal: financing, external debt, trade, poverty eradication, and sustainable development.
event of special importance to developing countries will be the ninth
session of the Commission on Sustainable Development in April, which is
to consider energy problems.
In addition, the Group of 77 has an indispensable role to play in the preparatory process for the high-level international conference on financing for development in early 2002, agreement on which was one of the G-77's major achievements last year, he said.
Annan said he had asked a high-level panel, chaired by former President Zedillo of Mexico, to recommend concrete, achievable steps that could be taken to augment the flow of resources to the developing world.
"I believe this panel can make a very significant contribution to our thinking, and help build up political momentum. I urge you all to give it the benefit of your ideas, and to make maximum use of its recommendations", he added.
Meanwhile, the strong message from the Havana Summit on the importance of strengthened South-South cooperation must not be forgotten. In trade and technology, especially, the benefits of such cooperation could be exponential.
The slower growing countries have much to gain by studying the policies that have made others more successful.
Finally, he added, the Group of 77 will have an important role to play in providing leadership, and a due sense of urgency, in the preparation of another major event planned for next year -- the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in South Africa.
Chairman appeals for funds and pays tribute to G-77 office |top|
|From left to right: Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of UNDP; Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the UN; Alhaji Sule Lamido, Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Ambassador Chief Arthur C.I. Mbanefo, Chairman of the Group of 77 for 2000; Mourad Ahmia, Executive Secretary of the Group of 77.|
"We must be aware that for many years only a limited number of countries have been contributing consistently, and as when due, to the Account of the Office of the Chairman. The time has come for our Group to concretize the decision of the Havana Summit last year by meeting on a timely basis their financial obligations," he said.
The foreign minister also said: "Our serious commitment to the Group is not well reflected by the fact that only 14 countries out of 133 members have paid their full dues in accordance with the decision of the Havana Summit. It is obvious that the Secretariat cannot function without funds," he added.
Expressing his profound satisfaction with the services provided by the Office of the Chairman of the Group of 77, which has been acting as the Group's Secretariat for the last two decades, the Foreign Minister said, "I would also like to take this opportunity to put on record our appreciation of the invaluable support provided by our small but effective Secretariat to all our delegations. Our special thanks and gratitude to our Executive Secretariat, Mr. Mourad Ahmia, and his assistant Mr. Arturo Lozano and other staff in the Office of the Chairman in New York for their dedication, commitment and invaluable service to our Group, he said. They have become in their long years of service the institutional memory of the Group of 77. I want them to know that they are indeed well appreciated", he concluded. Many other delegations commended the work of the Secretariat and expressed their support and appreciation to the Executive Secretary and its staff at the same ceremony.
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 25 (G-77/IPS) -- The Group of 77 considers the International Conference on Financing for Development - scheduled for early 2002 - as an historical and unique event with tremendous potential to develop a new set of policies to help the long-term development of the developing world.
In an interview with the Journal of the Group of 77, Ambassador Bagher Asadi of Iran said that for nearly two decades developing countries have been calling for some sort of a conference to discuss their growing and yet unmet financial needs for development. For a variety of reasons, it never materialized. But, now, for a big change, it is becoming a reality.
The success of the International Conference is not only important in its own right but is also symbolically important. It should augur well for the future of international cooperation for development because it involves both North and South, he added.
According to Ambassador Asadi, the following themes in the substantive agenda of the Financing for Development (FfD) process, clearly shows that almost all of the key economic and development issues are up for discussion:
domestic resources for development;
- Mobilizing international resources for development, foreign direct investment and other private flows;
- Increasing international financial cooperation for development through, inter alia, Official Development Assistance (ODA);
- Addressing systemic issues: enhancing the coherence and consistency of the international, monetary, financial and trading systems in support of development.
While emphasizing that the agenda will be quite heavy and substantial, he admitted that some of these issues would be "difficult and contentious". But, he added that the whole process will be a big challenge for the entire international community, both for developed and developing countries, and also for such institutions as the World Bank, IMF and WTO.
Referring to the work of the Second Meeting of the Preparatory Committee for FfD which concluded its work on February 23rd in New York, the G-77 Chairman said that it was indeed a very successful meeting. The active attendance and participation by the representatives of all the stakeholders; governmental, non-governmental, private sector, civil society as well as the Bretton Woods Institutions and the WTO. During the two-week session, a highly interactive dialogue took place among the participants on a wide range of issues, including the six thematic themes on the FfD agenda. There was also openness on the part of all stakeholders, which was extremely useful in helping the various stakeholders understand each other's positions better. Ambassador Asadi emphasized the importance of the preservation of the same spirit throughout the whole process, which would help the process evolve smoothly and also contribute to its ultimate success.
Ambassador Asadi also referred to the resolution adopted by the PrepCom and considered it an important success for the whole process at this stage, particularly that the resolution officiated the decision by the meeting to accept the "generous offer of Mexico to host this Conference". The adopted resolution addresses various organizational and substantive aspects of the process and the final Conference. It was decided, inter alia, that the high-level international intergovernmental event "will take the form of an international conference, under the auspices of the UN, at the highest political level, including a Summit level."
He also emphasized the importance of the operative paragraphs of the resolution as regards the forthcoming discussions and deliberations on the substantive agenda of the process. To facilitate this process, a compilation of all relevant submissions will be prepared and presented to the third PrepCom, scheduled to take place in New York from 2 to 8 May 2001. The PrepCom will resume its work for another week in early Fall 2001 to consider a concise first draft, to be prepared by the Facilitator. This draft is supposed to reflect progress made at the first week of the third PrepCom and taking into account all relevant inputs received, within the framework of its substantive agenda.
The G-77 Chairman, while underlining that the developing world has not engaged in this process with euphoria or illusion, emphasized the elements of objectivity and realism in the Group's approach to the process and the expectations from it. He also added that the Group of 77 is committed to a very open, honest and objective exchange of views with the stakeholders in the process and well disposed to negotiate with good faith and principled flexibility.
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 (G-77/IPS) -- Dr. Kamal Kharrazi, Foreign Minister of Iran and chairman of the Group of 77, said that the United Nations was the only truly universal intergovernmental body and the one with clear, well-defined, Charter-based obligations and the necessary structure to work for the promotion of genuine and effective international cooperation for the development of developing nations.
"The buck stops at the UN," he added.
Seated next to Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the inaugural ceremony to elect the new G-77 chairman, Dr. Kharrazi said: "I am sure the Secretary-General shares our serious concern that in recent years there has been a general trend towards downplaying of international cooperation for development on the agenda of the international community, including the United Nations."
"Notwithstanding this overall trend, let me hasten to add that the Millennium Summit and its final outcome can be considered - with a certain degree of guarded caution and wait-and-see attitude - as a modest rectification in the right direction."
"The collective responsibility to uphold the principle of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level" as enunciated by the Millennium Declaration and also its undertaking to "free the entire human race from want" and "to create an environment- at the national and global levels alike - conducive to development and to the elimination of poverty" are indeed welcome pronouncements and music to the ears and hearts of billions of people around the globe. They await, however, to be translated into action and become part of the everyday reality in the bigger part of the human community" Dr Kharrazi said.
"Would it be too much to ask the Secretary-General, on behalf of the developing world, to lend his personal attention and support as well as organizational authority and means to the effective pursual and actual implementation of the requisite measures, actions and projects towards the ultimate realization of these lofty objectives?. I suppose not," he added.
Actual pursuit of this agenda throughout the UN system, or in other words, mainstreaming the development agenda in the system, certainly needs more than the blessing and support of the person of the Secretary-General. It requires allocation of requisite budget and active engagement of the all-relevant departments, principally the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), as well as the engagement of its Funds and Programmes and Specialized Agencies.
As far as the Group of 77 is concerned, every effort will be made in the current year to further expand and strengthen the existing close working relations between the Group and all these departments and bodies, he added.
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 (G77/IPS)-- The Tenth Session of the Intergovernmental Follow-up and Coordination Committee on Economic Cooperation among Developing Countries (IFCC-X) will be held in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, in late August/beginning of September 2001. A Spokesman for the Office of the Chairman of the Group of 77 announced in a press conference last month. The meeting is expected to discuss mainly the follow-up and implementation of the Havana outcome as well as other issues pertaining to strengthening South-South cooperation. A meeting of representatives of the G-77 Chamber of Commerce will precede the meeting and a number of parallel events are also scheduled to take place.
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 28 (G-77/IPS) -- The annual meeting of the Chairmen/Coordinators of the Group of 77 chapters will be held in Geneva March 15-16.
One of the main items on the agenda is the synchronization of the activities of the various chapters -- New York, Geneva, Vienna, Paris, Rome, Nairobi and Washington DC -- on some of the priority items for the year 2001.
These include the follow-up and implementation of the outcome of the South Summit and the consideration of the report of the Advisory Team on the Group of 77 Secretariat.
The meeting will also discuss preparations for several upcoming meetings this year: the Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Brussels and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting in Qatar.
Additionally it will discuss preparations for IFCC-X and the International Conference on Financing for Development early next year.
Other matters to be discussed include a report on the activities of the Geneva-based South Centre and a report on the activities of subsidiary bodies of the G-77, including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of developing countries, GSTP and the Trade Information Network.
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 (G-77/IPS) -The Group of 77 will be a key player in six major meetings and conferences scheduled to take place this year.
Dr Kamal Kharrazi, Foreign Minister of Iran and chair of the G-77, said that "it is glaringly obvious that we face quite a tall order and a challenging vista" in trying to implement the programme of work for the year 2001.
In addition to the multitude of routine meetings and sessions in New York-- "a quite substantial and substantive load of work in itself" -- the G-77 will also have to deal with:
-- the Third
United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Brussels;
-- Habitat II in New York;
-- the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in South Africa;
-- a Ten-Year Review of the Children's Summit in New York;
-- the Resumed Session of the COP-6 of the Climate Change Convention in Bonn; and
-- the Special General Assembly Session on HIV/AIDS in New York.
the G-77 will be fully engaged in the preparatory process for the International
Intergovernmental High-Level Event on Financing for Development and the
Rio+10 Review Conference, both of which will take place during the first
half of 2002.
Forests and energy are also among other important issues before the G-77 this year.
Dr Kharrazi said: "All of us in the Group of 77 are fully and intimately aware of what is on the table in each of these events and conferences, and more specifically, what is at stake for the South and for the Group, both in terms of our general, thematic and cross-cutting concerns as well as of particular and sectoral interests."
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 30 (G77) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the world's rich nations to immediately provide "duty-free, quota-free market access" to all non-arms exports of the least developed countries (LDCs) and the heavily-indebted poor countries (HIPCs).
Annan said that market access protection by developed countries currently imposes costs that significantly exceed aid flows to developing countries.
If tariff barriers and trade restrictions are removed, he pointed out, the potential gains from the variety of liberalisation measures could range from a hefty 100 billion to 150 billion dollars - all of which would accrue to developing nations.
Total official development assistance (ODA) - from the rich to the poor - amounted to only about 51.9 billion dollars in 1998, down from about 61 billion dollars in 1992, according to figures released by the United Nations.
Of the 48 LDCs, described as the poorest of the poor, 33 are from Africa.
In a 64-page report released in late January, Annan spelled out a series of proposals to help meet the world's growing development financing needs.
The six chapters in Annan's report cover the six components of the agenda mandated by the General Assembly for FfD discussions.
Annan has argued that any plans to reduce the growing poverty, ignorance and disease will remain frustrated unless resources - both public funds and market-led investment - are available in sufficient amount and deployed where most needed.
The report recommends new norms for international cooperation and new mechanisms for implementation.
The report also recommends, among others, the following:
-- The relevant
international organisations should urgently formulate measures to help
developing countries deal with commodity price risks, including the possible
establishment of a new global facility to facilitate developing country
access to commodity price risk management and structured commodity finance
mechanisms and to assist in the development of regional and national commodity
-- Bilateral and multilateral creditors should pursue debt relief vigorously and expeditiously, including steps to provide significant and immediate debt relief to the poorest countries.
-- The multilateral development banks should spearhead the development of a major programme to assist developing nations, particularly small and vulnerable economies, in diversifying their export base in terms of both the product mix and destination markets.
-- Donors should undertake an immediate commitment to avoiding any declines in ODA and, in the case of countries where ODA still accounts for well under 0.7 percent of gross national product (GNP), they should pledge to honour existing commitments to steady increases in real ODA flows within a defined time frame.
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 (G-77/IPS) -- Mark Malloch Brown, head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), told a meeting of the Group of 77 that the challenges facing developing nations are many.
He said much remains to be done to resolve some of the serious problems ahead: ranging from the threat of HIV/AIDS and the 1.2 billion people worldwide still living on less than a dollar a day to the dozens of countries still recovering from conflicts, buffeted by steep declines in export earnings due to commodity price falls, or simply the fickle winds of international capital flows.
As the Group of 77 has long argued, he said, part of the answer must be to provide more Southern solutions to the development equation.
"And most of all, poor countries need real capacity and real advice to participate more effectively in our globalised world."
Malloch Brown also pointed out that poor nations need to gain a real voice in the multilateral rule-making processes to better adjust domestic policies and institutional arrangements to the requirements of the new global economic system.
These nations also have to take full advantage of recent advances in information and communications technology and other technologies that offer real hope.
"We know success is possible. Countries, which only a few short decades ago were mired in poverty and dependent on exports of only raw materials and a few cheap manufactured goods, are now among the world's wealthiest, trading in everything -- from sophisticated consumer and capital goods to modern services."
He also said that dozens of the world's largest corporations now hail from the South, and overall, Southern economies are growing faster and more consistently than their Northern counterparts.
"And they all have important lessons to share," he added.
Malloch Brown also said that UNDP was honoured to be called by the Group of 77 its "most reliable partner of the South."
And UNDP was very proud to have backed the Group of 77 on a number of initiatives: from the High-level Conference on Regional and Sub-regional Economic Integration and its High-level Advisory Meeting on the Summit, both held in Indonesia in 1998, to the Summit Preparation Committee meeting held in Guyana in 1999, and the South Summit itself in Havana last April.
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 (G-77/IPS) -- "We consider North-South relations and cooperation a strategic policy track for the developing world," the chairman of the Group of 77 said.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the election of the new chairman on January 12, Dr Kamal Kharrazi, Foreign Minister of Iran, said: "We fully subscribe to the overall vision of the Havana Programme of Action in this area and are committed to the full implementation of all the related actions and measures".
"During our term of office, we will strive to promote North-South dialogue based on a spirit of partnership, mutual benefit and genuine interdependence," he added.
To this end, strengthened international cooperation in the economic, financial and environmental spheres, including in particular fulfillment of the commitments of developed countries undertaken previously, is imperative.
Equally imperative is the objective of restoring the focus on development in existing international relations as well as a credible and meaningful movement towards the correction of existing systemic imbalances.
"While we are committed to the promotion of consensus on key issues of international economic relations and development and this overall principle will guide our approach and policy in the course of our intergovernmental deliberations and negotiations, I deem it necessary to underline that we consider compliance with agreed commitments a very tangible measuring rod for the health, success and continuity of the North-South dialogue," he concluded.
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 28 (IPS/G77) -- On 18 October 2000, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) adopted the resolution on the establishment of a new subsidiary body on forests. The new body, United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), is the political culmination of and the institutional follow-up to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), 1995-1997, and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF), 1997-2000.
The five-year process started in 1995 with the establishment of the IPF, under the aegis of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), in order to undertake intergovernmental forest policy deliberations. The Panel concluded its work in February 1997 and presented its final report to the fifth session of the CSD in April the same year. The Panel achieved substantial progress on a large number of issues on the international forest agenda since United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1992). However, the Panel did not reach consensus on a number of issues, which required further clarification, for example the question of the legal instrument for all types of forests. The Panels final report was deliberated by the Commission, and the 19th Special Session of the General Assembly on the five year review of the UNCED. It was finally decided to establish the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) for a three-year time-limited period. The IFF, was designed to continue the intergovernmental policy dialogue on forests in an open, transparent and participatory manner, and was mandated with:
and facilitating the implementation of the Panels proposals for
- Reviewing, monitoring and reporting on progress in the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests;
- Considering matters left pending as regards the programme elements of the IPF, in particular trade and environment in relation to forest products and services, transfer of technology and the need for financial resources; and
- Identification of the possible elements of and working towards consensus on international arrangements and mechanisms, for example, a legally binding instrument.
The IFF completed its work in February 2000. The five-year IPF/IFF process achieved a significant progress in narrowing the divide between the North and South on forest policy issues and in identifying common priorities. The process also succeeded in bringing about a major shift in the overall approach to forests, including the establishment of links between environmental economical and social considerations and the importance of the cross-sectoral nature of forests issues. Moreover, the previous predominant concentration on a certain type of forests, namely moist tropical forests, was expanded to include consideration of all types of forests, including concerns of low forest cover countries. Furthermore, the IPF/IFF process contributed to a much clearer and common understanding of the sustainable forest management. The fact that this five-year intergovernmental policy deliberation helped to promote a comprehensive and holistic concept of forests, inclusive of social, economic as well as environmental aspects, can be considered as an important achievement of historical significance.
The IPF/IF process benefited greatly from the coordination, cooperation, technical inputs as well as policy advice of the informal, high-level Interagency Task Force on Forests (ITFF), which comprised of Secretariat of CBD, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), DESA, FAO, ITTO, UNDP, UNEP, and the World Bank. On the other hand, the IPF/IFF process also contributed to further strengthening of cooperation and synergy among these agencies and institutions.
The final report of the IFF, including the proposed terms of reference for an international arrangement on forests, was submitted to the eighth session of the CSD in April 2000. The Commission welcomed the IFF report and endorsed the conclusions and proposals for action contained in the report. The Commission also invited the President of ECOSOC to initiate informal consultations on options for placing the proposed United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) within the UN intergovernmental machinery.
The President of ECOSOC, acting on the Commissions invitation, assigned the task of coordination of informal consultations to Ambassador Bagher Asadi (Islamic Republic of Iran), Co-Chairman of the IFF. The informal consultations which commenced in June, continued throughout July and were finally completed in September 2000. While all countries agreed that UNFF should be an inclusive body to NGOs, the most contentious issue during the course of these consultations revolved around the question of membership of the new intergovernmental body. The divide was on the question of universal membership, similar to the General Assembly, versus limited membership, similar to ECOSOC.
At the end of consultations in September, an agreement was finally reached on the establishment of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) as a subsidiary body of ECOSOC composed of all states members of the United Nations and states members of the specialized agencies with full and equal participation, including voting rights, to operate under the rules of procedures of the functional commissions of the ECOSOC. The Forum, established for a tentative period of five years, should report on its activities to the ECOSOC and through it to the General Assembly.
The main objective of the new international arrangement, and hence, the new Forum, is to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end. The main emphasis of the arrangement and the Forum will be on implementation of internationally agreed actions on forests, at the national, regional and global levels. This is to be accomplished by the development of a Plan of Action for the implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for action, which will include financial provisions. However, national forest programmes and other integrated programmes related to forests will constitute as an important part in the implementation of these policies and actions. In addition, the UNFF provides a coherent, transparent and participatory framework for forest policy implementation, coordination and development. The UNFF will hold multi-stakeholder dialogues in order to ensure the opportunity to receive and consider inputs from representatives from major groups.
Furthermore, an important feature of UNFF sessions will be a high-level ministerial segment, which will also include a dialogue with heads of major forest-related organizations. This ministerial segment is envisaged to play a critical role in mobilizing political support and commitment as well as cooperation among international organizations and institutions towards the implementation of UNFF Plan of Action.
Based on the successful experience of the Interagency task Force on Forests (ITFF), it was decided to form a collaborative partnership on forests (CPF), comprised of organizations of the United Nations system and other relevant international and regional organizations, institutions and instruments, to support the work of the UNFF and to enhance cooperation and coordination among themselves with regard to their forest-related work.
The contentious issue of a legally binding instrument on forests generally referred to the forest convention evoked highly polarized spectrum of views. It was finally agreed, in a rather complex compromise language, that within five years, and subject to an assessment of the progress in the work of the arrangement/UNFF, consideration would be given by the UNFF to the question of recommending the parameters of a mandate for developing a legal framework on all types of forests. The process is also linked to progress in the implementation, particularly regarding issues related to finance, technology transfer and trade.
As for the working modalities, it was agreed that the Forum would work on the basis of a multi-year programme of work and a plan of action, drawing on the elements contained in the Rio Declaration, the Forest principles, Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 and the IPF/IFF proposals for action. It was also decided that the UNFF would meet annually.
As for finances, it was recommended that the funding for the functioning of the Forum and its compact secretariat should be provided from the regular budget of the United Nations within existing resources, resources of organizations participating in the partnership and extra-budgetary resources provided by interested donors.
UNFF provides the international community with a unique opportunity to move from dialogue to action on forests. However, the success of the UNFF and the new international arrangement on forests will primarily lie with the commitment of countries to mobilize political, financial, scientific and technical support towards the implementation the UNFF Plan of Action.
The organizational meeting of the UNFF took place in mid-February 2001 in New York. During the meeting members of the Bureau were elected and it was decided that the Secretariat of the Forum would be located in New York. Four days of informal consultations on the multi-year programme of work were also held. The first substantive session of the UNFF is scheduled to be held in New York from 11 to 22 June 2001. At this session, UNFF will adopt the multi-year programme of work and develop a plan action for implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for action.