The creation of UNFF has lead to fragmentation

27 jul 2012

Former dep. dir. Ulf Svensson points out the high number of agreements.

The management of forests is covered by a number of intergovernmental agreements and institutions.

These agreements and institutions in Europe are in particular within the European Union. Most of these processes now include a focus on environmental aspects of forest policies. These aspects, in particular forests and climate change and forests and biological diversity, are very important. This focus has, however, tended to weaken the important aspects of forestry and the production of sawn timber, pulp and paper in the present European and global intergovernmental processes. This will lead to a major global problem in a world where the demand for forest products is constantly increasing.

Biodiversity emerging into top priority

Climate change is currently at the very top of the global political and economic agenda. The conservation of biological diversity is emerging into such a genuinely top priority position after the introduction of the concept of ecosystem services which provide the very basis for life on Earth. The newly created Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has politically reinforced biodiversity in world politics and in a longer-term perspective it will result in biodiversity overtaking climate change as the most significant global environmental challenge.

UNFF has led to fragmentation

Almost all intergovernmental environmental processes on forests nowadays focus on the conservation of forests, not on their sustainable management. And there are two different aspects to a holistic approach to sustainable forest management: one with a focus on conservation and the other focused on forestry and forest production. Globally the activities of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) are an example of the first approach, as are the goals of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The forest activities of the European Union also have a focus on forest conservation mainly because most EU countries, unlike Sweden and Finland, do not have a major economic forest sector. The work of FAO, the UN’s forest organisation proper, is an example of the second approach with a major focus on forest production. The creation of UNFF has led to unnecessary fragmentation of the forest work of the UN. It has also weakened the position of FAO in this regard and consequently reduced the significance of forestry and forest production in the forest work of the United Nations. Against that background the UNFF should be abolished when its mandate expires in 2015. The FAO, not the UNFF, should provide the major UN forest input to UNFCCC and CBD.

For further reading, please find SIFI postletter no 7 here.

Text: Ulf Svensson, Former Deputy Director-General

Photo: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl