The forest policy development in its historical context

Senior adviser Astrid Bergqvist gives us a historical perspective

The Decision of the Oslo Ministerial Conference on European Forests in 2011 to start discussions on a legally binding agreement on forests must be seen in its historical context. Since the first UN Environmental Conference in Stockholm in 1972 the protection, development and sustainable use of the forests at all levels have been on the international agenda. Damage to forests became an increasingly high priority issue for policy makers and general public throughout the world.

Forests on global level

During the 1980s many environmental initiatives including forests were taken within the UN system. The Brundtland Commission and the preparatory work before the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992 are cases in point. The issue of a global agreement on forests was launched. The G7 meeting in Houston in 1990 promoted the idea. Initially, Sweden supported it, but later became hesitant. At the Rio conference, no global forest convention was adopted. A decision , however , was taken on the “Forest Principles“, which together with forest aspects in Agenda 21 have inspired forest discussions globally.

Decision to organise a Ministerial Conference in Europe

In the autumn of 1990 at the European level France and Finland were instrumental in organising a Ministerial Conference in Strasbourg to discuss the protection of forests in Europe. As a follow up to Rio, a second ministerial forest conference was held in Helsinki in 1993. This resulted in a Ministerial declaration and four resolutions on the continuation of the ministerial process on the protection of forests in Europe. The Conference also decided on an organisational structure for such a process with rotating lead countries and regular Ministerial Conferences. The resolutions adopted were primarily to be managed by organisations such as the FAO and UN/ECE. The process was to be member driven and open to observer countries and NGO:s.

Spain is now lead country

This structure and methodology has been followed after Helsinki. Four ministerial conferences have since been held– Lisbon 1998, Vienna 2003, Warsaw 2007 and Oslo 2011. Spain is now lead country. Many resolutions have been adopted. European forest status reports have also been prepared together with FAO and UN/ECE. Much work has also been devoted to developing criteria and indicators for SFM.

EU representatives, have actively participated and signed decisions of relevance to the EU.

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

Text: Astrid Bergqvist, Senior adviser, Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry

Photo: The Ministerial Conference in Oslo, June 2011. Photo from the conference proceedings/Kilian Munch