Concluding Its Work, United Nations Forum on Forests Sets Dates, Approves Provisional Agenda for 2024 Session
The United Nations Forum on Forests concluded its eighteenth session today, approving a draft decision that its nineteenth session will be held at United Nations Headquarters from 6 to 10 May 2024 along with the draft provisional agenda for that session, sending both texts to the Economic and Social Council for formal adoption following week-long discussions on topics ranging from the importance of sustainable forest management to the potential offered by wood-based bioenergy.
At the outset of the meeting, delegates considered the Chair’s summary, which contains highlights of the discussions that occurred during this odd-year session and will serve as the Forum’s input to the 2023 high-level political forum on sustainable development.
The representatives of Ukraine and the European Union, in its capacity as observer, expressed concern that the summary does not appropriately reflect the statements regarding the impact of the Russian Federation’s war of aggression on forests, sustainable forest management and livelihoods. The representative of the Russian Federation, however, noted that the Chair’s summary is not a consensus-negotiated outcome document and wondered why opinions about its content were being exchanged “in a chaotic manner”.
Delegates also discussed the proposed Beijing project office for the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, with the representative of the United States suggesting that the Chair’s summary better separate general discussions on the Network from those relating to specific issues with the project office. Meanwhile, the representative of China noted his delegation’s understanding that use of the term “project office” does not mean that such an office is merely responsible for project implementation; rather, its use means that the office will be managed similarly to other Department of Economic and Social Affairs offices established in different countries.
Other delegations spotlighted potential trade issues, such as Brazil’s representative who noted that it was premature to introduce the topic of deforestation-free supply chains, which includes the risk of unilateral, discriminatory trade barriers. The representative of India, for his part, called for the insertion of discussions relating to possible trade barriers created by linking forest certification with sustainable forest management. He also called for relevant references to ecosystem-based approaches apart from nature-based solutions to be included in the Chair’s summary.
Also today, the Forum approved its provisional agenda for its nineteenth session (document E/CN.18/2023/L.1), the session’s dates and venue (document E/CN.18/2023/L.2) and the draft report of its eighteenth session (document E/CN.18/2023/L.3), introduced by Rapporteur Ismail Belen (Türkiye), who will complete the text with support from the Forum’s secretariat.
In closing remarks, Juliette Biao, Director of the Forum’s secretariat, thanked all delegates for the opportunity to share her vision with them. Noting that their comments will help the secretariat improve its effectiveness, she thanked the Forum’s bureau for its tireless support.
Also offering closing remarks, Zéphyrin Maniratanga (Burundi), Chair of the Forum at its eighteenth session, reiterated the call for synergy between different stakeholders. He highlighted productive discussions over the last few days, which featured participation from various stakeholders, including Member States, civil society, banks, regional and multilateral institutions and the private sector. The Forum took stock of both emerging issues as well as progress towards the mid-term review of the international arrangement on forests. While there is no negotiated result, the positive spirit of collaboration in this session has facilitated the drafting of a comprehensive summary and specific proposals for further review, he noted, while observing the need to bolster Member State representation to do justice to this topic. This success demonstrates the Forum’s unique role in promoting global political dialogue on forests, he said, thanking Member States for their constructive engagement and open-mindedness.