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Multilateral dialogue consists of formal discussions or negotiations between three or more countries. There are a number of international fora in which multilateral negotiations dealing with forests and forest management take place. The majority of these fora are convened through the United Nations. When countries in bilateral or multilateral negotiations reach a consensus, their agreement becomes either binding, with a legal basis and subsequent obligation, or non-binding, with the weight of international consensus but not international law.

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Within the multilateral negotiating arena, countries are frequently aligned with other countries sharing similar interests or perspectives. In the United Nations, for example, developing countries and China often negotiate in a bloc known as the "G-77 plus China ." European nations negotiate under auspices of the "European Union." Non- aligned nations such as the U.S. consult - but don't negotiate - as a member of "JUSCANZ," an informal group that includes Japan, the U.S., Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and occasionally Russia. In the International Tropical Timber Organization, countries are aligned as consumers of tropical wood products or as producers of tropical wood products. Despite the ad hoc nature of these alignments, any country is free to make an individual statement in a multilateral negotiating forum. Formal negotiations typically are scheduled over a period of one to two weeks; consensus positions emerging in the negotiations are often developed informally through inter-sessional and informal communication. The International Institute for Sustainable Development provides a valuable service to countries by documenting events and providing analytical commentary on United Nations negotiations on sustainable development.

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