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Non-Binding Agreements & Processes

The US, other countries, and organizations participate in international processes designed to build understanding, agreement, political support, and financial resources for issues related to sustainable forest management. Although these agreements are not legally binding, countries and institutions may make commitments and carry out actions within the scope of the processes

Table of Contents:
Multilateral Dialogue Multilateral Dialogue
  Historical Perspective Historical Perspective
  Legally Binding Agreements Legally Binding Agreements
  Non-Binding Agreements & Processes Non-Binding Agreements & Processes
Topics & Tools Topics & Tools
Partners Partners
Calender of Events Calender of Events
Staff Staff

Intergovernmental Panel on Forests
The ad hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) was convened from 1995-1997 under the auspices of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. The Panel produced 149 negotiated Proposals for Action. These are recommendations for countries and institutions to improve activities and capacity to promote sustainable forest management. The proposals covered a broad range of topics, including national forest programs, underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation, traditional forest-related knowledge, financial resources, the assessment of forest resources, forest research, criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, and trade and the environment. The IPF proposals for action include actions that countries need to take nationally, as well as actions to be taken internationally, such as improved coordination among bilateral donors in the forest sector.

Click here to access the Practitioners' Guide to the Implementation of the IPF Proposals for Action prepared by the Governments of Finland, Germany, Honduras, Indonesia, Uganda, and the United Kingdom.

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Intergovernmental Forum on Forests
The es tablishment of the ad hoc Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) was endorsed by the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and the UN General Assembly (UNGASS) to continue the intergovernmental forest policy dialogue from IPF. The IFF met four times from 1997-2000 to discuss finance and transfer of technology, trade and environment, and institutions and legal instruments for sustainable forest management. The IFF process resulted in the elaboration of additional Proposals for Action, as well as a call for the CSD to create a more permanent arrangement for multilateral forest policy dialogue.

Click here to access a working summary of the IPF and IFF recommendations prepared by the Government of Australia.

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United Nations Forum on Forests
In 2000, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), responding to recommendations of the ad hoc Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF), outlined an international arrangement on forests and established a new permanent subsidiary body, the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF). The international arrangement and UNFF were established to facilitate implementation of the IPF/IFF Proposals for Action, provide forum for policy dialogue, enhance coordination of work of international organizations, foster international cooperation, monitor and assess progress, and enhance political commitment to sustainable forest management.

The UNFF operated under a multi-year program of work from 2000-2005, focusing on thematic areas related to sustainable forest management, including: deforestation, forest restoration, biological diversity, forest health, forest products, economic aspects of forests, forest-related scientific knowledge, social and cultural aspects, traditional forest-related knowledge, and monitoring, assessment and reporting. Also through this process, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests —a partnership among international forest-related organizations—was established to provide a means for United Nations agencies and multilateral donors to improve coordination of their efforts to facilitate sustainable forest management. The interagency partnership, which includes fourteen key institutions, is contributing to international cooperation through work, among other things, on:

For years countries have debated whether to negotiate a formal treaty or a non-legally binding instrument on forest management. But many developing countries with significant forest cover have objected to any action that would compromise their sovereignty or control over their natural resources.

In 2007, after 15 years of discussions and negotiations on a global approach to protect the world’s forests, countries (meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York ) adopted an agreement on international forest policy and cooperation, as well as a new multi-year program of work through 2015. The new agreement, although not legally binding, aims to promote both international cooperation and national action to reduce deforestation, prevent forest degradation, promote sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for all forest-dependent peoples. Another area of disagreement that has long plagued forest negotiations concerned a financing mechanism to mobilize funding for sustainable forest management. The agreement calls on countries to adopt, by 2009, a voluntary global financing mechanism for forest management.


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Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management
In 1992, the UNCED Agenda 21 Chapter 11 (Combating Deforestation) called upon countries to take steps to achieve sustainable forest management, but at the time there was not broad agreement what this meant. Therefore in the mid-1990's, several groups of like-minded countries developed and adopted criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. The United States is one of twelve countries with temperate and boreal forests that participate in the Montreal Process that resulted in the Santiago Declaration. This agreement identifies 7 criteria and 67 related indicators to be used nationally to assess sustainable forest management in temperate and boreal forests. Subsequently, the endorsement and development of criteria and indicators has been embraced worldwide, with over 150 countries participating in regional criteria and indicator processes and representing a full range of forest type, including tropical and dry land.

For more information about criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, please click here.

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G-8 Action Program on Forests
At the G-8 Summit in Denver in 1997, the US supported an action program on forests as a complement to the IPF/IFF Proposals for Action. In Birmingham , England in May 1998, the G-8 Heads of State, including President Clinton, approved an Action Program on Forests. The action program commits G-8 countries (the world’s major industrial democracies) to take specific actions in five areas: monitoring and assessment, national forest programs, protected areas, private sector, and illegal logging. G-8 members are providing financial and technical resources for work to utilize remote sensing, promote decentralization of forest management, consolidate establishment of cross-boundary Peace Parks, encourage public-private partnerships, and strengthen forest law and governance (FLEG).

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