Delegates Focus on Clearer Reporting Methods, Indicators to Effectively Measure Health of Forests, as Forum Continues Session

Fine-tuning assessment tools and examining a set of global indicators to effectively measure the health of the world’s woodlands, delegates today shared suggestions on ways to streamline reporting with a view to making concrete progress on the ground, as the United Nations Forum on Forests continued its thirteenth session.

Delegates called for clearer reporting methods and adequate indicators that fairly reflected local conditions, with a view to strengthening the Forum’s effectiveness in helping Member States work towards achieving robust, long-term forest management as part of goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Opening a segment on monitoring, assessment and reporting on forests in light of related targets in the Sustainable Development Goals, Afsa Kemitale of the Forum’s Secretariat introduced a note containing a range of proposals.  They addressed the development of indicators, a revised format and reporting cycle for voluntary national reporting on the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017–2030 and for a “flagship study” to be produced in 2021 by the Forum Secretariat with partners.  It also contained details on the Secretariat’s June 2017 invitation to 16 Member States to take part in a pilot testing exercise on monitoring, assessment and reporting.

During a related panel discussion, Davia Carty, Manager of Strategic Corporate Planning in the Forestry Department of Jamaica, shared her country’s experience with the pilot test.  While the template was useful to collect information to provide national planning, she said time constraints had limited the reach of discussions with a broader range of stakeholders and the time period and definitions were unclear.  She suggested clearer guidelines, more details on the reporting period and more time for countries to finalize their reports.

Similarly, panellist Patrick Kariuki, Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests in Kenya, said the pilot test had not provided enough time to adequately consult with all stakeholders and complete the final report.  However, the information gathered would be useful in updating policies, he said, adding that the data would also assist in compiling a national forest status report and completing other reporting and monitoring mechanisms.

Delegates also heard the results of a three-year process of drafting a global core set of indicators, presented by panellist Peter Csoka, Secretary of the Committee on Forestry and Team Leader of the Statutory Bodies of the Collaborative Partnerships on Forests and the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United nations (FAO).  He said the global core set of 21 indicators aimed at clarifying reporting processes and at measuring progress towards sustainable forest management and the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda, and included thematic elements and linkages between goals and targets.

When the floor opened for discussion, delegates provided feedback on the indicators, with the representative of Romania saying they must be based on ongoing reporting processes.  For instance, using the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment could prevent reporting duplication and additional administrative burden.  Ghana’s delegate said indicators should also include forest health and conditions, allowing for a measurement of improvements or deterioration.

Sharing a different viewpoint, a representative of the major group for non‑governmental organizations said reports should reflect the commitments States made to global indicators.  Concerned about the exclusion of information, such as the role of forests in food security, she said such human‑rights-related issues must be reported in a transparent manner.

Meanwhile, delegates whose countries had been part of the pilot test voiced their suggestions for improvements in reporting.  The representative of the Philippines said the Forum should assist States in filling gaps in information and providing guidance on how to do so, while China’s delegate suggested holding workshops to facilitate Member States in compiling national reports.

Some delegations weighed in on how best to measure and assess the conditions of forests, with Nigeria’s representative saying the reporting system must be a flexible, evolving and amenable tool to allow for timely, accurate feedback.  At the same time, Malaysia’s representative proposed a five-year reporting cycle and the creation of a manual to help Member States prepare their reports.

In other business, delegates discussed the path towards reforming the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to better serve the Forum.  Representatives heard a presentation by Haitian Lu, Chief of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who said the mandate and Secretariat’s support for the Forum would not change.

Answering delegates’ queries, he said the reform would focus on the synergy among the Forum, Secretariat, Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.  He said the Secretary-General had a strong intention to strengthen the Secretariat to do that, was currently considering various options and would consult with Member States.  Reiterating that the reform was driven and guided by Member States, he suggested that representatives conveyed suggestions on how best to move forward to their delegations ahead of related General Assembly meetings.

In the afternoon, the Forum held discussions on the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, including progress on the activities, operational guidelines and measures to increase its effectiveness and efficiency.

The Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 10 May, to continue its work.

Department of Economic and Social Affairs Reform

The Forum took up its agenda item on information on the reform of Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

HAITIAN LU, Chief of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, briefed on progress in the Department’s reforms pertaining to the Forum on Forests.  He cited the Secretary-General’s broader reform plan, which included ways to strengthen the development pillar and improve its effectiveness and efficiency.  The Department would continue to take guidance from Member States on how best to proceed.

Following his statement, delegates raised questions about how the reform would affect various parts of existing functions and activities.  The representatives of Switzerland and Malaysia asked what would happen to staff working in related departments and the budget allocated to it, while South Africa’s delegate wondered about the effect on the work currently under way.

The representatives of Mexico, Jamaica, Brazil and Canada asked for more details about the reform.  Elaborating, Nigeria’s delegate, on behalf of the African Group, wondered about the implications of the reform on donor contributions and on the work and relations already built by the Forum’s Secretariat.  Echoing a common concern, Kenya’s representative said efforts must be made to strengthen and better fund the Forum with a view to making real progress on the related Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. HAITIAN recalled that the General Assembly had in 2001 adopted a resolution creating six posts for the Forum, and had subsequently expanded allocations, with more posts to support its work to be added under provisions in the most recent biennial budget.  The mandate and Secretariat’s support for it would not change, he said.  The reform would focus on the synergy among the Forum, Secretariat, Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  He said the Secretary-General had a strong intention to strengthen the Secretariat to do that, was currently considering various options and would consult with Member States.  Reiterating that the reform was driven and guided by Member States, he suggested that representatives conveyed suggestions on how best to move forward to their delegations ahead of related General Assembly meetings.

Monitoring, Assessment and Reporting

Taking up its agenda item on monitoring, assessment and reporting, the Forum discussed progress on two sub-items:  the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017‑2030, including the United Nations forest instrument and voluntary national contributions; and the development of global forest indicators.

AFSA KEMITALE of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat introduced a note on “Monitoring, assessment and reporting on progress towards implementing the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017–2030, including the United Nations forest instrument and voluntary national contributions” (document E/CN.18.2018/4).  It contained, among other things, proposals for the development of indicators, a revised format and reporting cycle for voluntary national reporting on the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017–2030 and for a “flagship study” to be produced in 2021 by the Forum Secretariat with partners.  It also contained details on the Secretariat’s June 2017 invitation to 16 Member States to take part in a pilot testing exercise on monitoring, assessment and reporting.  Those States included:  Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Finland, Gabon, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Nepal, Philippines, Saint Lucia and Switzerland.

Panel I

The Forum then held a related discussion on the theme “Monitoring, assessment and reporting”, featuring the following panellists:  Davia Carty, Manager for Strategic Corporate Planning in the Forestry Department of Jamaica; Patrick Kariuki, Deputy Chief Conservator for Forests, Forest Service of Kenya; and Peter Csoka, Secretary of the Committee on Forestry and Team Leader of the Statutory Bodies of the Collaborative Partnerships on Forests and the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Ms. CARTY said Jamaica’s Forestry Department had led, since 2016, efforts to test the draft format for reporting in terms of information collection and progress monitoring.  Between June and September 2017, the Department met with stakeholders, including ministries and governmental and non-governmental agencies, conducted data collection and submitted its final report to the Forum.  While the template was useful to collect information to provide national planning, time constraints had limited the reach of discussions with a broader range of stakeholders and the time period and definitions were unclear.  Going forward, she suggested clearer guidelines, more details on the reporting period and more time, perhaps six months, for countries to finalize their reports.

Mr. KARIUKI provided Kenya’s experience with the pilot testing, saying certain goals were difficult to report on, including forest-related household incomes and the contribution of forests to biodiversity.  Such information required extensive consultations with stakeholders.  During the test, stakeholders were contacted, including Government, private sector, professionals and non‑governmental organizations.  However, the information gathered would be useful in updating policies, compiling a national forest status report and completing other reporting and monitoring mechanisms.  Moreover, the exercise demonstrated that more information and awareness-raising activities were needed about forests, he said, adding that more time should be allotted to completing the pilot test’s final report.

Mr. CSOKA presented results of a three-year process initiated at the World Forestry Conference in 2015.  By 2016, a global core set of forest-related indicators had been drafted, with subsequent discussions fine-tuning methodology.  Today, the global core set of 21 indicators aimed at clarifying reporting processes, with a common subset that could lead to reducing the reporting burden.  For instance, the Forum could use the indicators for the global forest goals.  The indicators also aimed at measuring progress towards sustainable forest management and the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda, and included thematic elements and linkages between goals and targets.  However, only some of the indicators were ready for use, and from an implementation perspective, more work was needed.  An online platform for reporting facilitated the process, including procedures, tools and access to information.

Following the presentations, delegates suggested ways to fine-tune the indictors and reporting process.  The representative of India said the format and indicators represented a step forward for forests.  However, the format focused on qualitative terms.  Out of the 21 indicators, some were mere statements, as everyone knew the role of forests in various sectors.  Getting the correct numbers would be difficult.  Instead, countries should be free to select relevant indicators that reflected local conditions.

Meanwhile, some delegates recommended ways to reduce the reporting burden.  In that vein, Romania’s delegate said the indicators must be based on ongoing reporting processes.  For instance, using the Global Forest Resources Assessment made by FAO could prevent reporting duplication and additional administrative burden.  The representative of Nigeria said the reporting system must be a flexible, evolving and amenable tool to allow for timely, accurate feedback.  The representative of Ghana said indicators should include forest health and conditions, allowing for a measurement of improvements or deterioration, and Malaysia’s delegate proposed a five-year reporting cycle and the creation of a manual to help Member States prepare their reports.

Sharing the perspective of a “pilot tested” country, the representative of the Philippines said the Forum should assist Member States in filling gaps in information and providing guidance on how to do so.  Likewise, the representative of China, whose country had participated in the pilot test, said methodology should be refined and reporting processes should be streamlined to reduce the reporting burden.  On national assessments, workshops could be held for Member States to facilitate their compilation of national reports.

Presenting a different viewpoint, a representative of the major group for non‑governmental organizations said reports should reflect the commitments States made to global indicators.  Concerned about the exclusion of information, such as the role of forests in food security, she said such human-rights-related issues must be reported in a transparent manner that shared information with stakeholders.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Indonesia, Congo, Colombia, United States, Nepal, New Zealand, Japan, Bangladesh, Mexico, Australia, Turkey, Algeria, Brazil, South Africa, Switzerland, Senegal and Argentina, as well as the European Union.  Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the non‑profit organization Interconnecting Forests, Science and People also participated.

Means of Implementation

In the afternoon, the Forum took up its agenda item on means of implementation, holding a general debate on the topic.

KOKI MULI GRIGNON (Kenya), Co-Chair of the United Nations Forum on Forests, said it remained the most relevant United Nations body to drive forward the Organization’s global forest agenda.  Member States and United Nations bodies should work to implement the goals of the strategic plan on forests, as well as the Organization’s forest instrument, she said, urging the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to work closely with the Forum in support of all Member States’ efforts related to sustainable forest management — and the entire 2030 Agenda — to ensure that no one was left behind.

PETER GONDO, Inter-Regional Adviser on Sustainable Forest Management of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, introduced a note on “Means of implementation for sustainable forest management” (document E/CN.18/2018/5), which he said detailed the Forum’s quadrennial programme of work.  It also outlined key developments related to means of implementation and a summary of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network’s activities and outcomes of the expert group meeting on the Network’s operational guidelines, as well as related conclusions and matters for the Forum’s further consideration.  Since the last session, there had been many developments related to the financing of sustainable forest management, including the Global Environment Fund’s support of 46 national projects amounting to $824 million.  A pilot programme for the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries — commonly known as “REDD+” — was launched in October 2017, and a significant number of new partnerships and joint initiatives were established relating to such issues as forest restoration.  Among issues to be considered by the Forum, he said the Green Climate Fund could be invited to designate staff members to serve as liaisons between the Forum and the Fund, to help increase access to funding for sustainable forest management.  To meet increased demand, Forum members could also be encouraged to provide voluntary contributions to the trust fund for the United Nations Forum on Forests.

HU YUANHUI, Deputy Director General for International Cooperation, State Administration of Forestry and Grassland of China, presented the report of the expert group meeting on guidelines for the operation of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, held in Chengdu, China, in March.  The main object of the meeting — attended by 50 participants from 24 countries, as well as four international organizations and two major groups — had been to discuss measures to improve the Network’s effectiveness and efficiency and lay out relevant proposals for the Forum’s consideration.  Its main outcome, a co-chair’s summary, had contained several such proposals measures.  Those included the mobilization of sufficient funding and resource mobilization; a new, annual reporting structure to the Forum on the network’s activities; and the Forum’s further review of those guidelines in 2024.  Elements related to improving efficiency included the establishment of national forest financing strategies — which would require enhanced capacity-building and specific technical support — as well as support for resource mobilization at the project level and enhanced collaboration with relevant international organizations, major groups and other stakeholders.

Statements

LIUBOV POLIAKOVA (Ukraine), referring to the proposals outlined by Mr. Hu, expressed overall support for them but called for more flexibility in the Network’s proposed guidelines — particularly regarding requirements imposed on countries.  She also suggested the addition of several new paragraphs related to the measures proposed to increase the Network’s efficiency and effectiveness.

M. RIDZA AWANG (Malaysia) said language should be added the proposed guidelines to give all Member States a chance to receive funding.  Efforts should be made to simplify the Green Climate Fund’s terms and conditions, as well as its application procedures.  He also expressed support for such proposals as the establishment of liaison officers between the Fund and the Network.

T. MICHAEL OSAKUADE (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, spotlighted several forms of support being provided by the Network to the group’s members.  Citing an increasing demand for such assistance, he said the Network would continue to require additional funding to help countries implement forest-related targets.  Welcoming the Network’s role in helping to connect policy and action — especially in developing countries — he said such efforts reinforced the 2030 Agenda’s core principle of not leaving anyone behind.

TEGUH RAHARDJA (Indonesia), welcoming the proposals on the Network’s guidelines, said efforts to collaborate with other international organizations would help the body maximize its limited financial resources.  He also made specific comments on several of the proposals’ other sections.

LUCA PEREZ (European Union), reiterating the bloc’s support for the Network, as well as its strong potential to help countries implement forest‑related sustainable development targets, said the draft proposals would serve as a good starting point.  However, before their adoption, the guidelines must be further improved and clarified in some areas.  They must remain fully consistent with the Network’s mandate — as a subsidiary body of the Forum — and all language suggesting its further expansion beyond that role should be avoided.  Moreover, the Network should avoid aspiring to serve as a development agency in itself, and should abide with the principle of national ownership enshrined in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda; its work should focus on its brokerage role, and not be open-ended.  In addition, the draft guidelines should outline more specific priorities.

NKEOUA GREGOIRE (Congo), warning that inadequate resources were among the most critical concerns of many countries as they worked to improve their sustainable forest management, said payments at the country level had so far been very helpful in that regard, as had been seen in the Congo Basin.  On the Green Climate Fund, he said greater capacity was needed, particularly regarding the allocation of resources and support for national institutions to help them become accredited with the Fund.

ADAMOU IBO (Niger), associating himself with the African Group, said the Network and the Fund were critical tools from which his country had benefitted.  As a result of their assistance, as well as funds from the African Development Bank, many new projects had been launched to tackle the sustainable management of forests.  Many countries in Africa were collaborating in that regard, which had strengthened each of their national efforts.

MEHDI REMAOUN (Algeria), referring to the draft’s section on partnerships, asked for clarification about its proposed land-based transformative projects in “selected countries”, asking which States would be selected and by whom.  He joined other speakers in expressing concern over overly restrictive language in some of the Network’s proposed procedures, especially regarding which country officials were eligible to submit requests.

MANOEL SOBRAL FILHO, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests, responding to some of those comments and concerns, said the Network aimed to mobilize support for countries “in areas they deem necessary”, ranging from forestry to combating desertification.  All countries were therefore eligible.  Regarding officials responsible for submitting requests, he said “diplomatic channels” for those requests would come from ministry officials or through United Nations representatives.  They should come from the highest level to ensure coherence and avoid duplication and waste of the Network’s limited resources.

SIBYLLE VERMONT (Switzerland) said her country would welcome more details on the suggestions raised by the delegate of the European Union.  Remaining in line with the Network’s mandate under the relevant Economic and Social Council resolution was critical, she said, underscoring that the Network was intended to be a facilitation body and not an agency of its own.  As such, it should not engage in national-level training, she said, requesting the deletion of certain sentences and the addition of others.

ADAMS TOUSSAINT (Saint Lucia) said the Network was a necessary tool to address the gaps and challenges faced by many countries in implementing their forestry goals.  It was critical for small island developing States like his own to be able to implement those programmes and activities, he said.  In that regard, he spotlighted an upcoming regional workshop on sustainable forestry financing to be held in Saint Lucia and which had been supported by the Network.

JORGE FERNÁNDEZ MEDINA (Mexico) said the Network should not be seen an implementing or funding agency, but should instead focus on supporting Member States as they pursued their own forest-related strategies.  Countries should be assisted in accessing funding from the Global Environment Facility, the Green Climate Fund and other similar sources.

NOYAL THOMAS (India) echoed calls from other speakers to make the process of working with the Network simpler and more streamlined.  Countries should be guided in submitting their expressions of interest to the Network.

DELPHIN MAPAGA (Gabon) expressed gratitude to the Network for having helped his country develop its national action plan on the sustainable management of tropical forests.

CATHERINE K. COLQUE (United States), also welcoming made progress by the Network, outlined several proposed modifications to the draft.  Those related to its sections calling for voluntary contributions — aimed at meeting increased demand from countries — among others.  She proposed the addition of specific language on the Network’s transparency and accountability, adding that it should always be accountable to the Forum.  Indeed, the Network was not a funding mechanism.  As a clearinghouse, it should not duplicate the work of other relevant instruments.

YOSHIKO MOTOYAMA (Japan), associating herself with the European Union, Switzerland and the United States on the present agenda item, echoed concerns that the Network was not an implementing or funding agency.  Additionally, she did not support the draft’s inclusion of language not previously discussed by the Forum.

DJIBRIL THIOYE (Senegal), associating himself with the African Group, said his country had yet to benefit from resources from existing environmental funds.  He was therefore pleased that the Network had offered $60 million to support Senegal’s sustainable green projects, aimed at combating desertification, preserving biodiversity and adapting to climate change, among other goals.

EMMA HATCHER (Australia) said now was a critical time to accelerate the delivery of support for sustainable forest-related projects, especially in developing countries and those in transition.  Expressing support for efforts to include language aimed at improving the Network’s transparency and accountability, she also made several other specific proposals, including the implementation of a time limit on requests that sat on the network’s waitlist.  Efforts should be undertaken to ensure the Network did not become a project management or implementation body.

Mr. REMAOUN (Algeria) wondered whether the Network was a financing mechanism.

JAVAD MOMENI (Iran) proposed that the first section referred to the quadrennial programme of work from 2017 to 2020.  Sharing expectations that the Network would support developing countries in terms of capacity-building, he said that proposing the inclusion of a sub-item strengthening its capacity and that training would remain in the text.

JOE COBBINAH, a representative of the major group of the science and technology community, said the success of implementing sustainable forest management hinged on the participation of all relevant stakeholders.  The Network should be a vehicle to harness related financing, however such access to funding excluded non-State actors.  He invited the Secretariat and Member States to enhance the participation of the major groups in that and other related endeavours.

MCCARTHY A OYEBO of the African Forest Forum said the Network had raised the United Nations Forum on Forests’ profile, connecting dialogue to policy implementation on the ground.  Going forward, engaging the private sector and civil society partners was essential and their participation in related forums would be invaluable.

STEFFEN DEHN, a representative of the major group for children and youth, called on all Member States to consider the important role major groups could play.

Mr. FILHO, recalling that the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat was not a funding agency, said “we are filling a gap, catalysing action” and operating within its mandate to assist Member States to work towards reaching sustainable goals and targets.  There were no funds for the Network and enormous efforts had been made with existing resources.  Meanwhile, his office had been looking for funding for the Network to meet the expectations of recipient countries, but as it stood, there would not be enough funds to do so.

The Forum then returned to its joint debate on agenda item 3 (Implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030); item 4 (Monitoring, assessment and reporting) and item 5 (Means of implementation).

MAKOTO OZAWA (Japan), said well-managed public forests not only produced timber, but helped to sequester carbon and preserve biodiversity, and those issues should be reflected in the Forum’s input to the Economic and Social Council’s high‑level political forum to be convened in July.  On other matters, he said Japan supported addressing deforestation from the supply chain side and recognized the importance of efforts to reduce illegal logging.  A new legal framework, aimed at eliminating illegally harvested timber from the Japanese market, was put in place in 2017.

YUTO GUO (China), responding to Mr. Filho’s comments, said the Network was critical to helping developing countries implement their sustainable forest‑related management goals and mobilize applications for funding.  However, further enhancements to the application process were needed.  China had provided support to the Network, including by convening relevant workshops to discuss its policy documents, he said, also offering to host an office of the Network in Beijing.

Mr. OSAKUADE (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, supporting a proposal on actions to accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, recommended the inclusion of a statement that would add the private and financial sectors as partners in those endeavours.  Expressing support for several other proposals, he said the power of communications should ensure that the messages of the Forum were spread widely across sectors.

LIUBOV POLIAKOVA (Ukraine) recommended adding North-North cooperation to Japan’s proposal.

Ms. HATCHER (Australia) welcomed China’s offer to host a satellite office of the Network.

LISA PRIOR, a representative of the major group for children and youth expressed appreciation for the Forum including her group.  However, she said, more than half the world’s population was under age 30 and that was not represented in the Chamber today.  She invited all Member States and all parties in the Forum to ensure young people’s perspective were included.  As the future stewards of forests, young people should be heard and their words must be turned to action.  Providing examples of action taken, she said young people had made global consultations to implement the strategic plan, held webinars and made inroads on the ground.

RAYMOND N. NGOYE, delivering a statement on behalf of the Central African Forest Commission, thanked the Forum for its support for its own strategic plan.

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