NGO opening statement to the UNFF 5
The NGOs present at this meeting would like to reiterate their opposition to the proposal to start negotiations on a legally binding instrument on forests. We believe that governments do have the capacity to halt deforestation, promote sustainable forest management and respect forest people’s rights without a forest convention.
Forests are fully covered by existing legally binding instruments. The Convention on Biodiversity covers all aspects of forest ecosystems, including all economic, social and environmental aspects of the sustainable use of these ecosystems. We fear that a new Forest Convention will end up as an anti-Biodiversity Convention instrument. For the same reasons, we also oppose the continuation of a UN forum on forests. We do not want forests without biodiversity. And we certainly do not want forests without people.
The only trees that are not legally protected by the Biodiversity Convention are those monocultures which are classified inappropriately, as “planted forests.” Both the UNFF
and the processes preceding it (IPF and IFF) have enabled countries to hide the real rates of deforestation, appealing to the false concept of “forest cover” which includes forests and tree monoculture as if both were forests. In fact, in many countries there is evidence of increasing support by governments, bilateral and multilateral agencies to the promotion of tree plantations, with the endorsement of the UNFF. As a result, we see, all over the world, a two-fold process: that of increasing deforestation and that of the encroachment of vast territories with monoculture tree plantations. We strongly reject this “net” approach
to reducing deforestation that UNFF, FAO and others have been promoting.
Negative social, environmental and economic impacts of monoculture tree plantations have been amply demonstrated. It is astonishing, therefore, that UNFF should persist in their promotion. It is clear that this silvicultural model serves exclusively the interests of industry, supplying abundant, homogeneous and cheap raw materials that fuelling and satisfying consumption at the same time. The reality is that these plantations are destroying forests, grasslands and wetlands. They are depleting food and water sources and displacing native vegetation. They also evict people from their environment and deprive them of their livelihoods resulting in a net negative employment balance at the local level. Many of these impacts are particularly severe for women, who are more heavily dependent on biodiversity for the daily subsistence of their families. As recently seen in some cases in Africa, plantations have often spiraled phenomena like prostitution and the incidence of HIV/AIDS.
We can not agree with a forum that adopts definitions that attempt to equalize the richest environments in the planet with simplified agricultural timber plantations. We insist that governments appreciate forests for their multiple values and cultures that live in forests.
We strongly support the Indigenous Peoples’ statement which was made here yesterday.
We do not support any international arrangement on forests that does not fully address the rights of peoples and social justice, including international human rights, and does not respect the customary rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as other forest dependent communities. Moreover, any international arrangement that does not address the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation will not be considered credible by most social and environmental NGOs. Neither will we support an agreement that does not support genuine community-based forest management that empowers forest peoples.
As it is widely known, a large group of NGOs decided to leave the Collaborative Partnership on Forests Network in 2002, since the CPF has persistently rejected independent IPO or NGO participation in its activities. This is also a clear indication of their lack of transparency.
As we have been saying for almost a decade there is a need for action and compliance with the many sustainable forest management commitments already made. The last thing we need at this moment is a lengthy renegotiation of all the legally binding and non-legally binding commitments governments have made the past decades. A new forest negotiation process would risk reopening the many positive international forest policies that have already been agreed to.
Instead, we need clear targets for implementation, both within the framework of the Convention on Biodiversity and within the framework of the Millennium Development Goal target to reduce deforestation. Such objectives should also include clear targets and commitments to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other forest peoples, with specific reference to the rights and needs of women.
We do not support the continuation of the UNFF, as it has proven to be ineffective in curbing deforestation and forest degradation. We would support the organization of a high-level preparatory meeting to review the implementation of the MDG target aimed at reducing deforestation by 2010 and 2015. This meeting could also review the implementation of the forest-related targets currently being developed as part of the Strategic Plan of the Biodiversity Convention. Such a review process should be an integral part of the Millennium Project.
In conclusion, we fear the biggest threat to forests is that they are gradually being replaced by monoculture tree plantations, including plantations of genetically engineered trees. This trend is happening all over the world, and it must be stopped.