Continuing negotiations on a successor agreement to the current International Tropical Timber Agreement look set to preoccupy delegates during the 39th session of the International Tropical Timber Council, which started today.
The fourth part of the United Nations Conference for the Negotiation of a Successor Agreement to the International Tropical Timber Agreement, 1994, is due to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, in January of next year. The topic will be discussed at several informal meetings to be held this week during the Council session.
The President of the UN Conference for the negotiation of a successor agreement to the ITTA, Ambassador Carlos Antonio da Rocha Paranhos of Brazil, addressed the opening session of the Council and outlined the issues on which the Conference had so far failed to reach agreement. These included, among others, the preamble, the name of the agreement, the voting structure and, crucially, financing.
"Financing is certainly at the heart of the negotiation and divergence persists on the financial arrangement of the successor agreement", said Ambassador Paranhos.
"We are close to an agreement on the basic structure of the financial accounts, including the concept of shifting some funding for policy work from voluntary to assessed accounts. … However, we are much further apart when it comes to the content, when we try to define what the key policy or work-programme account should cover and when discussing financial burden-sharing."
Also speaking at the opening of the session, Council Chair Mr Attah Alhassan called on delegates to act in good faith during the negotiations.
"As we hold the informal consultations it is important for us to appreciate that we are very dependent on each other, that we have a common purpose and that … we can only succeed if we work together," he said.
Another speaker at the opening session, the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities of Malaysia, Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui, reaffirmed Malaysia's "wholehearted commitment" to ITTO, which, he said, was "much more than a mere commodity organization." He outlined a number of measures that delegates might wish to consider in discussions about the negotiation of a successor agreement to the ITTA.
On other matters, ITTO's Executive Director, Manoel Sobral Filho, introduced a draft Biennial Work Programme, which will guide the Organization's policy work over the next two years. He said that most of the policy work could be grouped under four headings: forest auditing, certification and law enforcement; dissemination of and training on the use of ITTO guidelines related to sustainable forest management; markets and forest industry development; and information and outreach. The specific activities under these headings will be discussed by the Council's four committees during the week.
For more information on the Council session go to www.itto.or.jp.