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News release

Council adds US$4.9 million for action in tropical forests

Panama City, Panama, 17 May 2003

With the financial backing of the governments of Japan, Switzerland, the United States, Norway, Australia, Finland and the Republic of Korea, the International Tropical Timber Council today pledged US$4.9 million in grants to assist member countries in forest management and to expand the tropical timber trade.

The International Tropical Timber Council is the governing body of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), which promotes the sustainable management of tropical forests and the expansion of the tropical timber trade through policies and field action. It has an active portfolio of about 150 projects throughout the tropics.

The new funds pledged by the Council will be used in a range of activities. For example, a US$0.5 million project will help in the conservation and reforestation of threatened mangrove forests along Panama's Pacific coast. Panama's mangrove ecosystems are extremely rich in biodiversity and support the livelihoods of many communities, but are under threat from over-harvesting and clearing. The Council also continued its significant support for improved forest harvesting, financing a training program for reduced impact logging in the Brazilian Amazon and another for forestry and forest concession management training in Central African forestry schools.

Several important policy studies were initiated during the session. One will investigate the implications of new and evolving product standards and technical regulations for the trade of tropical timber; this study will also report on tariffs, negotiations and the negotiating process related to tropical timber products in the context of the Doha Development Agenda. Another will evaluate the costs and benefits of the certification of good forest management in several ITTO producer member countries, including through field-level case-studies.

The Council decided on several significant actions related to phased approaches to certification, which are designed to facilitate market access for timber while forest management is being improved to a level eligible for certification. For example, it will undertake work to develop procedures on how phased approaches might be implemented in tropical timber producing countries. This work will be followed by an international workshop that will, among other things, help raise awareness among governments, markets, donor agencies, non-governmental organizations and multilateral development banks on the merits of phased approaches to certification and possibilities to encourage their implementation.

The Council also continued its strong support for reporting on the status of forest management. It decided to fund eight workshops in producer member countries to train officials, forest managers, forest concessionaires and others directly involved in forest management in reporting on the state of forest management at both the national and forest management unit levels. These workshops will complement seven similar workshops that have already been convened (and a further three that are planned). The Council also decided to convene, with FAO, another international expert meeting on criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, and to support stakeholder participation in the Asia Forest Partnership.

The Council also agreed to strengthen its collaboration with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), which was listed recently in CITES Appendix II, and to assist countries to develop projects for implementing the Appendix II listing.

For more information contact: Alastair Sarre, Editor & Communications Manager, editor@itto.or.jp