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News release

Tropical countries get help on forest fires

Yokohama, Japan, 9 November 2002

Tropical countries will receive more assistance from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) in their efforts to improve the prevention and management of forest fires.

This is one outcome of the 33rd Session of the International Tropical Timber Council, which ended here today. The Council meets every six months to consider policies and projects to improve the management of tropical forests, develop sustainable forest-based industries and facilitate the trade of timber from sustainably managed sources.

The Council expressed concern about the disastrous and frequent forest fires in Southeast Asia and other tropical regions and the threats to human health caused by the widespread haze often associated with tropical forest fires. ITTO already provides significant resources for combating forest fire, including through projects in Indonesia, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, and the Council signalled its intention to provide extra support to tropical countries in this area.

As a first step, the Council will make available to tropical countries the services of forest fire experts who will work with governments and local fire management staff to devise appropriate strategies for managing fire. These will include measures such as public awareness campaigns in rural areas, the use of appropriate technologies in fire management, and the promotion of land management practices that minimize the risk of wildfire. The fire experts will also help develop fire management proposals for funding by the international community, including through ITTO.

The Council encouraged its members and the Secretariat to work more closely with the Global Fire Monitoring Centre, based in Freiburg, Germany, and will assist tropical countries in participating in the Third International Wildland Fire Conference and Summit, which will be held in Sydney, Australia, in October 2003.

During the Session, the Council took its first steps towards the renegotiation of a successor agreement to the International Tropical Timber Agreement, 1994, under which the Organization currently operates and which will expire at the end of 2006.The Council adopted a schedule for the Preparatory Committee meetings and renegotiations and decided to convene a working group on the matter in the first months of 2003. This working group will identify issues to be addressed in negotiating a successor agreement and analyse the potential changes to the ITTA, 1994.

For more information contact: Dr Eva Müller, ITTO Secretariat; rfm@itto.or.jp