Cameroon's Minister of Forests, Mr Sylvestre Naah Ondoa, has praised the International Tropical Timber Organization for being the first intergovernmental organization to support the implementation of the Yaoundé Declaration.
Speaking at the 2nd Conference of Ministers in Charge of Forests in Central Africa (COMIFAC), held here on 27-28 June 2002, Mr Naah Ondoa said that while many international and development assistance agencies had pledged to support the process, ITTO was the first to come forward with financial resources.
The Yaoundé Declaration was made in March 1999 by the heads of state of six Central African countries - Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo and Tchad - in which they declared their commitment to biodiversity conservation and the sustainable management of forest ecosystems in Central Africa. The Declaration included twelve strategic resolutions for action on various aspects of biodiversity conservation and forest management and assigned the Ministers in Charge of Forests to coordinate and ensure the implementation of the resolutions.
During its second meeting, COMIFAC established a Plan of Convergence, which is a framework of priority actions and programs identified by participating countries at the national and sub-regional levels to advance sustainable forest management. It also approved a Priority Plan of Action, which comprises those actions in the Plan of Convergence whose implementation in the period 2003-2005 is urgent. Excluding the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, participating countries agreed to contribute a total of about 15 billion CFA (US$22.3 million) to implement the priority plan. The ministers also appealed to partners in the international community to finance the management of existing protected areas, as well as alternative socio-economic and cultural activities for the benefit of local communities.
The ministers also decided some of key administrative aspects of COMIFAC, establishing a Secretariat to be headed by Mr. MBOUSSOU NGAMANI (Democratic Republic of Congo) and located in Yaoundé. H.E. Henri Djombo, Minister of Forests of the Republic of Congo, was elected Chairman for two years. In a welcome move, the Democratic Republic of Congo signed the Declaration on the opening day of the meeting.
With the key administrative arrangements in place, now was the time to put the Declaration into effect, said Mr Naah Ondoa.
"Being the first international organization to provide material support to the Declaration, ITTO has played a vital role in initiating the process," he said.
ITTO's first initiative was to send an independent mission to the five ITTO Congo Basin nations. This mission reported to the 32nd Session of the International Tropical Timber Council, held in Bali in May 2002, and stimulated the financing - by the governments of Japan and the United States and through the Bali Partnership Fund - of several practical measures.
First, the Council agreed that ITTO would contribute to the development of a regional strategy aimed at improving the management of forest concessions based on the suite of ITTO guidelines. Particular attention will be paid to the impact of industrial timber logging on local communities and to transboundary sites identified as high priorities for biological diversity conservation.
ITTO will also undertake a data collection initiative for the forests of the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo aimed at improving forest concession management and ensuring the conservation of protected areas. This initiative will be carried out in partnership with the governments of the countries concerned, the non-governmental organization Global Forest Watch, and other stakeholders and finance was made available.
The Council also financed a project to assist African countries in implementing and monitoring sustainable forest management through the application of the ITTO/African Timber Organization regional criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. The project's three phases will be worth more than US$3.5 million.
The next COMIFAC will be convened in Libreville in June 2004.
For more information contact: Mr Emmanuel Ze Meka, ITTO Secretariat; firstname.lastname@example.org