Saturday, 14 November 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a drastic impact on tropical timber trade, with log exports down by 28% compared with 2019, sawnwood down by 16% and tropical plywood down by 8%, according to preliminary findings of a report presented by the ITTO Secretariat on the fifth and final day of the 56th Session of the International Tropical Timber Council.
ITTO’s Biennial Review and Assessment of the World Timber Situation provides data on the production and trade of tropical forest products and the status of tropical forests in ITTO member countries, as well as an overview of production and trade statistics for all timber products in these countries. The report for 2020 is still under preparation, but, as per usual practice, the Secretariat presented early results to delegates in advance of the final report to be released mid next year.
The ITTO Secretariat’s Jean-Christophe Claudon reported that, in addition to declines in primary timber products such as logs and sawnwood, all major tropical exporters of secondary processed wood products except Viet Nam are expected to suffer double-digit declines (by value) in 2020 due to the pandemic. Viet Nam is the world’s biggest tropical exporter of secondary processed wood products, and its exports have almost tripled in the last ten years. The value of its exports are expected to increase by an additional 7% in 2020 despite the COVID-19 crisis. Viet Nam’s wood sector has been advantaged by the trade dispute between China and the United States of America and a consequent trend towards outward investment by processors operating in China to avoid US tariffs and reduce their production costs.
Mr Claudon’s presentation is available here.
Civil Society Advisory Group wants new status report
In a statement on day 5 of the session, Civil Society Advisory Group (CSAG) coordinator Chen Hin Keong said CSAG was concerned that, in some ITTO producer member countries, the implementation of sustainable forest management (SFM) is failing.
“All of us in the Council have sat in many workshops, read reports that show the issues and problems facing SFM is not related to technical aspects of forest management,” he said. CSAG proposed a new report on the status of tropical forest management, which the Organization assessed most recently in 2011.
“CSAG would be more than willing to work with ITTO members, Council and the donor community to carry out the status assessment, in an objective, open and transparent manner,” said Mr Chen, who also expressed CSAG’s appreciation for ITTO’s new programmatic approach.
More than USD 4 million pledged for ITTO work
Council members announced pledges in 2020 (including those made intersessionally) totalling USD 4.14 million in voluntary contributions to support the Organization’s work. Of this, Japan contributed about USD 3 million, the United States of America USD 480 000, the Netherlands USD 227 000, China USD 100 000, Sweden USD 20 000, FAO USD 148 000 and Soka Gakkai USD 93 000. Among other things, these funds will support field projects in Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia and Peru; work on legal and sustainable supply chains; ITTO’s role in the CITES Tree Species Programme; the development of educational curricula on legal and sustainable supply chains and market access; the dissemination of ITTO’s new guidelines on forest landscape restoration in the tropics; a global project on forest education; and the ITTO Fellowship Programme. The full list of activities receiving voluntary funding contributions can be found here.
Also on day 5, the Council adopted five decisions, including one in which the Council endorsed eight new projects and two new pre-projects. The other decisions were on the 2020–2021 biennial work programme; the extension of the ITTO strategic action plan; phase 2 of the implementation of ITTO’s new financial architecture; and the recruitment, selection and term of the Executive Director. The latter decision requests the Secretariat to immediately advertise the Executive Director’s position, after the Council had discussed related issues in closed meetings during the session.
Dr Dieterle speaks at session close
In remarks at the closing of the 56th Session, Dr Dieterle said he was happy that the Council had confirmed its support for the pilot programmatic approach and the new financing architecture. He said he was confident that the program lines would provide an excellent basis for responding to current and future challenges, although more work and testing was needed to make the new approach fully operational.
“I would have loved to continue leading through this process but also realize that the Council wants to move on with new leadership,” said Dr Dieterle.
He expressed his thanks for the support he had received from staff in the Secretariat over his tenure and the Government of Japan and the City of Yokohama for their hospitality.
“I honestly tried my best in giving back what I learned in the 40 years of my career, of which 30 were focusing on tropical countries and on global development,” said Dr Dieterle.
“Climate change, the global biodiversity crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic show that we are all sitting in the same boat,” he said. “I therefore sincerely believe that we are all working towards the same goals.”
Dr Dieterle concluded by expressing his best wishes for a successful transition period and a “great future” for ITTO.
The Council will convene its next session on 2–7 November 2021 in Yokohama, Japan. It elected Kheiruddin Rani (Malaysia) and Jesse Mahoney (Australia) as its next Chair and Vice-chair, respectively.
The International Tropical Timber Council meets at least once a year to discuss a wide-ranging agenda aimed at promoting sustainable tropical forest management and the trade of sustainably produced tropical timber.
Daily coverage of the session by IISD reporting services is available at https://enb.iisd.org/forestry/itto/ittc56/