Pattaya, Thailand, 13 November 2023: Tropical forests sit in the eye of a global storm and the lack of funding for their sustainable management is a major concern, said Dr Mohammed Nurudeen Iddrisu, Chair of the International Tropical Timber Council, at the opening of the Council’s 59th session, which is being held this week.
Even before the world has fully recovered from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Iddrisu said, it has been hit this year by record-high temperatures and a barrage of forest fires, storms, floodings and other severe weather events. Climate change is affecting the lives of billions of people and threatening biodiversity. Meanwhile, hostilities have arisen between nations.
Such factors are “clouding the outlook for attaining the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030”, Dr Iddrisu said. “Forests, and especially tropical forests, sit in the eye of this global storm. But despite clear recognition of their critical importance as a viable solution to global challenges, funding for their sustainable management continues to fall short.”
The worry about funding for sustainable tropical forest management was echoed by ITTO Executive Director Sheam Satkuru in her statement to the Council later in the day. She urged ITTO members to provide more support for the Organization in its “two-pronged” mandate of sustainable tropical forest management and diversifying the trade in legal and sustainably sourced wood products.
“ITTO remains the only international organization focusing solely on tropical forests,” she said. “Yet the Organization is short of voluntary contributions for project funding.”
Tropical forests, and therefore ITTO, are highly relevant to many global processes, she said, such as the climate talks, the Global Biodiversity Framework, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, and much more needs to be done on resource mobilization.
Ms Satkuru urged members to push for stronger ITTO involvement in large international organizations and processes, many of which lack on-the-ground expertise and experience in tropical forests. ITTO has both, given its vast project portfolio developed over the last 35 years.
In her statement, Ms Satkuru paid tribute to Mr John Leigh and Dr Hiras Sidabutar, two former ITTO Secretariat members who passed away recently. “Even after their retirement, both continued to assist ITTO with projects and by flying the ITTO flag,” said Ms Satkuru.
She also acknowledged the contributions of two retiring members of the ITTO Secretariat, Dr Steven Johnson and Dr Hwan Ok Ma, who have served the Organization for 34 years and 27 years, respectively. The delegates gave the two a standing ovation.
In addition to Dr Iddrisu and Ms Satkuru, several other dignitaries spoke at the Council’s opening ceremony.
Mr Thawatchai Srithong, Governor of Chonburi Province, welcomed delegates.
“It is an honour for our province to serve as the backdrop for this crucial gathering, which will strengthen cooperation and also seek better resolutions for management of global tropical timber resources,” he said.
Mr Poramet Ngampichet, Mayor of Pattaya, welcomed delegates to the city.
H.E. Mr. Roberto Seminario Portocarrero, Peru’s Ambassador to Japan, said Peru has implemented more than 50 ITTO projects since it joined the Organization in 1986, and these have made a valuable contribution to sustainable forest management.
Ms Chayanan Pakdeejit, Deputy Permanent Secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, pointed to a need to promote and intensify the exchange of scientific knowledge to improve the science–policy interface on sustainable forest management and the legal timber trade. She said it is also important for ITTO to support climate-change mitigation, adaptation and resilience through sustainable forest management, conservation and restoration, as well as sustainable wood use.
Ms Pakdeejit’s speech was complemented by an address by Mr Surachai Ajalaboon, Director General of Thailand’s Royal Forest Department.
The Council tackled several agenda items on day 1 of the session. One item was on the need for renegotiation or further extension of the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA), 2006, the treaty under which ITTO operates and from which it gains its mandate. Mr Keiran Andrusko (Australia), co-chair of an intersessional working group on the issue, presented the working group’s report, which led to discussion in the plenary. This agenda item will be further discussed during the session.
Agenda items 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 were completed. The Committee on Finance and Administration and the Joint Committee on Trade and Industry also convened today.
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/ittc59-international-tropical-timber-council