New forest partnerships aim to strengthen forest management in the tropics

9 November 2002, Yokohama, Japan

The International Tropical Timber Council will finance joint action by civil society organizations and private-sector tropical timber producers to strengthen forest management and achieve environmental certification, it was announced today.

The Council meets every six months to decide its policy and project work. Its 33rd session ended here today.

Tropical timber producers have long been criticized, mainly by western environmentalists, for their forest management practices. In the last decade, considerable progress has been made towards raising forest management standards, but some environmentalists continue to call for boycotts on tropical timber products if they are not certified as derived from well-managed forests. Yet tropical timber producers face enormous difficulties in meeting the standards set by certification schemes, including the highly complex nature of tropical forests and a lack of forest management capacity. Moreover, a loss of access to western markets reduces the incentive for sustainable forest management and contributes to the loss of tropical forests.

The new decision by the Council aims to add impetus to the quest for sustainable forest management and certification in the tropics. It will provide seed money to facilitate partnerships between timber producers and civil society organizations that will both guide forest practice and increase market access for the timber produced under such partnerships. It will particularly emphasize partnerships involving small-scale enterprises and community-based forest managers, local and national civil society organizations, and forest owners.

"The decision is a first step towards an innovative approach that will assist our quest to grow the trade in tropical timber from sustainably managed sources," said Council Chair Dr Jürgen Blaser.

"We wait to see how this idea works, but I hope that both the industry and relevant civil society organizations embrace it. In so doing, they will be clearly showing the international marketplace that tropical timber producers are doing their best to bring about sustainable forest management."

While welcoming the decision, the representative of the Council's Trade Advisory Group, Mr Barney Chan, said that past experience in failed dialogues with some environmental non-governmental organizations suggested that the process should proceed cautiously.

"Nevertheless, we appreciate the initiative of the Council on this issue and will do whatever we can to progress it," he said.

The representative of the Council's Civil Society Advisory Group (CSAG), Dr Andy White, also welcomed the decision.

"CSAG appreciates and supports this very important initiative and we particularly appreciate its focus on small-scale enterprises," he said.

"Our group is dedicated to retaining focus on the sustainable development commitment of ITTO and the equity dimensions of trade. This initiative is a step in that direction by privileging small and community-based forest managers."

For more information contact: Mr Alastair Sarre, Editor & Communications Manager, Yokohama;

Visit: for reports on the session by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin.