South–South cooperation key to sustainable forest management and timber trade

12 September 2023

ITTO projects foster South–South cooperation on timber tracking, among many other aspects. Photo: INAB

12 September 2023: Encouraging cooperation among producer member countries is a crucial aspect of ITTO’s work, according to Executive Director Sheam Satkuru, speaking on International Day for South–South Cooperation, which celebrates the solidarity among nations of the global South and their shared pursuit of national well-being and the Sustainable Development Goals.

“I believe strongly in the power of South–South cooperation to develop capacity through mutual learning and to strengthen the self-reliance of developing countries,” said Ms Satkuru.

ITTO’s mission is to facilitate international cooperation and policy development on the international trade of tropical timber from sustainably managed and legally harvested forests and on the sustainable management of tropical forests. Its members comprise two categories with equal voting rights: consumer members, which are mostly developed countries, and producer members, which are mostly in the Global South.

“ITTO has always emphasized the importance of cooperation among its members, especially through South–South exchanges,” said Ms Satkuru. “We consider it an essential part of efforts to support sustainable forest management and a strong, sustainable timber trade.”

ITTO encourages all member countries, especially producer members, to exchange experiences and best practices, including those gained in ITTO projects. It facilitates such exchanges by developing guidelines and policy documents based on experiences gained in the field, all aimed at improving tropical forest management and increasing the international trade of sustainably produced and legal tropical timber.

Various ongoing ITTO initiatives are promoting South–South cooperation. The Global Timber Index, for example, is a pioneering effort involving seven pilot countries—Brazil, China, the Congo, Gabon, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico—and numerous private enterprises in the Global South. The Index facilitates the exchange of vital information and data on the timber trade, thus contributing to SDGs 9, 12 and 17. It is bolstering market transparency and encouraging cooperation among countries and actors in the tropical timber trade.

In the Congo Basin, ITTO has developed learning modules for legal and sustainable timber supply chains, with the ultimate aim of expanding market access for tropical timber for countries in the subregion while enhancing the contributions of forestry to sustainable development and climate-change mitigation. The modules exemplify ITTO’s commitment to enhancing South–South cooperation and promoting responsible timber trade.

The Mekong Teak Project spans five countries in the Mekong Subregion—Cambodia, the Lao People’s Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. It is encouraging subregional collaboration to conserve natural teak forests, increase incomes in forest communities, improve wood processing and marketing, and expand the area of planted teak forests. The recently launched publication, Teak in the Mekong for a Sustainable Future, presents outcomes from this successful project (a second phase is planned).

Another example of ITTO’s work to foster South–South cooperation is a series of projects in Latin America to develop timber-tracking systems. Projects in Guatemala, Ecuador and Panama demonstrate the power of knowledge exchange; they have enabled countries to learn from each other’s experiences and thereby improve their systems and contribute to responsible forest management in the region.

“There is no downside to increasing South–South cooperation, and the potential for accelerating learning and sustainable development is immense,” said Ms Satkuru. “With its equal representation of producer and consumer members, ITTO is uniquely placed to champion this form of cooperation—and we will continue to do so for all the benefits it generates for nations, communities and the environment.”