ITTO, JICA and tropical forest “superpowers” explore paths toward sustainable forestry

21 May 2024

Training in measuring tree diameters to estimate carbon stocks in the Meru Betiri National Park, East Java, Indonesia, as part of an ITTO project. Photo: FORDA.

21 May 2024: ITTO underlined the importance of stepped-up investment and international cooperation to advance sustainable tropical forestry at a symposium on tropical forest conservation that brought together three “superpowers” of the sector.

Representatives of Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia—the three countries with the largest share of the world’s tropical forests—took part in the symposium co-organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, and supported by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan’s Forestry Agency, Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, Sumitomo Forestry and ITTO on 20 May 2024 in Tokyo.

On behalf of ITTO Executive Director Sheam Satkuru, ITTO Director of Trade and Industry Nurudeen Iddrisu said the event, titled “Conserving the Lungs of the Earth: Understanding the Current State, Challenges and Conservation Strategies of the World’s Three Major Tropical Forests”, was a timely opportunity to explore solutions to ongoing tropical deforestation and other challenges.

“We can see this symposium also as a summit of tropical forest superpowers,” Dr Iddrisu said in opening remarks at the symposium.

He said the tropical forests of the Amazon, the Congo Basin and the Borneo–Mekong South Asian Basin together “play a crucial role in stabilizing the global climate, hosting biodiversity, supporting livelihoods and fulfilling many societal needs through the sustained and reliable provision of forest goods and ecosystem services.”

Yet all three basins also face threats and pressures from human activities and—increasingly—the negative impacts of climate change.

For tropical forest countries trying to foster sustainable development while also contributing to global goals on climate, biodiversity and sustainable development, “steadfast international support is vital for them to succeed,” Dr Iddrisu said.

“It is clear that decisive action and large-scale investments are urgently needed” to secure the sustainable management of tropical forests in these countries, he added.

In this regard, Dr Iddrisu commended the work of JICA for its long-term assistance to ITTO and its member countries. ITTO and JICA renewed their longstanding collaboration in October 2022.

Dr Iddrisu mentioned that guidelines, criteria and indicators, and projects from ITTO’s almost 40-year history of collaborative work across the three basins in promoting the sustainable management and conservation of tropical forests and the expansion and diversification of international trade in tropical timber from sustainably managed and legally harvested forests, provide an appreciation of the spectrum of efforts that are needed from both the international community and tropical countries to preserve these valuable ecosystems.

Opening messages were also delivered by Morita Takahiro, JICA Director General, Global Environment Department and Morimoto Hidehiko, Executive Officer and General Manager, President’s Office, the Mainichi Newspaper. Both highlighted the pressing importance of conserving nature, in particular tropical forests, and noted Noble Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai’s legacy from her visit to Japan in 2005, which influenced the creation of the “Mottainai” campaign, aiming at promoting lifestyles that do not burden the global environment.

The symposium, held at JICA Global Plaza, included sessions on the importance of tropical forests for the global environment and challenges in the three main tropical forest countries, with keynote presentations from JICA and Kyoto University followed by reports from representatives of Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as a panel discussion on the roles of communities, the private sector and international cooperation.

At the closing of the symposium Dr Iddrisu called donors, including JICA and other agencies within the Government of Japan to increase funding to ITTO in support of sustainable forestry in these three “superpowers” and elsewhere in the tropics.