ITTO to finance more work on sustainable forest management

12 May 2003, Panama City, Panama

The 34th Session of the International Tropical Timber Council, which begins here today, will tackle a substantial agenda aimed at achieving sustainable forest management in the tropics and market access for tropical timber, and could provide up to US$8 million in new grants.

ITTO is already funding about 150 field projects in tropical countries to implement sustainable forest management at the field level and provide training to forest managers and loggers throughout the tropics. It is also financing a program of transboundary conservation areas that is offering protection to about ten million hectares of tropical forests.

At this session, the Council will hear a report on seven country-level training workshops conducted by the Organization to promote the application of its criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. These involved major forest concession holders and other forest managers in countries such as the Republic of Congo, the Philippines and Colombia and bring sustainable forest management a step closer to reality in the field. At this session the Council may decide to extend the program to enable more of ITTO's tropical member countries to benefit from it.

The Council will also review ITTO missions conducted to Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. These missions, which had similar aims to earlier missions to Brazil, the Central African Republic and other tropical countries, have identified the main obstacles to sustainable forest management in those countries and made recommendations for ways in which ITTO can help in its achievement.

ITTO support for partnerships between civil society and the private sector may also be strengthened at this session. At its previous session the Council decided to provide seed-money of up to US$50,000 per partnership to help logging companies and non-governmental organizations work together to improve forest management and achieve certification at the concession level. At this session, the Council will receive a report from a working group that provides guidance on procedures for the development of proposals for such partnerships and their monitoring and evaluation, and may decide to scale up the program.

The Council will also examine a report on a series of regional-level workshops conducted by the Organization to advance the concept of a phased approach to certification as a tool for promoting sustainable forest management. It will canvass issues related to market access for tropical timber, which is facing restrictions in some importing countries. And, as usual, the Council will consider the funding of project proposals for work promoting sustainable forest management, the further processing of tropical timber products, and the trade of tropical timber at the local, national and global levels. For example, one project under consideration would add more than US$800,000 in grants to ITTO's existing program for the conservation and reforestation of threatened mangrove forest areas along Panama's Pacific coast.