ITTO should make the certification of tropical forests a priority in its work, according to Cote d'Ivoire's Minister of Water and Forests, Ms Angele Boka Agoussi.
Ms Agoussi was speaking at the 30th session of the International Tropical Timber Council, which was opened here today by Cameroon's Prime Minister, His Excellency Mr Peter Mafany Musongue.
Forest certification, which is a way of guaranteeing to consumers that a forest is well managed, is becoming an important requirement for those timber producers wanting to sell their products in international markets. Ms Agoussi said that certification could help strengthen the sustainable management of tropical forests but that socio-economic and cultural realities in many tropical countries make its immediate application extremely difficult. She said that there was a need to strengthen national capacity to support certification and to investigate the impact of certification on the competitiveness of tropical timber.
'The rapid resolution of these problems is in the general interest of tropical forests,' she said. 'This is a major challenge that ITTO should meet in collaboration with regional organisations. That's why we place a lot of hope in the strengthened cooperation between ITTO and the African Timber Organization.'
Dr Kwaku Afriyie, the Ghanaian Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, who also spoke, noted that Ghana was implementing an independent certification scheme that would be compatible with other existing schemes. He said that care should be taken to prevent certification from becoming a non-tariff barrier to trade.
'Certification should rather be used as a tool to reward best practices in sustainable forest management and not to penalise or restrict trade in timber,' he said. 'Increased international cooperation and consensus among producing and consuming countries would seem to be an important mechanism in this respect.'
Also speaking on the opening day was Mr Sylvestre Naah Ondoua, Cameroon's Minister of the Environment and Forests. He said that Cameroon has initiated a review of the forest sector that should lead to the establishment of an innovative sectoral program for forests and the environment. This program will have the dual aims of tackling poverty - which is a root cause of forest degradation and loss - and achieving sustainable forest management.
ITTO has made a significant contribution to Cameroon's efforts in this regard, he said.
'Cameroon has benefited from ITTO assistance, not only through the implementation of numerous forest management projects but also by helping to build the country's legal and normative instruments and its capacity for implementing sustainable forest management.'
The International Tropical Timber Council is convening its 30th session in Yaounde, Cameroon, 28 May - 2 June 2001. Timber certification is one of several important issues related to the conservation and sustainable development of tropical forests to be considered.
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