UNFF10 – Ensuring a promising future for the world’s forests?

Nearly 1300 participants took part in the tenth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF10) in Istanbul from April 8th – 19th 2013. For the first time, the biannual conference took place away from the UN Headquarters in New York. Over 50 ministers and high-level officials participated in the main negotiating topics:

  • Forests in the post-2015 development agenda,
  • Forests in a green economy,
  • Payments for ecosystem services (PES),
  • Introducing a sustainable development goal (SDG) on forests or natural resources, and
  • A global legally binding instrument on forests.

The Forum agreed on measures to improve sustainable forest management (SFM) and recognized the necessity to set up a global fund to provide the required financial resources for implementation. Concerning the first resolution – improving the sustainable management of forests – the Member States agreed on Means of Implementation (MoI) to improve data collection to enhance the basis for decision-making to curb deforestation and forest degradation. In line with the second resolution – sources of financing – the Forum set up the groundwork to enable multiple financing streams from national, regional, and international levels stemming from a combination of private and public sources, including a possible voluntary forest fund.

A decision on a legally binding agreement on forests – built on the basis of the Forest Instrument – was deferred until the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF, constituted of the UNFF and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests) will be reviewed in 2015. While the importance of forests is increasingly recognized in the international development dialog there are concerns that forests may not be adequately considered in international negotiations and frameworks such as the post-2015 development agenda. There are two potential options to account for this: adopting a legally binding global treaty on forests or fostering a number of regional-level legally binding agreements overseen by the UNFF within the IAF. While this has been debated for years the UNFF10 has not brought substantial cornerstones in this concern.

All parties acknowledged and stressed the necessity of a solid roadmap to achieve the future of forests we want. Finer details, however, were left to later sessions and other decision-making bodies. At the conference, the atmosphere outside negotiations during business conversations and networking events seemed more dynamic, enthusiastic, and concrete. Alternative highlights of the conference included the bestowal of awards to filmmakers, photographers, and activists from around the world.

Jan McAlpine, director of the UNFF Secretariat, and Mario Ruales Carranza, chair of the tenth session, presented themselves happy with the outcomes, emphasizing the achieved “milestones” concerning forest financing and the recognized global significance of forests. So did the UNFF10 ensure a promising future for the world’s forests? While many topics were left for discussion at future events, particularly concerning the sustainable development agenda, the UNFF10 did fulfill an important role in setting out the work for the coming two years and in preparing the international community for complex decisions. Nevertheless, to maintain its global significance and legitimacy as well as to strengthen international forest governance, it may be conducive that the UNFF strengthen its standpoint in catalyzing political will, dedication, and responsibility for the stewardship of the world’s most important terrestrial ecosystems.


More information about the outcomes of individual topics is available at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, which also captured details about each day’s negotiations in its Earth Negotiations Bulletin and on the UNFF10 news section of the UNFF.