• English

Sixty-first session (Geneva, 7 October 2003)

Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Executive Secretary


Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to open the sixty-first session of the Timber Committee. Over the years your Committee has combined flexibility and openness to new ideas, with strong traditions and continuity of activities and standards. These qualities are all the more important in this period of changing international architectures and ever higher demands on international organizations.

Timber and forests are one of the key elements of sustainable development, at the national, regional and global level, and your sector has had to face for many years some of the major issues now coming to the surface of the global policy debate: how to reconcile the imperatives of trade and environment? How to balance the three pillars of sustainable development? How to reconcile full participation of all stakeholders with property rights? I was impressed this April when I participated in the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe in Vienna by the degree of consensus there is at the regional level on how to address these issues and the good cooperation between the organizations. In Vienna, I was happy to reiterate UNECE’s commitment continue to work with MCPFE and other partners to achieve sustainable forest management in the region.

As the Commission has repeatedly stressed the importance of a cross-sectoral approach, in this context, I welcome the work you have been doing to develop cross-sectoral activities. One example is the work on wood and other renewable energies with the Committee on Sustainable Energy, another the work on trade and environment issues, with those two committees. I believe the policy forum on wood energy which will take place today will provide a useful cross-sectoral input to this important debate. I also look forward to intensified cooperation between your Committee and the Working Party on Technical Harmonization and Standardisation Policies, of the Committee on Trade, Industry and Enterprise Development, to identify and remove any technical barriers which might exist to the sound use of wood.

But the importance of a cross-sectoral approach comes out most clearly in the work on the forest sector outlook study, which you will discuss on Thursday. The study brings out clearly the importance of understanding policies of other sectors and of communicating clearly with those other sectors if the special characteristics of your own sector are to be taken into account. The new study scenarios foresee a generally positive development with slowly expanding markets and wood production, still well inside the capacity of Europe’s forests. It also foresees rapid change and development in eastern Europe and the CIS which will profoundly change the balance of the region’s forest sector. However, there are threats and dangers too, for instance:
· the need to address governance issues inside and outside our region, and to control illegal logging,
· the need to strengthen forest sector institutions, notably in the Balkans, western CIS, Caucasus and central Asia,
· the difficulty of controlling forest fires in southern Europe and the CIS,
· the problems with the economic viability of forest management in Europe,
· the need to develop policies for the sound use of wood,
· the need for better communication,
· the workforce issues of training, safety and health must be addressed.

In addition to these issues there are other pressures, of a cross-sectoral nature, to which the forest sector is having to adapt: the likely increased demand for renewable energy, which presents both threats and opportunities to forest sector actors, and for the conservation of biodiversity through protected areas, as well as the constant pressure from global markets driven by a trade agenda which, as yet, pays little attention to the problems of the forest sector.

We believe that having helped to identify and analyse these issues, it is UNECE’s role to take them into account when setting its priorities for future work. The Commission has consistently stressed the need to evaluate activities and set priorities, taking account of the comparative advantages of each organization. The strategic review process which the secretariat is proposing for next year will give the opportunity for the Committee and its many partners, notably FAO and the MCPFE, to review together needs, priorities, resources and methods, in a transparent process, with full participation of all stakeholders. I believe that next year, at the joint session of your committee with its sister body, the FAO European Forestry Commission, we will be able to welcome a renewed, relevant and realistic strategy for your activities over the next four years. It seems to me that this approach is in full conformity with the Commission’s wishes, and those of the United Nations system as a whole, which is stressing the need for periodic evaluation and review of all programmes.

I wish you success in your session.

Thank you.