History of UNFF
The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) has its origins in the 1992 “Earth Summit”, or United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). While not based on a legally-binding agreement, unlike climate or biological diversity deliberations, forest negotiations that took place at UNCED were subsequently taken up in the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) in 1994, which transferred its work to the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) in 1998. Both of those bodies had two-year mandates and were located within the UN apparatus under the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). The recommendation of the IFF at its fourth session (E/CN.17/2000/14) was to establish yet another body to address international forest policy negotiations in addition to overseeing the implementation of decisions of earlier bodies. That institution was to be called the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF). This recommendation was endorsed by the CSD at its eighth session in May 2000, and also by ECOSOC in its decision “2000/35” which states that “the main objective of the international arrangement on forests is to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end”. As the UNFF was established as a subsidiary body under ECOSOC, all UN member states are likewise members of the UNFF.
As a subsidiary body under ECOSOC, civil society and Indigenous Peoples’ engagement in the UNFF is organized through the “Major Groups” framework established at UNCED. Since UNCED, non-governmental actors have been actively engaged in the forest policy deliberations. Since the establishment of the UNFF, several “Major Group-led Initiatives” (the first having been held in Ghana in 2010) have allowed for Major Groups to participate in UNFF deliberations in a concerted way by taking up agenda items and systematically developing points of agreement amongst Major Groups on the upcoming negotiations. While non-governmental and Indigenous Peoples’ participants in the forest policy negotiations have always engaged in deliberations with an eye to upcoming agenda items, the Major Group-led Initiatives have allowed for greater coordination regarding salient upcoming and existing issues related to Major Groups’ concerns.
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