Sneaky bids to revive forest convention

A PROPOSAL for a forest convention that was thought to have died in Rio appears to be making a stealthy comeback. The Woods Hole Research Centre in the US is pushing a proposal to establish a scientific commission on forests and development. Involved in the Woods Hole effort is Ola Ullsten, former prime minister of Sweden, who was the first to propose a legally binding forest convention. From the South, Indonesian minister Emil Salim and Brazil's Jose Goldemberg are being considered for membership of the proposed commission. Outspoken critics of the forest convention, such as Indian environment and forests minister Kamal Nath, have been excluded from the commission.

Another move involves a subtle change in the draft for the Sustainable Development Commission, being discussed at the UN General Assembly. It now reads that an additional function of the commission would be to "monitor the implementation and effectiveness" of the forestry principles. The text agreed to in Rio, after hours of haggling, states it would "facilitate the effective implementation" of these principles. The change in wording will enable the North to monitor whether the forestry principles are effective or whether another global instrument -- namely a forest convention to manage the world's forests -- is needed. Underhand tactics are surely here to stay.