Thorny issue resurfaces

At its recently concluded third session in Geneva, Switzerland, the United Nations Forum on Forests (unff) took a step towards the creation of a legally binding instrument. An ad hoc expert group was established to consider the parameters of a mandate for developing the legal framework on all types of forests. The group will make its recommendations to the forum at its ministerial-level session in 2005.

The issue of putting in place such an arrangement has been plaguing global forest negotiations since the 1992 Earth Summit (see box: Story so far ). Developing countries have opposed proposals pushed by the developed world, fearing that they are aimed at serving the trade interests of wood producers in the North at the cost of the environment.

unff-3 also set the terms of reference for the expert group. The composition of the group was a contentious issue, with the European Union (eu) favouring a small number of experts for efficiency and the Group of 77 developing countries