In October 2000, the UN Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) established the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF) and in 2015 further extended it. The IA F is the basis for international forests governance within the UN system and has five main components:
- UN Forum on Forests (UNFF)
- UNFF Secretariat
- UNFF Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network
- UNFF Trust Fund
- Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF).
The main objective of the UNFF is to promote ‘the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end.’ The Forum meets annually at the UN Headquarters in New York, bringing together representatives of all member states and forests-related agencies for high-level dialogue on technical matters in odd years and policy matters in even years. Each annual session produces a Resolution, which is negotiated among member states and serves to signal global forests priorities and guide work under each component of the IAF.
Several key documents frame the deliberations of the UNFF and its members, as well as the broader IAF. In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the ‘Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests’, updating it to the ‘United Nations Forest Instrument’ in 2015. This Instrument sets out global objectives on forests, along with a framework for promoting sustainable forest management. It articulates a series of agreed policies and measures at the international and national levels to strengthen forest governance, technical and institutional capacity, policy and legal frameworks, forest sector investment and stakeholder participation.
In 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted the first ever UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030. The Strategic Plan provides a global framework for actions at all levels to sustainably manage all types of forests, and trees outside forests, and halt deforestation and forest degradation. At the heart of the Strategic Plan are six Global Forest Goals and 26 associated targets to be achieved by 2030, which are voluntary and universal. They aim to aid progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the Paris Agreement, and other international forest-related objectives. Every four years, a new ‘Quadrennial Programme of Work of the Forum’ sets out the operational and thematic priorities for upcoming UNFF sessions.
Australia’s participation in the UNFF
Australia is an active member of the UNFF and is represented by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The department’s participation at UNFF helps to ensure the Australian Government’s forestry policy is properly represented on the global stage, and that policy dialogue and decision making reflects Australia’s views on sustainable forest management and trade, and captures the economic, social and environmental benefits that forests deliver.
Australia has recently fulfilled key positions within the Forum, including chairing large portions of UNFF’s 17th session in 2022, and acting as the Western Europe and Others Group Bureau Representative in 2021-22.
Collaborative Partnerships on Forests
The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) is an interagency partnership on forests. The Partnership is comprised of fourteen international organisations and institutions that have substantial programs on forests. The objectives of the CPF are to support the UNFF and its member countries and to enhance cooperation and coordination on forest issues. A CPF Network has been established to help facilitate interaction with a wide range of other interested parties involved in forests, including NGOs, private sector entities and other major groups.
The Partnership has embarked on joint initiatives on financing for sustainable forest management, forests and climate change and forest degradation. The CPF is also continuing to develop and expand existing joint initiatives relating to global forest expert panels, the streamlining of forest-related reporting, a global forest information service, and the Partnership website. CPF members also engage in collaborative activities related to improving forest governance and law enforcement, research in forest landscape mosaics, monitoring, assessment and reporting, forest landscape restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands, public communication and outreach, and forestry education.