United Nations Forum on Forests

At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) international forest policy was among the most controversial issues. Significant progress has been made since then in terms of developing the global policy framework for achieving sustainable forest management. The Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), from 1995 to 1997, and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) from 1997 to 2000 were the main forums for international forest policy development. A key outcome from these organisations was the IPF/IFF Proposals for Action towards sustainable forest management. The UNFF was established to build on the IPF and IFF processes and outcomes.

United Nations Forum on Forests mandate

In October 2000, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) established the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), a subsidiary body with its main objective to promote “… the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end…” The roles and functions of the UNFF evolved from based on the Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development and its Forest Principles and Agenda 21, and the outcome of the IPF/IFF Processes and other key milestones of international forest policy.

The UNFF has universal membership, and is composed of all Member States of the United Nations and specialised agencies.

United Nations Forest Instrument (UNFI)

Following intense negotiations, the Seventh Session of the Forum adopted the landmark Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests (NLBI) on 28 April 2007. The instrument is considered a milestone. It was the first time Member States agreed to an international instrument for sustainable forest management. The instrument is expected to have a major impact on international cooperation and on national action to reduce deforestation, prevent forest degradation, promote sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for forest-dependent communities. At 11th UNFF session of UNFF in 2015, the instrument was renamed to the United Nations Forest Instrument (UNFI). The UNFI has been endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Information on the activities of the UNFF can be obtained from the UNFF website.

Australia’s support for the work of the UNFF and its predecessors

Australia has an excellent record of achievement in implementing the actions that the UNFF and its predecessors have agreed are needed to facilitate the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests.

Australia was the first country to assess its progress in implementing the IPF/IFF Proposals for Action. The assessment reports (last undertaken in 2005) clearly indicate a high level of implementation of priority actions as well as an ongoing commitment to enhance the implementation of this global forest policy framework. Australia used the Summary of Proposals for Action to assist both Vanuatu and Fiji to identify their priorities for the development of national forest programs.

In January 2008, Australia and Switzerland co-hosted a Region-led Initiative on improving regional input in support of the UNFF. Australia is currently applying elements of the UNFI to assist other countries in the region achieve sustainable forest management by combating illegal logging. It is doing this by promoting the adoption of timber legality verification and forest certification schemes and by helping countries to expand their forestry skills and capacity in forest governance and law enforcement.

Collaborative Partnerships on Forests

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) is an interagency government and non-government partnership on forests. It was established in April 2001 in response to an invitation issued to prospective members in the resolution of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) that established the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF). 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 important contributions of the Partnership have been recognised in United Nations Forum on Forests resolutions and decisions. The Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests calls for further support to CPF to develop and implement joint initiatives, while the Forum’s multi-year program of work for the period 2007-2015 called upon CPF to develop synergies and explore possibilities for joint activities to achieve sustainable forest management, the global objectives on forests and implementation of the forest instrument.

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 the global forest expert panels, the streamlining of forest-related reporting, a global forest information service, and the Partnership website. CPF members - engage in other 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.

At the 11th session of the Forum in May 2015, Member States agreed to develop a Strategic Plan for the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF) for the period of 2017 to 2030. The Strategic Plan aims at guiding the work of the Forum, its Secretariat, and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, and other components of the IAF.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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