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07.07.2005 General News

Ghanaian steers delicate negotiations

Kwame Asumadu"

...on agreement on international tropical timber trade After successfully chairing the 38th Session of the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC) meeting recently held in Brazzaville from 19th to 22nd June, Mr. Alhassan Attah is guiding the delicate negotiations in Geneva this week on the successor agreement to the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA).

Initially negotiated nearly 20 years ago, currently, the ITTA is the only international framework with the mandate to support projects to underpin the sustainability of the international tropical timber trade and the renewable tropical forests on which the trade depends.

At the Brazzaville meeting under Mr Attah's Chairmanship, the ITTC approved 16 projects amounting to some $8 million. These included a project to convene an international workshop in Ghana on Sub-Saharan Africa's potential to participate in the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) activities through increased commercial tree plantations on the continent for carbon sequestration to ameliorate global warming, and fibre production. Other projects approved and funded in Brazzaville included those that will:

· promote the trade of certified timber in Guatemala;

· create a market for environmental services in China's tropical forests; and

· assist local communities to rehabilitate degraded forest land in Java, Indonesia.

The Council is the governing body of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). It meets twice a year to discuss a wide-ranging agenda aimed at promoting the sustainable use of tropical forest resources and the trade of sustainably produced tropical timber.

The Council also approved funding for a project that will promote the development of small-to-medium-sized enterprises in Gabon. Another project will produce a state-of-the-art publication on African timber species. In Myanmar, an ITTC approved project will assist the conservation of the genetic resources of that country's teak forests.

A project funded in the Republic of Congo will continue work on improving forest management, conserve biodiversity and enhance local livelihoods in the buffer zone of the Noubale-Ndoki National Park. Funds were also pledged to a Congolese project that, when fully funded, will use multi-spectral aerial digital photography to improve forest monitoring. In total, some US$1.35 million was pledged to assist the Republic's forest sector.

The Council also decided to provide additional support to the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, committing US$150,000 for activities that will assist the implementation of the Sub-regional Convergence Plan and the COMIFAC 2015 Objective. COMIFAC activities aim to support the sustainable management of the Congo Basin's forest resources for the benefit of both the countries in that region and the rest of the world. It is the second most important stretch of tropical forests in the world after the Amazon, and plays a crucial ecological role in stabilising our planet's climate.

Elsewhere, the Council financed a final phase of the project to develop the Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary in South East Asia as a totally protected area, and a project to build a framework and strategy for sustainable forest management in Trinidad and Tobago.

The major donors at the Brazzaville session were the governments of Japan, Switzerland, the Common Fund for Commodities and the United States, while the governments of the Netherlands, Norway, France, Finland and the Republic of Korea also pledged funds. In addition, funds were mobilized from the Organization's unearmarked resources.

In closing the 38th Session of the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC), Mr Attah thanked the Government and people of the Republic of Congo, on behalf of the Council, for their warmth, hospitality and excellent arrangements in hosting this Council session.

He also thanked delegates at the Session for their positive participation, which contributed to the successes achieved in Brazzaville.

On behalf of Council, Mr Attah showed appreciation to the donor countries for their generosity in once again supporting the project work of the ITTO. However, given the concerns about the decline in funding for the Organisation's project work, he encouraged existing donors and appealed to the others to continue to identify additional opportunities to ensure that funding for the ITTO can be stabilised, and the decline in the financial resources for the Organisation reversed so that the ITTO can continue its support of project activities in producer member countries.

To lay the groundwork for negotiations on the successor agreement to the ITTA which started in Geneva on 27th of June, Mr Attah appealed to delegates to approach the negotiations in the spirit of co-operation and constructive compromise to achieve win/win outcomes.

“We, both consumers and producers, need the ITTO. As the only organisation with the mandate to promote the international trade in tropical timber on a sustainable basis, we have no choice but to ensure that the negotiations are successful and deliver the outcomes desired by member countries” said Mr Attah. Reports from the Geneva negotiations indicate that the ITTO member states are making good progress on concluding a successor agreement to the existing ITTA under the guidance of Mr. Alhassan Attah.

Until recently, Mr Attah was in charge of the Ghana Forestry Commission's (GFC) office in London which works to defend the market for Ghana's tropical timber products in Europe, as well as develop new ones. At the conclusion of the Geneva negotiations, Mr Attah will return to Ghana, where he will head the Timber Industry Development Division of the GFC based in Takoradi.