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Statement by

H.E. Dr. Boen M. Purnama
Chairman of UNFF-8
Secretary General of Department of Forestry of the
Republic of Indonesia


At the Opening of Eight Session of
the United Nations Forum on Forests


New York, 20 April 2009


Distinguished Delegates, Mr. Under-Secretary-General, Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me start by expressing my sincere gratitude to all of you for entrusting me with the Chairmanship of the Eighth Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests. It is a great honour and I assure you I will do my utmost to ensure the success of UNFF-8.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate other members of the Bureau who were formally elected today. We have been working together, as the Bureau, for almost two years. I thank all of you for your overall support and creative ideas over that period. And with the close cooperation and assistance of a very competent Secretariat, we have put together a programme specifically with the success of UNFF8 in mind. We shall be pursuing realistic objectives.

To all of you present at this session of the Forum, I say welcome. In particular, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. On behalf of the Bureau and myself, I thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to be with us to open the session. We look forward to your thoughtful statement later today. Let me take this opportunity as well to congratulate Ms. Jan McAlpine on becoming the new Director of the Secretariat.

It seems to me that our session is being held at a historic juncture. I am sure you will agree that the adoption of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests (forest instrument) by the Seventh session of the Forum, and later by the General Assembly in 2007, was a great leap forward. That adoption symbolizes international political commitment and willingness to cooperate towards achievement of sustainable forest management.

Distinguished delegates,

Along with those developments, the UNFF itself has entered a new phase on account of its new multi-year programme of work and the adoption of the forest instrument. The UNFF has become the unique international policy body that provides a comprehensive perspective on forests. Its foundation is sustainable forest management, full participation of all Member States in its work as well as the active engagement of international and regional organizations, processes, and other stakeholders.

In recent years, the growing recognition of the role of forests in the climate change negotiations represents an ever deepening appreciation of the great environmental value of forests. This has led to unprecedented significance being attached to the work of this Forum. It is therefore very timely that one of the two main themes of this session is “Forests in a Changing Environment”. The discussion of that theme will touch on forests and climate change, among other issues. The other important theme of the session is a decision on “a voluntary global financial mechanism! portfolio approach/forest financing framework”.

The members of the Collaborative Parthership on Forests have, as always, played a very important role in the preparations of the Ad Hoc Expert Group on financing issues and for this session. I commend their individual and collective contributions to the Forum and their support to countries in implementing the previously agreed decisions of the Forum.

The responsibility given to this session is huge and of very long-term impact. We have invested much time and energy in fashioning commonly-accepted forest instruments which, collectively, constitute the first global agreement on sustainable forest management. We have achieved monumental agreement on measures to ensure and maintain our rich forest assets for the benefit of present and future generations. But we need to do more to make these forest instruments a complete package.

The major task of this forum therefore is how to move these instruments from the realm of concept to the realm of practical reality. Our mandate requires of us that we forge agreement on an appropriate and effective financial mechanism to ensure the full implementation of those instruments.

As a result, we must achieve “breakthrough” in this forum. This is the political commitment we all share. This is the political will we all embrace. This means concrete actions, concrete resources and concrete timelines. Without an effective and unambiguous decision, we may never reach our destination of forest sustainability.

The financial crisis that we are facing should not prevent us from developing the financial mechanism to fulfill our mandate, which incorporates four key global objectives on forests. We should seize this opportunity to show our commitment to implement sustainable forest management as an important pro-MDG milestone.

We should extend to the spirit of better management not just to our financial and economic system, but also to our forest. Sustainable management of our forest ensures sustainable employment, thus contributing to poverty reduction among people dependent on forests. To this end, we must act to build the infrastructure necessary to help manage our forests in a more sustainable manner that can benefit all our people. The decision on the financial mechanism to implement sustainable forest management is a central pillar of this infrastructure.

What we do in this session will determine the outcome. The choice is between indecisiveness and disappointment, on the one hand, and firm resolve and fulfillment, on the other. Future generations will remember whether we rose to the occasion and seized the opportunity before us, or let it slip through our fingers. We are now covering the last mile of what has been an exhaustive marathon spanning for more than two decades. Let us breast the tape with courage.

On behalf of the Bureau, I urge openness to different views, more commitment, flexibility and an even greater spirit of cooperation, to reach decisions that reinforce our common commitment to sustainable forest management. In pursuing our goals, I commend to you the ideal of the covenant, one that draws on our better instincts, one that is rooted in empathy.

Let me conclude my remarks by bringing you back to the memory of the beautiful paddy field terraces in Bali, as those of you who attended the CLI in 2007 would remember. To ensure that all paddy fields receive the adequate amount of water and irrigation, the Balinese has an irrigation management water user association called “Subak”. The concept of Subak relies on the selfless cooperation and agreement for the greater good, where all stakeholders to do their respective parts, to ensure that owners of the paddy fields at the bottom of the terrace receives the same benefit of water as the paddy fields at the top of the terrace.

It is this selfless cooperation that I appeal to all stakeholders in this Forum. Let us work together by doing our respective part, so that our system of Sustainable Forest Management, including its financing mechanism, can be realized. I trust that together we can do it here in this very important Session.

I thank you.

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