Natural forest, Cameroon © Andrew Walmsley / TRAFFIC

Natural forest, Cameroon © Andrew Walmsley / TRAFFIC


Published 5 December 2019

ITTO urged to “go back to basics—focus on sustainable forest management and species conservation for sustainable utilisation”

Lomé, Togo, 5th December 2019—during the International Tropical Timber Organization’s 55th Council Session currently underway in Lomé, delegates heard an impassioned plea from the Chair of the Civil Society Advisory Group (CSAG), urging the ITTO to return to basics and focus on the benefits made possible through sustainable forest management—ITTO’s key guiding principle. 

TRAFFIC's Chen Hin Keong addresses delegates at the ITTO's 55th Council Session

The CSAG statement, delivered by TRAFFIC’s timber trade expert, Chen Hin Keong, noted the Group was deeply disturbed that ITTO Council members and the Secretariat “appear to be placing undue focus on the procurement of timber from plantation forests.” 

However, the statement highlighted the many issues and challenges in utilising timber plantations: “Imagine the loans, investments and finance needed…not to mention the skills, capacity, and materials that go towards creating a plantation, and the need for land in the first place for growing the non-native trees species.” 

It continues: “The world wants timber, and it does not care where the timber comes from. CSAG recognises that natural tropical forests cannot cover all the increasing demands on timber, and other forest resources. There is a role for plantations. CSAG is not saying we ignore their role. But these should not be the main focus of ITTO.”

Noting that when the ITTO was established in 1985, a unanimously agreed focus had been to make sustainable forest management and forest conservation a reality, CSAG’s statement encouraged delegates to:

“Look around you today—over 30 years down the road—even more natural forests have been lost and degraded, through a combination of incompetence, inadequate capacity, knowledge, laws including policies, governance, corruption, … the list goes on.”

When are we going to go back towards considering how best to manage our natural forests sustainably—for its many services and benefits we rely upon? Governments need to wake up to the fact that their forests are the greatest natural resource a country possesses. Why risk losing them to greed, and consumption driven by many factors including a system of capitalism, where profits have to grow and grow every year?

The hot topic of climate change and the critical role of forests in helping mitigate its impact was also touched upon, while the role ITTO can play in the delivery of the current Aichi Targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the need to integrate measures to address loss of forest resources from over-exploitation and amplifying conservation and livelihood benefits from community forests and sustainable use and trade of forests into the post-2020 global biodiversity framework were also highlighted. 

The full statement, which also appears on the ITTO website and was read out during a Joint Committee session for the Council, Secretariat and CSAG on the role of Women and Markets, a topic particularly relevant to the ongoing discussions on Added Value Processing in Africa—the Opportunities and Challenges. 

About the International Tropical Timber Organization

The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) is an intergovernmental organisation promoting the conservation and sustainable management, use and trade of tropical forest resources. Its members represent the bulk of the world’s tropical forests and of the global tropical timber trade.