Ministerial Segment of the United Nations Forum on Forests
(New York, March 14, 2002)
STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR ALFONSO VALDIVIESO, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF COLOMBIA TO THE UNITED NATIONS
The delegation of Colombia wishes to associate itself with the statement made by the delegation of Venezuela on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
The Government of Colombia reiterates the importance which it attaches to the United Nations Forum on Forests, as the highest forum for political debate at the international level on the management of forests.
As a country that still possesses nearly 57 million hectares of relatively untouched natural forests that are home to one of the world's richest troves of biodiversity on account of the wide geographic and ecological diversity of its territory, Colombia, like the rest of the world, is concerned at the increasing deforestation, fragmentation and destruction of forests, the loss of its biodiversity and the deteriorating living conditions of the populations living in forests and of the rest of us who depend for our subsistence on the environmental goods and services that forests provide. Approximately 50 per cent of these forests belong to indigenous, Afro-Colombian and peasant communities, many of which live in conditions of extreme poverty, while a further 10 per cent belongs to the National System of Protected Areas and the remainder forms part of the State's Forest Reserves.
The Government of Colombia recognizes the importance of raising the political profile of forests and integrating them into the country's economic and social development in order to guarantee their conservation and sustainable use. To this end, it elaborated and adopted in 2000 the National Forestry Development Plan under the umbrella of the National Environmental Council. This Plan was later adopted by the National Council on Economic and Social Policy, chaired by the President of the Republic, which allocated the economic resources for the implementation of several of the measures proposed for the first three years.
This Plan had its origins in a process of consultations carried out over the last few years and the forging of a common vision of forests between the public sector, represented by various ministries (Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Foreign Trade and the National Planning Department), the private sector and the communities. The Plan is geared towards enhancing the competitiveness of the forest sector and promoting its sustainable use and conservation for the benefit of current and future populations over the next 25 years. It establishes a series of objectives and indicators and identifies those responsible for its implementation. It also provides for a system of evaluation and monitoring linked to a regional forestry projects bank. The Plan is now being coordinated with the agendas of the departments and municipalities of the country and we have noted with satisfaction how several regions of the country have given the issue of forests all the importance that it deserves in their regional and local development programmes.
The Plan takes account of those recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel and Forum on Forests that are relevant to Colombia and defines a plan of action based on the regional priorities required for the sustainable management, restoration and conservation of forestry ecosystems and strategic eco-regions in our country.
The National Forestry Development Plan of Colombia is based on the adoption of the ecosystemic approach, which allows for a comprehensive overview of forestry ecosystems, including all their elements and interrelationships, the environmental services they provide and their social, economic and cultural components. The Plan has been integrated into and harmonized with the National Biodiversity Strategy of Colombia.
The delegation of Colombia is of the view that national forestry plans are the best mechanisms for implementing the proposals for action of the Intergovernmental Panel and Forum on Forests, as well as many of the measures envisaged in the national biodiversity strategy. The Government of Colombia is deeply committed to this Plan and has invested a great deal of effort in its formulation and implementation, largely with its own resources. One of the greatest challenges that we are currently facing are the severe financial, institutional and technical constraints on its full implementation and the difficulty of remedying many of the underlying causes of deforestation in our country.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates, the main cause of deforestation in Colombia today is without any doubt the accelerating spread of illicit crops in the coca-growing Amazonian forests and in the last stands of poppy-growing Andean forests. Control of this scourge is possible only with the close cooperation of the international community and with full recognition of the fact that those who consume the illicit crops share equally in the responsibility for the destruction of our last stands of tropical forests and the biodiversity they contain.
The Government of Colombia, through the National Forestry Development Plan, has been placing particular emphasis on environmental restoration, a subject whose connotations make it different from commercial reforestation. Environmental restoration is aimed mainly at the recovery of environmental goods and services from forestry ecosystems, such as water, soils and biodiversity. The Ministry of the Environment of Colombia has thus been implementing since 1998 the strategic plan for the restoration and management of forests in Colombia, "Forests for Peace". Under this plan, the national Government has invested 35 million dollars in the restoration of 50,000 hectares of forests situated in strategic national ecoregions. We are currently in the process of implementing a research and monitoring programme, as a complement to this plan.
In view of the conceptual and operational difficulty of separating the issues of biodiversity and forests, the Colombian delegation attaches great importance to the coordination of work between the United Nations Forum on Forests and the Convention on Biodiversity and welcomes in this connection the programme of work on forests and biodiversity that is being carried out within the framework of the Convention. It hopes that the Programme will be adopted at the next Conference of the Parties, together with a specific plan of action that provides the resources and mechanisms for its implementation, and a permanent system to evaluate and monitor its progress.
The National Forestry Development Plan of Colombia also places particular emphasis on the role played by indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and other traditional communities in the sustainable management of forests, since these communities possess rights of ownership over a considerable portion of our forests. To this end, the Plan has been harmonized with the Indigenous Communities Living Plans, Land-use Plans and the Pacific Agenda XXI, elaborated by the Afro-Colombian communities of the country's Pacific region.
The management of national forestry plans, especially in countries with substantial forest cover, requires committed financial support from the international community and the recognition of the environmental and cultural services which these ecosystems provide to all mankind. We also attach vital importance to the development of a capacity-building programme that would permit us to adapt our institutions and human resources to enable us to achieve the objectives of sustainable management and conservation of our forests.
Lastly, I wish to underscore the need to send an unmistakable signal to the Commission on Sustainable Development about the importance of enhancing the political profile of the issue of forests and of seeking improved coordination with other sectors of development, which are often those with the greatest responsibility for the loss of our forests and of the bio-diversity that they contain. We also attach great importance to creating together a new space for reflection and dialogue about the new ethic that should exist between man and his environment, as the cornerstone for realization of the principles of sustainable development.