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The Paramaribo Dialogue: A Country-Led Initiative on Financing for Sustainable Forest Management In Support of the UN Forum on Forests

Ms. Stephanie Caswell, Director, Environment and Natural Resources Conservation
Welcoming Address
Paramaribo, Suriname
September 8, 2008

Mr. President, Excellencies, friends and colleagues. The United States is pleased to co-sponsor the “Paramaribo Dialogue” on Financing for SFM. – And we warmly thank the Government of Suriname for inviting and welcoming us to Suriname.

The concept and practice of “country led initiatives” is an innovation of the UN Forum on Forests and its forerunners -- and one that has helped inform the international forest policy dialogue for many years.

The UNFF is entering a new and mature era -- having agreed in 2007 to a Multi-Year Program of Work through 2015 and to the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests, which the UNGA formally adopted in December.

The Non-Legally Binding Instrument on Forests is a landmark global agreement achieved after years of negotiation. It builds on the Forest Principles adopted at Rio in 1992, as well as the Johannesburg Plan of Action of 10 years later.

The NLBI provides a framework for national action and international cooperation to achieve sustainable forest management... It also enshrines for the 1st time the recognition that SFM depends on two equally important and closely interrelated factors: (1) increased financial resources from all sources and (2) good governance at all levels.

The 8th session of the Forum next aims to adopt a “voluntary global financial mechanism/portfolio approach/forest financing framework to mobilize significant new and additional resources from all sources” to implement the NLBI.

While the words mechanism, approach and framework may have different interpretations, it is clear they reflect a common interest in generating more money for forests from public, private, domestic and international sources.

Since UNFF 7 we have seen an explosion of new forest-related public funds, primarily in the climate context.

The World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility has already attracted 110 million US dollars in donor pledges to create enabling environments in developing countries to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, while conserving water resources, protecting biodiversity and reducing poverty.

The Bank also has plans to establish a Forest Investment Fund within the framework of its projected 5 billion dollar Strategic Climate Fund specifically to mobilize significantly increased financing to reduce deforestation and improve forest management.

We have seen major announcements from individual countries. For example, Norway has stated its willingness to pledge 600 million dollars EACH YEAR to help partner countries address deforestation and improve forest-related governance.

The United Kingdom, Norway and the Africa Development Bank have launched the Congo Basin Forest Fund to help protect the region’s forests and promote livelihoods. Over 200 million dollars has been pledged so far. This is in addition to funds being generated through the Congo Basin Forest Partnership -- which since 2002 has mobilized 85 million dollars from the US alone.

These and other new and emerging funds represent a significant increase in the future flow of financial resources to developing countries – And we will learn more about them this week.

However, the reality is that public financing generated from taxpayers in donor countries will never be sufficient to support ALL the efforts of ALL countries to improve their forest management and governance.

What this new influx of public money can and should do is provide a catalyst for leveraging much greater funding from private and other non-government sources. The question is how?

For example, commercial timber harvesting and processing is worth billions of dollars a year. How can countries create an enabling environment that makes investing in SFM attractive to domestic and foreign companies?

Many countries are developing innovative ways at local and national levels to value forest ecosystem services, such as water, soil, carbon and biodiversity, to generate revenue from and for forests. What can governments do to institutionalize payments for ecosystem services and how can the international community assist?

In the last decade, we have seen the enormous funding power of philanthropic foundations and celebrity causes that are focused on poverty alleviation, food security, community development and the environment? How can we tap into this funding for forests?

We hope to work together this week to begin to answer some of these questions and identify what could be a tremendous portfolio of opportunities to generate financing for forests. We will hear from some wonderful speakers on this “portfolio” of opportunities.

While there have been many meetings on forest financing over the years, this meeting may be the first to bring together not only forest experts, but also financial experts – people who know how to raise money and generate revenue.

Our goal is to educate ourselves and each other on what is already happening around the world and what is possible. We want all of you to tell us about the tools you are using -- and that others could also use -- to give economic value to forests locally, nationally and globally.

This is not a negotiation. It’s not a dry run for the UNFF experts group which will meet in Vienna in November. While we hope our interaction here will help inform that discussion, we are not seeking to force a consensus.

So I encourage all of you to listen. Participate. Share your knowledge and experiences. And help us identify practical ways to conserve the economic, social and environmental benefits provided by forests.

Released on September 10, 2008

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